As they begin planning a biking trip to Cuba, Paula and her husband realize they have just weeks to get in shape to ride 60 kms a day.
By Paula Webber
In my first article, I talked about how we researched and found the right trip for our Christmas vacation. This second installment of “Cuba by Bicycle” provides some tips on winter indoor training and how we prepared and stayed motivated for our Cuban adventure with a foot of snow on the ground outside at home. I’ll also include some important packing hints for travel to Cuba, where things we take for granted may not be readily available.
Two months before our cycling trip to Cuba came the challenging part — how were we going to train for an average of 60kms a day in the saddle with snow already on the ground in Smithers? Our December 12th departure seemed a long way off but in reality it really wasn’t. We’d been in this situation before, having taken two previous trips to warmer climes when we’d been living in the Yukon, but we were also a few years younger then.
Thankfully, we’d done a fair bit of hiking over the summer, and I’d been on my bike a fair bit, and back and forth to the Smithers golf. But my husband, with his crazy work schedule, had not logged as many bike miles as me. Thus, our indoor training regimen began in earnest with early morning visits to the gym for weight training and onto our bikes at home in the evenings.
While living in Whitehorse years back we’d purchased fluid cycle trainers for our bikes in order to train during the long northern winters, plus we purchased a series of Spinervals DVDs to keep us motivated and challenged. Powered by “Coach” Troy Jacobson, these workouts got us in shape for our past trips to New Zealand and South America, so we were relying on Coach Troy to get us ready for Cuba. With a variety of workouts available, from overall fitness and ultra conditioning to hill training, there’s something for all types of cycling on these DVDs.
As the snow was quickly approaching town from high up on Hudson Bay Mountain in early November, we got a chance to test our fitness with a trip to Bermuda.
As luck would have it, my husband had to attend a conference there and I decided to tag along. We would be able do some biking at sea level in warm temperatures. Although known for spectacular pink beaches, world-class golf courses and exquisite top end hotels, this small island, only 21 miles long in the mid-Atlantic, does indeed have some great biking routes.
In between “conferencing” and golfing, we managed to put on some good hard road miles (hills included) on “push bikes” (as opposed to mopeds) we rented from Winners Edge in downtown Hamilton. Cycling in Bermuda presents some challenges for people not used to riding on the “other” side of the road as well as the roads being extremely narrow. But we found for the most part drivers give way to cyclists so during our brief stay we included some sightseeing by bike as part of our pre-Cuba training.
Arriving back home with some good solid training under our belts, we felt physically prepared for the 15 day itinerary that lay ahead and we still had our buddy, Coach Troy, to keep the momentum going. We made our final preparations in terms of updating our immunizations, currency and began packing for the trip.
With 15 days of cycling and six days at an all-inclusive in Varadero, we would be on the move constantly, so we kept clothing to a minimum; several pairs of bike shorts, five or six jerseys, the necessities including bike shoes, helmet, hydration system, gloves, runners, sandals, swim suit,towel, sox, rain gear and other casual clothing for evenings and days we wouldn’t be cycling. We also packed other essentials, including sun block, serious bug and a good supply of toiletries (stomach remedies, anti-inflammatories, etc), plus a whack of power bars.
I also opted to take my own bike seat and pedals. After reviewing the downloaded Trip Notes one last time, and packing, jettisoning unnecessary bits, repacking, we closed up our luggage (one bag each plus a carry on) until our much anticipated arrival in Havana!
Next installment: Cuba by Bicycle: The highlights of our Cuban Christmas Vacation.
About Paula Webber
Paula Webber is a communications professional currently living in Smithers, British Columbia. Career highlights include include taking on the project of a lifetime as a media relations specialist for VANOC, the organizing committee for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.
All photos © Paula Webber