More on the bike
Prior to my trip I was warned that it was difficult to buy a quality bike in Cuba. It was also difficult taking one over with me however, 4 flights and 2 days of travel. Weighing up my options I decided to purchase in Cuba. Now anyone buying a cheap bike in NZ will head to somewhere like the Warehouse (NZ equivalent of Walmart) and pay a couple of hundred $$ for a basic bike with reasonable brakes and gears. Nothing that you’d take down a rugged hill but sifficient for around town. The brakes are cantilever and the gears are indexed and shimano (even if entry quality). Something like this maybe.
The Cuban equivalent is not the same. The bike frame is ok and looks sturdy enough. The brakes however are rubbish and the gears also. The brakes are something akin to this and very temperamental on the bike I bought. The gears are friction geared rather than indexed. Anyone who owned an old 10 speed bike in the 1970s or 1980s will remember pulling the gear change lever and hearing the gears rattle as they changed up or down. If the gear wasn’t quite synched you would hear the gear graunch until you got just enough tension on the cable for it to be happy. With the bike I bought there is no click up or click down to change gears.
So I purchased, in Cuba, a bike made in China. Despite getting it serviced by a bici mechanic (who did a reasonable job as well and made sure everything was as best he could get it) the bike soon showed signs of wear. Within 2 weeks the gears lost some of their range (no top gear for example) and the brakes became spongy, especially down hill in the rain. Brakes became the 2 handles on either side of the handle bars as well as left and right feet. Special care was necessary down hill when passing a car or bus. To top things off within a couple of weeks both pedals (plastic) split on me. How? I was foolish enough to pedal up some hills. The bike will need another visit to a mechanic to be reset.
So I was warned and I can now confirm that new bikes purchased in Cuban, whilst cheap, are also poor quality. They are around the same price as a new basic bike in NZ but the quality of componentry quite worse.