Cycling Cuba: Mountain-Biking Bromptons

July 12th, 2013

STATS – Soroa to Las Terrazas and back

Distance: 56 km Average Speed: 17 km/hr
Time Cycling: 3 hrs 27 mins Top Speed: 54 km/hr
Left Soroa: 9:15am Back in Soroa: 5:30pm
The road from Soroa to Las Terrazas

The road from Soroa to Las Terrazas

We expected this to be a light, easy cycling day. After all, it was only 17km from Soroa to Las Terrazas. Round trip that’s only 34km. Short ride! We’d have most of the day to laze around and see the sites in Las Terrazas.

Not exactly.

As you can see from our stats, our average speed is very slow, and our top speed is very fast. Know what that means? MOUNTAINS. Even though we were already UP the mountain in Soroa, and Las Terrazas was also UP the mountain, that didn’t mean we got to just drive along the top of the mountain. Nope. There are many mountain humps. In North America we tunnel through mountains, make bridges over ravines, and fill in the deepest dips all in an effort to make roads as flat as possible. Not in Cuba. It’s just up and over and down… but never around. If you go down, you must go up. Again. And again. And again.

So how did the Bromptons fair as mountain bikes?

–       GEARS: A regular six-speed or a geared-down six-speed Brompton might have got us up the mountains without walking, but our geared-up Bromptons made us walk a few times. Though the crazy steep uphill coming back from Las Terrazas as you turn onto the road to Soroa might be impossible for everyone. Hell, we saw a dude walking his motorized scooter up it!

–       SHOCKS: The Bromptons have one basic rear shock which we both ordered in “firm”, so bumps were rough. When possible, I floated my butt above the seat, but then the soles of my feet absorbed the abuse. However, the bike held together perfectly well. Nothing broke or bent or came loose or shook off.

–       BRAKES: Brompton brake levers are kind of under the handlebars (so the bike can fold). I find them a little hard to grasp, which made braking down super steep hills nerve-wracking. However, I have small hands. Pier didn’t have this problem. As for stopping power, they’re certainly not V-brakes, but they’re adequate.

–       WHEELS: The small wheels take getting used to. Because they’re so nimble and responsive, they feel almost wobbly going fast down a steep hill. As you’ll see in the video, I was more cautious than Pier and 30 seconds in he passes me because I was braking for control. However, by the end of the day I was used to the feeling and just gave ‘er down those mountain slopes!

Pier and Brommies in front of Hotel Moka.

Pier & Brommies in front of Hotel Moka in Las Terrazas.

Now you’re probably wondering where that extra 22km came from. If the round trip was only supposed to be 34km, how did we end up riding 56km? No, we didn’t get lost. The situation is this – the sights in Las Terrazas are all about 5km outside of town. So the Coffee Plantation was a 10km round trip east, and the Banos de San Juan were another 10km round trip south. Then we burned a couple kilometres riding around the little town. Voila! Twenty-two extra kilometres just in and around Las Terrazas.

094 Coffee Plantation Ruin

Top o’ the mountain Coffee Plantation ruins 5km east of Las Terrazas.

All in all, I wouldn’t recommend mountain biking with the Bromptons, but if you find yourself on a mountain, have confidence that the bikes can handle it.

The next day we headed to San Diego de los Banos. Though Ride 5 (Pinar del Rio region) in Bicycling Cuba is supposed to be the most scenic mountain ride in Cuba, we decided to take the highway route. We were so done with that mountain. At least for one day. We’d have more crazy steep hills to tackle before the end of our Cuban expedition…

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