Biking in Cuba–sounds awesome, right? Take a people-to-people group tour on bikes? Bike independently? Or maybe just use the bikes for day trips? And if you go with Option 3, then how to pull it off? Might sound simple, but could it actually be tricky?
I’m considering a trip to Cuba with my boyfriend in June–an independent ‘people-to-people’ style trip, with a focus on getting to know the real Cubans and the culture. I’d like to figure out how to have such an experience via bicycle.
Two Weeks Only
This would not be a long trip; it would be just 2 weeks. We’d considered ‘touring,’ as in, biking from place to place with all of our belongings on the bikes, but we recently decided against that.
Bike ‘Touring’–Off the Table Due to Differing Fitness Levels
The main reason is our differing fitness levels and experience. He’s done this before in several countries (riding 30 to 40 miles per day) and is in great shape; however, I have not and I’m not in the shape I’d like to be.
We recently did a 15-mile bike ride and I felt that was the most I could handle. Having said this, I was on a mountain bike, which was wrong for the paved roads we were on. Perhaps, on a hybrid bike, I could handle 20 miles or so, but that would be with the lightest backpack and some water–nothing too heavy.
A Possible Compromise: Bikes for Everyday Riding
Neither of us would want to go on an actual group tour, so we came up with a possible solution, which would be to bring our bikes (I’d buy a hybrid first ) and use them for everyday riding–to get around towns and cities (versus walking) and for some long day trips with just water and food (no heavy backpack). I like this idea a lot, but I wonder about certain logistics.
So here are my questions re: how to travel through Cuba, on a bike, but not touring, per se… Any advice you have re: Cuba biking or biking in general would be greatly appreciated.
1. Does Using Bikes for a Non-Touring Style Trip Make Sense?
I really enjoy biking and often rent a bike for a few days when I travel; it’s often more fun than walking since you can move faster and see things from a different perspective than while on a bus.
Meanwhile, my boyfriend lives in a major U.S. city and happens to bike everywhere. It’s a major part of his life, and it’s become important to me, too. For him, to travel without a bike feels less than ideal. For me, it’s something I like the idea of.
So does it make sense to compromise and take bikes/use them for everyday riding–touring around towns and cities, to visit tourist attractions, etc? Would this provide us with a cool, up-close look at the country that would make the logistics of having the bike worth it?
Note: I have some wrist issues and prefer to ride my own bike versus using a rental.
2. What Happens When We Need to Move On to Another Town or City?
I’m used to just hopping on a bus and going, with a light backpack and nothing else. Bikes would be a ‘something else.’ I suppose that if the town isn’t too far, we could ride with our belongings…but then, isn’t that like bike touring? We’d have to pack ultra-light, I’m sure.
What if the town isn’t that close, though? Then what? Bus? Taxi? Truck? And what about when it’s really far?
Cuba is not a small island. Some people opt to bike the Western half and then take some long-haul transportation to the Eastern half and continue riding there. How easy is it to do this, I wonder…and what if you’re not actually touring on the bikes–just using them as I’ve described?
Bikes on Buses: I’ve read that one can pay extra to take a bike on a bus–how much extra, I wonder. Are the bus drivers generally OK with this? Do they ever say no?
Bikes on Trucks: Maybe one option would be to pay someone with a small truck to transport the bikes when necessary. I’ve sat on the back of a truck; I’d imagine with the offer of some cash, someone would transport bikes, too.
4. Better to Just Focus on Biking on the Western Side of the Island?
I’ve seen quite a few bike tours where the itinerary focuses on the Western part of the island–Havana, Viñales, Piñar del Rio, etc. I wonder if it makes sense to take the bikes and do that there–take our time and keep our options open. Then, leave the bikes in Havana and move quickly to the other side for several days, bike-free?
5. How Hot Is Cuba in June?
If we do this trip, it would be in June. I know it’s quite hot then and, from what I’ve read, humid. I wonder just how hot and humid it would be. I remember being in Baja California, La Paz, etc., in the July a few years ago. It was hell. I do, however, recall the times I was on a bike that it was rather pleasant due to the breeze…but I had the lightest bag with me.
Would biking in Cuba mean riding early in the morning?
6. How to Plan Out This Type of Trip?
I’m usually pretty spontaneous when I travel. With this trip, I think I’d have to change my ways a bit. Would it be best to have a somewhat detailed plan in mind? Then allow for some spontaneity? Figure out the logistics of moving from town to town and then take it from there?
For as adventurous as I am, I’d admit I feel confused re: how to make this happen.
7. Maybe Focus on Biking in Just One Region?
There is one way to do this, I think, and that might be to focus on biking in Viñales, etc., but then what if there’s FOMO (fear of missing out)? Or would this be a case of less being more somehow…seeing less, but seeing it up close? One can always return, I suppose.
8. Can I Let Go of the Idea of ‘Doing Cuba’?
If I were traveling alone, I’d probably go for one month and ‘do the country,’ whatever that means. I suppose I’d see as much as possible, using buses much of the time. As for being active, I’d do salsa dancing and hiking.
This trip would be just 2 weeks. For me, that doesn’t feel like much time. I certainly don’t want to rush it. But does having limited time mean it could feel rushed? Or is there another way?
9. Or Should I Arrive Sooner or Stay Longer?
If this comes together, it might be my main summer trip–and if so, I’d love to get some more time out of it. I wonder if I should consider adding on to my time there. Maybe add on a week and spend time taking a cooking or music course or doing something else that’s cultural? Then, I’d have to figure out what to do with my bike.
Spanish Language: No Problema, BTW
I’ve been speaking Spanish for about 20 years, so I’m not too worried about communicating with Cubans. In fact, I’d love to do it. I won’t say that I’m fluent, especially when speaking Caribbean Spanish (which is different than the South American Spanish I know), but I’ll say I’m ‘relatively fluent’ or 80%. So that would not be a concern.
I have many more questions, but I think this is a good place to start. Any/all advice is appreciated.
Have you been to Cuba? If so, how did you travel there? What are you thoughts re: the possible approach I’ve written about above?
Have you biked in Cuba? If so, please share any info you have and feel free to link to posts you’ve written–whether you’re ‘toured’ or just did day trips.
Have you done a bike tour in another country? If so, have you done one independently or as part of a group? Would you consider what we’re considering?
Thanks for you interest in this post and any possible advice you have!