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Cuba may be emerging as a new touring destination

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Unlike many other Caribbean islands, Cuba offers both a significant advantage and difficulty for many cyclists. Cuba's large area is an attraction over its neighboring islands. Cuba has more than 40,000 square miles of land to explore, making it the largest island in the region. However, Cuba's expansive land and beautiful weather are often left unexplored by touring cyclists because of the politics surrounding travel to the country. 

Despite the restrictions for traveling to Cuba in the past 50 years, it seems to be becoming a popular and exotic bike touring destination for tourers. An article in The Taos News, a New Mexico newspaper, called for curious travelers to explore the island nation. 

"So you've flirted with the dream of touring Cuba by bicycle. Go for it," the newspaper recommended. "Go because there are no real legal obstacles you can't overcome and you are sure to leave the island wiser, both in terms of the body politic and, more importantly, an emotional wisdom sharpened by a wondrous people."

Aside from the complex politics that affect touring through Cuba, the newspaper shows how it's a great location. The coast is scenic, many areas are built for tourism, the food is inexpensive and delicious, and the culture is unique. If you're considering finding your way to Cuba for a bike touring excursion, here are a few riding tips to help you through the country. 

Bring good tires and wheels 
Although Cuba may be scenic, its roads are not picturesque. The Taos News pointed to the roads as a major downside of riding in the region. 

"Because of the U.S. embargo and Cuba's failed experiment with Socialism, road surfaces are neglected beyond belief," the newspaper explained. "Equip your bike with strong rims and wide tires to cushion the constant jarring and minimize flats."

Consider outfitting your touring bike with some Schwalbe tires. The Marathon series is known for its durability and puncture protection, both on the sides as well as the bottom. You'll also want to make sure you have plenty of repair equipment, spare tubes, extra spokes and patch gear for blowouts. 

Be prepared to be surprised 
As El Pedalero explained, most bicycle tourers are surprised by what they see and don't see in Cuba. Rather than busy, loud streets and in-your-face politics, cyclists should expect long periods of quiet riding through sugarcane farmland. In many places, the towns are quiet and sleepy, with school-age kids making the most ruckus. 

Restaurants and food stores can be hard to come by, so El Pedalero suggested riders be ready to buy food from homes. People don't think it's strange for cyclists to come up to their door and ask to buy a meal – it's done every so often in rural Cuba. 

Pack light and stay where you want to 
It's easy to have any kind of tour you want in Cuba. Experienced cyclists over at TravellingTwo explained that it's easy to tour and camp or stay at hotels. The most important thing, however, may be packing light. Because most tourers fly to Cuba to begin their tour, packing plays an even more important role than some other tours. 

Many airlines limit luggage weights to around 48 pounds. Overall, this will help you keep the weight of your bike down during the tour, but it can make packing difficult too. Some people use their panniers as luggage so that it's ready to go. TravellingTwo's cyclists took a folding bicycle as well as a steel-frame bike and packed lightly. 

Cuba may be an impossibility for many riders, but those who can get there to go touring may want to enjoy what this Caribbean destination has to offer. 

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About Stephane Marchiori

Owner of Cyclocamping.com
Bike touring since 2003, including:
a 5-Year Bicycle Journey Around The World!

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