Bikes and everything in between

Posted: August 18, 2016 in Confessions, Exceptional, Excerpts, Trips, Visits, and Explorations

This is not a bike review. This is my first hand account of being a beginner biker: from how I ended up loving the chains and sprockets, and the people who had common interests in living a lifestyle of our own. 

I consider myself as a jack of all trades, and yes, probably, really must be a master of none. I explore anything I can, try to grasp a thing or two to experience how it is, and then just like that, I am all good and over with it. It’s either I decide to stay in a hobby or call it quits, and earn experience points along the way, and be satisfied by the feeling that I know the do’s and don’ts in case I stumble upon the same thing in the near future.

But recently, there’s one thing that got me captivated. Something I thought I’d never be able to do. Something I thought was just a simple hobby, which turned out to be more than just that. It’s a lifestyle. It’s what keeps you… rolling. Biking.

Yes, although I don’t consider myself a hardcore guy when it comes to biking, because come on! I am a very stingy person and we only got our gear from thrift shops where common pickers flock for the oldies but goodies stuff.

A few months ago, I got to know a person by the name of Wally Contento. The name may ring a bell to you. He’s known in the biking circle as someone who likes to collect and restore classic bike models, and rides them in a very cool fashion. My friend actually caught a picture of him riding his Mini Cooper cruiser while wearing a fedora, a pair of alfombras and a 70s inspired polo shirt. That friend of mine actually wondered how on earth Wally was able to ride in with so much class and appear to be without even dropping a single sweat.

Wally, to the musically inclined, used to be the lead man of the band Stella Ruiz. And when given the chance, we would jam in his place like good old men that we are, and fly away with his music. I could write about his awesome Beatles collection at home, but it would veer us away from biking, lol.

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Here is Wally’s 1960s Huffy Cruiser, US made.

Back when we were still office-mates, Wally would always bring his restored pieces in the office, and never spend a single centavo on his way to and from our office building. His bikes were head turners, and we always get that “wow” look whenever we ride with him. I managed to engage him in a chitchat and I told him that I was also planning on buying a bike for myself for economic purposes. Without any hesitation, he told me to come with them to this place, and they would help me buy my own piece.

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One of the bike shops in Bangkal, Makati city. Unless with a trained eye, you’ll never know what treasures are hidden within the pile of old bike frames, tires, etc.,.

And there we went to a Malvar Steet, in Barangay Bangkal, Makati City. It was my first time to go there, and my eyes were up for a surprise. The entire street was filled with bikes — all kinds of bikes, ranging from foldies, fixies, mountain, cruisers, single speeds, you name it, they have it! Most of them are second hand’s, however, but who cares?

So I went there, on a cab, while Wally and Paulo, another office mate who rides a fixie, introduced me to the shop owners. A few seconds after the niceties, they were already like men on a mission. Their eyes roamed just about every where looking for a nice piece. They told me they weren’t looking for anything specific, but they always say “I’ll know what I’, looking for when I see it.”

Where I was there left in the middle. It’s like a kid left in a car shop, wondering what else to do aside from be astounded by the volume of frames and tires and sprockets surrounding me. I only got out of trance when Wally told me “ano, pili na!”. I was shy to admit that I actually didn’t know what to pick, and how to pick what’s best for me, when they were out there, looking like expert buyers already, trying to pull out any frame that catches their eyes, anything that looks interesting. I had zero knowledge about bikes, and during that day, I was hoping they’d guide me on how to pick for myself, but they just let me there alone as they were busy trying to find their own ‘treasure’. So I decided to pick a folding bike, thinking that I could bring it inside the office, and it’s light and easy to handle. My qualifications for buying sound like so mediocre compared to their standards.

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This was the first project I bought – a Japanese surplus Jeep Wrangler folding bike.

Polding, the name I gave my first ever bike, was old, but it could still have a few miles in its belt. I told myself I would invest a few hundred bucks to have it restored and make it look and work as if it’s brand new. I spent P2.5k for the old model, but replaced some parts, did some tweaking and adjustments, to bring it to its optimum appearance and hopefully, performance. The entire project cost me some P6k more or less.

We’re fond of naming our bikes in a funny way. Wally has the name Tirso, for one of his cruiser bikes. Tirso Cruise… get it? 🙂 Paulo, on the other hand has Temmie, for his black fixie. Temmie-for “itim”. We got a lot of TVJ influence going in within the group. Blame these two old timers for that. Lorenzo, another biker has his bike named Benzo. And for my foldie, is Polding… it’s a giveaway. Polding bisikleta, come on!

From then on, I realized that biking isn’t just a simple hobby. It becomes your lifestyle. It’s like owning an upgradable toy but with its practical uses. You get to love your piece the more you try to restore it, and add more and newer pieces in it. And for some reason, you would not mind shelling out a few hundred bucks here and there just to make your bike look and feel good when riding, when you used to hold on to your bucks like it’s the end of the world. The local bikers call that “upgraditis“, derived from the word “upgrade” and the commonly heard medical suffix “-itis”. Some bikers consider unnecessary upgrading as a mild addiction.

Unfortunately after about two months, Polding got stolen. After all I’ve spent trying to upgrade the bike, someone took it from our own apartment compound in broad daylight, when I fell asleep and forgot to chainlock it. It was such a bummer and I hope whoever stole it never got a good use of Polding and sell it to feed his vices.

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This was the last picture of Pol a few days after it got stolen. That backdrop is the old Escolta, btw.

So, I bought a second folding bike, cost me just about the same amount including the upgrades. I still have it at home and was using it to go to work, or elsewhere whenever I choose. It even got inside a hotel!

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Tim. Short for Itim. My second folding bike.

Me and my biker friends call ourselves the “Chain Gang”, first coined when we rode together one morning before sunrise, looking for some place to have our “lunch” (we work graveyard’s shift), and our office-mates would see us like we’re funny thugs wannabe in the middle of the street. It was cheesy and hilarious, nonetheless. It’s a group of friendly people who ride different types of bikes. The group is not exclusive for just one bike type. We embrace diversity. The group has a foldie, a couple of fixies and cruisers, a mountain bike, and now, I have a mini velo to add to our group.

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Meet Biki. Short for Biki Velo. It’s a Alterna mini velo with 6-speed shifters. My third project.

As Chain Gang, we would go riding anywhere within the Metro, from the Circuit, Makati to as far as the SM Mall of Asia. Again, we are not hard core cyclists, so we just ride for fun and leisure, MoA is already a far location for us. But our favorite spot where we ride to is the Old Manila. From Binondo, to Intramuros, Escolta, Rizal Park, the Paco Cemetery, to that secluded, still to be developed portion behind PICC – we call it the Echo Beach, after Wally discovered that an echo is created when you stomp your feet or shout from the center of the circle. After the ride, we feed ourselves with food from Binondo or in Malate’s famous Erra’s Ramen House. Or whenever hunger strikes, we stop over and eat at any carinderia we find.

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This “Echo Beach” is really the Paseo Palisoc Circle. It is located behind the Tanghalang Franciso Balagtas and The Coconut Palace, and is a part of the development under the NCCA, or the National Center for Culture and the Arts.

I used to just think of buying a bike for its economic uses. To save money and time going to and from the office. Also, it improves your health, and mind, as you remove yourself from the stress and hassle of the daily commuter’s traffic and ride on two wheels powered by your own two feet. These are given.

But little did I know, it would introduce me to a different world that I’ve never expected to see myself in back in the day. I used to wonder why bike shops are opened in about every barangay in my city, until I realized that the biking community in the Metro is that huge. It took me a while to get used to riding in the middle of the Manila traffic, but once you get the hang of it, it’s not as horrific and terrifying as you thought it would be. Unless you’re going to find yourself pedaling in the middle of EDSA where deadly buses don’t even respect their fellow drivers, what more is it for a biker like me? You develop your self discipline and be a defensive biker on the road, and greet with a smile or a friendly wave of a hand a fellow biker that you pass by.

I swear I could write a lot more stuff about biking as a hobby, but I have yet a lot to explore about it. When you’ve got a ton of support from your friends and workmates, when you ride with people who share the same interests as you do, when you meet and greet and find new friends along the way, biking will always be just riding like a breeze.

***UPDATE (February 28, 2017): Thanks to Wally, again, I have explored and expanded my network more and participated as the official photographer for their bike group, the Baywalk Beach Cruisers (BBC) during the PhilBike Expo 2016 . Click the link to see the photos.

I also got to know Mr. John Bercic, a Canadian national who has put up a bike business here in the Philippines, the PhatKatBikes. He and Wally are both members of BBC. I met him at the PhilBike Expo and we ventured on a tie-up project. He invited me to create a vlog for his PhatKatz Flipflops. Here’s the vid. Hopefully, he opens the market in the PH right away.

It also was an honor to have joined him and the BBC in the outreach program that they did for the kids at Hospicio De San Jose, in the City of Manila. Please click the link to see the photos.

Here’s my gf’s vlog. I’d like to give a shoutout to my girlfriend, Bae, (Yes, that’s a part of her legal name, not just an endearment), who helped me with the project. Bae is also a blogger, and a vlogger, and together, we have created a few travel vlogs, in her page, The Bae Blogs. I hope you guys enjoy the video:

Here’s a link to my FB Album featuring Polding and Friends:
Polding and Friends and Bicki and Friends.

Check out my Bangkal album, too. 🙂

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