Friday, September 30, 2011

Video: Cycling in the Netherlands

This is a best practice that the Philippine Government and Civil Society should aspire for. Forget that cycling reduces a country's dependence on oil imports. Forget that cycling improves a nation's health. Having cycling as a way of life, integrating it in our day to day affairs, is just plain common sense.

Watching this video just makes me want to go to the Netherlands right now and explore the country on my bike.

When will we have the political will like the Dutch to implement this here?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Review: Totobobo Air Filter Mask

Biking the streets of Manila can be hazardous to a person's health on the account of all the air pollution coming from the buses, jeepneys, taxis and tricycles.

I know this for a fact because whenever I bike on a busy thoroughfare, like let's say EDSA or Roxas Blvd., not only do I see the black smoke coming out of mufflers of cars, I also get to taste and smell it.
I wouldn't be caught dead wearing these while biking.
I've tried wearing ordinary face masks (the ones you can get at the local hardware store or bike shop), but I don't think they do the job because I still smell the dirty air. Plus, they're odd looking.

Then my friend Al Castillo introduced me to the Totobobo air filter mask, after he visited Singapore last July. It's supposed to be a customizable, reusable, stylish, thin, light and compact mask with an air filtration efficiency of up to 96%.

He bought a Super Cool model, so I asked him to get me one as well. It costs US$25.00 (or PhP 1,100.00). Pretty expensive for my taste, but if it works the way it proclaims it to be then the price shouldn't be an issue, right?
The mask itself is made of a transparent elastromer (whatever that means). So it's not plastic and not rubber. There's supposed to be "anti-virus" agent infused in the mask to prevent bacteria and other viruses from building up.

Anyway, unlike other face masks, the Totobobo mask has filters that can be replaced. And there at least 4 different kinds of filters. For more about the Totobobo Mask, check out  the Totobobo Blog

One of the unique features of this kind of mask is that it can be shaped to follow the contours of your face. When I wore mine for the first time the top edge hit the skin under my nose, which was irritating. So I cut some part off with a pair of scissors. Now it doesn't hurt as much.

On the other hand, the lower part of  mask didn't exactly hug my chin and left a gap, so I also trimmed it a bit. Now I wouldn't say that the mask is sealed tight, but it does fit better than other face masks.

The tight strap makes my cheeks look bigger!
After weeks on the shelf (I usually ride on weekends when there are less cars on the road), I finally got to test the Totobobo Super Cool Mask in Manila's polluted roads.

I joined the World Car Free Day 2011 Bike Ride of the Firefly Brigade last Friday and we rode from Pasong Tamo in Makati to Cubao X in Quezon City.

I wore the Totobobo Mask all through out the 15 kilometer journey. I breathed through it while passing the jeepneys in Pasong Tamo, the cars stuck in traffic on Makati Ave., and the smoke-belching buses on EDSA.

First things first, breathing through my mouth and exhaling through my nose takes some time to get used to. But not that long. After about 5 minutes of breathing that way, I got the hang of it.
Wearing the Totobobo Mask during the World Car Free Day bike ride.
Next is the effectivity of the mask. I only got to test the mask once, so don't take this review as a comprehensive one.  I followed the instructions and breathed the proper way, but in some parts of the ride I still smelled the air pollution (you know, the smell of smoke coming from a motor vehicle). Now I don't know if smell is separate from dirt/soot, but I associate the two as one and the same. I could be wrong though. It's possible that the dirt/soot stayed out and only the smell went through, I don't know. But I guess I expected to breath fresh clean air through the Totobobo filter.

Anyway, after the ride, I checked the filter and I did notice it turned a little grey in the middle. So I guess it worked. That was the dirt/soot that did not end up in my lungs.

In summary, the Totobobo Super Cool Mask is a different kind of air filter mask compared to the ones available in the market. It looks cooler than traditional face masks. It is customizable and can be shaped to conform to the contours of one's face. However, it is a tad expensive. And as to the effectiveness and capability of the mask to protect the user from air pollutants, I believe I haven' used the product enough times to make a bloggable conclusion.

I will definitely continue testing this product and will write my thoughts about it in another entry.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Video: A Brompton Exploring Davao, Phillippines

Here are 3 videos from our TSP friend in Davao City, Philippines, Mr. John Buno, riding his P6R around his beautiful city. The first video looks like a TV commercial for Brompton, as it focuses on his bike. The second video shows the wide and open roads of Davao. You'll notice how useful the P-bar is in this part. And the third video features the Crocodile Farm, the Davao Seaport and Abreeza Shopping Mall. You can also see John eat Davao street food!
I've been to Davao twice, but have not had the opportunity to bring my bike there yet. I would love to, and I might take on John's open invitation to TSP to tour Davao on bike one of these days.  For more on John's adventures in Davao, you can visit John Buno Adventures.

Monday, September 26, 2011

World Car Free Day 2011

Last Friday (September 23) was World Car Free Day 2011. It was celebrated around the world, in places like Australia, the UK, Indonesia, Singapore and the US to promote biking instead of driving. The event here in the Philippines was organized by the Firefly Brigade.

After my mediation hearing in Las Pinas, I biked to Bike Town Cyclery over at Pasong Tamo, Makati at about 5pm. There, I joined my friends in Tiklop Society of the Philippines.
While waiting for the other participants (there were mountain bikers, road cyclists, bikers in fixies, and low-riders), Abel asked me to accompany him to Sabak to buy a front light. So we went there, bought the light, and biked back to BTC.
Here I am wearing my Totobobo air filter mask, ready to take on the air pollution of Metro Manila!
We waited for another hour. Meanwhile, there were 2 TV crews there interviewing Firefly Brigade's president, Tina DC. Abel's bike was even featured (see video below).

At 6:15pm we rolled out of BTC and biked from Pasong Tamo to Pasay Road. I think we numbered 200 bikers.
Larry pulling a trailer with a cooler and boombox, courtesy of Marc Ablaza.
From Pasay Road we headed north on Makati Avenue. We passed by a lot of cars stuck in traffic. We then headed to Rockwell via Kalayaan Ave.
Here I am on the Estrella bridge to Mandaluyong, waiting for the other bikers to pass by.
We crossed the bridge and landed on Barangka Dr. in Mandaluyong City. We proceeded to Boni Ave. and headed east to Pioneer St. All of us crossed EDSA via the Boni tunnel. From there we biked further north to Shaw Blvd. Passed a lot of car traffic in the area, then turned right on San Miguel Ave., and stopped at Bikezilla to meet up with another 100 participants.
At Bikezilla to meet other participants.
From Bikezilla, we proceeded to north and turned left Ortigas Ave. We passed Robinsons Galleria and then turned right on EDSA! I said to myself, "Seriously? EDSA? On a Friday night?" I guess the Firefly Brigade wanted to make a statement. And we did. We fought for our lane against the buses from Ortigas up to Bonny Serrano.

Here we are regrouping in EDSA near Camp Aguinaldo.
After regrouping we continued our advocacy bike ride to Col. Bonn Serrano Ave. and took a left on 9th Ave. and headed towards Araneta Center in Cubao, Quezon City.
Passing SM Cubao
Our bike ride ended at 9pm in Cubao X, near what used to be COD. There was a short program, and raffle prizes were given away. Al, Abel and I biked to Alimall where we folded our bikes and brought them in with us to have late dinner in Hap Chan Tea House.
At the end of the day, most of the participants rode their bikes going home. The beauty of a folding bike is that you have the luxury of taking it with you on public transport. In my case, Abel and I shared a cab to get back to Makati.
We travelled 15 kilometers from Makati to Quezon City to advocate World Car Free Day on a Friday night. I think we made an impact because people stuck in traffic in their cars saw us whiz by pass them. AND, we got featured in the news! Check it out! 

For the latest Philippine news stories and videos, visit GMANews.TV

Special thanks to Al Castillo and Nitya Saulo for the photos in this entry.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Cleveland's Bike Rack

Sana magka-bike parking facility tulad neto na nasa Ohio (Cleveland Bike Rack) sa Makati CBD o kaya sa Bonifacio Global City. I can bike from the house to Serendra. Park my bike in this facility and walk to Mercato Centrale. Ayos!

A bike-specific parking facility can ensure security for our bikes; provide lockers and showers for bike commuters; and have a mechanic available for minor repairs of bicycles.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Interbike 2011

Photo courtesy of
Interbike 2011 is on-going at Las Vegas, Nevada this week, with manufacturers showcasing their new or updated bike-related products. I am drooling over the new designs of Bern helmets!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Review: Vincita B-132 Transport Bag

I will be flying to Vietnam next month and I plan on bringing my Brompton with me. Since it'll be an international flight and, you know, going to a foreign country, I needed a real transport bag for my bike. I can't use the usual techniques for when I travel domestic flights because the airplane ride to Vietnam will be bumpier and I heard baggage handling in Ho Chi Minh City's international airport is brutal.

Brompton has the B Bag but it is very expensive at US$ 215.00 or PhP 9,100.00! That's too much.

And then I found out about this Thai company, VINCITA, that's into making all kinds of bags for bikes. They manufacture handlebar bags, stash packs, panniers, rack bags, and transport bags.
Well, waddahyuhknow! They make a transport bag especially designed for the Brompton! Now, we're talking!

Its called the B-132 Transport Bag for Folding Bike with Wheels. And it priced at just about PhP 2,400.00 (ThB 1,700.00)!
Notice the roller wheels at the bottom?

That silverish lining inside looks like a sako bag up close.
Because it was way cheaper than the Brompton B Bag, I ordered one from Vincita. My package arrived from Bangkok the other day and I was so excited to bring it home and open it!
I especially like it that they put a drawing of a bike on the cover, so that baggage handlers are informed of what they're dealing with.
The B-132's dimensions are 24" x 24" x 14", and weighs a light 2.8 kgs. Its outer covering is made of black water-resistant nylon, while the interior is comprised of a glossy sheet that looks like one of those big sako bags with Mickey Mouse print that you can get in Divisoria. One good thing about the B-132 is that there is foam padding underneath the lining to provide added protection.
The view inside the bag
At the bottom of the B-132 is a hard plastic board that serves as the bag's base. I think the bottom of my bare Brompton M6L will be adequately protected even without having a rear carrier/rack. I liked this feature.
Underneath the B-132 are two skateboard wheels which allow the owner to pull and roll the bag, just like the Brompton B Bag. Vincita also placed plastic runners to protect the nylon covering from hitting the floor.
Straps in the hidden compartment
There are shoulder straps attached on both sides, which can be used if the owner decides to carry the bag instead. What's nifty about this feature is that you can hide the straps if you want to, making it look clean and tidy. Another plus!
Over-all, I liked the features of Vincita's B-132 bag. I think it matches, if not surpasses, the features of the Brompton B Bag.
I tried packing my Brompton inside the B-132 bag to test it, and I had no problems fitting it in.  Perhaps that makes it my only gripe with this product: The B-132 bag is just too roomy, and as a consequence, also bulky. It doesn't "hug" the bike like I imagined it should. When I rock the bag from the outside, the bike wobbles inside giving me the feeling that it is not fully secured in place. Aside from the two straps that tighten the top and the plastic board on the bottom, there is nothing else that would keep the bike from moving during transit. I hope in the future, Vincita cuts an inch from the dimensions of the bag so that it will provide a snugger fit for the bike.

But no worries. What's important today is that the bike is completed padded and covered. I'll probably just support the bike with luggage belts when I pack it for my Vietnam trip.
The bag's sideview
The bag can be collapsed for storage, but it's still bulky
I'm still very much happy with my purchase. The B-132 is made of high-quality materials and a bargain at only PhP 2,400.00! If you have a Brompton, or any similar folding bike, and would like to travel far places with your bike, then this is the bag for you! It is a great alternative to the B Bag. I can't wait to test its durability when I fly to Ho Chi Minh City next month!
My one and half year old daughter with the Vincita B-132 Bag
I'd like to thank the folks at VINCITA (Mr. Yingsak, Gem and Surang Sinhaseni) for being friendly, helpful and accommodating to me. Two thumbs up in customer service. And Vincita has other fine products! Already, I am setting my sights at one of their handlebar bags. I just hope Mr. Sinhaseni finds someone to be their dealer here in the Philippines, so that I don't have to wait that long and spend that much money on shipping costs!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Bringing in a package from overseas via Express Mail Service (EMS)

Ilang beses na ako nabigo sa pagbili ng bike bag ng Vincita. First time, the bag was unavailable during the Thai Trade Fair held last April. Second time, I asked a law school friend, who visited Bangkok, to meet the owner or go directly to the Vincita shop. But due to language difficulties and miscommunication, hindi natuloy yung meeting. And according to her, the Vincita shop was far from her hotel. The third time naman, Doc Arman of Tiklop offered his Thai friend to buy the bags for us in Bangkok. Sadly, after 2 months of waiting, hindi rin natuloy. (No worries, Doc. Not your fault.)

This was driving me insane! I needed the travel bag for my Brompton BEFORE my trip to Vietnam next month!

So two weeks ago, I contacted Vincita and asked them to send the bike bag via courier service. Gem Sinhaseni of Vincita obliged and was very helpful. She emailed me the rates:

Federal Express ThB 5,000.00 (or PhP 7,000.00)
UPS ThB 6,000.00 (or PhP 8,400.00)
DHL ThB 9,837.00 (or PhP 13,772.00)

Grabe naman ang mahal! Eh di mas mura pang bumili na lang ako ng tiket sa CebPac at kunin ko mismo dun sa Bangkok, di ba?!

And then there's EMS (Express Mail Service), which cost just ThB 1,380 (or PhP 1,932.00).

EMS na ako.

I wired my payment to Vincita, including the price of the bike bag, the freight charge and all bank fees.

Vincita B-132 Transport Bag for BromptonThB 1,650.00 (or PhP 2,310.00)
EMS Transportation Charge: ThB 1,380.00 (or PhP 1,930.00)
Bank Charges: US$ 30.00 (or PhP 1,260.00)

TOTAL: PhP 5,500.00

Mura pa rin yan, considering the Brompton B Bag costs $215.00 (PhP 9,100.00) sa US.

After confirming receipt of the money, Vincita sent my bike bag via EMS. (Thanks, Gem and Surang)

I thought EMS was door-to-door. Hindi pala.

3 days after the bank transfer, I received a notice from EMS stating that my package was ready for pick-up at the EMS office in Pasay, subject to corresponding customs duties.


"Customs" and "Duties" are two words you don't want to hear in the any sentence.

Breath in. Breath out. I have to pay more. (My wife's going to kill me when she finds out)

Fine. But how much?

I checked the Bureau of Customs website to find out how to compute for the tax.

It floored me!

The rate of customs duty for bags (according to the 2010 AHTN Book) is 15%! (On the other hand, electronic products like the iPad have no tarriff. Go figure.)

Then you add VAT at 12% of the Total Landed Cost (a much bigger amount. Refer to the BoC formula).

Plus PhP 250.00 for Import Processing Fee (IPF)

And PhP 265.00 for Customs Documentary Stamp (CDS).

My computation summed up to more than one thousand five hundred pesos!


Anyway, back to EMS.
EMS is located in the PhilPost Compound at Domestic Airport Road in Pasay City. They are not open on weekends, so I was forced to go on a business/working day. I was the first customer, arriving there before 8am. I handed the notice and my picture ID to the receptionist. She told me to wait.
Still empty at 7:50 Monday morning
After 35 minutes of waiting, they finally found my box and the customs examiner called my name. I approached him and he asked me what was inside. I answered, "Bike bags," and then he opened the box. He made sure they were what I told him they were, and that there were no contrabands. He pulled out the invoice and we walked over to his office.

In his office, the customs examiner started computing for my tax. He told me about the 15% rate of duty, the 12% VAT and the other fees. I nodded like I didn't know about it. He took out his calculator and punched away. I was tempted to ask him why computation was still done manually but I stopped myself. But it's a legitimate question, right? I'm sure there are simple computer programs (like, err, EXCEL?) out there that can make life easier for all of us. 

I was expecting to see my initial computation (OR EVEN HIGHER), but was pleasantly surprised to be imposed a lesser amount. He just billed me a little over one thousand pesos.

I found out later (after figuring out his "computation") that he didn't convert the invoice amount from Thai Baht to Philippine Peso, and he lowered the amount of customs duty. Now whether this was done by accident or mistake (which is possible) or on purpose, I don't know. I'm just glad hindi niya ako tinaga ('coz he could have).

Back to my story. So I went over to the cashier and paid the amount. She issued a receipt and I went back to the receptionist up front. She crossed-check my entry in her books, and then billed me PhP 40.00. 

Forty pesos?! Didn't I just pay one thousand at the cashier?! What's this for?! At bakit 'di na lang pinagsabay?

I later realized that the receptionist did not work for Boc, but for PhilPost. The PhP 40.00 was for PTCC (don't ask me what it stands for).

So after I paid the PhP 40.00, I got my box and left.
The Vincita box at the trunk of my car
Although I am very happy and satisfied with my purchase (which only cost a reasonable PhP 2,310.00 really), I did spend an arm and a leg to get it here. Mas mahal pa yung over-all transportation costs ko than the item itself!

Lessons of the story:

1. If you want to purchase an item abroad, fly there, buy it, and bring it home yourself.

2. And if you can't, find a friend or relative who's going there and buy the item for you.

3. If you still can't, but are willing to wait, send the item via a real door-to-door delivery service, which should take at most, siguro, one month.

4. If you can't and are in a hurry, try sending via DHL or UPS, just to avoid all the hassle of dealing with customs. (But be prepared to pay a premium)

5. Use EMS as a last resort. If you do go this route, make an initial computation of the tax, so that you know how much to bring when you go pick up your package at Pasay.

Good luck!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Vietnam Bike Tours

This is page 1 of my info packet from Vietnam Bike Tours
My wife and I are flying to Vietnam next month. While browsing TripAdvisor for travel tips, I discovered that there were tourist outfits like Vietnam Bike Tours and Vietnam Cycle Tours offering tours of Vietnam on bicycle! I was intrigued and checked their websites. Both offer 1-day to multi-day bike tours of anywhere in Vietnam--from Hanoi to Saigon. They provide for everything: tour guide, meals, entrance tickets, boat fees, back-up van, even the  bikes and helmets (but you can bring and use your own). How cool is that?! We should have something like this here in the Philippines. May be we could have bike tours of Cebu, Legazpi, Davao and Palawan! Heck, Al and I can offer bike tours up north in Ilocos (It's possible! we biked Laoag to Pagudpud last 2010 and Laoag-Paoay-Batac early this year)!

I just had to book this bike tour on this trip. It would be a crime not to. So, with the permission and willing participation of my loving wife, I booked a 1-day 40km. mini bike tour of Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) to Mekong Delta (River). 

There has to be a big market for this kind of business because the bike tour does not come cheap (at least for my standards). But like I said, I really want to experience this first so that I know if it's something we should replicate here in the Philippines.

Will keep you guys posted! So excited! One month na lang!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Video: IT Chair for Brompton

Grabe naman kasi sa pagkamahal netong IT Chair! GBP 210.00! (or PhP 14,000.00!!!) Sana naman may local bike welder (paging yung mga gumagawa ng pedicab) na kayang gawin ito. Basta 'wag lang umabot ng fourteen thousand pesos! OA na yun!

Pero ang cute-cute kasi eh. Gusto ko talaga. Na-i-imagine ko na sumasakay anak ko dyan.

Anyhoo, the IT Chair is available at

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Review: Ergon GC2 grips

I recently installed a pair of Ergon GC2 grips on my Brompton M6L bike and tested them over the weekend. My initial thoughts were, "Why didn't I replace my foam grips earlier?!"

The grips are comfortable (my Allant and Valencia both have grips with similar ergonomic style). I believe my hands won't go numb as fast as with the old foam grips, which is good for long-distance rides.

But what I really like about these grips are the bar ends. I like it that they provide an alternative resting place for my hands. Plus, when I climb steep hills, like the one in front of Ateneo in Rockwell, the bar ends allow me to stand up from my saddle and push down on the pedals better. I actually prefer doing this than go granny gear because I lose momentum in the latter.

I can't wait to use these grips on a long-distance ride. I'm sure it'll make my life easier. This is a must upgrade for all of you who encounter hilly roads in your bike commute! 
On the left is the Brompton stock foam grip; and on the right is the Ergon GC2 grip with white bar end
Notice the white bar end touch the floor.
A word of caution for Brompton owners, though, the left bar end WILL definitely hit the floor when the bike is folded--for sure if your bike is an E or L-type (no rack). To protect the edges from scratches I put Protective Tape, but I know its not full proof. I'm resigned to the fact that that bar end will be scratched ihe future.

Other than that, I love these new grips! Should've replaced the stock foam grips a long time ago!