My wife and I recently went on a vacation to Aruba. Now this wasn’t our first time to the “One Happy Island” but it certainly was our first international trip during a pandemic. I could probably write a whole blog post on that alone but will possibly save that for another day.
One thing I always hated about vacations is that it would get me out of my cycling rhythm. In past vacations to Disney I would do some running (ugh) to help stay in the groove but most anywhere else my fitness would be put on the back burner for a week. A few months ago we did take a road trip to Florida to see some friends and I actually took my bike with me on that trip. I’d been to Sarasota countless times and this was the first time I would ride around the area. I didn’t go too crazy but it felt good to keep some sort of normal schedule. So when planning our Aruba trip I decided to look up if there were any bike shops on the island that rented bikes and low and behold there is one, Tri-Bike Aruba. As the name implies they are into more than just cycling, but thats all I cared about.
When it comes to rentals they rent everything from townies, MTBs and road bikes. Not sure how much I was going to actually ride I chose the “performance road” option which would be an aluminum frame road bike. They do have a “pro” option which would be a carbon frame bike. They can also supply pedals, helmet and other accessories, but I would be bringing my own helmet & Assioma pedals. I was contacted within a few days of placing my reservation confirming all the details and was told they would have a bike ready for me. It wasn’t going to be a “new” bike and I was ok with that. Heck my primary bike at home is 5+ years old and to be honest I didn’t know what to expect, my only experience in renting bikes before was for my wife a couple of times and that was from a dealer demo fleet.
I had the bike delivered to my resort the day after we arrived. To my surprise the bike was an older Giant TCR with 10 speed Tiagra on it. Mechanically the bike was sorted but the frame did show lots of “love”, none of which affected it’s performance. The shifting was spot on although I did have to get used the the slightly longer lever throw after using Ultegra for so many years (and especially now after switching to Di2). The brakes worked fine, although they did have a lot of travel so I adjusted the cables for less travel more to my liking. The front tire was a 28c while the rear was a 23c. The 28 in front certainly helped with the roads in Aruba, and I’m pretty sure the rear 23 was by necessity for frame clearance since this was an older frame. To be honest, I didn’t put much thought into it. The bike also came with a saddle bag with tube & levers as well as a frame mounted pump. I of course came with my own jersey pocket tool kit and pump so I was in good shape if I got a flat.
Once I got the bike back to our room I proceeded to install and calibrate my pedals, install my BarFly mount for my Garmin and stick the Varia Radar on the seat post. I did a quick seat post adjustment, I thought I forgot my tape measure so I did it by heel & feel and as luck would have it I found the tape measure when packing up to leave. My only complaint is I wish I could have gotten the handlebars lower as they were close to level with the seat, but that just meant I rode more in the drops. No biggie.
Ok, enough about the bike, on to the riding. TBA already has several routes listed on their website/Komoot (https://www.tribikearuba.com/bike-routes-aruba) depending on your discipline. I downloaded the two routes they had for road rides and then used them as a basis for some of my own.
My first route was just a short jaunt up to the California Lighthouse and back. This was only about 8 miles and was really more of a shakedown ride to make sure the bike, and me, were working as expected. The roads were pretty decent on this little loop with only a few rough spots on the short climb to the light house and a few speed humps to contend with. But the wind, oh my the wind. I had a right to left, and slightly at my back 25mph heading to the lighthouse but on the way back it was a virtual headwind. There isn’t much up this way to stop the wind and it was brutal. Oooof.
For my next ride I planned a route to the Alto Vista Chapel. In total this was supposed to be about 20 miles, but the Garmin really sucks at navigating in Aruba for some reason and I missed my turn and had I not realized my error some 5 miles later I would have been doing a grand tour of the island. Not that it would be a bad thing but I didn’t have provisions for a longer ride. This was the first ride on fully populated streets and I have to say the cars were pretty respectful and gave me enough clearance. The road to the chapel is really nice but some of the more urban roads were a bit more challenging due to previous repairs or areas needing repairs. I would say it was a bit of paved cyclocross in some sections where you better know how to choose a line and be a confident bike handler. All in all this was a great route and I would certainly do it again. I had originally created the route with a trip back to the lighthouse but since I did some extra touring thanks to Garmins stellar routing I chopped off that last section to keep the ride at 20 miles. After all I didn’t want to stay out too long and leave the wife at the pool all day.
My last route consisted a jaunt down to Oranjestad. I’m pretty familiar with parts of Oranjestad as that is where we stayed on previous visits and did a lot of walking around the touristy & non-touristy parts. This trip we were staying in Palm Beach and the route down takes you along the coast, by some resorts and I finished up at the marina before turning around. I cruised through some local streets for turning around and it felt like I was riding through an old village in the Netherlands. Or at least what I would imagine it to be. I’ve walked these streets many times but riding gave it a new sensation. Overall this route was fast and on decent roads. However I would say unless you are very comfortable with riding in traffic Oranjestad isn’t the place for you to ride. Everyone gave me room and at times I just had to slot in with traffic. I would like to do this route again but maybe leave earlier in the morning to avoid some of the traffic. I of course finished the route with one last trip, at least on the bike, up to the lighthouse. It was a straight cross wind on this day but only at 21mph so it was a piece of cake.
All in all I had a great time riding around Aruba and would certainly do it again the next time we visit. I may opt for a mountain bike as there are lots of MTB trails on the island but I am a roadie at heart so I’ll have to see how I feel then. It would be neat to see if there are any group rides on the island and hook up with some locals as well. A big thanks to Tri-Bike Aruba for my bike and dropoff/pickup service. If you are on the island look them up.