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Thread: Bicycling on St. Barth

  1. #1
    tim is offline
    Moderator Joined: Jun 2003 Vélo, Virginia Posts: 16,797

    Bicycling on St. Barth

    Up until 2013 when we sold our home in Vitet, I spent several thousand hours bicycling the hills of St. Barth. I loved it, but the situation has changed considerably since I quit pedaling:
    1. The vehicular traffic has expanded exponentially in recent years, greatly increasing the odds of interaction with cars, trucks, and scooters.
    2. The recently constructed sidewalks on many roads, wonderful for pedestrians, reduce the space for bicycles to maneuver in traffic.
    3. There are currently no bikes for rent, so cyclists have to bring their bikes with them to the island. Cost to bring a non-folding bike down as checked luggage on A/A with a Winair SXM connection is around $400. round trip.
    4. There are no bike shops on the island.
    5. However, the hills have not changed a bit. Expect 15% to 25% grades, a challenge in any conditions, but slick as ice when rains wet the well-worn concrete.


    Gear:

    1. If one is going to ride anything but the flattest roads, the bike must have gearing to climb the 15% to 25% grades on the hills. (Bring legs to match).
    2. Front and rear facing bright lights to get the attention of drivers texting, talking on cell phones, and/or dealing with kids.
    3. Rear view mirror to amuse the island residents. Mine was a source of great amusement, but I like to see what’s coming up behind me.
    4. Tools to repair whatever breaks or goes flat.
    5. Best helmet money can buy.



    The four best times to ride a bike on St. Barth:

    1. Sunday morning.
    2. Sunday morning.
    3. Sunday morning.
    4. Any other day at daybreak.



    Four memorable falls to which I was an eye witness:
    1. A bicyclist was literally blown off the road one January morning by a strong, sudden gust of the Christmas winds.
    2. The bike slid out from under a cyclist while descending after a brief rain shower the switchbacks from the heights of Lurin. He left a good part of his bike shorts and some skin on the road that day.
    3. A cyclist hit a deep pothole early one morning, and the bike flipped as he did the famous "endo" crash.
    4. A small van, with no brake lights, slammed on his brakes right in front of a cyclist. He ran into the van’s rear bumper, couldn't clip out of his pedals, and went over on the concrete.




    Flattest roads:

    1. St. Jean
    2. Gustavia/Public
    3. Flamands
    4. Grand Fond
    5. Lorient.
    6. Saline



    The best moderation is the least moderation.

  2. #2
    elgreaux is online now
    SBH Insider Joined: May 2003 Saint Barth Posts: 10,779

    Re: Bicycling on St. Barth

    Great info for those who are intrepid enough to set out on a two-wheeler, sans moteur...

  3. #3
    stbartshopper is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Dec 2013 Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S.A. Posts: 9,169

    Re: Bicycling on St. Barth

    Anyone venturing out on a bicycle on the island is braver than most.
    Between the lines, I read- not a good idea.

  4. #4
    amyb is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Apr 2008 Glen Cove,L. I., NY Posts: 26,812

    Re: Bicycling on St. Barth

    Tim-excellent guidelines. Thanks for the post.
    Remember Yesterday, Dream About Tomorrow, But Live Today.

  5. #5
    EddyG is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Mar 2011 Posts: 621

    Re: Bicycling on St. Barth

    About 3 years ago I shipped a 26 inch wheel folding bike to SBH by ocean freight and it has been really good for me to get around Gustavia and occasionally to St. Jean - that one requires a walk up part of the hill and then mostly coasting down. I always assume that every car will try to hit me and every pedestrian will suddenly walk in front of me. Fortunately I found an indoor storage place for when I am not there. The salt air will do damage, so I have an aluminum frame and spray with silicone regularly. A basket in front helps.
    In Gustavia a bike is quicker than walking or driving - and no parking problems.
    There are no bike shops, but a mechanic fixed a flat for me on Dec. 23 when he was closed and changed out my tires as a favor later - the sun will wear them down. I brought the tires in my carry-on.
    Biking in Gustavia has been a good experience.

  6. #6
    tim is offline
    Moderator Joined: Jun 2003 Vélo, Virginia Posts: 16,797

    Re: Bicycling on St. Barth

    Ed, thanks for your perspective. Sounds like bicycling is the perfect solution for your transportation needs. I've seen others on St. Barth biking in a similar fashion.
    The best moderation is the least moderation.

  7. #7
    amyb is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Apr 2008 Glen Cove,L. I., NY Posts: 26,812

    Re: Bicycling on St. Barth

    David Wegman I believe still bikes around Gustavia
    Remember Yesterday, Dream About Tomorrow, But Live Today.

  8. #8
    JEK is offline
    Senior Insider Joined: Jan 2004 In the ether . . . Posts: 52,222

    Re: Bicycling on St. Barth

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    The Marius 100th Birthday Party Memorial -- June 5, 2023

  9. #9
    elgreaux is online now
    SBH Insider Joined: May 2003 Saint Barth Posts: 10,779

    Re: Bicycling on St. Barth

    There are also those who do the St Barth Triathlons... but I believe traffic is stopped where/when they race....

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    photo: Alain Blanchard

  10. #10
    H2O is offline
    SBH Member Joined: Dec 2015 Colorado Posts: 59

    Re: Bicycling on St. Barth

    I finished a triathlon a couple of weeks ago and I'm not sure I'd ride St. Barth (except for the morning recommendation) unless the roads are closed for an event. I paid $300 round trip to bring the bike on my flight to the triathlon. So, $400 to St. Barth isn't too bad. I'd hate to be a tourist that day. In any event, we saw a couple of brave folks pedaling their road bikes at dusk over the New Year holiday.

  11. #11
    KevinS is offline
    Senior Insider Joined: Jul 2003 Posts: 20,652

    Re: Bicycling on St. Barth

    A year or two ago, two people training for the triathlon were hit by a drunk driver early on Sunday morning. The hit-and-run driver was found in Saline, oblivious to the fact that he was in an accident. Riding on Sunday morning may eliminate much of the work-related traffic volume, but there are still dangers out there.

  12. #12
    tim is offline
    Moderator Joined: Jun 2003 Vélo, Virginia Posts: 16,797

    Re: Bicycling on St. Barth

    On my early Sunday morning rides I saw some interesting sites, most of which involved folks driving down from the old New Feeling night club in Lurin. Oftentimes they would whoop and holler at the old man pedaling in the opposite direction. I was fortunate in my years on the bike that the only encounter I had with a motorized vehicle was when I hit that van that stopped instantly in front of me. My most entertaining ride was chronicled in this post, Mason Jar Dining/Parking Lot Sex.

    I met several early risers who were walking or jogging on the roads on the same schedule as was I, some of whom I count as my best friends on the island to this day. Stopping to chat with new friends was a special, unintended benefit. I could also count as acquaintances the island trash collectors with whom I played leap frog as they made their early morning rounds.:)
    The best moderation is the least moderation.

  13. #13
    bkeats is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Jul 2010 Nuevo York Posts: 617

    Re: Bicycling on St. Barth

    Wow. You were riding up the hill to Lurin? Impressive.

  14. #14
    amyb is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Apr 2008 Glen Cove,L. I., NY Posts: 26,812

    Re: Bicycling on St. Barth

    I agree. A lot of cars can't do it!
    Remember Yesterday, Dream About Tomorrow, But Live Today.

  15. #15
    JEK is offline
    Senior Insider Joined: Jan 2004 In the ether . . . Posts: 52,222

    Re: Bicycling on St. Barth

    Tim has conquered every hill on the island. On one trip I tried to accompany him on his Tour De Saint Barth and I still remember every one of those hills we climbed
    The Marius 100th Birthday Party Memorial -- June 5, 2023

  16. #16
    ejh is offline
    SBH Member Joined: Apr 2016 Posts: 34

    Re: Bicycling on St. Barth

    I can't even imagine biking here! Bravo!

  17. #17
    tim is offline
    Moderator Joined: Jun 2003 Vélo, Virginia Posts: 16,797

    Re: Bicycling on St. Barth

    Quote Originally Posted by ejh View Post
    I can't even imagine biking here! Bravo!
    Training took years of rides during which I spent a lot of time pushing the bike to make it over the summits, especially at Grand Fond.
    The best moderation is the least moderation.

  18. #18
    tim is offline
    Moderator Joined: Jun 2003 Vélo, Virginia Posts: 16,797

    Re: Bicycling on St. Barth

    "Le Journal" reports this week that a local cyclist, an accomplished competitor and member of the St. Barth Triathlete Club, was violently stuck by a motor scooter. He was taken to the St. Barth hospital and then transferred to the St. Martin hospital.
    The best moderation is the least moderation.

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