Dale Pedale: “From a basement in Vedado to the heights of Manhattan”
Rafael Urbay dreams big. He wants to be an important businessman, play sports, travel the world, and for his business, which was born in a basement in Havana’s Vedado district, to reach the heights of Manhattan.
Some time ago he left behind his bachelor’s degree in Gastronomy for the practice of triathlon and other sports, a hobby that he takes very seriously. So much so that in 2017 he became the first Cuban, based on the island, to complete the Ironman race in Cozumel, Mexico.
That same year he also ventured into what would be his greatest challenge: opening his own business. Dale Pedale was born, a venture that combines fun with aerobic entertainment, thus achieving extraordinary benefits, both physical and emotional.
It is indoor cycling, also known as spinning, a physical activity performed on a special exercise bike, which has been gaining more and more popularity in Cuba. Along with the aerobic training, sprinting periods are interspersed with other flat and mountain periods to the rhythm of the music.
But Rafael assures that in Dale Pedale he has tropicalized the indoor cycling activity, achieving a more Cuban and Caribbean dynamic.
This young man tells us that it was a long road, which began with finding a favorable location for the premises where the business would be located.
“We decided to sell our house in a neighborhood called El Canal in Cerro that same year. With that money we were able to buy an apartment in Vedado, in a multi-family building. It was an improvised apartment that consisted of just one bedroom, and in a very poor condition. Thanks to the help of my 80-year-old grandfather Cándido, the bricklayer, and us, who became his helpers, we were able to rebuild the whole mess. It was a year of hard work. We finished the restoration and we were able to sell the place and buy an apartment in what was a garage on J Street, in Vedado. It was the right place, it gave us the possibility of dividing the house for the business and also for our living space. There began a construction process that took two years to complete.”
Why this business and not another?
“I am passionate about indoor cycling. Nothing makes me happier than teaching. I feel full of energy, confident. It motivates me to know that I am helping other people to be in better physical and emotional health. Finishing a class and seeing people leave tired, but at the same time happy, and knowing that I am responsible, gives me a sense of satisfaction that I don’t know how to explain.
“I can have personal problems as we all do and when I walk through that door everything is erased. My energy always has to be positive to transmit that electricity of good vibes to my clients.”
He got to know this modality in 2015 when someone suggested he become an instructor of this training method. He confesses that at the time he had no idea what it was about, until he started practicing it. And it didn’t take him long to become passionate about this perfect combination of sport and music.
What is it all about?
“As the name suggests, indoor cycling is a simulation of a real cycling route, so I decided to buy a bike so I could personally feel what I wanted to convey to my clients. I went out riding on weekends with a group of friends. This bike became the main tool to practice the sport that today is my hobby: Triathlon.
“I managed to become an instructor, gaining the respect of my clients and studying everything related to the activity. In one of my investigations, I discovered that indoor cycling marathons were being held all over the world. I called a meeting with several instructors from other gyms and thanks to the help of our friend, Ramon, we managed to hold the first marathon in our country, in Don Cangrejo on November 16, 2016. Time went by and I started thinking about becoming independent, creating my own brand and having my own place.”
What is the development perspective of a business like this in today’s Cuba?
Dale Pedale was born and operates as a family business. At the moment its activity is very limited because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which slowed down the progress of the fitness sector. One of the alternatives they had to turn to was to offer the bicycles to their clients in their own homes, so that they could remain active until the situation allowed them to reopen the premises.
“I have an ambitious project to create a new exercise bike, based on my experience as an athlete, adding and modifying things about the current design. It’s a project that will take me years, and with which I feel very motivated. If I succeed I will feel very fulfilled, and if not, I will still be happy to have tried. I have nothing to lose, any result will be a gain.”
Pedaling is an art, Rafael assures. “When we pedal, we reduce stress levels, improve the cardiovascular system, physical endurance, it helps you focus your concentration better, and of course, you lose weight.
“The classes are intense, but this, together with the music, guarantees a very good group workout experience.” Each class lasts 50 minutes, and you can burn between 400 and 700 calories, depending on the intensity with which you work.
“In my case, I like classes that are strict in terms of exercise, but at the same time are enjoyable and do their job. It is always a priority to take care of the clients and avoid injuries, so before the class and during the time it lasts, we control the time the client is pedaling on standing or sitting down.”
How far do you want to go with Dale Pedale?
“I would like to expand the brand and make it grow as much as possible. I have to thank the family and friends who contributed their grain of sand, because it is thanks to those many little efforts that today Dale Pedale is a dream come true.”