A little less than five years ago, I bought — and got on — a single-speed Bridgestone road bicycle that I later sold to a friend who then used it as collateral to borrow money from another friend.
That bicycle — and its random adventures with its small circle of bicycling drunkards — is not an indication of how far I’ve gone as an amateur cyclist.
The same bike, sad to say, has fallen into disrepair after its current owner seemed to have lost his interest in traveling on two wheels.
Five bicycles, two accidents, and five years later, I am still at it — cycling whenever I can, sometimes even during rainy weather, helped only by a windbreaker, a pair of trusty disc brakes, and muscle memory.
Save for a recent intense episode with a crusty old jeepney driver who helped spread Christmas cheer by cutting me off twice on the same road, I haven’t gotten into any trouble.
My bike commuting adventures have been generally pleasant so far. And in a world that’s always ripe for disruption, I hope that doesn’t change. If it does, I hope I don’t become roadkill.
1) I’ve cut the number of my bicycles to one.
Up until the middle of 2016, I had two bikes — Marta, an multi-speed Bridgestone road bike named after a character in the TV series, Arrested Development, and Mang Cesar, a single-speed cyclocross named after the private jeepney driver who took my brother and I to school and brought us home when we were growing up.
In May of that year, I lent Marta to a fellow cyclist, who had to overhaul his current bike and needed a temporary ride.
He tested her limits, promptly wrecking her gears (which were hard to replace because they were an old make). For some reason, he refused to come clean until I found out six months later.
In frustration, I had Marta traded for a new cyclocross frame that replaced the customized one on Mang Cesar. So technically Mang Cesar isn’t Mang Cesar anymore. It’s Mang Cesar Reloaded.
Meanwhile, what happened to the guy who broke the bike? I am glad to report that he’s still alive.
2) I’ve finally learned to travel on EDSA, Metro Manila’s main highway.
Whenever I went on EDSA, I took the bike lane (or what passes for it). It was — and still is — a tight, badly-lit, and a potholed pathway that runs along the highway’s northbound side, from Bonny Serrano Avenue to Ortigas Avenue. (Another bike lane exists on the southbound side from Magallanes and just like its counterpart, it serves to discourage, rather than encourage bike commuting).
However, urban cyclists will take what we have.
Unfortunately, what we have now — even if it a travesty of a bike lane — has been taken away from us.
Earlier this year, the public works department further reduced the bike lane on EDSA’s northbound side to widen the road and allow more vehicles on the highway itself.
As a result, I have been forced to ride my bike on EDSA itself, navigating the perilous spaces between speeding buses and insensitive private cars. It was a lesson — if it be called that — that took me four years of bike commuting to learn.
3) I biked on Batanes island.
In 2017, I got invited to Batanes to attend a wedding of a former co-worker at an office (where she stayed shorter than I did and where I was popular — to use the term loosely — among the higher-ups).
As soon as I received the invitation, I made plans to bring my bike to the island. It was well-worth the hassle of packing and transporting it to and from the airport.
After all, despite its two-lane highways, Batanes may very well be cycling country. The roads are well-built and have been smoothened from embankment to pavement, precluding any rough patches or potholes, unlike EDSA.
As a result, I was able to travel quickly and smoothly from Basco — the provincial capital — to Ivana, the location of the world-famous Honesty Store and where Mang Cesar and I took a boat to Sabtang, another island, where I rode my bike some more.
During one ride on the way back to Basco, I saw a large plastic sack of fish crackers on the side of the road. The scenario immediately confronted me with an awkward question: Do I tell the authorities about it once I reach town? Do I carry it myself and bring it to the lost and found? Or — and this crossed my mind, temporarily — should I have a nibble instead?
These were not answered.
As soon as I got off my bike to examine the goods, a guy in a tricycle came back for it. Lesson (for 2018 onwards): Sometimes, it’s best to leave things alone.