Monday, January 30, 2012

My Brompton's First Flat

I was getting ready to bike with my daughter Bea on my folding bike last Sunday morning when I noticed the front wheel was flat. It was my first flat ever on the Brompton (after almost 16 months)!
I turned the wheel around to look for the puncture but I saw none. So I just brought the bike to my trusted mechanic, Mang Nestor, over at Tryon in Makati.
Upon his inspection, Mang Nestor told me the source of the leak was a hole at the base of the valve. Most probably, a result of biking on a deflated tire. And then I remembered, the night before I biked to the tiangge without checking the tire pressure! Argghhhh! Yun lang?!
Learned my lesson.
Anyway, since I was there, I asked Mang Nestor to tune-up and clean my Brompton as well. He also adjusted the nuts on the rear fender so it didn't rise higher than the rack (a problem when the the bike is folded).
Paid Mang Jaime PhP 150.00 for the service, and gave Mang Nestor a tip. Now my Brompton is good as new!!!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Bicycle Superstore

R.O.X. is probably the closest we have to a bicycle superstore here in the Philippines with its wide selection of bikes (at a slight premium). I wonder when we can have a real big warehouse size bicycle dedicated store like this Performance Bikes in the U.S.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Folding Bike = Freedom

Before I owned a folding bike, I'd say my physical freedom was constrained by motorized transportation. For example, if I bring my car to the shop for tune-up/service, I'd be stuck waiting in the lounge for hours. Sure, there's a shuttle to the mall, but there's a fixed schedule, which is  turn-off. I could take a taxi, yes, but that would cost me P200 roundtrip. Forget about walking, there's no sidewalk. And if there was, it'd be blocked by motorcycles and foodcarts. In other words, I feel trapped and helpless without my car.

But my folding bike set me free.

Last Monday I had my family van tuned-up in the Toyota Service Center in Pasong Tamo, Makati. I brought Brommie Skywalker with me. After meeting the Service Advisor, and instead of heading to the lounge with all the outdated and old magazines, I stepped out of the door, unfolded my Brompton, and biked to the mall.  
I pedaled 4 kms to Cash & Carry in Brgy. Palanan. The mall is folding bike friendly as the security guards let me in. At first they told me to leave the bike outside. But when they watched me fold and cover it, they smiled, admired the bike, and let me in.
I pushed my bike unto the escalator and had lunch at the foodcourt. Afterwards, since there was still time until my car would be done, I decided to watch a movie. The security guard at the cinema told me to leave the bike at the entrance, and I did. In exchange, he gave me a numbered stub. I proceeded inside the theater and enjoyed watching Sherlock Holmes II.
After the movie I biked back to Pasong Tamo.
The service advisor texte me that the car was not done, so I stopped at a Starbucks and had a frap. Again, the security guard was friendly and let Brommie in.
And then I biked to Toyota Pasong Tamo (I had travelled 8 kms). By then my car was ready. I paid the bill. Loaded my folding bike unto the car. Then drove off to the sunset... Err, I mean, back home. : )
A folding bike truly liberates. You don't have to give up your car. Keep it. But get yourself a folding bike. You don't know when it's going to be useful.
You'll thank me later.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Video: On Street Bike Parking

I look forward to seeing on-street bike parking here in Metro Manila. Realistically, I envision it in Fort Bonifacio and Makati.

Making Streets Safer With On-Street Bike Parking from Streetfilms on Vimeo.
All a street block needs is one (1) car parking slot. The space can accommodate as much as 15 bikes!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

2011 Bike Touring Year in Review

I started 2011 with a bike tour of Legazpi, Albay in January, where I got to see the Cagsawa Ruins and Mayon Volcano.
I followed it up with a bike ride to Marikina in February with my friends from the Firefly Brigade.
Then, Bea turned 1 and I started biking with her in March.
In April, I rode again with the Firefly Brigade during the 13th Tour of the Fireflies.
The following month, my friend Al Castillo and I biked around Laoag, Paoay and Batac in my province of Ilocos Norte.
Then in June, to celebrate Jose Rizal's 150th birthday, I joined Tiklop Society in a bike ride to Calamba, Laguna. Saw the tallest Rizal statue in the world!
Last August, I rode again with Tiklop Society. This time we biked to Bulacan.
In September, I joined the Firefly Brigade once more in a night bike ride around Metro Manila to celebrate World Car Free Day.
At the end of that month, Al and I took our friends in Tiklop Society to a bike tour of Ilocos Norte. We biked 40 kms. from Burgos to Pagudpud!
I ended my biking year by going back to Bicol. This time by touring Naga and Pili in Camarines Sur with VeloPH friends..

2011 was a great cycling year for me. I hope to equal, or even surpass it this 2012.

Already, I am preparing for a bike tour of Hong Kong!


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Mini-Bike Tour of Camarines Sur

Me and Mount Isarog, Camarines Sur.
I travelled to Bicol at the start of 2011. I went to Albay. So it was fitting for me to end my cycling year by going back. This time I went to Camarines Sur. Papa Rocky, Diane, Chikee and I arrived in Naga City at 5 in the morning last December 28. We were fetched at the PNR Station by our friend Val and the CWC Shuttle. We met up with our other friends, John, Bernice and Pia at the bus station and then proceeded to the Provincial Government Compound in Pili.
We checked in at the Camarines Sur Watersports Complex (CWC).
There are many rooms to choose from in CWC (Containers, Wood Cabins, Dwells and the Eco-Village) but we got the Cabana because we thought it offered the best bang for the buck. Only PhP 1,700.00 ($38.00) for twin beds, cable TV, hot water, and aircon. 
At the pool by the Clubhouse
The CWC man-made lake
After checking in, leaving our bags and having breakfast, my VeloPH friends and I proceeded with our bike tour of Camarines Sur.
From Pili we biked to Naga City. This ride at this part was a bit uphill.
Our first stop in Naga was the Our Lady of Penafrancia Church.
From the church we entered the central business district and had lunch in Geewan Restaurant--a must-try if you want to sample Bicolano food.
After lunch, we continued biking in the city and passed by Metropolitan Church.
From there, we proceeded to Ateneo de Naga University. We took shade under a giant tree and rested for half an hour since it was hot and sunny.
In the afternoon, the group proceeded north to visit San Miguel Bay. We passed by the towns of Canaman, Magarao and Bombon. Didn't feel that tired as the terrain was mostly flat and there was a fantastic view of Mt. Isarog on the east.
When we got to the town of Calabanga we proceeded to San Miguel Bay, which opened up to the Pacific Ocean.
We had cycled approximately 40 kms from CWC to San Miguel Bay.
It was getting dark, so we decided to take a jeepney in Bombon to head back to Naga.
In Naga, we had an early dinner in a hole-in-the-wall restaurant, Kinalas Twins, where we had Kinalas--the local beef mami, served with puto. Afterwards, we biked to the central bus terminal and took the bus back to Pili.

The next day, I tried out wakeboarding and then checked out at lunch. I took the plane back to Manila, folding bike in tow.

I had a great time with my VeloPH friends. It was an adventure.

Speaking of adventure, for a more detailed account (with far better photos) of our CamSur bike tour visit John Buno Adventures.

Happy New Year, everybody! Here's to another cycling year!

Monday, January 2, 2012

My Brompton and I Took the Train to Bicol!

The Philippines is not known for its railway system. We used to have one that was at par with the Orient Express, running from La Union in North Luzon to Albay in the South, but the service discontinued.

So it really got me excited when the Philippine National Railways announced last August that it was reviving the Bicol Express, and with sleeper cabins at that! Since then I had wanted to ride the train but never got to because I was busy.

Until the Christmas Break!

I was free the week of Dec 26 to 30 and I jumped on the chance to travel south via the Bicol Express Train!
The Family Sleeper Cabin costs PhP 665.00 for each passenger. The Cabin can accommodate 4 passengers. We were 4 in the group (Papa Rocky, Dian, Chikee and I) so the Family Sleeper Cabin was perfect. We had it to ourselves. There is an Executive Sleeper (PhP 998.00), which I think is much better, but it was unavailable at the time. For more information, you can call up the PNR at 3190044 (or for reservations at the Espana Station call 3943998, look for Arly).
Unfortunately, the PNR's payment system is not up-to-date as you cannot pay at the bank or mall. You have to go to the station a day before your trip to pay the ticketing agent. And be patient with him. They handwrite each and every ticket. On the day I went to pay I waited for almost an hour. 
Papa Rocky, Diane, Chikee and I met at the PNR Espana Station at 5:30pm. You can board at the main station in Tutuban if you want. There is a closer station in Pasay Rd. but I wasn't sure if you can board the sleeper cars there.
We boarded our train at 6:30pm. Our sleeper car was a refurbished one bought by the PNR from Japan. I was curious if the PNR was able to maintain the cleanliness of the car after going on operation for 4 months.
I must say, the PNR is doing a good job. The cabin was clean. The curtains showed some age, but, hey, what do you expect, it's refurbished! There is a window at the end but we closed the shade since there was nothing to see outside. That vertical steel bar in the middle converts to a ladder for those sleeping on the top bunk. The cabin is not closed. There are no doors. So if you want to protect your expensive belongings, better keep them with you in the bed.
This was my bunk bed. PNR does not provide a bed sheet, blanket or pillow, so please bring your own. It gets cold! There is pipe in music (Radyo Inquirer) but the lower the volume at around 8:30 pm.
Diane and Papa Rocky placed their folding bikes in between the bunk beds.
There is a shelf at the other end of the cabin. That's where I put my folding bike. Chikee was scared to put hers there because it might fall on her. This is a legitimate concern since the ride to Bicol gets bumpy. PNR should at least put a strap in the middle to keep bags from falling.
This is what the lower bunk beds look like. There are no canteens or food stalls in the train so better bring food and water with you-at least enough for your dinner.
There are toilets for male and female at the back of the car. They are not so clean (especially for the girls) so better empty your bladder before you board the train.
There's a communal wash area outside the toilets. According to Diane the faucet works!
This is what my bed looks like with the curtains drawn (it greatly lessened the cold). The bed is long and wide enough for an average sized Asian like me (5'6). It's not a king size bed, but its comfortable. There is a reading light, but not all units work, including mine.
I went to bed at 8:30 pm. I slept til 3 in the morning. Like I said, it gets bumpy. It's like sleeping through a 10 hour earthquake. The cabin shook a lot. I guess the tracks aren't straight. Then some rocks would be thrown at the train. And then there was the occassional tree scraping. If you're a heavy sleeper, then this won't bother you. If you're a light sleeper like me, better take sleeping pills.
We arrived in Naga City (approximately 450 kms from Manila) at 5:00 am. It took us 10 hours and 30 minutes on the train. The experience was fun, but I'd probably not do it again.
Here are my conclusions:
If you're travelling with family or a group, then the PNR sleeper train from Manila to Naga is the deal for you. At only PhP 665 per person, that only comes to a total of PhP 2,660 for the 4 of you.

However, if you're travelling alone, I think it's better to take the bus (PhP 1,000 for a sleeper bus) or plane (PhP 1,300 via Cebu Pacific) because for only a few hundred pesos more, you get to your destination faster (8 hours for the bus and just 1 hour by plane).

But if you're really tight on the budget, you can opt to ride the train's reclining seat for only PhP 550.

Anyway, what's important is you get to your destination. : ) My hat's off to PNR for reviving and providing this service! I hope you read this blog and take note of my comments and suggestions.