Fin and MechanicO: Last Boat To Cuba

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by FinTec, Feb 27, 2021.

  1. Ol Man

    Ol Man Long timer Supporter

    Sep 17, 2010
    Apple Valley, Calif
    Fantastic adventure. Welcome home.
  2. FinTec

    FinTec Been here awhile Supporter

    Sep 27, 2013
    Final Notes and Comments

    Total Miles for both Mexico and Cuba: 5815

    Total Miles in Cuba Only: 2567

    Total time for trip Door to Door (Colorado): 53 days

    Total ride time in Cuba: 20 Days

    Route in Mexico to Cancun and back:


    Route in Cuba:


    Mechanical Issues with Bike:

    MechanicO performed great and had no mission critical issues.

    The speedometer stopped working first day riding in Cuba. Probably a bad magnetic sensor on front wheel. No biggy as used speedo on GPS.

    Bad valve core on front wheel. Went to check air pressure of front wheel and when removed the gauge air just kept coming out. Tightening down did nothing. Had spare valve core in kit and that fixed it.

    Other Equipment Issues

    The sole on my Sidi Adventure 2 left boot started to separate from boot. Sometime in the last week of Cuba I noticed the sole of my left boot pulling away. It held on for the rest of the trip. Not at all happy with this and un-impressed. For the record, boots are 4 years old. I knew these boots where different as the soles are not actually stitched onto the boot. They do have a fake thread molded into the sole so it looks like it is though. I have boots that are 20+ years old and the sewn-on sole has never come off. Big fan of Sidi footwear and have used their bike shoes for probably 25+ years. I will be interested to see what Sidi can do as far as fixing it.


    Lost water bottle. I had a bad-ass insulated aluminum water bottle and broke one of my rules and paid the price. Used it on the day ride outside of Trinidad and set it down on the back of the motorcycle. I try never to set anything on the back of the bike because you forget it is there and ride off. Which is what I did. Lost.

    Not really an equipment issue but foolishly put a can of beer in my right pannier as I had a short distance to go. Yep, it ruptured. Good thing is my right case really only carries tools, cooking gear, food, and other hardware. No clothes or electronics. But you still have to deal with cleaning everything or live with a smell like my dorm room in college.

    Random Comments and Observations:

    Of notice, Raul Castro stepped down from power only a few days after we left. Did MechanicO and I make an impact or just coincidence? Hmmmmm…..

    Timing for this trip to Cuba was terrible. They were in a full lock-down mode for Covid so I never got to see any dancing or live music. And forget about museums or any sort of attraction, they were all closed down. We did not have much of a choice with the boat schedule but do feel I missed a lot of the cultural side of Cuba.

    The people of Cuba where by far the best part. Crazy friendly and just wanted to find out who I was. I never met a “dick-head” or mean Cuban. The worst I got was indifference. I never ran into any issues with being an American and if anything they were very pleasantly surprised to see an American and very welcoming. I, at no point, ever felt my safety was in jeopardy and could ask anyone I meet for help if I needed it.

    Riding by motorcycle was a fantastic way to meet people in Cuba. You get to meet people in all the places in-between the usual places tourist go. And of course people are always curious to find out about you when you pull into their small little town in the middle of no-where.

    Now you take the above and compound it with the fact that the vast majority of motorcycles in Cuba are 125cc in size or maybe the odd 250cc now and then. So when you show up on a dual cylinder, 800cc bike, people take notice. Then compound that again with the esthetics of MechanicO and, oh boy, do you draw a crowd. At first it was unsettling, and then it became a kinda fun way to meet people. Sometimes it was tiring though as I would stop just to check my map and when I looked up, I had 5 dudes around me checking out MO. Here is a typical gathering at a gas station


    And of course people always asked the same questions:

    What brand is it?

    How fast is it?

    How much did it cost?

    For brand I saw a strange thing, hardly anyone had heard of BMW. Blank stares when I said BMW. But if I said “Aleman” (German) I would always gets nods of approval. They just don’t have any BMW products on the island.

    It took me a while to figure out why they always loved the fact MO had a radiator as they always pointed to it. All the motorcycles there are air cooled and they had never seen a liquid cooled motorcycle.

    When I told them it was 800c in size and two cylinders that always got a wide eyed expression and excitement.

    The cost question made me uneasy, as telling someone your bike costs as much as their entire family’s income for the last 10 years does not make me or them feel good. So I had a routine where I told them I made the bike from parts and it was a “personalizado” (custom). They of course understood this and accepted that answer. Heck, here in Cuba, half the stuff here is handmade and custom. They dug it.

    And they were always very respectful. They never touched MechanicO unless invited and some would even ask if OK to take a picture.

    Whenever I got ready to leave everyone would take a step back as I got ready to start the engine like I was a rocket launch of some sort. Fist pumps and thumbs up everywhere I went. It was fun and MechanicOs ego was inflated beyond belief.

    I know there was a lot of talk here about if GPS is illegal or not in Cuba. I am here to tell you, nobody cares if you have a GPS unit in Cuba. I lost track of how many times I used my Garmin GPS mounted on my motorcycle to show a cop or official where I was coming from and where I was going when I came to Covid checkpoints. At one point I was actually at the police station (read the story on previous pages) and I don’t know how many cops looked at my bike while parked there. No one cared about the GPS. I had an inspector find the Garmin InReach tracker unit in my top bag and not even bat an eye. I think there might have been a time where GPS was banned at some level, but as of this trip I saw none of that and if anything total indifference I had a GPS.


    I wish I knew Spanish WAY better than I did. I have only been studding for a short time and I was by far the least able to speak it of the five riders. And this was incredibly frustrating and a little depressing at times. I was always able to get done what I needed with some broken Spanish but I was never able to have a deep conversation with someone I met who did not also know English. And I think that means I lost out on a lot of great interactions with locals. I can’t emphasize this enough, if you are planning a long term trip in a foreign country, learn the language. Your experience will be magnitudes better if you can talk to the locals. This trip cemented this with me and I now plan to double down on my Spanish learning and have it down for the next trip. And then I can tell the chicas how I am kind of a big deal back home. Maybe.

    The drivers in Cuba where incredibly courteous. Night and day from the combat that is Mexico. No stupid moves from other drives that can scare a motorcyclist. I swear, at all the stop signs and railroad tracks they would come to full stop, count to 3, and then proceed. Other than the terrible condition of some of the roads I always felt safe riding around.

    One comment on the above observation of very cordial people and drivers and something a few of the other riders discussed. We are not sure how much of that cordialness is cultural and how much is the fact you don’t want the cops to show up? We got the feeling that doing something to have the cops show up was NOT a good idea. I would not call it fear, but you could tell people wanted to make sure they obeyed the law, at least publicly.

    Food was a challenge in Cuba. It was this crazy version of feast or famine. On the road it was incredibly difficult to find food and sometimes even water. I truly believe the majority of this situation was Covid because you would see roadside cafes and restaurants here and there but all shut down for Covid. This then turned the Casa Particulars into almost a necessity for not starving! At the Casa’s you could always get a meal made for you. And the meals were spectacular and huge portions. Too huge in some cases. Not sure why they felt they needed to make a meal that would feed almost 3 for a single guy but it happened a lot. I was starting to “doggy bag” some of it knowing during the day it would be hard to find something to eat. If I had known this beforehand, I would have packed my panniers with way more food than I originally did. One ongoing joke with the riding group was the terrible pizza you would find. It was like a very cheap frozen pizza you get here but remove a lot of the taste. Good thing they usually cost less than a dollar.


    OK, don’t want this to turn into a political conversation and understand the mods are sensitive to this, but here is my brief and what I observed. Understand that what we also saw was part of a massive island wide Covid shut down. That said, I have to say, their system is not working and is failing the people. I wouldn’t go into categories of socialism or communism or whatever label you give it, but I give it a total thumbs down based on what I saw and heard from people. Most people I chatted with are desperate for change and extremely frustrated with the slow if nonexistent way the Cuban government is adapting to change. The people I met wanted the ability to start and grow a business with an infrastructure designed to allow them to do this. But right now, the heavy handed people in charge are not willing to let go of their old outdated model of ruling people that frankly has been proven over and over again to not work. I know the first comment will be the embargo is the cause. However talking to people there they know it is only part of the problem. If you removed the embargo tomorrow it would not be a magic wand and solve the core of their problems. I do feel the embargo should go and is just old outdated cold war crap. But the Cuban government has to make some serious internal changes and catch up to the rest of the world if they want to get out of this decades long slump.

    So would I recommend someone going to Cuba for a vacation? Yes, absolutely. But wait until they are 100% open as far as Covid is concerned. And I would certainly recommend by motorcycle but as of this writing there are no guarantees someone is going to be offering this service in the near future as this was the last boat to Cuba as far as the Stahlratte is concerned. Let’s all hope this changes.

  3. levain

    levain STILL Jim Williams Supporter

    Oct 29, 2005
    Really great @FinTec
    Thanks for sharing!
  4. Anticyclone

    Anticyclone Ride more worry less

    Sep 28, 2007
    Norton, VA
    Awesome RR @FinTec. Thanks for taking us along. Huge thanks for wrapping it up in a nice little bow at the end!
  5. Animo

    Animo Been n00b awhile Supporter

    Dec 1, 2009
    Nomad ~~ Mexico
    This is the kind of ending where I can’t wait for part 2.
  6. borderlinebob

    borderlinebob Been here awhile

    Aug 21, 2016
    CANADA-100 ft N of International Falls, MN
    Superb wrap up report on your most excellent ride report.
    “So” much great info.

    However I’m curious on this tidbit of info….
    Is this just since you got back or were you prior to your trip?:imaposer
  7. Golden955

    Golden955 Been here awhile

    Jul 28, 2016
    Thank you neighbor, enjoyed the ride.
  8. steved57

    steved57 Long timer Supporter

    Dec 31, 2007
    East Texas
    Fantastic - Thanks for taking us along
  9. Hill Climber

    Hill Climber Long timer

    Feb 11, 2007
    Kaslo BC summer, Yuma AZ winter
    Hoping you'll post the interview with JamieZ
    Contrarian likes this.
  10. HandCanonShootr

    HandCanonShootr Been here awhile Supporter

    May 17, 2013
    So. California
    Great RR Fin, Thanks for taking the time, on top of your Build thread, this is a great conclusion. Glad you were able to complete the ride!

    As a (semi fluent) spanish speaker for a few decades, learning Spanish, and speaking Spanish in Cuba are two different things. You noted the speed of their speech...
    But becoming fluent in the Spanish that is needed in Mexico, is the step to communicating with Cubans. (had a Cuban family as neighbors)

    Thanks for sharing all the Info, Build, Time, Dreams.
    Mike B

    ps: great Interviews also!
    ScotsFire and wetwider like this.
  11. pitbull

    pitbull Long timer

    Aug 24, 2004
    A great RR like this is like coming to the end of a great book, I don't want it to end. Alas, all great things must eventually end, but thanks for posting such a great report, Fin.
    farleywilbur and staticPort like this.
  12. 531blackbanshee

    531blackbanshee Adventurer

    Jan 4, 2019
    skiatook ok.
    thanks for taking the time.

    great read.

    orv likes this.
  13. Trainee_adv

    Trainee_adv Adventurer Supporter

    Jan 27, 2021
    Regina SK
    Thank you for taking us along!
    fantastic RR!
  14. Madscientist

    Madscientist Been here awhile

    Aug 8, 2011
    Oxford, MS
    I concur- really enjoyed this ride report!
  15. RhinoVonHawkrider

    RhinoVonHawkrider Long timer

    Jul 18, 2009
    Eastern Pa
    +2278 - But I would say this R/R was FINtastic

    Thanks for sharing & I would concur that Cubans are great people yearning to be Free!

    If you want a similar experience, albeit on rented moto's try Dominican Republic - great place to ride & similar to Cuba ride anywhere.

    PM for more info.
  16. Mark64

    Mark64 Adventurer

    May 15, 2020
    Sherwood Forest UK
    Thanks so much for all your input regarding Cuba, I visited as a regular tourist over a decade ago and found the Cuban people to be very friendly and generally happy with their lot.
    Despite (or perhaps because of) covid you've had a fantastic adventure, and I (and probably many others) am very envious of your experiences in that amazing country, thanks for taking us along fella, I raise my glass to you, I've thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.
  17. davide

    davide Been here awhile

    Aug 14, 2006
    Elizabeth, Colorado
    I enjoyed following your adventure, I did some of the same sightseeing when I went to Cuba. Hope your wrist heals "pronto." Hasta la victoria, Comandante Fin!
  18. Jamie Z

    Jamie Z I'm serious. Supporter

    Oct 17, 2006
    Around Denver

    Glad I got a chance to finally read the whole report. Of course Fin and I talked on the boat, and we even split a room in Cuba, but I avoided reading this report so that my own views and observations of Cuba would not be influenced.

    I'm not surprised that our views and experiences were very similar.

    I'll have more to say and write when I get a better opportunity with wifi.

    Thanks for not bringing up Sesame Street. :augie
  19. FinTec

    FinTec Been here awhile Supporter

    Sep 27, 2013
    Nothing to worry about on the interview Jamie. I will edit out all the nudity.

    Yea, it was fun to see some similarities of Jamie's and my reports. If you are sharp, you can even catch a few pictures we both must have taken from the same exact spot and angle.

    And Jamie, credit to you to still be out there doing what you do senor and enjoying and exploring Mexico. I know I am taking notes for the day I return and do Mexico right.

    Fin and MechanicO
    Cloud-9, snglfin, roadcapDen and 12 others like this.

    DYNOBOB lucky dog Supporter

    Dec 15, 2008
    Cincinnati, OH
    Another "thank you" for taking your time to share this trip!