A couple of weeks ago my boyfriend Adam & I arrived in Toronto to start our big trip, we are going to start off by studying Spanish in Havana then cycle around Cuba & afterwards fly to Mexico & travel through Central America! Arriving with bags that weighed 43kg between us we were thinking that maybe this cycling malarkey was not such a good idea after all, we still had bikes to purchase in Toronto as well as all of the bits we needed to go with them for our trip – It was not gonna be easy!
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Old Friends & Minus Temps
We were so happy to be staying with our friend Kim in Toronto, neither of us had seen her for a while so we had so much catching up to do plus we had someone to help us with the bike hunt & to show us around the city!
It was around -10°c when we landed in Toronto which felt more like -17°c with the wind chill, with our Central America trip coming up we were not really able to carry a load of winter clothes but had layers, hats, gloves & scarves & luckily some coats that Adam’s Mum had very kindly donated for us to ditch when we had got the warmer climates!
Kim had spoken with a few people she knew & had looked around for second-hand bikes before we arrived but unfortunately hadn’t found anything that was within our budget, we really only wanted to spend around 150 CAD each as we still had to buy all of the stuff to go with the bikes too which would add up to quite a bit! It was not a lot to spend but we were determined we could find a half decent bike each for this.
On our first day we thought it would be a good idea to start looking straight away, on Kim’s recommendation we headed to Kensington Market to take a look around. We didn’t last long wandering around in the cold, even though we were wrapped up it still wasn’t enough for the Canadian winter, I can honestly say that week before last was the coldest I have ever been in my life! Adam seemed to fare a bit better than me as he had worked in Whistler, near Vancouver last winter so was a little more acclimatised to it all! We soon had to stop for a coffee on our wander around Kensington Market as I literally felt as though my fingers were about to drop off.
When we finished our coffee’s we asked if they knew of any second-hand bike stores, the guy pointed us just across the main street to a shop called Uncle Jacobs in Toronto’s China Town we wandered over to see what they had on offer.
We took a look around & enquired on prices for a few bikes. Oddly he had 2 identical bikes that were perfect for us at 150 CAD each, we tried to do a deal for the 2 but the guy was not budging! We told him we would be cycling around Cuba on them, he gave us a strange look but was still not budging on the price! One of the bikes still needed some work so would not be ready until the next day, we told him we would take a look around & get back to him….
All The Bits
As we planned on cycling Cuba with the bikes we priced up all of the bits we needed to go with them for the trip at Uncle Jacobs, it was coming in a quite a bit so we decided to shop around for these too! We spent the afternoon wandering around new & used bike stores & couldn’t find any bikes that came in anywhere near as good as at Uncle Jacobs, so it was decided we would buy the bikes there & accessories somewhere else. We headed to Canadian tyre & got all of the accessories we needed for around ⅓ less, we were well chuffed!
Sorry We’re Closed!
We went back to Uncle Jacobs that same afternoon to let him know that we would like the bikes & to arrange a collection day with him, he had closed early for the day! We went back the next morning, he was still closed, we wrote him a note as we really wanted to secure the bikes….
Hi, we came yesterday & have come back for the 2 bikes. We would like to collect them by tomorrow, please can you call or email us. Thank you, the English couple who are cycling around Cuba.
We shoved the note in the lock of the shutters at the front of the shop & hoped Uncle Jacob would get back to us!
The whole day passed, he didn’t! We starting to think we may have to start the bike hunt all over again but before we did we decided to give him one last try the following morning, it was Saturday so we would have to try to get something sorted that day as we were flying on the Monday. We tried to call once, no answer & again still no answer & a third time he answered!
We went to collect the bikes the same morning, paying 300 CAD for the pair, now all we had to do was get them ready to fly!
When booking our flight from Toronto to Havana we found that we could take one piece of sporting equipment each with us on our Air Transat flight for a small fee of 30 CAD & the airline would also provide us with bags to transport them in – This was the main reason on deciding to purchase bikes in Canada & not the UK as we would have had to cover the airline & bag costs from the UK too making it even more costly!
We had read up on how to prep the bikes for transporting & decided on doing everything that was advised, that way we knew they would be ready when we got the airport, so we…
- Deflated the tyres
- Removed the pedals
- Turned the handle bars side ways
- Removed the front wheel
We then used electric tape to secure everything, I would recommend getting some for any trip as it really can be used for a multitude of things! For taking the bikes apart we mostly used a 15mm bike wrench along with a multi sized bike socket set.
We got a few looks when we arrived at the airport with 2 backpacks, a tent & the 2 partly dismantled bikes & the lady at the check in desk let out a big sigh as soon as she saw us!
We got to the airport 3.5 hours before our flight. I would highly recommend doing this as it took us almost an hour to check in, we had to pay for the bikes separately, get them scanned by security & then take them back to the check in desk to bag them up & wait for someone to come & collect them by hand.
We were happy when everything was checked in & even happier when everything appeared on the other side! Our epic Cuba trip had begun!
Breakdown Of Costs
Below is an overview of how much we paid for everything bike related along with descriptions:
- Second-hand K2 bikes (x2) – 300 CAD
- Inner tubes (x2) – 12 CAD
- Pump – 29 CAD
- Bike racks (x2) – 25 CAD (We bargained for one free with the purchase of the bikes)
- 9 piece hex tool key (allen keys) various sizes – 3.99 CAD
- Electric tape- 0.99 CAD
- 15mm combo wrench – 14.99 CAD
- Handle bar bag – 24.99 CAD
- Pannier bag – 34.99 CAD
- Puncher repair kit (x2) – 5.78 CAD
- LED bike lights – 9.99 CAD
- 10 piece bungee cords (with hooks) – 11.99 CAD
- Bike lock & chain – 34.99 CAD
- Gel seat covers (x2) – 19.98 CAD
- Air Transat transportation fee (including bags) – 60 CAD
- Grand Total – 588.68 CAD