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Posted March 25th, 2013

One of the great things about touring in Cuba is seeing all the ways bicycles are used in daily life, and how much is done with so little. 

Bicycles are a key method of transport for the average Cuban, whether they’re taking their kids to school or selling produce at a street market. Here are just some of the photos we snapped of Cubans and their bikes…

This carrot seller was spotted in the central city of Cienfuegos.

Carrots For Sale By Bicycle

He wasn’t the only one selling food by bike. We encountered this man near Viñales, taking bok choy and spring onions to market on a bicycle that wouldn’t look out of place back home in the Netherlands.

Bok Choy seller and his delivery bicycle

This man was selling apples in Santa Clara.

Bicycle apple seller in Santa Clara

Even cakes were being transported by bicycle!

Trinidad cake seller

Also in the streets of Santa Clara, we saw this lady taking her daughter across town.

Cyclists in Santa Clara, Cuba

She was using a bike seat like this. We saw thousands of these wooden children’s seats on bikes across Cuba.

Bike with a child's seat (very popular in Cuba)

Wood was also used to create make-do pedals.

Wooden pedals!

Such repairs were probably done by a road-side bike mechanic, like this one in Trinidad.

Bike Mechanic in Trinidad, Cuba

Or possibly by one of these guys, who were selling bike parts at a market.

Bike parts stall at a market in Trinidad, Cuba

They didn’t have anything fancy to sell, but they did have a basic selection of parts including gear cables, bearings and pedals.

Bike parts stall at a market in Trinidad, Cuba

Back to people selling (and carrying) things by bike, we were impressed by this very large box on the back rack of a bike in Santa Clara. We don’t think the bike was actually carrying a washing machine – probably the box was filled with something lighter. We often saw such boxes being used to carry multiple loaves of bread, for example.

Cuban cargo bike

We also took note of this fellow, who had his hands full as he cycled through Trinidad!

Cyclist in Trinidad

And finally, this Bici Taxi driver showed us how hard he worked for his fare in Havana. We hired him for a ride to a local restaurant and marvelled as he propelled all of us – plus his heavy bicycle – through the traffic.

Bici Taxi

Kudos to the cyclists of Cuba!

Posted March 25th, 2013

After two weeks of very slow cycling (thanks to our wobbly start and the antibiotics that followed), we’re about halfway through our bike tour of Cuba and the towns of Santa Clara and Remedios are next on our agenda.

First up is Santa Clara, a city made famous by the fact that the last battle of the Cuban Revolution took place here in 1958. This momentous occasion is marked by a huge monument to Che Guevara.

Che monument in Santa Clara

Santa Clara is about 80km from Cienfuegos so we pack up early. We’re not sure if we can make the distance. There might be a headwind and we’re not always very quick with a baby on board. As we load up the bikes, the friendly B&B owner comes out to entertain Luke. Cubans simply love kids.

Leaving Cienfuegos

The road is fairly flat and – to be frank – a bit boring. We try (and fail) to figure out the many revolutionary slogans, and we gaze at the endless fields of sugar care alongside the road.

Cycling towards Santa Clara

There are no real tourist attractions but we make our own fun at roadside drinks stalls. Keys always put a smile on Luke’s face, and almost everyone is willing to lend him a set when we stop.

Andrew & Luke at a roadside cafe

To our amazement, we make Santa Clara by the end of the afternoon without feeling rushed. We strike a ridiculous pose in front of the famous monument (actually, it’s just Friedel looking ridiculous in this photo – why didn’t anyone tell her??) and head into town.

In front of the Che Monument, Santa Clara

Santa Clara, as we soon find out, is a bike photographer’s dream! Here’s just one of the cool bicycles we spotted. This one is a moveable market stall.

Vegetable seller

And the local people are displaying some bike skills that make us quite nostalgic for home in the Netherlands!

Cyclists in Santa Clara, Cuba

Another day, and a few more kilometers down the road, Friedel gets the chance to try a Cuban bike. The back-pedal brakes barely work and the chain is rusty but it puts a smile on her face!

Friedel on Jose's bike (in Remedios)

Luke, meanwhile, is more interested in the retro 1950s playgrounds and their squeaking swings.

Luke at a Cuban playground

Next up for us will be the city of Sancti Spiritus, and a ride that’s reputed to be the most beautiful in Cuba!

*This is the fourth in a series of journal entries about our one-month, 750km tour of Cuba. See the first entry, the second and the third. More coming soon!

Posted March 15th, 2013

It took many hours to pore over the more than 700 entries, but after great debate we finally picked a winner in the contest to find a new cover for our Bike Touring Survival Guide.

Congratulations to Solidream, the photographic talent behind this amazing picture of three friends cycling through the eastern Sierra mountains in California.

Back on the road

Both of our judges loved this photo, and agreed it should be the winner of the contest. Paul Jeurissen said:

A well-balanced picture that really comes to life. Using the mountain to frame the cyclists really works beautifully.

Amaya Williams said:

This image evokes the challenge, camaraderie and simple thrill of cycle touring. It’s also shot from an interesting angle, the color really pops and the mountains in the distance provide a stunning backdrop for the cyclists.

We also have 3 runner-up prizes to award. They go to:

On Tour In Chile by Garths On Tour
DSC_2668

Cañon inesperado by Alvaro & Alicia
Cañon inesperado

On the way to Uspallata, Mendoza, Argentina by Ana Carolina Vivian
Somewhere on the way to Uspallata, Mendoza, Argentina.

All winners will receive a print and eBook copy of the new Bike Touring Survival Guide (due out this spring). Solidream – as overall winners – will also receive a €50 cash prize, while the runners-up get a DVD copy of Tom Allen’s film Janapar.

Thank you to everyone who entered!

Posted March 9th, 2013

After an all-day bus journey, we turn up in the central Cuban city of Cienfuegos around sunset.

We’re happy to be here at all because the bus was overbooked and about 10 people were left behind in Viñales. This is a side-effect of travelling in the high season in Cuba: very busy public transport.

Thankfully, it’s no problem to find a room for the night so we quickly park our luggage and go exploring. Within a few minutes we end up at the pier, where a group of men are fishing for their dinner.

Fishing off the pier in Cienfugos

We’re not here for the fishing opportunities, however. We’re here to go cycling in the surrounding area. There are numerous day trips outlined in the Bicycling Cuba book and the next morning we tackle one of them: out to a nearby penninsula and back by ferry.

The road out of the town has plenty of traffic, but it’s all relatively slow-moving. We don’t mind sharing our road-space with this kind of traffic!

Public Transport In Cuba

Before long, the sun is rising and we’re drinking heaps of water to cope with the heat. We’re so glad we brought our water filter. At the rate we go through water (several litres a day), it would cost a small fortune to buy it all, not to mention the environmental cost of continuously throwing out plastic bottles.

Hot and thirsty cycling near Cienfuegos

There are also hills. Okay, it’s not quite the Himalayas but with temperatures over 30°C it doesn’t take much to wear us out.

Hills in Cuba

Eventually we get to the beach, where we take a short break before hopping the ferry back into Cienfuegos. The locals pay 1 peso for the ride and bikes go free. We each pay $1 American dollar and another $1 U.S. for our bikes. There’s no way around the tourist charge: they know we don’t have any option, aside from backtracking 30km.

Bikes on the ferry

And then, just as we’ve paid up (all the while muttering under our breath about the inflated cost), this boat rolls up.

The real ferry boat

We ask the captain where it’s going. He mumbles something about Cienfuegos. We become confused. There’s more questioning (from us) and mumbling (from the captain) and then we realise…. we’ve just paid $2 U.S. each for a ride on the wrong boat. Damn!

Off one boat, on to the other, another $4 U.S. paid, 20 minutes below deck with 100 other sweating people and …. finally … Cienfuegos. That was an expensive and exhausting ferry ride!

On the ferry back to Cienfuegos

Back in Cienfuegos, we’re on the final days of Luke’s course of antibiotics so we do some general lounging. This includes a bit of bike-gazing …

Bikes In Cuba

… boat watching …. (this is a fishing boat, made out of styrofoam)

styrofoam boat

… and sunsets on the pier. Next stop, Santa Clara!

Cienfuegos Pier

*This is the third in a series of journal entries about our one-month, 750km tour of Cuba. Click here for the first entry and here for the second. More coming soon!

Posted March 6th, 2013

Our recent photo contest to find a cover shot for the upcoming 2nd edition of the Bike Touring Survival Guide received an outstanding response: over 700 photos were entered!

With so many great photographs, it was very difficult to shortlist just 10 photos. We ended up picking 12 favourites. There were many superb photos beyond those shortlisted but, for various reasons, they weren’t quite suitable as cover shots.

The shortlisted photos will now be judged by two bike-touring photographers, Paul Jeurissen and Amaya Williams. The winning entry will be announced on Friday, March 15th.

Without further delay, here are the 12 shortlisted photos (in no particular order). Clicking on the photos will take you to the image on Flickr.

#1. Early Winter In China by Cyclingthe360.com
Early Winter in China

#2. On Tour In Chile by Garths On Tour
DSC_2668

#3. Iceland by Mattaos
Matts photos

#4.  Land of volcanoes, sandy paths and salty salars by Gerard Castellà
BTSG2013

#5. Back On The Road by Solidream
Back on the road

#6. Laguna Tuyaito, Paso Sico, Argentina by Piciclisti
Laguna Tuyaito, Paso Sico, Argentina,

#7. Cañon inesperado by Alvaro & Alicia
Cañon inesperado

#8. On the way to Uspallata, Mendoza, Argentina by Ana Carolina Vivian
Somewhere on the way to Uspallata, Mendoza, Argentina.

#9. Kluane lake, Yukon (on the Alaska Highway) by Lorelyruss
throughthestreetsofanywhere.wordpress.com

#10. Near Passu by Sloths On Wheels
Near Passu

#11. Descending From The Atlas Mountains by Leave Only Treadmarks
Descending From The Atlas Mountains - Morocco

#12. Magical road near Skuru by Vellowallah
P1000347