Greetings from the capital city of Cuba! As a part time Pedal Rev employee I asked the good people at the shop if I could make my worldwide blogging debut via the shop blog, and for better or worse they agreed, so here goes nothing. I am extremely fortunate to find myself in the middle of a six month leave of absence from my regular job (an OUSD teacher) in order to spend some time in the land where rum and music flow freely and where socialism meets palm trees.
Before heading off, Pedal Rev master mechanic / all around good human being, Joel Bartell proposed the idea of building up a ‘Cuba Bike’ in order to take with me. The aim was to create a strong, reliable, versatile and utilitarian rig that would serve as a commuter with the possibility of doing some touring as well. This is of course no new territory for Pedal Rev, who pump out many fantastic refurbished bikes that serve similar purposes on the streets of the bay area. All this was to be done with the added challenge of setting up the Cuba Bike on a very low budget as I would be leaving it behind at the end of my stay with the hopes that it will continue to bring many kilometers of happiness to its next owner.
The bike catches the attention of many here on the island. One of the unique features that often confuses many is the 9 speed LX shifters that came off of an old bike of mine. People often give them a perplexed look and ask what they are and what purpose they serve. This is no surprise given the overwhelming abundance single speeds found here. The most prevalent of these being the ‘Flying Pigeon’ a Chinese made bicycle weighing a stout 40-ish lbs, built with a tremendous amount of rake on the forks that was imported during the 90’s during the special period (a rather difficult chapter in Cuban history due to the fall of the USSR and socialist block) in order to compensate for the lack of public transportation options.
I’ve done a handful of 4-6 hour rides that have involved leaving the city limits and using a network of country roads, ferries and the national highway system to explore the coast and valleys surrounding Habana. Turns out that the highways have way less traffic than the city and the quality of the roads is often far superior to the city streets who’s conditions at times remind me of some of the most technical mountain bike trails in the bay area. It also turns out that riding for hours in the blazing Caribbean sun takes its toll on you.
Twice now I’ve found myself in dire straits due to lack food and/or water mid ride. Most recently I was saved by a small food kiosk in the beach town of Guanabo. I approached the establishment labeled “Amigos de Jorgito” and ordered a cold Mango juice followed by a Hawaiian pizza. I was initially intimidated by the size of the pizza that was placed in front of me, but fear not fellow blog readers: I emerged successful and took it down in its entirety. I’m still not sure who Jorgito is, but I now definitely consider him an amigo and credit him for fueling me for the remaining 2 hours of my ride back to the city.
On that note I’ll wrap it up for now. Much thanks again to Pedal Rev for the space to write. Until we meet again I leave you with the words of a famous bearded Argentinian who also transplanted himself here – albeit for slightly different reasons — !Hasta la victoria siempre!