Cuban “Freedom Machines” Keep Riding – With Help From Metzeler
Cuba is a country renowned for Castro, Caribbean Climate and Classic Cars. But the streets of Havana and Santiago de Cuba are not just made resplendent by the presence of four-wheeled relics from the island’s pre-communist era – motorcycles predating the 1960s are still to be found, and are lovingly maintained in working order by owners who wouldn’t be caught dead riding the rubbish the Soviet Union later sent over. Of course keeping a classic bike on the road is not so easy in a country embargoed by the US for close to half a century…So Metzeler has decided to lend Cuban riders a hand.
In June motorcycle tyre manufacturer Metzeler presented the Club of Classical Motorbikes in Cuba (MOCLA), a dedicated group of Harley-Davidson enthusiasts, with 70 sets of tyres. MOCLA president Luis Enrique accepted the 15, 16 and 18-inch ME880 touring tyres from the German manufacturer at a ceremony in Hanava attended by world famous motorcycle photographer Michael Lichter. “Life was very difficult at many points in my history,” reflected Enrique. “My Harley-Davidson got me through all that and where I am today. We are very happy to have received this gift from Metzeler, because this kind of thing has never happened before in Cuba. We consider ourselves lucky.”
Original replacement parts for Harley Davidson bikes and other American vehicles have been impossible to obtain since the start of the US embargo (which began in early 1962, the day after President Kennedy ordered White House press secretary Pierre Salinger to purchase 1,200 Cuban cigars for his future personal use), and finding the correct size tyre has also become very difficult. Due to these difficulties, only about 100 of the thousands of Harley-Davidson’s that once rumbled across the island still remain, nearly all of them owned by MOCLA members.
Club members have become experts of making do with the few parts still available for their use, but have still done their best to preserve their motorcycles’ original engines. “Metzeler motorcycle tyres is dedicated to the two wheel segment and has a history of over 115 years, so groups such as MOCLA who have an intense dedication to the craft of motorcycle maintenance add a new level to what Metzeler often calls ‘experience’,” commented Francesco Pietrangeli, director of Marketing for the brand.