Monday, March 21, 2011

Track your gas savings when you bike with

Cateye, through World Commute, can track the number of days you commute by bike, how many miles you travelled, the liters of gas and the amount of money you save, the carbon you offset, and the health points you earn.  It's neat, if you don't have those Polar/Suuntu watches with GPS tracking and heart monitoring.

In my March 2010 - March 2011 record, it shows that I'm no. 2 out of 46 here in the Philippines (Just shows you how few people use this website, given that having travelled just 600 kms in 36 days of 2010, I placed high in the rankings.  Hehehe).

C'mon, Philippines, we can do better than just 46 bicyclists in!  Register and record your daily commute at now!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Video: Brompton in Genova, Italy

Cute video on commuting by Brompton folding bike in hilly Genova, Italy. : )


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Top 5 Reasons Why It's Hard to Bike Commute in Manila

5.  The Heat!

With temperatures reaching 90-95 F during the summer, sometimes the weather is too hot to bike commute. For example, the other day I biked to Makati at 2 in the afternoon.  It was so hot and humid that I suffered from heatstroke the next day!  Seriously. 

The only time it's not hot is at night, and that's another problem!

And when it's not summer, it's raining!  Light showers I can take--the Brompton and the Allant both have fenders.  But typhoon-level rain means the bike stays in the garage.

I guess the best time to bike commute in Manila is early in the morning, like 6am. 

4.  No Bike Lanes

Unlike New York, Portland, San Francisco, Davis, London, Taipei, Singapore and other world cities, Manila does not have a bike lane network.  There is no designated lane for us to ride our bikes.  Hence, we have to compete for the same driving space with cars, buses, trucks, jeepneys, tricycles, motorcycles and pedicabs!

So the key to biking in Manila is adopt "defensive biking."  A biker has to be fully aware of his surroundings.  He has to assume that there are vehicles on all his sides.

3.  Unruly Public Transport Drivers / Chaotic Traffic System

Traffic laws are generally not followed in the Philippines.  Drivers don't stick to their lanes; they drive against the flow of traffic; beat the red light; and don't yield or give way.  And the worst offenders are drivers of public utility vehicles.  They won't give you space.  They'll drive you off the road if they can.

This is especially true along Epifanio Delos Santos Ave., C-5 and Commonwealth Ave.  Areas that are relatively safe (compared to EDSA) include Bonifacio Global City in Taguig, Roxas Blvd. in Manila (because you can use the service road), and Marikina (because they have a bike lane network over there).

Of course, it's a lot safer to ride your bike during the weekends, especially Sundays, since there are less cars on the road.

2.  No Bike Parking

Even if you successfully commute from point A to point B on your bike, the next problem is where to park it.  Chances are there are no bike racks available in the office, the shopping mall or in school.

And if there are, the bike racks would most probably be placed in an obscure place of the building, like in the basement or at the back, which makes it susceptible to being stolen by bike thieves.

In so far as availability of bike racks are concerned, the Firefly Brigade and other similar cause-oriented groups are providing new bike racks to schools, government buildings and offices, so this is good.

But I think it's equally important to inform and educate the building managers that the racks have to be placed near the entrance, where more people can see the bikes.  This way bike thieves will think twice before they steal a bike.  Otherwise, even if there's a rack, but it's at the back of the mall where no one sees it, a biker would rather keep his bike than leave it there.

1. Social Stigma of being Bike Commuter

Let's face it.  Here in the Philippines, the majority look down at people who commute by bike.  This is because most bike commuters here are construction workers and security guards.  People then associate bike commuting to being poor.  The logic being the biker rides a bike because he does not have enough money to use motorized transport.  It's ridiculous, but it's the sad reality.

And when one uses an obviously expensive road/commuter bike, there's still a stigma because then the biker will just be labeled as being crazy for biking the streets of Manila.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Kuklos: a bike fair

Last Saturday, I biked to the Collective at Malugay Street, Makati, to attend Kuklos, a bike show co-organized by Tiklop Society of the Philippines.
3.5 km bike ride

Brommie Skywalker parked next to Steve's yellow folding bike.

Lady volunteers from WOW Pinay.

My kailian, Al Castillo, his wife Din and daughter Aldea--a true biking family

Dennis' and Ricky's stall selling Flamingo and Strida bikes and accessories

A cute white Flamingo folding bike.

A yellow Strida folding bike.

A yellow Dahon racing folding bike.

Some more Dahon folding bikes.

Brznf's Peerless folding bikes

Accessories for those into fixed gear bikes ("Fixies") and bike polo.

Now for the bike show. There were a lot of participants and a lot of bikes.  There were also a lot of activities including an exhibition show and a contest.
the bike show

A purple low-rider bike. 
A BMX bike.

A bamboo bike.
Classic Dutch-style bikes.

A 1982 blue Dahon folding bike.

The minority for that day:  mountain bikes and road bikes.  Hehehehe.

Some more low rider bikes.
That green bike is a Moulton.

I would have wanted to pimp up Brommie Skywalker and enter it in the bike show, but I was there for less than an hour, so I just parked it.

It was a well-organized event with lots of bikes and lots of participants.  I'm glad it focused on "other" bikes (i.e. folding bikes, commuter bikes, BMX bikes, fixies, low-rider bikes, etc.) rather than the usual mountain bikes and road bikes.  For one day, "other" bikes ruled!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

My New Bike Buddy

I have a new bike buddy:  My one year old daughter, Bea!

I had trouble convincing her to wear her helmet before, hence I couldn't let her ride.  But somehow, my wife and I were able to convince her it was fashionable.  Once we overcame than, there was no more problem with her enjoying the iBert seat.

In fact, for the 2nd day in a row, she rode with me in buying the newspaper.  She didn't want to get out of her seat when we got home.  I had to take her around the block one more time!

It was great bonding with my daughter!
Bea really does enjoy riding the bike.  She's all smiles.
My friends suggest though, if I take her on longer rides, to put sunblock on her skin.  We don't want her to get sunburn this early.
Dad Kris with one-year old daughter Bea (March 2011)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Bea familiarizing herself with the iBert seat

Bea rode on her iBert seat for the second time last weekend.  This time we biked past and beyond the block.  We went out of our neighborhood to buy sunday newspaper!
All set and ready to go!  This time no problem with wearing the helmet!

"Dad, what's taking you so long?"

"C'mon, Dad, you better get back here!"

Back at home with Dad's newspaper

When Bea's nervous or stressed, she sucks on her thumb.

Later that day, Bea and I went out again.  This time, we biked to the neighboring village and visited some relatives.

It doesn't look like you're enjoying, Bea

That's a little better

With cousin Luigi.

"Why don't you have a helmet?"

With Manang Nor.  Piper and Ron out.

Bea enjoyed our bike ride around the neighborhood.  She raised her hands and rocked forward and backward.  She also played with the bell and the gearshift.  And she didn't take off her helmet!  Whoopee!

Next time, I'll see if I can install the iBert seat on my Brompton folding bike.  I just have to put rubber or foam padding to avoid scratching the paint.

Some additional observations/comments on the iBert seat:

A.  The metal stinger sometimes goes off-center.  I don't know if I didn't screw it on tight enough (but the instructions said not to over-tighten), but the metal stinger loosened up.  As a result, the iBert seat swayed to the left while in transit.  I had to recenter the seat to the middle.

B.  The iBert seat rattles when there is no occupant.  I biked to the a Thai restaurant to get take-out for dinner without Bea and the iBert seat was noisy.  Since there was no baby, the seat just rattled all the way to my destination.  It was irritating.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

From caster wheels to in-line skating wheels to Easy Wheels

Unlike other folding bikes,  Brompton can be rolled in its folded state making it easy to transport it across the floor, like when at the mall, the train station or the airport.  You don't have to carry it.

The basic Brompton comes in caster wheels.  But these can be replaced by the Brompton Easy Wheels or any other kind of wheel like in-line skate wheels.

In this post, we'll compare the caster wheels, the in-line skate wheels and the Brompton Easy Wheels.
First up is the stock caster wheels that come with the Brompton.  It is hard and made of plastic.  So far, it only rolls on smooth floors.  Not so good on rough surfaces or carpets.  I think it's designed more as a stand than a roller.

I wasn't happy with the caster wheels, so I immediately looked around for a replacement.

Enter the generic in-line skate wheels you see on rollerblades and razor scooters.  I bought these for less than P100 from a friend (Thanks, Brznf!) who got it in Divisoria.  They are big, probably 3 inches in diameter.  They have ball bearings for a smooth roll and a rubber exterior to provide some cushion.
There's no problem when you use it as a roller.  It glides over all kinds of surfaces.  Marble, carpet, cement, gravel or whatever.  However, one concern is that the screw gets loose while in transit.  There was one time when one of the wheels fell off while I was rolling the bike.

Another issue is that the wheels are chunky, such that when the bike is unfolded and I start pedaling, sometimes my feet hit them.
And then there's the issue of balance.  When the bike is folded and is resting on the wheels, the right side of the bike is heavier than the other. And because of this the wheels tilt towards the right.  I do not have this problem with the caster wheels.  Probably because they bring the bike closer to the ground, so there's no imbalance.  The in-line skate wheels, however, elevate the bike a little higher, hence the tendency to tilt to one side.  This is not good because it's the handlebar grip that touches the floor.
Again, I was not satisfied with these big wheels and wanted to replace them.

Brompton designed the Easy Wheels to provide support to the bike when in its folded and resting state, and to roll smoothly on any surface.  On why Brompton didn't install the Easy Wheels in all of its models escapes me.

But these things are expensive.  They are $30/pair in the US, or approximately P1,300!  Grabe naman, P1,300 for two 2-inch wheels!  Mahal!  But I really disliked the caster wheels AND the in-line skate wheels, so there was no other option but to buy the Easy Wheels.  I asked my brother-in-law to bring home a set when he visited, and they have arrived.
The wheel is approximately 2 inches in diameter.  It has a hard plastic center, and a soft rubber exterior.  It is fitted with industrial bearings for a smooth roll.
It's not as small as the caster wheels.  It is able to roll smoothly on any surface.  And it's not as big and chunky as the in-line skate wheels, that would obstruct my pedaling.  It's just the right size.

If you're thinking of getting a Brompton, make sure to have the bike shop install the Easy Wheels.  It's expensive, but the stock caster wheels are really ugly.  Again, i don't know why Brompton doesn't make these its stock rollers.  These should be in all Bromptons.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Big Adventure, Small Wheels

American biking couple Russ Roca and Laura Crawford, the people behind, are embarking on a new bike tour across the United States.  The difference with this adventure is that they'll be leaving their 700cc touring bikes for Bromptons!  Yes, you read it right!  They will bike across America on folding bikes!

Follow their journey at Big Adventure, Small Wheels!