Padyakoldaway – or why I like to bike

Oliver M. Mendoza
Learning how to ride a bicycle is certainly one of life’s greatest experiences.

OLIVER MENDOZA. Avid biker

I have been biking, on and off, for the past 30 years. I first learned to ride by borrowing my cousin’s rusty old BMX when I was maybe 8 or 9 years old. Back in the ‘80s, BMX bikes were all the rage among the kids in my neighborhood, made popular by the made-for-betamax movie “RAD.” The older kids favored “racer” bikes, which in turn was popularized by the movie “Quicksilver” starring Kevin Bacon and Laurence Fishburne.

Learning how to ride a bicycle is certainly one of life’s greatest experiences. After all these years I still remember clearly the exhilarating feeling of accomplishment mingled fear as I found my balance for the very first time, and I recall just going round and round the Plaza Arevalo in Iloilo City until the church bell struck the Angelus, which was the signal for all children back then to go home for supper.  

I have been riding “on and off” for the last 30 years. There are long periods when I didn’t ride. For instance, when I reached third year high school I stopped riding my BMX bike because I thought it was “juvenile.” When I went to Manila for college I completely forgot about biking, and more so when I already started working. I don’t exactly remember anymore when I rediscovered biking – it may have been in 2001 or 2002 – but I distinctly recall that I bought a mountain bike on a whim after realizing that I was already overweight and needed the exercise. After only a year, I sold the bike to a friend because it was gathering dust – and rust – in my garage.
 
Sometime in 2008 I noticed more bikers on the street. I discovered that some of my friends have taken up mountain biking as a sport. So accompanied by a biker-friend, I went first to Cartimar eventually ending up in Sabak-Pasong Tamo where I bought the perfect rig, a white Marin Indian Fire Trail hardtail. Since then I have been biking almost every Sunday, sometimes solo but most of the time with a group. In biker lingo, I am what they call a “weekend warrior.”     

I find that there are many who are curious about mountain biking. When people learn that I am into the sport they usually pepper me with questions, like “is it dangerous” or “is it expensive.” I sense that people are more health-conscious nowadays (the new catch-word I think for it is “wellness”) and for the most part, many are torn whether to go into biking or “running” (it seems no one uses the term “jogging” anymore).

Here are some of the things I usually say to help convince people to take up biking:

The perfect aerobic exercise

Badminton, basketball and golf are anaerobic because they are “stop-and-go” sports. Pedaling non-stop for 3 hours, as well as jogging for 2 hours, is aerobic exercise. But unlike running, biking is not masakit sa buto (painful on the bones). Of course, the possibility of broken bones (from bad crashes and semplangs or tumble over) is always there in mountain biking.

But the possibility of injury exists in almost all sports – even in a relatively “tame” sport like golf a player can still get hit in the head by a wayward golf ball. My usual answer to people who are afraid of semplangs is to cite the old adage (which incidentally has served me well in the trails), which is: “When in Doubt, Dismount.”

In all my years in the saddle I only suffered one semplang – it was in what bikers commonly refer to as “the siko” (elbow) portion of “The Wall” in San Mateo, Rizal. Since then I have become less aggressive and more “circumspect” about my riding style. After all, I have really no intention of being the next Bans Mendoza or becoming a competitive racer. And up in the mountains there is certainly no shame in dismounting and walking your bike when you feel that the trail is beyond your riding ability.

ROAD TO SIERA MADRE. Photo by Ollie Mendoza, biker

 

Exercising and sightseeing in one

One of my main problems is I am lazy to exercise and get easily bored with sports. I have tried going to the gym, tried playing basketball, tennis and then golf – but after a year or so I usually lose interest (especially when my game stops improving). Since I started biking again about 2 years ago I have been riding regularly and I see myself being in the saddle in the foreseeable future.

Biking is never boring and I was able to sustain my interest in it because I get to go to different destinations each weekend. Every Sunday I get to go “out of town” on my mountain bike and see the sights. Most Sundays our group just navigate Abuab and The Wall in San Mateo, but at least once a month we make it a point to go on long rides, such as to Sierra Madre, the Mahogany Trail, Bugarin or Batlag Falls.

In mountain biking you get to exercise not only your muscles but all your senses. Your eyes must be constantly on alert for hidden ruts and devious switchbacks, your nose picks up all the strange odors of the street and the different scents of the trail, and even your tastebuds learn to appreciate new “truck-driver” cuisine.

If not for biking, I probably would not have discovered the Binangonan, Mang Vic’s Bulalohan in Tanay, Restaurant in San Mateo, the budbud in Teresa and many of the itikan the F4 Chinese roadside carinderias that litter the countryside.  

PAPAITAN NI ALING TINA. Breakfast of Champions

Way to “re-connect” with ‘everyday people’

Working in an air-conditioned office 5 days a week and being around the same set of people all the time can sometimes de-sensitize you to the real world. My weekly biking forays to far-flung mountain barangays in the periphery of the metropolis gives me a chance to talk (plainly) with ordinary folk. It also gives me a brief glimpse of their everyday lives, and an opportunity to listen to their sentiments and their ordinary problems.

My mountain biking gang is a motley group. We have one medical doctor, a couple IT experts, several call-center agents, a bartender/waiter, a real estate broker, a security guard, corporate employees, businessmen and even “full-time house-husbands.” The bond that unites our “band of bikers” is our common love for the outdoors and mountain biking as a hobby/sport, and I find the camaraderie of our mishmash crew truly refreshing. Outside of my regular biking group I also get to meet all sorts of individuals, from rich kids on their 250,000-peso rigs to radical downhillers to unemployed workers bulging with “muscles of poverty.”

I have given you three good reasons why you, too, should go biking. Allow me to add just one last reason that may finally convince you to go buy a bike: It’s one good way to “meet-and-greet” local artistas. (Hint: John Lloyd is one of the avid bikers.) 

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