Cuba on a Bike Friday Tandem

A tandem Bike Friday on tour in Cuba

 

We were recently contacted by Australian Bike Friday owners Shirley and Geoff. They have a wonderful story to tell you about their experiences touring Cuba on a Tandem! 

 

Having cycled around Cuba in 2009 on standard road bikes which we gave away at the end of our month, we decided to take our Bike Friday Two’sday Tandem back to this cyclist’s paradise in Nov 2015. There are good roads with almost no traffic and the few truck and bus drivers are just so courteous being used to sharing the road with their own cyclists, horse carts, oxen , donkey or pedestrians with wheel barrows.

We flew from Toronto to Varadero airport near the city of Matanzas where I remembered a Casa Particular (homestay bed and breakfast) with plenty of room to put the bike together. They were happy to store the suitcases for us.

 

Riding a tandem Bike Friday in scenic Cuba

 

While it is possible with only English, a little basic high school Spanish allows you to go off the tourist path and when we stopped for a drink and to watch a farmer with his oxen – he came over for a chat. Como se llama sus bueyes? (What are the names of your oxen) opened a lovely conversation.

 

Farming with oxen in Cuba

 

Same with this chap – happy to chat as on a bike you are at their level.

 

Ox cart spotted while touring Cuba on a tandem bike

 

We went from Matanzas in north to Playa Giron on south coast then east to Cienfuegos and Trinidad enjoying music in every town. We then took a bus 1000km to Santiago de Cuba and over the mountains to Baracoa so we could cycle back with the prevailing winds behind us. The tourist buses are smaller than in USA so our bike did not initially fit underneath but the very helpful elderly bus station attendants wouldn’t let anyone on board until they worked out how we were going to fit the bici doble abajo – eventually with handlebars and seats off it was in.

 

A folding tandem Bike Friday stows easily under a bus in Cuba

 

Tropical Baracoa was another music haven

 

Jungle road in Cuba explored with a Tandem bike

 

Baracoa a haven of music and nightlife in Cuba

 

From Baracoa we had to go up over the mountain range pass known as La Farola – 15km long continual grind up on a smooth elevated concrete road with no other traffic.

 

Resting on the side of a highway with a tandem bike in Cuba

 

At 62yrs I was a bit concerned but with a few stops we made it OK with the help of the local delicacy – Cucurucho – grated coconut mixed with honey, sugar and guava – perfect cyclist boost food wrapped in an environmentally friendly banana leaf

 

Cucurucho, a delicious Cuban dessert of grated coconut and honey

 

Over the top we stopped for more food and to put on more clothes – then with the essential tandem drag brake on full – continued down the other side to the coast to a little basic concrete cabin on a black sand beach and a sumptuous fresh fish meal

 

Gorgeous skies in Cuba on a tandem bike tour

 

Cuban sunset on a long beautiful bike tour

 

We never booked ahead except for the first casa in Matanzas– we used the Lonely Planet Guide to Cuba and in each town if not approached by a cyclist as we entered we went to a listed casa– if it was full there was usually another nearby or the owner would recommend a friend’s casa. The government approved casas have a blue anchor . They are of very high standard with ensuite, fans/AC and the most wonderful home cooked meals. Usual cost $25/night/room. Breakfast $4 and evening meal $8-10pp.

 

Cuba bike tour on a Bike Friday Two'sDay Tandem

 

While we didn’t get any true punctures with our marathon tyres we did run into a spot of bother initially starting off with a new back tyre- somehow once fully laden we kept getting pinch punctures on the inside surface – finally resolved by putting a round of electrical tape along the rim. But we had used almost all our patches and none are available (bring all your spares) but Poncheras (tyre repair businesses) are everywhere and happily repaired all our tubes by vulcanisation.

 

Bike repair shop in Cuba

 

Cuba will never afford internet in people’s houses but they have provided wifi in the major squares of most large towns so they are abuzz each evening. $10 for 5hrs access.

 

Dusk in a lively Cuban city park

 

It is very safe, the people very friendly and the ice-cream excellent even if there is only one flavour available at the local Heladeria/Cremeria. We had a bowl of 3 scoops of pineapple icecream each, X twice it was so nice. The 12 scoops cost ~30 cents in the local currency but some Spanish needed.

 

Bike Friday Tandem outside of a colorful store in Cuba

 

A few other photos

 

Tandem visits a large Cuban sculpture.
Meeting a horse drawn carriage in Cuba while on a bike tour

 

Dancing in Cuba while on bike tour

 

Meeting a bicycle garlic vendor while touring by bike in Cuba

 

We used the latest Lonely Planet Guide to Cuba along with the Lonely Planet Cycling Cuba Guide which was a one-off published in 2001 for ideas on cycling routes plus International Travel Maps Cuba 1:600,000 waterproof/tearproof.

Cuba does not stamp passports but instead issues a separate tourist card so has always been able to be visited. We were there for all of November at the start of the dry season. You are welcome to contact us phone +61 354248374 (being aware we are 6-9hrs behind) if you need more information.


A special thanks to Shirley and Geoff for sharing their story. If you’d like to learn more about their adventures, you are welcome to reach them by phone in Australia: +61 354248374. Please be aware that they are 6-9hrs behind US time zones!

Learn more about the intrepid Tandem Two’sDay that Shirley and Geoff used on their travels! 

 

 

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6 thoughts on “Cuba on a Bike Friday Tandem

  1. Po

    As a bike enthusiastic i know how much planning needed to go on a bike Friday with your family. Loved the photos and don’t stop biking. Thanks

    Reply
  2. DOUGLAS Miller

    I went there many years ago and raced with a small Cuban team. It was so much fun.

    Now, I am OLD!! but I want to do a tour. I am considering buying a bike friday bike as I hate getting ripped off on transport on the plane

    Reply
  3. Don Marcotte

    This is a great account! We’re stoked as we’re leaving to ride Cuba in 8 days. Like you, we’re arrivingin Varadero (Matanzas), bussing to Sancti Spiritus then biking back via Trinidad, Cienfuegos, Playa Giron then up through the centre. We’re taking the Hershey train to Havana and biking biking unassigned in the area for a week.

    You’ve answered some questions for us – through your pics we notice you went with long sleeved jerseys for instance – and we’ve been wondering if we should pre book Casas. It appears you had good luck with just arriving.

    We will be blogging whenever we can find internet at this site: http://www.storydon.com/blog

    Our FB New World Tourists are packed and ready to go!

    Reply
  4. Shirley

    It was hot and sunny so I used a long sleeved jersey most days for the sun protection. On the long days of 80+km we usually were riding by 6am aiming to be at our destination by midday. Going up La Farola I had a sleeveless jersey but put the long sleeved one on for going down. November was not peak season so we never booked ahead except for the initial casa.

    Reply

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