The "Riquimbili" home madeCuban Motor Bikes

eDJ

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One night I was watching a PBS show where this Cuban American girl went to Cuba to show viewers the beauty of the countryside and the poverty the people lived in at the same time. Where she went the "Big Man" of the town had a well kept Black 55 model Cadillac he traveled around town in. Most of the cars there were old American Iron from the 40's and 50's. (but they keep it running)

But what caught my eye was when she showed the Cuban teens who wanted motorcycles so badly and photos or information about them they could lay their hands on. They showed some really wild rides the kiddies had made called "Riquimbili". Dangerous suicice machines wasn't the word for it as plastic soda bottles were the standard for fuel tanks. The motors came from Soviet Tanks (they were small auxiliary motors) and adapted to old bicycles. But the guys they showed riding them appeared to enjoy a state of serenity uncommon to the average Cuban teen. It reminded me of when I was about eight years old and saw my first motorized bike and the life long intrigue it instilled in me. I've owned my share of motorcycles both small 50 cc Honda's and big bikes....but the dream of owning a motorized bicycle from my youth still still lingers within.

I found this link to a Cuban suicide machine where a couple are shown. What is interesting to me is the flair for design in even the most primative conditions.

Street Use: Cuban Motor Bike

Here's a clip from the "Havana Journal" which talks about:

Riquimbilis - Cubans build homemade motorcycles for transportation - Cuba Culture News - Havana Journal

Somehow when I read it I'm reminded of when I was a kid here in the good ol USA. When boys fantacised about putting a motor of anykind on their bicycle to move to the next rite of passage.....owning a motorbike. Then somehow Anthony Hopkins movie, "The Worlds Fastest Indian" comes to mind.

Appearantly the links won't post ???

Any thoughts to share ?
 
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eDJ

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Can't you get the Havana Journal Link ? I comes in for me ? Anyone else having problems getting it ?

Forgive me Fidel :rolleyes:

Riquimbilis - Cubans build homemade motorcycles for transportation

Take a Chinese bicycle, attach a stolen chain-saw motor, a plastic bottle for fuel tank, a bent pipe from a bed frame for the exhaust and what have you got?

A riquimbili, Cuba’s home-made motorbike that’s noisy but effective.
It’s no ordinary moped. The lads push souped-up versions to reckless speeds in excess of 62 mph in illegal races on the outskirts of Havana.
Whole families ride them, too, to get around town—mum and dad with a child sandwiched between them.

Easily identified a block away by its ear-piercing din, the riquimbili (pronounced rick-in-billy) is an ingenious improvisation to cope with a chronic public transport shortage Cuba has faced since the collapse of Soviet communism in the early 1990s plunged the island into dire economic straits.

Cubans line up for hours for irregular bus services and travel jam-packed in hump-back buses made from articulated trucks they call “camels”. For a decade, many have had to get used to peddling to work on sturdy Chinese bicycles with no gears.

Enter the riquimbili, cobbled together from scrap-yard parts of old motorbikes mounted on a light bicycle frame, usually powered by a 50 cc to 125 cc two-stroke engine obtained on the black market.

Anything from water pumps and electricity generators to portable fumigator motors will do. Power boosters from old Soviet military tanks are preferred for reliability and strength.

The transmission, controlled with a makeshift clutch, is frequently just a simple roller rubbing against the wheel, or a belt system, though prized riquimbilis use motorbike chains.

Their fuel efficiency is unbeatable. Most do 120 miles per gallon (50 km per litre) of petrol.

“Public transport is so bad, unfortunately. If there were more buses we would no need to make these contraptions,” said bodywork repairman Lazaro Brito.

There’s no fancy chrome or superfluous gadgetry on Brito’s riquimbili, but it does have a bright-red fuel tank cannibalised from a Russian-made Karpati motorbike. The exhaust pipe was hammered out from the metal frame of a hospital bed.

ILLEGAL BUT TOLERATED

Riquimbilis are illegal and their owners face frequent fines. Cuba’s communist government says the do-it-yourself bikes are too dangerous to be on the road, and authorities only issue number plates for factory-made motorbikes.

Police have become more tolerant, however, apparently in response to the worsening transport crisis, and fewer home-made bikes have been confiscated lately.

“The riquimbili resolves our problem,” said Rainier Gonzalez, who works fumigating against mosquitoes for 245 pesos (5.44 pounds) a month, which is Cuba’s average monthly wage.

Gonzalez said police should crack down on people racing the bikes because there have been fatal accidents. But they should not go after Cubans using their use as a means of transport.

“That’s not fair. There are no cars. We cannot buy a car,” he said. Few Cubans have access to private cars built after 1960 and need high-level government approval to buy one.

Riquimbili racers modify their engines to add piston rings and increase cylinder size. They use carburettors from Japanese bikes like the Suzuki for more power and performance, and lower the weight using plastic bottles for gasoline instead of tanks.

“I use mine to get around, go out at night. But if someone wants to race, I’m game and I won’t lose,” said Helder Leal, 22, showing a scar across his stomach from a night-time crash at 65 mph.

“I was going full out and bust my guts,” he said.

Riquimbilis are all about Cuban inventiveness in dealing with bureaucracy and scarcity in a battered socialist economy. Even the name was made up, nobody knows by whom, and cannot be found in any dictionary. There is no agreement on its spelling, or whether it was derived from the names Rick and Billy.

The idea was copied from a pre-World War Two American moped called the Whizzer that was introduced to Cuba by the postal service for telegram dispatchers in the 1940s. Some vintage Whizzers can still be seen puttering along Havana streets.

Older Cubans go for a more stable three-wheeled riquimbili.

Retired chauffeur Juan Almaguer has been riding one for seven years to carry goods for an income. The bike, powered by a 1940s American water pump, can transport 800 pounds (365 kg) of cargo.

“The police have confiscated it three times. They say there have been too many accidents, but my brakes are perfect,” Almaguer said. “But riquimbilis are illegal, so you can’t invest too much money in them.”
 

Bikeguy Joe

Godfather of Motorized Bicycles
Jan 8, 2008
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Awesome article. You would not get away with those for 5 minutes in the city in the U.S., and probably not too long even out here in the boonies. But with the proper muffler....
 

UncleKudzu

New Member
May 26, 2008
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wow! that top photo on Street Use is a very cool design! thanks for links.

i wonder what "riquimbili" means? would the bikes we're building be riquimbili? (i think motorized bicycles need a name is why i ask.)
 

Ilikeabikea

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Jan 27, 2008
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Riquimbili, hey that is a cool name. Should we start a campaign to start calling these motorized bicycles a riquimbili? We could be on the forefront of a national trend...............................:D
 

NunyaBidness

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Jun 29, 2008
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Riquimbili, hey that is a cool name. Should we start a campaign to start calling these motorized bicycles a riquimbili? We could be on the forefront of a national trend...............................:D
we're already at the forefront of a national trend, we just don't have a good name for it yet. Riquimbili (pronounced rick-in-bili) sounds good
 
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eDJ

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I took some blow up's of the Riquimbili and tweeked the image so it can be seen better and analyzed. I've looked at it closely and noticed:

1) no bicycle pedals

2) a rubber drive belt for the primary from the motor which looks like it came off a old washing machine.

3) the secondary chain drive to the rear axle slants downward on the top side.
what looks like the upper chain is a brake lever connected to a brake pedal on the left side

4) behind the larger primary rubber pully drive is a small sprocket connected to the larger rear sprocket.

5) to the sides of the rear swing arm suspension there are built out foot rest like running boards on the old motor cycles. so the rider's feet rest aft of the center of the bike before the rear axle.

6) it isn't clear if the front suspension is articulated or just relies on the springing of the long extended raked forks.

7) it appears to only have a rear brake possibly from a small motorcycle which may also be where the rear brake rod & pedal, and spring loaded shocks were
salvaged from. Likewise the throttle grip and cable (notice the long length of cable) I'm not shure if bicycle parts were used in this or to what extent but the front forks look like they could have came from a small displacement motorcycle. thus this bike could be a massive rebuild of a small motorbike frame.

The smaller blow up of the pedal crank & primary pully/front sprocket gives some better detailed view for your analysis.





I haven't gotten to trying to calculate the pully diameters by "guesstimation"
in order to convert engine rpm to feet in forward movement yet but I'm sure these things move along and only sip gasoline which must be expensive in Cuba.

So, enjoy the view !
 
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eDJ

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Ok, just guessing on the performance characteristics of this rig.

The guesses follow:

The pulley on the motor is 4" dia (or 12.56" cir)
The pulley on the pedal crank (no foot pedals) is 12" dia (or 37.69" cir)
The pulley behind the pedal crank pulley is 4" dia (12.56" cir)
The pulley on the rear axle is 12" dia (37.69" cir)

I come up with nine turns of the engine crank for one turn of the rear axle. (a 9:1 final ratio)

The rear tire I'm guessing to be about 26" dia (or 81.68" cir)

Thus:

The motor turning 3000 rpm (assuming it's 2 cycle) would generate 31 mph and turning 4000 rpm would generate 42 mph approx.

Understand this is based on guesstimation and nobody ever accused ol' eDJ of being a mathematician. (and we won't even go into volumetric efficiency of the motor cause it probably came out of a scrap heap anyway.....and Jose is
probably considering himself lucky just to have something that ran so he woun't have to walk)

By allowing the engine displacement to be 6.33 sq in via 2" bore/stroke churning 660 cu ft of air in one hour @ 15:1 fuel/air ratio then perhaps a milage of just under 60 mpg is possible with this set up. That's guessing one cu ft of gasoline mix was used to fill the tank. (which would be 7.48 gallons used per hour) not taking into consideration the few ounces of mix oil necessary to produce a 40:1 ratio mix.
Again guessing 40:1 is the ratio requirement.

But the fuel tank shown looks like it could hold about a gallon....so perhaps the bike could wring out a 80 mile run. (just going on the trend of 3/4 gal per hour = roughly 60 mpg)

How's that for guessing ? If anyone else here who is more skilled with numbers than I wants to take a crack at it I'd be delighted to hear your version. ;)
 
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UncleKudzu

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May 26, 2008
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Nunya said:
we're already at the forefront of a national trend, we just don't have a good name for it yet. Riquimbili (pronounced rick-in-bili) sounds good
ilikeabikea said:
Riquimbili, hey that is a cool name. Should we start a campaign to start calling these motorized bicycles a riquimbili? We could be on the forefront of a national trend...............................
i've been intending to propose that someone come up with a name for this homebrew motor bike movement. have the Cubans done it for us?

riquimbili - rrreekeembeelee... i like it! Viva la Revolución!
 

eDJ

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Jul 8, 2008
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I've got my Tee Shirt decal ready to wear on a ride.



I made it when I got accidently banned on another forum. They were having problems with spammers and the admins were like banning whole ranges of IP addresses at a time and bunches of us got banned.

So I made it and went to the Public Library and posted it "eDJ Banned !"
Within an hour they had it unlocked. LOL but since I got it in a file. Of course the Library has a different IP address that wasn't banned.
 
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Motoschwinn

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Jun 27, 2008
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Holy CRAP the guys from the 'other' site must be buying up more flags to wave if they hear about this thread! One of the many reasons I LOVE this group. Cuba fascinates me. I would love to visit there. Seeing all the old American iron down there still running. I can only think it would be like time stood still from the 50's. I'm not saying I support communism but the country still fascinates me just like China. I would LOVE to get my hands on one of those Russian tank booster engines.
 

the_edge150

Dealer
Aug 21, 2008
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cuba is nice, but take it from someone who grew up there, the USA is much better and those tank boosters there are actually few of them still around, but those are the ones that we used usually for the 3 and 4 wheel ones.
 
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huckersteve

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May 20, 2008
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www.gohuckyourself.com
What a great post and a cool story to boot. SO awesome to think how determined people find ways to get around. I have more and more respect all the time for our humble little machines.

I have been routinely commuting and adventuring with my bike for months now and log trips in excess of 40 miles often. I wonder how far some folks have gone on those contraptions!
 

silverbear

The Boy Who Never Grew Up
Jul 9, 2009
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I just call them what they are...motorbicycles. You could pronounce it motor bigh sickles or motor bi sighkles so that the cycles part is like in motorcycle and not bicycle. How come they're different anyway? What a language to learn if it is new to you.
Silverbear
 

the_edge150

Dealer
Aug 21, 2008
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hijole. in Cuba we speak Spanish.....just like most of the Caribbean and south America. and fairracing, the ones who were the most into this was me and EDj, and i have nooooo idea what happened to him.....