Bikes of Cuba

I get a chance to visit a bicycle world. I began to think of journey as "Back to the Future."

If this was a movie, I would think it was not quite believable. The contrast of old and new, past and future is so amazingly varied and exagerated.

The colors and blends bring repeated wonder.

Bicitaxi central. I was told that these inventions mostly came about after the economic crisis of about 1990 and the fall of Russia as a wealthy trading partner.

Two and three people per bike is a common sight. The third will be a child.

The two may be young or elderly, mixed or same sex, fashionable or not.

Hard hat and heavy work going on here.

The details of gears and supports and chains and cables, frame styles, and varieties of wheels are incredibly varried. Each cargo or taxi bike seems more home made than manufactured.

Bike stores are rare, supplies seem scarce. An alley repair for tires and what not is more common.

New bikes are everywhere too, just not as frequently seen as well used older bikes.

Seeing big trucks in these narrow older streets is startling, but ordinary. Traffic often pauses, but never really stops.

Another cargo geometry. Sometimes this style of cargo bike has the pivot under the load and over the center of the front axel.

A practical trailer. Not too different than one I made years ago.

Wheels may be from a bike, a motorcycle, or a small car.

I met the man that rides this bike. He leads tours for bicycle tourists.

The heavy loads move slowly, but still faster than walking.

This is a rural farm area where oxen teams pulling a sledge are more common than motorized vehicles.

An Havana recumbent. The steering wheel adaptation is also regularly seen.

Angel made this with a chineese cargo bike and a 250 watt electric motor.

Another ordinary traffic seen. "Share the Road" is not just a bumper sticker.

The pace of bicycling is slow, but I still found it challenging to have the proper 360 degree awareness of the complicated flow.

I saw wheel chairs and ramps and allowances for them, and several varieties of hand driven bikes or wheel chairs, but still the challenges of rough going would be high.

There seem to be two basic styles of frames. This is the more recumbent style with a single low central frame. The next photo shows the other basic style.

This is the other common frame style, with a more upright seating position for the driver and a standard looking triange bike frame. The frame bracings and steering and canopy support system will be as varied as the canopy decorations.

The bicitaxis have licenses. This axel and brake is common, though sometims the gear sproket has two or multiple gears.

The front wheel and headset always have some extra beafy bracing stategy.

This is an unusual brake on a standard bicycle.

Another bicitaxi gathering spot. Bicitaxis are an entrepenerial enterprise, the drivers make their own vehicle. I often wondered: how well does this business really pay?

Whenever I saw food or trinket selling carts like this, despite the bike features, they were being pushed, not pedaled.

I really liked the look of this folding surrey top. The covered top is a key selling feature to attract customers. The canopy is desirable as shade, as rain protection, and on the narrow streets there are often mysterious wet spinklings from gutters and pipes that one wants to avoid.

Here is another invention. It looks practical, but I did not see others like it.

Of course there were even pedel boats.

The commuting appeal of the bike is perhaps different than for a US bike commuter. Destinations are close by, and the bike traffic is slow, but twice as fast as walking and easier in the heat and humidity.

I saw every type of load: heavy bags, big boxes, fruit and vegetables. Even a refrigerator sitting upright on top of the seats of a bicitaxi. Sometimes two or three people are moving the load, but it is still much easier than any other way.

These old style bikes still get used a lot, Flying Pigeon, and Minervas. The same brand name as this one was also on the newest electric bikes

In the US, a bike like this seems very expensive. I saw them regularly in urban areas of Cuba.

I was not sure if this electric cargo bike was manufactured this way, or just another creative and inventive adaptation.

Ciao, from Angel, the prototypical Cuban entrepeneur and inventor