Video: How to keep riding in a country with no spare parts

Due to a long standing US embargo, Cuba has been unable to import an assortment of products since the 60s. The result is that a culture of DIY repairs has emerged, so that many items which would have ended up in a land fill years ago here in the states are still in use. The most famous example would be the legendary classic cars and trucks which populate the city streets, but another less widely known is the vast cycling network.

In this short film, Diego Vivanco interviews cyclists in Cuba to learn more about how they keep their bikes running. 

Read what the film maker has to say about the project after the break: 

Cuba underwent a bicycle revolution in the 1990s during its five year ‘Special Period’. Oil was scarce as a result of tough economic constraints, and throughout those years of austerity, bicycles where introduced as an alternative mode of transport. Thousands of Cubans used bicycles on a regular basis, as pedalling became the norm on the island.

Years later, the transportation crisis subsided and motorised vehicles returned, and the country’s bicycle culture took a hit. Now, new bikes are difficult to come by and parts are not readily available, yet many Cubans still use bicycles daily and, despite the limited resources, a handful of mechanics provide a service to those who rely on their bikes in their everyday lives.

Plenty of cyclists roam the streets of Havana and the rest of Cuba. Ángel, a typical bike riding Habanero, provides a brief insight into Cuban bicycle culture and the importance of bike mechanics in the capital as we come across both riders and repairmen.

Comments

Jagur - 09/04/14 - 5:12am

Would have liked to see some acuall “envintive soloutiins” like wash ruined more than once. Mostly just people riding around which is cool and all but where is the imaginative bike repair I was led to belive I would see?

John - 09/04/14 - 7:04am

Just a note here, many competitive cyclist go to Cuba to train and gladly leave a ton of material behind when they go back home. There plenty of guys in Cuba that could kick ass in a. Cat 1 crit. It’s not just hand me down shops. Cuba libre, also Americans miss out on perfect rhum. The rest of the world bike in Cuba.

mike - 09/04/14 - 8:15am

that embargo needs to go away. it accomplishes nothing.

dickl5455 - 09/04/14 - 10:29am

I saw some mtn bikes, and suspension forks in the film. They were not made in the 50′s. They must have access to bikes and parts from Europe and Asia. Too bad they can’t afford to buy new parts.

pile-on - 09/04/14 - 10:32am

Awesome.

The Conductor - 09/04/14 - 12:02pm

I saw an article several years back on how Cuban car mechs were making piston rings out of soup cans.

That is innovative. This vid? I saw hammers.

kurti_sc - 09/04/14 - 12:26pm

what the hey hey guys. why so negative?
the inventiveness is in the rudimentary tools and equipment they employ to keep things running. We’re talking about basic needs here, not how to weave a banana leaf and coat it with tar to repair a broken CF frame. Life this is; the professor from Gillighan’s Island doesn’t work here.
(hey but still, using some locally sourced filler with a good natural resin would be pretty impressive – Provided someone had a CF frame there to begin with!)

Al Boneta - 09/04/14 - 2:12pm

Makes you realize just how good we have it. It wasn’t what I was led to believe, but it was an interesting look into a different cycling culture. It amazes me that they can’t brand new bikes and parts but their healthcare system is leaps and bounds better than ours (Based on various research studies I’ve read on the subject).

Ajax - 09/06/14 - 1:58pm

Wow! Great video. It just shows that we really have a lot to be thankful for with all that we have here in the developed world in that we live. The Cubans that have had to do what they do just to keep their bikes working is a testament to human ingenuity. Just watch 30 seconds of this video. It’s worth it.

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