I promised you two travel blogs for this month. I know the title is a bit misleading but I let me explain... we have to make a little detour first.
Last week I read that the UCI will now organise gravel races. Ok I can see that they have to change something as they are starting to struggle a bit in classic road racing. They see that more and more pros are leaving the road circuit and go gravel racing. So guess why. Because they are fed up with this whole circus and want to do something more fun and have a beer after a race.
So what's happening next UCI come's and limits tire clearance ? Have a look at the the interview with Geoff Kabush after the Grasshoper race
that he won by making up 3minutes in the last downhill. Thats exactly what gravel racing is about. Guys riding hard but also guys having fun after the finish line!
Ok sorry, I will try to close the loop before you are bored. The nice thing about gravel is really that it is no category. I kind of hate the word gravel as it does not really express what you can do with such a bike. If it would not be used already I would call it "freeride" because the only really important fact is that it gives you the possibility to ride where you want.
All the rest is only you. It can be on the road like our last BOTM
or a bike packing off-road adventure trip where you really need those 2.4 tires that a WI.DE. can fit.
So mission accomplished - loop closed and you can enjoy our guest blog which is really worth reading not to speak about looking at those stunning pictures.
1400+ km through Cuba on a OPEN WI.DE: One wild ride by Marion and Frederik
La ruta es malisima! Alta y dura, muy dura!
Many times, we looked into locals’ eyes, widening in amazement, when we told them where we were going or coming from. Almost immediately, they would start gesturing wildly, indicating high mountains and insisting that the street was very bad – or – that there was no street. We would smile and stumble something along the lines of “We like to be in nature. With these bikes, we can ride off road and we have a tent. Cuba is beautiful.”
This Christmas, we took 3 weeks to ride from Santiago de Cuba, in the island’s Southeast, to Vinales in the Northwest, riding mostly off-road and through the mountains to really experience the country and its people. And what an experience we had! You can prepare and plan, think of risks and possible countermeasures. However, big adventures come with surprises, wonderful opportunities and challenges. We found ourselves pushing and carrying our bikes up grueling mountain dirt ‘roads’ for hours, not seeing any humans (let alone tourists), wading through mud and thorn bushes, and working all our mechanical skills (good that we brought all that repair kit). We made friends with warm hearted people with an inspiring love for life along our route.
We got invited to camp with remote farmers, dancing and sharing rum and fresh food next to lush coffee and fruit fields. Farm workers, school kids and women crossing our way would help us push the bikes up particularly steep hills, offer us cold water, coffee, and food, or share their houses with us for us to take a break and fix the holes in our tires (the thorn bush became our number one enemy…). The openness, compassion and generosity of the Cubans deeply impressed us. On their end, the Cubans were impressed with our plan to cycle from the islands south to north, mostly off the main roads. They hardly could believe that anyone would be up for that and were very kind in their encouragement to keep us going (“You are heros in Cuba.”). And – they loved our OPEN WI.DE bikes, cheering, waving and sneaking photos of the set-up! Off the tourist hot spots, bikes are inaccessible to many Cubans and those lucky ones who possess a bike mostly don’t have breaks, let alone gears.
And it’s true – with the wide Schwalbe Rock Razor tires (59mm)and 12x SRAM Force eTAp we had a great set-up for this trip. The OPEN WI.DE bikes were super stable, agile, comfortable and fun to ride in the rocky, steep mountain ranges and fast and sporty for days when we wanted to do 120+km on smaller roads to reach our next destination. We continue to be impressed with the incredible versatility of the bikes – they truly are the perfect companions for adventures that involve a variety of conditions and allow you to stay flexible and follow your heart when deciding how to choose the route and spend the day. Back in NYC, we couldn’t wait to get on our bikes again for some of those fun winter rides. With the Bikepacking bags off and WTB BYWAY TCS 650B (47mm) tires on, our OPEN WI.DE feel fast and sporty, yet comfy and agile to tackle the winter terrain.
YOU CAN HELP!
For those who are interested to support fellow bike lovers and make biking more accessible in the world: We discovered the NGO BIKESFORCUBA
who collect donations of used bikes and components and make these available to Cuban kids in junior school. They coordinate the transport of equipment. Perhaps a great way to make space at home for your new bikes and support a rider?