Monday, June 27, 2011

Why I ride a folding bike

My Brompton sitting next to me on the bus ride home from Laguna
Bikes come in all shapes and sizes the same way cars do. There are bikes that have knobby tires and multiple gears, assembled to traverse whatever kind of terrain. They're called mountain bikes and have been around since the 90's. There are bikes with slick tires and light components, designed for speed and these are the road bikes. A lot of people are into triathlons nowadays and they use a special kind of this type of bike. Then there are small, single-speed bikes called BMX bikes that have been popular with the teenagers since the early 80's. They're what you see flying over half-pipes on ESPN's X-Games. Mountain bikes, road bikes and BMX bikes are mostly used for sports and fitness, but there are other types of bikes used for utilitarian purposes. There are commuter bikes used by people to go to  the market, school or the office. There are also transport bikes used by others to transfer bigger cargo from point A to point B.   

My bicycle of choice is a folding bike. It falls under the category of commuter bikes. I primarily use it to run errands in places reachable within a short distance. For example, I bike to the grocery, fold my bike, shop, pay the cashier, unfold the bike, then pedal home.

I also use it in multi-modal commutes. To illustrate, I bike to the train station, fold the bike, take the train, unfold the bike, then pedal to the office.

I can even take my folding bike with me in my out-of-town trips. I just fold it, secure it in a bag and check it in at the counter. When I reach destination I can explore the area on my bike!

In terms of sports and fitness, my folding bike has enough gears to travel long distances. But what makes it better is that I can bike as far as my legs can take me and not worry about the return trip.  When I get tired and want to go home, I just fold the bike, flag a bus and bring it with me inside. (see photo)

You can't do any of these things with a full size bike. First, there's the problem of locking your bike outside the supermarket or mall. Then, there's the problem of bringing the bike with you in the airplane, train or the bus. I mean, you probably can, but not after causing you much trouble.

My cousin is convincing me to go back to mountainbiking and join them trek the trails in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, but I told him I'll pass for now. I'm happy and contented with my do-it-all folding bike.

Video: Brompton on BBC

Here is another video on the Brompton, this time from the BBC.  Did you know that the UK is 7th in manufacturing in the entire world, while Brompton is the UK's number one bike manufacturer?

According to the report, Brompton churns out 30,000 folding bikes a year, two-thirds of which go to over 35 countries around the world..

Boss, Magkano Yan?

"Boss, magkano yan?" or "How much is that?" is a question people ask other people all the time when it comes to things people own, like for example cars, laptops, digital cameras, shoes, and, yes, even bicycles.  It's just one of those things people are curious about.  May be they want one of their own, or may be they want to buy for a loved one or a friend, I mean who knows?  It is a legitimate question.

In an ideal world, I'd have no problem answering this question.  I'd say, "I paid PXX,XXX.00 for it at Lane & Trip bike shop in Taiwan.  Wala kasi dito sa 'pinas.  I bought it from the store owner, Ben.  Great customer service!  Do you want his contact number?"

But I've read and heard so many stories about bikes being stolen, bike-napped and bike-jacked here in the Philippines that I've developed an apprehension in answering the HOW MUCH question.  You see, that's actually how thieves and robbers determine who to steal from.  They ask bikers how much their bikes are.  When they find out that it's expensive or that's it rare and unique, then the bike and its owner become their target.  Pag-nakursonadahan ang bike mo, sa susunod na makita ka, ho-holdapin ka na nila.   I'm sorry to say this, but that's how it is, especially when it comes to full-suspension mountain bikes.  These criminal elements already know what the expensive ones are and what's in demand.  Folding bikes, on the other hand, are still new to them.  So, they still ask around.

The other weekend, while waiting for my friends in Paranaque, a couple of teenagers approached me and complemented my bike.  I said thanks.  Then they asked how much it was. Now I'd like to think it was an innocent question, believe me, I'm a naive person, but my internal alarm bell started to ring.

"Ah, hindi ko alam, regalo lang sa akin ng asawa ko," I replied, hoping they'd get the drift that I was uncomfortable answering the question.  But then one teenager asked, "Sa tingin mo, magkano, kuya?"  I said I didn't know.  But the kid insisted and asked the question again. I didn't like where the conversation was going, and that's when I said I had to leave. Then I rode off to join my friends.

Did I overreact? Probably.  Was I rude to them? I guess.  Did they deserve being snobbed like that? No, they didn't.  They were probably just curious.  

But can you blame me for my reaction?  I hope not.  

In this day and age, people should start realizing that other people are not comfortable answering how much their personal property is.  I don't intend be rude or a snob. It's just that I don't want to put a dollar sign on my things.  I am afraid that if I blurt out the price in public, someone with not-so-good intentions might hear it and take interest on my property. And then god knows what may happen next. 

Sa totoo lang, I really don't mind answering the question. But it is not worth the risk.

So the next time you ask a person how much his personal property is, be it a folding bike, a DSLR camera, a tablet, an MP3 player, a car, a motorbike, a skateboard, a cellphone or a pair of shades, and he doesn't answer you directly, PLEASE, DON'T GET OFFENDED.  The guy is just being cautious.  If you're really interested, why don't you just ask him what kind it is or what's its name and model. (I see no problem answering those questions)  Then may be you can go home, google it and find out yourself.  That's not too much to ask, right?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Video: How a Brompton is Made

This video (from the SciFi Channel) shows how a folding bike is manufactured at the Brompton factory in the UK.
It feels good to know that the bike I ride was fabricated by a real person, and not just an automated machine.  It gives the bike a sense of being.  Meaning to say, it is not just any kind of mass produced product, but rather, a creation of a human being.

Brommie Assembly. from jo dimes on Vimeo.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Review: Brompton T Bag (Touring Pannier)

I recently procured a Brompton T Bag (Touring Pannier) from my dealer in Taiwan, Lane & Trip, through a friend who went on vacation there last week. (Thanks, Joey!)  NyceWheels has a good review of the bag.  This is mine.
Brommie Skywalker with the T Bag, ready for action!
The T-Bag cost me the more or less the same amount as if I had purchased it in the US, so that was good.  Although I found out the price could be significantly lower if I bought it in the UK, but, hey, I'm not complaining.
Side View
It is the largest and roomiest of all Brompton front bags, which includes the Folding Basket (which I have), the leather attache case A-Bag, the small messenger bag S-Bag and the medium messenger bag C-Bag.
It has a roll-top system so you can fill it with as much stuff as you want.  The total internal capacity is 31 liters. 
It can easily fit my Bern helmet and Louisville Slugger baseball glove
There are two pockets at the back, where you can put stuff like your wallet and keys inside the left pocket and a water bottle in the right pouch. 
There are 3 elastic mesh/net pockets found on the front and both sides for all the other things you might need to access during your commute, like a map, a fruit, an energy bar or an extra water bottle.  
There is a neon green (typical of the British) rain cover included to protect the bag from the Manila storms/typhoons.
I think the British are stuck in the 80's with their fascination with neon green
I recently used the T-Bag in a bike tour to Calamba, Laguna--about 55 kilometers south of Manila.  The bag was all I imagined it to be.  To illustrate, before my things were all over the place.  My phone and wallet would be in my shorts' pockets.  My allen wrench, inner tube and tire levers would be tucked in my saddle bag.  My water bottle naman in a detachable bottle holder.  And that's about all I can carry with me.  No place for spare clothes, a rain coat, a book or any other stuff.  I could use a backpack, yes, but then I'd have to stop each time I needed something.  Plus, from experience, a backpack is heavy in the back.
With the T-Bag, I get to put everything in one convenient place!  My water bottle, wallet, car keys, energy bar, rain coat, extra clothes, allen wrench, ballpen, bandana, reflector vest and flashlight.  And there's plenty of room left!  Also, my things are within arms reach with the T-Bag, which is great when you're on the move!

Here's the negative.  Although I like my T-Bag, I still can't believe how expensive one is.  I mean even Samsonite travel bags sold at Rustans or The Travel Club are cheaper than this, and those are already expensive!  Why can't Brompton lower the price of its bags?  The folding bike itself I can accept to be expensive, but the accessories?  C'mon, Mr. Ritchie and Mr. Butler-Adams!!!  Help us out here!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

My Bi-Modal Commute from Intramuros to UP-Diliman

I gotta be honest with you.  Although I maintain a blog about bike commuting, I am not a hard-core bike commuter.  Meaning to say, I don't use my bike to go to work every day.  Because of the distance between my house and place of work, my major mode of transportation remains to be my car.

However, whenever the opportunity arises when I can use my bike to commute, I do.  Like earlier today.  I had a meeting to attend at the University of the Philippines College of Law in Diliman, Quezon City.

On a regular day, I'd drive the car from the office in Intramuros and take Quezon Bridge to Espana Blvd.  I'd go around Welcome Rotunda and proceed to Quezon Ave. until I hit QC Circle and eventually UP Diliman.  The commute would usually take me 1 hour, due to traffic congestion in the UST area.

But last week, the Department of Public Works and Highways announced a P430 Million interchange construction project at the corner of Araneta Ave. and Quezon Ave. to begin this week and warned motorists to expect heavy traffic.

With this development in mind, the last thing I wanted was to be stuck in traffic for more than 2 hours.  So, I thought of taking a bi-modal commute from Intramuros to Diliman using my Brompton and the LRT-2.  Here's how it went:

0:00  Left PBSP at 8:50am by folding bike.  Biked 5 kms. to the LRT-2 Station in Recto Ave.
0:10  Arrived in LRT-2 Recto Station.  Folded my Brompton.  Entered the station.  Waited for train.

0:17  Boarded the train to Katipunan.  Travelled 10.5 kms.
0:37  After 20 minutes, we arrived in LRT-2 Katipunan Station.  Exited the station.  Unfolded my Brompton.
0:44  Left LRT-2 Katipunan Station and biked 3 kms. to UP-Diliman.
0:54  Arrived in UP College of Law at 9:44am.
"The Business of a Law School is not sufficiently described when you say that it is to teach law or to make lawyers.  It is to teach law in the Grand Manner and to make Great Lawyers who ride their bicycles"  hehehe : )
My bi-modal commute took 54 minutes to get to my destination.  I saved 6 minutes from my usual drive!  And may be, P100 worth of gas!

I was on time for my meeting.  In fact, I was one of the first to arrive.  Anyway, had my meeting and lunch.
Brommie Skywalker in his black robe sitting at a corner of the meeting room.
Afterwards, I unfolded the Frompton, put on my helmet and pedaled my way out of campus. I basically took the same route back to Intramuros.  This time it took me 56 minutes.  A bit slower, but still, saved 4 minutes from my normal car commute! Not bad, eh?
Last to disembark at the LRT-2 Recto Station
I was thirsty when I got back to Intramuros, so I stopped by Starbucks and grabbed a Grande Mocha Frap.  Mmmmm, refreshing.
About to enjoy a cold Starbucks beverage
 And that was my bi-modal commute to Diliman using my Brompton and taking the LRT. : )

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Why We will NEVER have a Successful Shared Bike Lane in Metro Manila

Jeepneys blocking the path of cyclists along the old National Highway in Muntinlupa
For as long as Jeepneys remain to be kings of the road, then we will never have a successful shared bike lane in the Philippines.


I realized this when I biked from Paranaque to Calamba last weekend.  The road my friends and I used was a secondary national road.  It had 2 lanes on both sides, an inner lane for faster vehicles and for passing, and an outer lane for slow cars AND other smaller vehicles like motorbikes and bicycles.

My friends and I stayed in the outer lane, as much as possible maintaining a single line, giving more than enough space for faster vehicles to overtake us.  There shouldn't have been any problem.

But there was.

Every so often, a jeepney or a group of jeepneys, would swerve from the inner lane to the outer lane and STOP in front of us to drop-off or pick-up a passenger.  No signal lights.  No warning. No nothing.  Just swerve into our path.

This happened to us several times, probably once every 200 meters--yes, that often.  Literally slowing us down and even endangering our lives.

This is not to say that there are no designated bus/jeepney stops and "No Loading/Unloading" signs. There are. Plenty of them.  But jeepney drivers consider them to be more advisory and optional than  a rule to be followed.  They do not follow these signs and insist on their right to stop wherever they want to.

Much has been said about jeepney drivers, and much has been done to try to discipline them--all to no avail.

For as long as jeepneys are kings of the road, that is consider themselves over and above the law, then any initiative, no matter how noble and well-intended, to designate a portion of our roads as a bike lane will be for nothing.  The authorities can paint the entire bike lanes yellow or white if they want, but it will just be useless because jeepney drivers won't respect it.  They'll just do what they usually do.  Which is, without a care in the world, cut into the lane and stop just about anywhere.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Mini Bike Tour of Calamba, Laguna

Brommie Skywalker with a Jose Rizal decal in front of Rizal's new statue in Calamba, Laguna
Last June 19, 2011, I went on a bike ride with Tiklop Society of the Philippines to Calamba, Laguna, to join in the celebration for our national hero's 150th birth anniversary.  The main group met up and started at Luneta in Manila, where Jose Rizal was executed more than 100 years ago.  I joined them in Puregold Supermarket along NAIA Ave. in Paranaque at 7am with 2 other bikers, Richard and Karlo.
Brommie Skywalker waiting in front of Puregold
Brommie Skywalker ready for the wet weather
From Puregold we biked south to Sucat Road.  We stopped at GoodAh!!! (yes, that's the name of the restaurant) and had breakfast there.  There were 27 of us present--pretty good attendance for TSP!
That's us lining up to give our orders.  And that's our jersey!
Dr. Arman Lee, Al Castillo, me and Mike Donadilla
I had Arrozcaldo, Asado Siopao and Coke, all for P145.  Not bad.
Group photo in front of GoodAh!!!
From there, we proceeded east towards the the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX).
We crossed the bridge and entered the East Service Road and headed south to Alabang.
Once we got to Alabang in Muntinlupa City, we entered the Old National Highway.
We continued biking south and we passed San Pedro City in Laguna.  Saw a funny sign which read, "Welcome to Laguna--The Resort Capital, Detroit and Silicon Valley of the Philippines!" 

Really now, Gov. Ejercito.  Resort Capital, may be.  But Detroit AND Silicon Valley?  You've got to be kidding.  
After San Pedro, we passed by Binan, Laguna.
And after that, we passed by Santa Rosa and Cabuyao.
Here we are at Seven-Eleven in Cabuyao, Laguna
Having pedaled more than 40 kilometers, we pedaled some more.  We continued going south until we reached Calamba, Laguna, hometown of our beloved national hero, Dr. Jose P. Rizal.
Entering Calamba City Proper.
Passing through SM City Calamba.
We turned right just before the Old National Highway would lead us to Los Banos.  We entered the 6.7 hectare Tinahuyan Park where we were greeted by protesters and policemen in full battle gear.  I think they were farmers calling on President Aquino to amend the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform law, among many others.  It's a good thing the police blockade allowed us to pass through.
After biking over 50 kilometers, TSP finally reached the new Jose Rizal statue in Calamba! The statue was unveiled by no less than President Aquino earlier that day.  Standing 22 feet, it is allegedly the tallest Jose Rizal statue in the world.
Photo courtesy of Dr. Arman Lee
After taking a million group photos, we decided to have lunch.  We biked a couple of kilometers more until we reached Aviles Restaurant in Brgy. Real, and had Bulalo.  Yum!
Photo courtesy of Dr. Arman Lee
After lunch, some members went back home to Manila.  Doc Arman invited the rest to visit the Rizal Shrine, and so about 20 of us biked back to Calamba City proper.  

When we got to the main intersection, the road leading to the shrine was blocked because of a parade.  Apparently, the whole city government of Calamba was participating in this big parade to celebrate Rizal's 150 years.

The 5 of us: Doc Arman, Abel, Gerry, Papa Rocky and I, managed to pass through the security cordon and some how, some way, got to join the parade as 'participants' of the Human Resource Management Office.  Hehehe.

Those at the back, including Al, Ruth, Tina and Ronx, weren't as lucky.  The police didn't let them pass.  So they turned around and went home.
That's Papa Rocky following the parade.
That's Doc Arman leading us.
Abel, Papa Rocky, myself and Gerry
We finally reached the Rizal Shrine, our national hero's ancestral house and birthplace.  Here I am with Gerry.  That's Rizal's house behind us!
This is us with soldiers dressed up as Katipuneros.
And this is us with the whole PNP of Calamba right at our backs.  It's a wonder none of them ever questioned our participation in the parade.
From the Rizal Shrine, we biked 2 kilometers back to SM Calamba.  Abel's knees were hurting so he folded his Brompton and took a tricycle to Brgy. Turbina, where the bus station was.
Papa Rocky, Gerry, Doc Arman and I continued biking 3 kilometers heading west to Turbina.  When we got to Turbina we folded our bikes and boarded a bus for our trip back to Manila. 
Brommie Skywalker sat next to me in the bus.  The ride back to Manila was fast.  It took only about 30 minutes. I got off at the Magallanes Interchange and biked back to my car in the nearby village.

Great ride with TSP!  Biked a total of 55 kilometers from Paranaque, Manila to Calamba, Laguna, to visit the new Jose Rizal statue and Rizal's ancestral house, on the very same day the whole nation was celebrating his 150th birthday.  How cool is that?!
Good times!

PS: Special thanks to Doc Arman Lee and Al Castillo for some of the photos in this entry.