Tag Archives: New World Tourist

Kay and Gordon’s Tour of Andalusia, Spain – April 18 to May 2, 2018

Finally ready to leave the Carmona Parador headed for Osuna

We had done a tour of Southern Patagonia last year. (For more details on that tour, see the log posted on the Bike Friday website.)  That tour was epic.  This year’s tour of Andalusia was tame by comparison.  It was all about riding through wonderful country, staying in nice hotels and trying to find the best of meals.  Just the same, there is quite a bit about this tour of southern Spain worth sharing.

We flew into Sevilla airport with our Bike Fridays packed away.  We had four Samsonite suitcases in all – enough baggage that most of the small taxis couldn’t fit everything in.  However, it didn’t take long to get a cab that fit it all, even though it was a little crammed.  We went to the small town of Carmona, around twenty miles to the east of Sevilla.  We had a reservation at the parador there.  What a wonderful place to stay!  Paradores are nationally run hotels, frequently in renovated castles, fortresses or mansions. 

The Parador at Carmona had once been an Arab fortress, and was perched on a ridge overlooking a beautiful valley.  We were there for two days at the beginning and for two days at the end.  We took advantage of the first two days to catch up on sleep, put the bikes together and visit Sevilla.  The Parador had a storage area where we were able to store our suitcases while we were away.  We took the public bus for the 45 minute trip from Carmona to Sevilla – inexpensive and very comfortable!  It was a “feria” (fair) in Sevilla and everyone seemed to be celebrating.  Lots of women on the streets dressed in their full flamenco!

One façade of the Parador of Carmona.

The end balcony shown was the balcony for our room.

This Parador started out as an Arab fortress.  It went through changes and assorted uses before being converted into a Hotel in the 1930s.  The Spanish government owns and operates all of the Paradores in Spain.  There are almost one hundred and each one has it’s own history and is unique.

We planned the route using Ride with GPS and an out of date map of Andalusia.  We have a Garmin etrex-30.  We also treated ourselves to purchasing City Navigator Europe.  Having the city navigator was a real benefit.  We downloaded planned routes before leaving home. We planned a clockwise route from Carmona that connected eight of the most popular towns in Andalusia.  We had booked lodging in Ronda for four nights, the half-way point of our tour, but did not book any rooms along the way, either before or after Ronda (except for the Parador at the end).  We ended up having the manager where we stayed make a reservation for us for the following day.  This gave us the flexibility to change our route as and if needed.

FRIDAY, APRIL 20, 2018         Carmona to Osuna

We left Carmona around 10:30.  It was hard to leave Carmona and the Parador.  It was lovely, luxurious and the breakfast buffet has to be seen to be believed.  (As you will see we’re big breakfast people). On leaving Carmona, ride with GPS had us on a small road to get out of town before merging onto the main road after a mile and a half.  Unfortunately, that road didn’t actually exist – it had been pulled up to start a new road from scratch.  We left town on that torn up roadbed anyway.  It was a little too much like the “ripio” we had experienced the year before in Chile.  Not the best way to begin our journey.  It wasn’t long, though, before we found an actual road to ride on.  Finally on the correct road, we had another enemy that we would be dealing with the whole day: the wind.

It blew at 30 mph with gusts to 40 mph – right in our face – for the entire day.  So loud and strong, we couldn’t talk or sometimes even think!.  On one downhill we managed to get to 18 mph! The saving grace of the day was the amazing wildflowers and the fields of wheat rippling in the wind.  So green in this very southern part of Spain, we couldn’t believe it!

Washington Irving beat us to exploring Andalusia.  Apparently, he visited Andalusia and took a journey through it that led to his writing two books about his travels.  For a lot of these towns, not much has changed since he visited.

 

After battling the wind all day, we arrived in the town of Osuna.  We managed to get an odd suite in “El Monasterio”.  Although it was a relatively small room, it had three levels – with the bathroom on the first level, one flight down from the bedroom.  No railing – picture that in the middle of the night!  On the plus side, it also had a large balcony, where our bikes spent the night, and a wonderful view of the town!  We had been a little concerned about storing our bikes in some of the older hotels, but it was never an issue.  Hotel staff didn’t even blink when we arrived with our loaded touring bikes – they seemed to be used to it.  One even kept our bikes in the hotel office!

Today was only 43 miles, but we were pretty well beat.  We did get there early enough to take a great walk around the town.  Osuna is famous for it’s 17th century home facades.  They were obviously in competition to see who could build the most unique façade.   The worst meal of our trip was that night in Osuna.   We hadn’t yet gotten used to the Spanish late meal times and were really ready for some food around 6:30 pm.  Well, nothing was open except for a little greasy spoon on the main plaza and all they had to offer was tapas. – and not good tapas either.  We soon learned, there were “tapas” and then there were “tapas”.  It’s good that we had the perfect lunch stop in Marchena in a supermarket!  The market had empanadas and little pizzas that were priced by the pound.  Very much like in Chile, you had to weigh and tag your goods before going to the cash register.  And they had clean bathrooms!  In fact bathrooms were remarkably clean wherever we went on this trip.

This is one of several 17th century homes in Osuna that were built with elaborate entry facades.  Even the composition and craftsmanship on the entry doors is amazing.

As far as traffic goes, cars and trucks were well behaved on the roads.  In town there just isn’t enough room for cars and pedestrians, let alone bikes.  One careless move and you are a goner.  Somehow it all seemed to work.

SATURDAY, APRIL 21, 2018         Osuna to Antequerra

Breakfast at El Monasterio was minimal but leaving town was direct and quick.  It was overcast, cool and hazy with a little less wind than the day before.  Today we were able to ride uphill faster than we rode on the flats yesterday.   However, we did hit strong headwinds on a climb before we stopped for coffee in Martin del la Jara.  We had lunch in Campillos from Supermercado Dia.  Leaving Campillos Ride with GPS wanted us to take a dirt road to avoid a section of the much larger A384.  We took A384, which had a four foot shoulder with no debris.  In about six miles we left A384 and headed to Bobadilla on MA438.  In Bobadilla, we rejoined the Ride with GPS route.  The last 10 to 12 miles were on very pleasant and low traffic roads.  Gordon changed GPS batteries, left the zipper open and lost his battery box at 40 miles – Oh well!

The manager at El Monasterio had called and reserved a room for us at Coso Viejo in Antequerra.  All we had to do was find it.  We rode through a very active commercial district towards the old part of town and located the hotel with little difficulty.  We cleaned up before going out and exploring.  We visited the Dolmenes about a kilometer from our Hotel.  The Dolmenes were built around 2500 BC!  They are still somewhat of a mystery.  Sort of like the Stonehenge, they don’t really have a good understanding of how they could have been built or why.

One of the Dolmenes Lunch!

GENERAL NOTE about Spanish drivers and Spaniards: 

On the open road they drive with what seems like an intense concentration, with some exceptions.  They do not get distracted.  Before they pass they put on their directional signal even if there is no one else for miles.  They go all the way into the other lane to pass.  After passing, they put on the right directional to come back into the lane.

When you ask you ask directions from a Spaniard, most have to give you directions using the main “autopistas”.  They seem to have forgotten that there is an older network of roads.  So, stick to maps for directions.

A general note about Andalusia:  It is hilly enough that about 45 miles a day is enough – plus there is just so much to see!  We have given up on early rising and jumping on the bike first thing.  You can’t get a meal until around 8:30 pm, so there is no sense arriving at a destination too early.  We have adapted a Spanish schedule – late start and late to bed.  Also at this time of year there is plenty of sun until 9:00 pm. Some one said that Franco changed Spain’s time zone to match Germany’s and they haven’t been able to change it back.

SUNDAY, APRIL 22, 2018         Antequerra to Álora

We had a rather minimal breakfast again, but were able to stop for a second breakfast in Valle de Abdalajis.  What a neat little town – hills and agriculture all around – mainly olives and oranges. 

There are three ways to get from Antequerra to Álora, all go through Valle de Abdajalis and from there you can go direct, or go through Chorro (El Caminito del Rey) or go to Ardales and then south.  We decided on the middle route, less climbing and a few less miles than on the route through Ardales. 

We had lunch at the Kon-Tiki restaurant just north of Álora and had a hard time finding the hotel Don Pero.  When we did, finally, it was closed tight.  Someone parking their car nearby pointed to the ice cream shop across the street and said we needed to talk to the proprietress there to get checked in.  Who would have known?  We walked up and down the town(after a shower) and visited the Arab Castle.  Finding somewhere for an early meal on Sunday was a challenge, but we found a restaurant willing to do a meal at 7!  House salad and pizza – good enough.

We had wanted to hike the “Caminito del Rey” (worth checking out it’s website and on YouTube).  When we tried to get tickets about a month before the tour, there were none available for our dates.  We think they book about a year in advance!  A very popular site!

Section of road near “Valle de Abdalajis”

GENERAL NOTE about saddle sores:

For some time now, we have used Mepilex Ag, a medical adhesive foam bandage, for saddle sores.  It is not only helpful at the very beginning of a sore but for helping protect and heal a developed sore.  It isn’t cheap, but worth it and one box of pads lasts for a long time.  We cut the pads into 2 inch squares.  You can also use each pad for about a week, reapplying the old pad after you shower.  Check it out.

This is as close as we got to the “Caminito”

MONDAY, APRIL 23, 2018         Álora to Ronda

Gordon managed to find a coffee shop open early for a great cup of coffee, but no breakfast.  Kay ate some leftover pizza! Later, along the way, we stopped in Pizarro for a quick bite. Gordon ordered a tuna sandwich.  It turned out to be just canned tuna on a roll – possibly an entire can.  Way too much – no mayo or anything.  After asking, they made up some fresh tomato sauce to put on it.  In Spain, they blend tomatoes in the morning to make a sauce for a toasted roll.  No salt, no seasonings.  That and a cup of coffee is about the extent of the usual breakfast.   

Ride with GPS gave two shortcuts on smaller roads that we realized would not work so did not waste time giving them a try.  It also wanted to take us off-route into Casa Rabunela, but we didn’t bite. You have to watch Ride with GPS every now and then.  There were some long climbs marked at 9%, but there were some scenic rest spots along the way.  It was threatening to rain as we stopped in Yunquera for lunch: clear chicken broth with sliced hard boiled eggs in it and for the main course, a whole plate of various sautéed mushrooms.  That’s it – just mushrooms.  After the owner learned we didn’t eat meat (except for fish and eggs), this was his solution.  We had so many mushrooms that day, we knew it would be awhile before we would want them again.  For the last long climb and on the 7 mile descent into Ronda we had the wind with us.  It was great.  Really, the whole day was great (except for the mushrooms!).  Just cool enough and just overcast enough.

We arrived in Ronda at 5:00 pm.  We found our Hotel “Enfrente Arte” in the middle of a traffic muddle that looked so confusing, we weren’t sure it would ever get sorted out.  Up a side street there were two electricians working on the front of the second floor of a house.  They had the base of their tall ladder out in the middle of the road.  This was keeping any cars from getting into the street and cars were backed around the corner.  This, however, wasn’t the cause of the muddle – that was caused by someone starting to go the wrong way onto a one way street and backed out far enough to block the road, but not far enough to get out of the one way street – a real mess.

The view from our balcony in the Hotel Enfrente Arte.

Nancy and the hotel staff welcomed us like family.  The bikes went into a patio area with a roof.  They had fresh lemonade for us.  And a fabulous room!  Madonna had stayed in it when she visited Ronda.

It is hard to adequately describe the town of Ronda.  One side of the town is a cliff with about a 300 foot vertical drop.   Walls and fences keep you from going over the edge.  A small river has cut a gorge through the middle of town.  There have been three different towns in that location over the ages.  In the Arab town, a small bridge spanned the river and was built in the 13th century.  Later, a higher town was built with the “Old Bridge” spanning the river at a higher elevation.  This bridge was built in the 16th century.  Later yet, the town moved further up onto the top of the plateau and the “New Bridge” was built.  This bridge was finished in 1793 after 40 years of construction at a cost of 50 lives.  The bridge is around 300 feet high. 

A street in Ronda

The “new” bridge

There are many areas to explore in town and outside of the town.  We were in Ronda for four nights – three days.  The first day we hiked down into the valley.  The second day we rode in the surrounding area.  The third day we spent walking in town.  Ronda has to be one of the most stunning towns on earth! We might have done more riding in and around Ronda but Kay was not feeling well!  It could have been the plateful of mushrooms!  But despite that, we ate well in Ronda – thanks to the guidance of the hotel manager, Alvaro.  Among other things, we finally found tapas that were amazing and delicious!

Breakfasts at “Enfrente Arte” were all you can eat.  Eggs and crepes prepared to order by Pablo, the chef.  Homemade breads, fruit, smoothies and even some little plates of breakfast tapas. There were lots of fresh items that came from the owner’s farm on the coast.  Also, one of the first things they did when you arrived was to teach you how to operate the full sized expresso machine.  Coffee was always available, as were wine, beer and juices!

A Breakfast salad as prepared at “Enfrente Arte”

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 25, 2018         Ronda to Sentenil to Ronda

We had planned to do a loop out of Ronda up to Olvera but due to forecasted rain and Kay’s iffy stomach, we went only as far as the little town of Sentenil, a lovely little town with many shops and homes built into the side of limestone cliffs.

Views of Sentenil and it’s “Cave houses.

Who would have known?

On our final night at Enfrente Arte, we talked with Alvaro about making reservations for our next night’s stay.  We intended to go to Zahara de la Sierra, but there weren’t any rooms available.  The same for our back up town – Grazalema.  The only rooms available were in Olvera in a hotel called Sierra y Cal.  So north to Olvera we went.

FRIDAY, APRIL 27, 2018         Ronda to Olvera

Got off to a good start this morning after a wonderful Enfrente Arte breakfast.  We had six miles of downhill, after climbing out of Ronda.  We decided to take a detour so that we could visit the Ruins of Acinipo, a Roman town, also known as Ronda Vieja (old Ronda).  We spent about an hour roaming through what remains of the town.  It was located on the top of a hill (of course!) with great views of the surrounding lands.  Then it was a good climb over to the valley of Torre-Alháquime and Olvera.  We arrived in Olvera around 3 pm and found the Sierra y Cal Hotel.  We changed, walked to the top of the town and toured the Arab castle – more exercise.  We ended up having dinner at Sierra y Cal for lack of other options.  It was food but not very good.

Roman ruins near the town of Acinipo, also called Ronda Vieja.

SATURDAY, APRIL 28, 2018         Olvera to Arcos de la Frontera

We had a marginal breakfast at Sierra y Cal.  Breakfasts that are included with the room are not worth it, but some times there is no alternative.  At least the coffee was good.

This day did not start off very fortuitously.  Kay’s digestive troubles returned. Plus when we left town, it was very foggy and cold.  We went down a very STEEP descent to the beginning of the Via Verde only to find a sign saying that the Via was closed.

The Via Verdes are rather interesting.  Apparently, during Franco’s time, all of Spain was to be connected by railroads.  The trestles, tunnels and rail beds were mostly finished.  Franco died before any tracks were placed on these beds.  Once he died, the project ended.  No trains ever traveled on these routes.  Since then, certain sections were opened as bike/hike ways.  There is a section that goes from Olvera to Puerto Serrano, about 37 Km with 27 tunnels.  This is the section we planned on riding.

 

Along the Via Verde

After seeing the “Cerrado” (closed) sign, it was a difficult climb back up to Olvera.  We knew that the first tunnel was closed (there was a map of the route and it showed the first and last tunnels as closed). We had hoped there would be a detour around this first tunnel and had tried to get more information the previous evening but no one we talked to knew – not even in a bike shop.  We did know (thanks to maps and GPS) how to get around the first tunnel.  Once we got back to Via Verde beyond the first tunnel, there was another sign marked “Cerrado”.  We were ready to give up on the Via when a couple of Spanish mountain bikers arrived.  They said no problem going all the way to Puerto Serrano.  However, there was a detour (maybe 4 Km) that you needed to take to avoid the next few tunnels.  They showed us the way – it would not have been possible without them.  The only issue was putting Kay back on gravel and trying to stay with the mountain bikes.  Fortunately, they did not plan to go the whole distance but they at least showed us the detour.  As we said there were many tunnels. Some were lit (barely) – some were not.  Kay wore a headlamp on her helmet, Gordon held a small flashlight and they were not sufficient.  Very scary in the total blackness, not knowing what the road surface was like ahead.  But we made it without any mishaps.   It was not the highlight of our tour as we had hoped.  You had to concentrate so much on the road surface that you couldn’t enjoy the scenery.  At the end (Puerto Serrano) a trail guide told us that the entire trail was closed, off limits and not to be ridden – Kay said “we just rode it”.  It seems to be a question of money to keep the trail open and ridable. 

After leaving the Via Verde at Puerto Serrano we ended up on a very quiet road in an agricultural valley.  The road was just pleasant, even with the headwind.  Once we got to Arcos de la Frontera, Garmin helped us find the Hotel Convento naturally at the top of the town, cobbles and all!.  However, even with the Garmin it was tricky finding the winding alley that led to the hotel.  We ate a meal at 4 pm at a pleasant outdoor café (just in time before lunch closing) and another (actually a wonderful Italian dinner) at 9 pm.

SUNDAY, APRIL 29, 2018         Arcos de la Frontera to Utrera

Relaxing breakfast at El Convento – a very nice hotel with an incredible view.  We had a little trouble getting out of town.  There were choices as to how to leave and the Garmin wasn’t helping matters.  It wouldn’t pick up that we were moving. It did finally figure things out.  Kay persevered in her directional ability and we were finally underway.  We stopped for coffee in Espera a little town off the tourist route – but cute with very friendly people.  We stayed awhile in a coffee bar watching people and dogs.  After leaving Espera, we took a road that would lead us to a secondary road that on the map looked like an interesting alternative.  The Garmin didn’t care for the route, though, but after awhile it stopped telling us to make a U-turn.  Soon we found out why it was not happy. The secondary road on the map turned out to be mud and rocks.  Our best option at that point was to backtrack into the wind.  It cost us about 18 Km – and neither of us was very happy!  We got back on route and after a few miles left the hills and entered the plains with mostly a tail wind.  The rest of the ride went smoothly.

We planned a stop in Utrera only because it was conveniently located along the route from Arcos de la Frontera to Carmona.  Utrera, which is also off any tourist route, turned out to be a very nice town.  We checked in to the Hotel Vera Cruz, which we found rather easily, then bathed, changed and took a walk.  There were lots of interesting sections of the town to explore.  Kay saw her first stork in its nest on the top of a church.  Everyone seemed to be out – walking, drinking coffee and always talking.  After all, it was Sunday before Utrera’s patron saint day and just before May Day.  Kids don’t have to go back to school until Thursday.  The only problem was that because it was Sunday before the holidays, a lot (most) of the restaurants were not going to open back up for the evening meal.  We finally found an Italian restaurant open.  We ate plenty and it was just fine.  The Hotel turned out to be one of the nicer places that we stayed and Utrera turned out to be much more than what we had expected.

Storks nesting on a church in Utrera

MONDAY, APRIL 30, 2018         Utrera to Carmona

We had the typical breakfast at the Hotel Vera Cruz but it was pleasant.  Took our time getting ready – a gentle day today to get back to Carmona.  We are out of the hills and generally had a tail wind.  Cool and clear – it doesn’t get any better than this! 

The map showed road 8100 going all the way from Utrera to Carmona, but the last 18 Km or so of 8100 have been closed to traffic and looked abandoned.  The detour is A-3200.  The Garmin agreed.  We climbed up onto the ridge and into Viso del Alcor and had coffee.  Then we rode along the ridge to Carmona.  We arrived at the Parador, got our suitcases and packed up the bikes – first thing.  Now that the bikes are older – Gordon takes less care in prepping them for packing.  We finished, changed and went to have a late lunch in the hotel dining room while it was still being served.  We had a full three-course meal!  We didn’t finish “lunch” until 5 pm – so we didn’t need much “dinner”.   Ah, the Spanish and their mealtimes!

We had yet another day so we went back to Sevilla by bus for a quick second trip into the city.  Had fun walking around, timed lunch while it was raining outside and shopped for some of our favorite Andalusian delicacies – nut-filled nougat called “turron” and different nut brittles.

One final fabulous breakfast buffet at the Parador the next morning – a wonderful way to end our Andalusian tour – then off to the Sevilla airport.

A Last General Note:

While working on this log I have been listening to “RNE Clásica” radio station on the App “Radio España”.  This is a great station with a variety of music types. 

A last view of the entrance to the Carmona Parador

With that we say goodbye to our Spain tour and to Carmona

Cuba: Cycling, Cigars, and Classic Cars…

Cassandra Brooklyn is a New York City-based travel planner and tour operator specializing in off-the-beaten-path trips to Cuba and Mexico that emphasize biking, hiking, and cultural exchange. You can find more bike tour and trip information on her EscapingNY website or by following her on Facebook and Instagram.

Bike used on this adventure was a Bike Friday New World Tourist

And now Cassandra’s story…

If you would have told me a year ago that I would be bike touring by myself across Cuba this year, I would have thought you were crazy. Though I’ve been a daily commuter for 12 years, lead a Food and Cycling group in New York City, and have ridden several century tours (on a single speed!), I had very little bike touring experience. Sure, I had gone weekend bike-packing to campgrounds in New York state and did a 5-day bike tour around Cape Cod, Massachusetts, but those were very short trips, all completed with friends, within 250 miles of my home in Brooklyn, New York. I will be honest with you, when I decided to bike tour Cuba by myself, I was flat out scared and worried I would die of heat exhaustion along some abandoned highway in the middle of sugar cane country.

When I began leading group tours to Cuba in 2015, I quickly began attracting a lot of cyclists so I launched bike-themed tours dubbed “Cuba: Cycling, Cigars, and Classic Cars”. We took cars in between cities and rented bicycles to ride around attractions within cities. There’s no better way to explore Havana’s energetic streets, Vinales’ tobacco fields and farm-studded valleys, or the Bay of Pigs’ quiet back streets than by bicycle!

Interest in cycling Cuba is growing so I wanted to explore the country by two wheels so that I could expand my tours to include proper bike tours in the future. I was also eager to return to some of the far-flung regions and lesser-visited provinces that I had backpacked and hitchhiked through a few years ago. I considered using my Surly long-haul trucker touring bike but instead opted to get a Bike Friday New World Tourist. I wanted to be able to throw my bike on a bus (or truck, or tractor, or horse carriage!) if I needed to save time. I also didn’t want to deal with a bike box since I planned to fly into Eastern Cuba and fly out of Western Cuba and I didn’t think the box could handle the trip. Bike Friday was the perfect solution!

I started my tour in Eastern Cuba, visiting sleepy fishing villages and swimming holes in Holguin. I then headed to ancient Taino burial grounds and quiet beaches in Guantanamo and on to countless historic revolutionary sites and Fidel Castro’s grave in Santiago de Cuba, a lively city that hosts a wild carnival each summer. In central Cuba, I returned to the Bay of Pigs, the site of the infamous failed US invasion and some of the best assortment of government-sponsored propaganda billboards in the country! I rode north to Varadero, the country’s first and most famous beach resort town, perhaps the only place on the entire island where you’ll find a five-star resort that is actually five stars. I opted for a casa particular, a B&B run by a local, then pedaled west to Havana to scout some new rides for my group tours.

One of my favorite parts of the tour was riding along Cuba’s northwest coast, between two of the country’s most popular tourist cities, Havana and Viñales. While hundreds of tourists crammed into tour buses and rusty classic cars that sped along the main highway – the most direct route between the two cities – I opted for the meandering northern coastal route, where I typically had the road to myself as I enjoyed ocean breezes, beach views, and spectacular mountain valleys. Though my group tours to Cuba always include a bike ride through Viñales’ magical tobacco valleys, this was my first time arriving in the city by bicycle, offering views that no 1950s Chevy can compete with! Instead of heading directly back to Havana along the main highway, I took another detour to visit a VERY mountainous region known for its waterfalls, swimming holes, orchid garden, and the country’s first eco-hotel.

Road conditions in Cuba vary dramatically but being a New Yorker, I’m very accustomed to dodging potholes so I didn’t encounter much trouble. Because my Bike Friday folded up so easily, I threw it on a bus or strapped it to the top of a classic car a few times to skip some of the longer stretches of gravel in Guantanamo and Santiago that are known to cause tons of flat tires. May is rainy season in Cuba so I rode through my fair share of rainstorms. Note to self: pack fenders next time! On several occasions, a pick-up truck picked me up during a downpour and drove me to somewhere I could find cover. Again, I was grateful that my Bike Friday fit so easily into their vehicles.

I was fortunate to not run into many mechanical problems during my tour, though I did lose my helmet the first day! I suspect my taxi driver unhooked it from my backpack on the drive from the airport, but I was able to borrow a helmet a couple weeks later and use it the rest of the trip. What we consider “everyday” bike tools and gear can be difficult to impossible to come by in Cuba so I brought absolutely everything I thought I may need (except fenders!), including tubes, spokes, spare washers and bolts, tire levers, lube, a multi-tool, and a wrench. Equally as important as bike tools are a tube of sunscreen, which can be surprisingly difficult to come by in a fiercely sunny country. Check out my How to Pack for Cuba blog post that goes over some essential items to take on your next trip.

Most bike shops in Cuba buy their bikes off foreign bike tourists and don’t receive shipments from manufacturers so it’s very unlikely you’ll come by a bike box in the country. Many bike tourists leave their bike box or suitcase at the casa particular they stay at then return to box it up at the end of their trip. Since I flew into and out of airports that were 450 miles apart, this wasn’t an option. I brought my bike suitcase on the bus with me from Eastern Cuba to Western Cuba, then had a taxi driver I work with bring it to Havana for me while I biked along a different route. I don’t recommend sending your bike box with just anybody but there are many trusted taxi drivers who would be happy to transport your box should you fly in/out of different cities.

Over the summer, I will write more blog posts about my bike tour, touring alone as a female, and about some of my favorite, less-visited parts of Cuba, like Baracoa, a small town in Guantanamo famous for chocolate, coconut “cucurucho”, and the country’s largest national park. You can follow my adventures by signing up for my monthly Adventure Newsletter or following me on Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, or Pinterest. If you’re interested in joining my next bike-themed group trip to Cuba or you’d like help planning your own trip adventure, shoot me a message on my EscapingNY website!

Replacing the need for Uber, Lyft and smelly Taxies when traveling…

Have you ever wished you could just jump off a plane, walk out the doors of the airport and be off on your adventure? No waiting for trains, Uber, Lyft or a smelly taxi?

The Bike Friday New World Tourist was created to solve these problems. It even has the option to add E-Assist that can fly with you and boost your ride if it gets tough.

Bike Friday has the solution. 

  • A bike that folds to easily fit into a car trunk, train shelf or other transport
  • A bike that can pack into a standard airline suitcase (no over-sized fees)
  • A bike built for you so it fits and rides great and you can take it with you
  • Added benafit of 20inch wheels that climb hills better than a traditional wheel size
  • With E-Assist you will be able to have all this and a good Irish wind at your back at all times

If you have ever traveled by bike, you know just how good it feels to jump on your bike after a long flight.  The first 30 seconds on the saddle you are still dreaming about how good it would feel to hit a pillow for 8-10 hours, but then a minute into the ride it’s like the clouds lift and you are in your happy place.  It’s life-changing, to say the least.

A good ride shakes the flight out of your legs and gets you in the right mindset for the rest of the trip. As a tourist, there is no better way to see things than by bike.  The simple pleasure of sleep will also come as a good friend when you finally do find your place of rest for the night, it may just be the best sleep you’ve had all year.

When you embark on the challenge of finding the perfect bike and seeing the world and a thirst for adventure is part of what makes you tick, check out Bike Friday.

The Problem with “normal” sized bikes, they are hard to travel with.  No matter which way you turn the coin around they are:

  • Bulky = hard to maneuver through travel situations when Not riding
  • Big package = they cost extra money to put on airplanes
  • Too Big to fit into most vehicles in most places around the world
  • Rental bikes don’t fit like your bike does and can get expensive for long tours

Bike folds to fit easily into a car trunk

 

Bike packs into an airline checkable suitcase. Suitcase can turn into a bike trailer also!

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the words of the great Dr. Seuss “Oh The Places You’ll Go”.

Two people, two bikes, two suitcases ready to travel anywhere!

The New World Tourist would be a great choice and a welcome friend to make your adventure complete.  If you have any questions on the wonders of having an E-Bike with E-Assist, please don’t hesitate to ask.  We are pretty tickled by how amazing it is and what it can do to help you reach the next ridge, winery or small alpine village.

Thankful for customers who toot our horn…

Because we are not good at tooting our own horn…we are truly thankful for our long-time customers who do.  This is one such story which thankfully has a happy ending and is one of the many of our “Why’s” when people ask us what our “Why” is.  E-Assist truly is a wonderful thing if done correctly.  Enjoy the story.

“Hi Hanna, Alan, and the Bike Friday team.

It’s been awhile since we have been in touch with you, but there is a reason for doing so now—an unfortunate reason on one hand, and a positive one on the other.

 

Last August, a day after her birthday, Sharon had a very serious cycling accident that did not involve any car.  It happened on an E-JOE EPIK SE electric folding bike.  She described what happened before she fell on a downhill in a bike lane: “The bike’s steering began to wobble uncontrollably—the handlebars were going back & forth [laterally] rapidly and violently.” Because she could not control the steering, she knew she was going to fall either to the left or the right side. She could not remember whether she tried to brake. The odometer showed 925 cumulative miles and the max speed that day was 29 mph. She suffered a number of injuries but has been recovering well since; she isn’t sure whether she will cycle again.

In our effort to determine the cause of this accident we, and two excellent bike shops here in Boulder, could not find the “smoking gun.” Chuck Ankeny, who had previously worked on this bike to improve both the rough steering and the sloppy brakes to make it absolutely safe, said this accident could probably not be duplicated in a lab. An e-bike web site had several negative comments about this bike, but we had not checked it out before buying it. We concluded that the accident could have been caused by a combination of a poorly designed and manufactured frame and incorrect weight distribution (the bike had a 5-lb portable oxygen concentrator in a wire basket mounted on the rear rack, and rear panniers with a few   items). 

Then I made a comparison between the E-JOE and my 2007 Crusoe BF: both are folding bikes with 20-inch wheels, with a similar, but not identical geometry. The steering on the two bikes is total different, which most likely contributes to the difference in weight distribution on the bikes (excuse my lack of expertise here). 

Here is the positive reason that I am writing to you.  My emphasis here is the proven quality of the Bike Friday products.  I have ridden a BIKE-FRIDAY CRUSOE, my 3rd Bike Friday (BF), since 2007. I rode my 1st BF (1995 New World Tourist) and 2nd BF (2001 Pocket Rocket Pro) on a number of Ride the Rockies tours and elsewhere, totaling thousands of miles (on one RTR tour a fellow rider had asked me how stable these bikes were on the downhill; I told him to follow me down, and never saw him again).  During these years, I experienced not one accident attributable to the design or the manufacture of the bike itself. Moreover, Sharon rode her 1995 New World Tourist in Hawaii, New Zealand, and Colorado without a single incident or accident, until health problems required her to discontinue cycling (until she discovered e-bikes). In other words, a big thanks to all of you at Bike Friday! Keep up the good work.

I read with interest your postings and work on e-bikes.  In 2011 when she discovered e-bikes, Sharon bought a RANS crank-forward bike with an 8-pound BionX battery. The bike worked for her, she took to it well, but the battery deteriorated after a few years, AND the bike was unwieldy and very difficult to transport.  Still, it restored her freedom to cycle again after 12 years off the bike. Then, the unfortunate purchase of the E-JOE. 

Thank you,

Sharon and Manfred S.”

 

We hope to see Sharon on an E-Assist bike soon so she can keep on doing what they both love to do.  Happy Trails!

Bike Friday Family

Tesla’s Frunk? Our Bikes Fit With Room to Spare.

Bike Friday tikit in a Tesla frunk

We found this great little post on the Tesla website. Pretty great to see our TiKit fitting very nicely right into one of the many world changing vehicles in the world.  Our mission is to change the world and glad to see we are not the only ones.  Cheers to taking steps…one step at a time.

6 Reasons Why Cargo Bikes Are The Next Big Thing

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We already have seen the impact  of Cargo Bikes. Have you?

Check out this post on Grist.org

 

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Wheel Barrow on HD

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JoKogaand with Lucy dog on HD

Grocery shopping load on orange HD bike only

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2 Haula-a-Days with Camper and guitar

 

 

A Weekend Adventure Packed onto One Bike

By Raz

Huge chunks of weathered gray rock jut skyward from the gentle tumbling waters of Fall Creek as I roll over the bridge, about to disappear under a thicker canopy of trees as the scenery changes ever so subtly. Those rocks are more submerged during the wetter months, and show why the creek makes a dramatic turn at this very spot.

Big Fall Creek Road narrows at this point where I could call it a day and roll into Cascara State Park to set up camp along the reservoir that reflects the rather dry winter we endured. We camped there 10 years ago, one of our last stops before driving into Eugene permanently to make it our home. I know there are vacancies, which make it tempting.

The feeling of “Been There, Done That” triumphs over any nostalgia rippling in my head. That was then, this is now.

Instead of our popup camper and the SUV filled with gear and my girls, I’m gliding across the bridge effortlessly on a Bike Friday Haul-a-Day cargo bike loaded down to get me through a night of camping.

Up the road a number of small campgrounds dot the edges of Fall Creek, and my heart is set on the solitude they offer. The softening of the afternoon light reminds me that, this being Friday, camping sites get snatched up in a hurry. This could be a lot of extra pedaling for naught.

Yet I’m in no hurry. The images of Fall Creek that pop in and out of view behind the lush green forest calm me. They also make me wonder why this has taken so long.

The last time I packed up camping gear on a bike and headed out with my buddy Jack, we were just hitting high school back in Wisconsin and didn’t have driver’s licenses to accommodate such desires. We had to load up backpacks with our gear, and wobble our way out to Eagle.

I’m thinking back to that because it is exactly why our cargo bike has been so popular. There are a lot of people out there who want to leave their cars behind. A cargo bike offers that type of freedom.

That type of freedom delivers peace on a number of levels. That’s the overwhelming feel on this day. What, Me Worry?

More than anything, this is my personal quest to know the Haul-a-Day better so I can do my job better. That’s just the reason for this adventure. The satisfaction is an added, pleasant bonus.

I’ve got the Haul-a-Day packed up with about 50 pounds of gear which, if you attempt to pick up the bike, feels like quite a significant load. I’m not the biggest dude on the block, running about 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds, so having the Haul-a-Day itself start out at 33 pounds is a true benefit.

Having tested my strapping skills to make sure my cargo stays put and felt the weight of the full-loaded bike, the time had come to see how challenging this effort might be. With a solid push on the pedal, the Haul-a-Day responded quickly with a straight launch. No wobbling left and right to get it under control. It zipped forward, like an arrow.

As I’ve done more than few times in my five years of personally testing Bike Friday gear, I find myself shaking my head thinking, “Can it really be this easy?”

Three hours later, as I leave Cascara behind and continue into the Oregon wilderness, I know the answer is a resounding yes.

Although I tend to spend most of my riding these days on bike paths, trails and protected lanes, this venture brought me back to the reality of riding along a busy road with nary much of a shoulder. The feeling of complete control of the Haul-a-Day eased my mind when a logging truck would zoom past.

The gearing on this Haul-a-Day (it’s the same Haul-a-Day that Adam Newman used for his review in Bicycle Times) has 24 speeds and more than enough on each end for me. The two-mile climb from the dam wasn’t too steep, instead long and steady. I handled it with no problem.

As I roll into Broken Bowl campground and see open spots, I think that I should be more tired than I am. I’m lugging around an extra load, yet I could probably continue on if I had to. I see one spot still available on the creek, and realize I don’t need to go any farther. This will do just fine.

 

You Won’t Believe What This 80-Year-Old Did on Her Bike Friday

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EDITOR’S NOTE: It has been nearly five years since Dolores McKeough sent us this email, reminding us that it’s never too late to chase your dreams!

Hi, I got home 24 hours ago.

What a fantastic, beautiful summer. The adventure, fun, stress, friends made, country seen, and on and on.

The trip started innocently enough with friend Cathy in Tampa on April 3. It ended yesterday after I biked from Malibu where I was camping with three companions, whom I met in Big Sur, to Santa Monica where I folded my Bike Friday into it’s suitcase (after I took the wheels off since it had been serving as my trailer).

So many good things happened on this extravaganza trip including the folding experience in Santa Monica. I didn’t want to disassemble the bike on the beach, although it was a beautiful day, there was too much sand.

So, I went to the REI store where Robbie, the bike repair manager, suggested I use part of his work space. What a generous offer. I took him up on it and had the trailer wheels and attachment off in no time. I then folded the bike (taking the accessories off is the most time consuming part of the process) and put it in the suitcase (the former trailer).

The suitcase with the bike weighed in at 52 pounds at the airport (even though it was two pounds over the allowance Suncountry let it go). My duffle bag with camping stuff, clothes etc weighed in at 28 pounds. And, I had two carry-ons.

So I figure the bike plus all my stuff was about 85 pounds. That’s a lot of weight to ride across the country and partly up and down two coasts. But, I did it and feel great.

I just added it up! I think I rode about 1,000+ miles from Mt. Dora, Florida, to Williamsburg, Virginia; then 4,500 TransAm miles from Richmond, Virginia, to Florence, Oregon; then 1,100 miles from Florence to Santa Monica California.

That’s 6,600 miles on my Bike Friday with 85 pounds, from April 3  til August 29. That impresses even me.

As you know it is not simply the miles that count but the terrain, the road surface, the elevation, the weather …

It was wonderful. The picture was taken North of San Francisco. Note the long sleeves; the weather did not warm up til Santa Barbara.

Dolores

7 Steps to Buying a Bike on a Budget

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: Before opening Bike Friday in 1992, Co-Founder Alan Scholz owned and operated a few bike shops, and spent time as a national level racer.  Here are his expert tips on how to spend your money wisely when buying a bike.]

By Alan Scholz

Here are the basics I learned long ago about buying a bike on a budget, in order of importance.

1. Make sure you get a good frame in the right size. Get help making sure the frame fits your body by someone who is knowledgeable about fitting. Look for the best frame you can afford for the right type of riding you plan to do. Nothing else matters as much if you are on a budget. Everything else can be upgraded later if you are short on funds. Good designers, cyclists, and shop employees know this. It’s a good test of their basic knowledge.

2. Ride the saddle if it came with the bike just long enough to see if you can put up with it. If the bike does not come with saddle and pedals, thank the designer. That means they invested that money into the frame and wheels for you! Get a saddle that works for you — it is worth the individual focus. Price and weight are not good criteria to use to choose a saddle. You need to test ride a number of saddles and buy one  that is acceptable.

After you have been riding a while, you will be ready to trade up to a better saddle. When your butt is new to cycling, an acceptable saddle is as good as it gets. When you can ride 15-25 miles a day regularly get a nice saddle if you feel you need a different shape. Don’t believe anyone who says “this is a men’s saddle, or this is a women’s saddle.” Get one that fits and feels good. Ignore the rest.

3. If you can afford it, get a good set of wheels. After getting a frame that fits, wheels that are relatively light will give you by far the most bang for your buck.

4. If you are pushing your budget, buy cheap heavy tires. You will be replacing tires eventually, and then you can get some good tires. Wearing out tires will happen sooner than you think. That’s when you can buy better tires. You will be best served to really enjoy your bike, although frame and wheels will do the most toward that goal.

5. Next change your steel stuff out for entry level alloy if you must limit funds. Steel chainrings, brakes, seatposts, and derailleurs are a dead give away that they are sub-standard for someone who wants to be a real rider and can afford more than the minimum frame and wheels. They may work fine but they were put there to save money and they are heavy. Your motor cannot be changed. Weight matters. Used parts are often a good choice, but you need to really know parts design. Brand is not always a clear indicator. Ask a knowledgeable friend or expert consultant.

6. If your ship has come in, you can be picky but not arrogant about parts and prices. People who ”buy” into the sport usually do not become good nor happy cyclists. The most pricey and light gear will not perform for you out of the box if you have not already gained top level skills to utilize and appreciate them. From the experience in my shop days starting hundreds of folks to cycling, it takes as a minimum, three progressively better bikes as an adult to get to the top level, best for you. It doesn’t matter how much money you have.

7. Full Custom is usually not available or understandable to you until the third level of bike and thousands of miles. Small custom builders must charge 2-5 times as much as off the shelf mass produced bikes. If you do not know that they still mostly make less than minimum wages doing so, you will not appreciate their output anyway. Your best choice then is to buy an off the shelf imported bike and think you got a good deal. All small manufacturing concerns, one person to 60 people are squeezed by this math. Imports are cheaper because the factories are larger and they have the economies of scale. But they often also practice a lack of respect for good design that a small custom builder will have. Inexpensive or dear, a bike can serve you well if you take the time to choose. Take a ride with the local bike club and you will find there are far more important skills than a full wallet to keep up.

Bike Friday Pocket Rocket folding bike owned by Jim Langley

How to Ride Your Bike Every Day

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By Raz

Jim Langley has ridden his bike every day for the past 22 years. That’s an amazing streak. His numbers are staggering:

  • 22 years
  • Nearly 8,000 days
  • More than 120,000 miles

Since December 30th, 1993, the former technical editor of Bicycling magazine has ridden every day. It’s a mind-boggling streak that begs the question: How did he do it? Perseverance and determination are certainly key factors, but Langley also has another element to credit: His Bike Friday Pocket Rocket.

Bike Friday Pocket Rocket folding bike owned by Jim Langley

Jim Langley and his new Pocket Rocket in 2006. photo courtesy Jim Langley

“I could never have kept the streak alive without my Bike Fridays,” Langley said. “Some of my all-time favorite rides were made possible only because I had my Pocket Rocket along with me, like riding up and down the Haleakala volcano in Maui. If you’ve never done that you need to.”

Do you have a streak? If so, Like us on Facebook and share your streak and story with the world.

If you don’t have a streak, what better way to begin one than on a new Bike Friday Pocket Rocket or Pocket Rocket Pro?

It all starts with having a bike that fits your body and is equipped to do what you need it to do. Bike Fridays can fold and travel with you. Our cargo bike the Haul-a-Day can do the work of your SUV while you get exercise.

What’s stopping you from your streak?

Also, read Jim Langley’s Weekly Tech Column.