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The joys of biking

By BṺM TENORIO JR., The Philippine STAR Published Mar 04, 2021 5:51 pm

I recently picked up a new passion — biking. There’s so much about life I learn from it. From taking care on the road to road courtesy. From being a free spirit to a spirit asking for help. Grit and humility are part of the game. Most of all, I have learned anew that happiness is found on the road as I ride with the wind. Biking is exhilarating. 

When I hit the road, I unleash a side of me I have never known before. I discover many things about me, about our surroundings. I find joy, peace and contentment as the sun, wind and fumes kiss me. Even if many times I do solo biking, I’m never alone as my new discovery of myself keeps me company. 

I started biking in the city when my best friend Christine Dayrit gave me her treasured, well-maintained 10-year-old mountain bike. For days, I enjoyed biking in the comforts of tree-lined and well-paved roads in a village in Makati.

Then one overcast mid-afternoon, I dared go out of my comfort zone and biked to BGC. Armed with a daredevil spirit, I conquered McKinley Road and used sheer muscle power as I pedaled my way uphill on one part of the road. Poor me, I did not know how to use the gears then. But three Hail Marys did the trick. Yes, I pray on the road. I pray before hitting the road. 

  The author biking along Ayala Avenue in Makati City.

Concentration is key when biking. I almost hear the voice of my childhood friend in Gulod, Zosima Lustre-Servo, who taught me to bike with her father’s BMX when we were still barely teenagers.

Biking then taught me never to give up — even if I had scratches on my legs from falling onto a garden of thorny uray weeds on the roadside because I couldn’t keep my balance at first. Life is a bicycle ride: you have to keep going to keep your balance.

I keep it in mind all the time. Even if many city roads are a jungle. Some motorists tend not to baby cyclists on the road. Add to this the reality that many parts of Metro Manila have no bike lanes.

That’s why I like BGC, as many parts of it have bike lanes. Plus, it has many parks. My heart does a cartwheel every time I see that pale blue line on the road — that’s the bikers’ lane. I stick to it — as though it were a lovers’ lane. I am safer there. 

As one biking saying goes: I don’t ride a bike to add days to my life. I ride a bike to add life to my days.

One time, I lost my way, not because I did not know the streets of the city. From BGC, I found myself in Ugong, Pasig – that was because I couldn’t muster enough courage to turn left on the road. And to turn left, I needed to shift lanes. So when I felt insecure, my feet continued pedaling until I found a safe opening on the road. Only then did I realize I was already in Pasig. 

I allow myself to get lost on the road. Once I found myself biking in Rockwell and unwittingly ended up in Nueve de Pebrero in Mandaluyong City. I only knew it was Mandaluyong when I biked past the National Center for Mental Health. The early morning breeze — plus my newfound knowledge on using the gears and hand signals — carried me there.

My playful, nonchalant spirit surfaces when I wait for the traffic light to turn green. That’s when I sing. Since I bike alone, I entertain myself. I sing arias — from Nessun Dorma to Queen of the Night. Loud enough to be heard by the motorist beside me, in front of me, behind me. I don’t melt down when motorists give me a look. They just smile.

Once, while biking to the Resorts World area, I sang Burnout, the version of Bullet Dumas, and the lady in a motorcycle beside me hummed it, too. We had a duet while waiting for 120 seconds for the red light to turn green, on top of the bridgeway, below it was the expressway already.  

Many times, riding a bike is like attending a concert — there’s music everywhere. From the bike itself, from the sound of the vehicles, from the surroundings, from the beating of the biker’s heart.

When recently I got a new lover — I mean, a new mountain bike I named “Lover” — all the more I became agog. One Saturday, my Lover and I looked for fresh carabao’s milk at the Salcedo weekend market but were denied entry because I didn’t have a face shield. (Another thing to remember when biking — bring a little cash. Bring an ID, a cellphone. I started biking without bringing any of those until a friend, a seasoned biker, told me to do so. I was always worried about bringing a phone because the jogging shorts I used always had shallow pockets. Then perdible came to the rescue. Yes, I use safety pins to keep my articles safe in my pockets.)   

Going back to Lover, its pedals are soft on the feet. Its brakes don’t jolt. Its body, in pristine white, is sturdy. Its wheels are like angel’s wings; they allow me to glide on the road as I ride the wind. There’s a soft and sweet symphony every time the chain rolls on the plate. 

My Lover and I sealed a covenant of forever as witnessed by the one-way and two-way streets of the central business district of Makati. 

Ayala Avenue is another favorite because it has bike lanes on both sides. The skyscrapers on Ayala are imposing yet they relent to the tenderness of the morning sun. Early in the morning, the whole of Makati Avenue smells of morning dew as birds chirp endlessly and fly from one tree to another. The sight and sound of the city is alive. 

The stretch of Paseo de Roxas, all the way to Jupiter, is another universe of its own. Serene, still, albeit the imminent influx of vehicles. 

The short street of Amorsolo is a painter’s dream with the play of lights taking place. I can’t wait for the banaba trees lining one side of the street to bear violet flowers. 

Arnaiz Road, formerly known as Pasay Road, is a bit tricky for a novice biker like me because of the volume of vehicles. But, again, I always recite “The Lord’s Prayer” when I coast along it. 

 A bike ride inside UP Los Baños. Photo by Büm Tenorio Jr.

Eventually, I brought home Lover to Gulod and it is what I used to discover San Pedro, Biñan, Calamba and Los Baños in Laguna.

If my cardiologist will allow me, after I undertake training and after I can afford myself to get a Santa Cruz that is built for long-distance biking, I will ride the wind to Ilocos from Makati.

This early, I’m studying the roads to get there and looking at hostels where I can stay for the night in every town I will pass through. It’s the birthday gift I long to give myself when I turn 50 in November. If it does not happen, I will still be happy for the unquantifiable joy biking has brought me. 

As one biking saying goes: “I don’t ride a bike to add days to my life. I ride a bike to add life to my days.”

It’s time for me to ride the wind again.