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Bike tips for Cuba

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A few bike tips for Cuba

Cycling in Cuba requires some planning if you're travelling with saddlebags and you want to your trip to go smoothly. Here are some basic things you should know (as of 2006).

1.      Cubans are generally nice people, and drivers are quite respectful. However, some roads are in really poor shape, so if you're carrying lots of baggage, don't ride with skinny tires, because you'll be asking for trouble. With a fully loaded bike (5-6 bags), I road with 700 x 38 c Continentals. With a half loaded bike, I wouldn't go below 700 x 28 c unless you know you'll always be on smooth roads like the main central highway.

2.      Carry a few extra inner tubes (at least three) and an extra tire (twisted into a three loop circle). Finding bike parts in Cuba is VERY difficult so read about emergency tire repairs, etc.

3.      Start riding at sunrise. We travelled in May and by 10:30 a.m., it was uncomfortably hot.

4.      Start drinking water much earlier in your ride than in temperate countries. Carry at least one and a half litres per person. Dehydration comes easily. Add little sugar drink packages to your water in the second half of the ride for brain food, or dilute orange pop with water in a one to two ratio (1/3 orange pop / 2/3 water).

5.      Buy lots of small bananas in the villages and eat even if you're not that hungry during the second half of the ride. Bananas are perhaps the best food there is to keep your legs turning during long tropical rides.

6.      Ask to keep your bike in your room for safekeeping. Your hosts may not understand but you will.

7.      Take time off the bike to wander, explore and watch the world go by. Cuba is a beautiful country with a rich culture, so if you feel like kicking back or walking around a town or region because it's an interesting place or you need some rest, do it. Riding hard every day is for cyclists; slowing down is for travellers.

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