19 September 2011

Notes on Owning a Bike

The first thing I learned about owning a folding bike was that folding bikes are still heavy. I got one of the bigger ones with 18-inch wheels and six speeds because smaller wheels with less or single speeds meant more pedaling for the same price.* But now I'll have to build up the strength in my arms if I ever plan on hauling the bike to an LRT platform.**

The second thing I learned was that you need confidence and good reflexes to ride a bike in the city. My grandmother's house in Makati, where I stayed this past weekend, is in a relatively quiet neighborhood in arguably the most orderly city in Metro Manila. Biking around there on Saturday afternoon was a delight, but crossing one of the few busy streets was kind of an ordeal.

Where I live in Cubao is not so quiet, the streets are much busier, and the streets and sidewalks, as I learned yesterday afternoon, aren't so great, so my ride around was kind of frightening. I've complained about motorists not wanting to give way to pedestrians on foot; apparently, they're even less willing to give way to people on bicycles, and they honk at you like you're an idiot.

The third thing I learned—another reason I need confidence, really—was that males aren't used to seeing females on bikes. If in my previous post I wondered why female bikers are so rare, it might be partly due to this. It's really creepy to be watched while you walk down the street, but today, it seemed that guys paid even more attention as I passed on a bike. I actually felt more uncomfortable and vulnerable than I ever did on foot. The only consolation was that having wheels allowed me to get away even faster.

My plan after buying the bike was to return to Cubao partway by bike and partway by train, but for all the above reasons, I took a cab from Makati with my new bike safely folded in the backseat. I feel ridiculous and kind of defeated right now.

I don't want to be cowed, though. The first part of my plan now is to take practice rides each weekend to build up both my confidence and my stamina, and to get used to biking in the city. The sight of people commuting on bikes along major thoroughfares like E. Rodriguez Jr. Ave. and Pasong Tamo**** helped encourage me to finally get my bike; though the riders were all male, they showed me that it could be done.

I'll bike around my neighborhood for the first couple of weeks, then see if I can make it as far as Katipunan, then try for my office one Saturday.

The second part of my plan is to move to a nicer neighborhood first quarter of next year.*** That might mean living farther from work and definitely biking only on weekends, but after two years on this side of Aurora Boulevard, I've had enough. I need someplace where guys just don't leer at girls, whether they're on two legs or two wheels.

* Mikko and I visited every shop in that row along Quezon Boulevard, across the Quiapo church, plus that one shop near J. Ruiz Station where he got his unicycle. (Yes, my brother bought a unicycle.) The average lowest price for a folding bike, regardless of size or number of speeds, was around P3,500. Even the secondhand ones I saw cost roughly P3,000.

Before going to Quiapo, I'd gone to this one shop on E. Rodriguez Jr., where the shop boy first ignored me, then grinned stupidly at me the whole time I asked questions. He told me that the cheapest folding bike was P4,800. It looked old and unstable, and the look on the guy's face told me that I wouldn't get any respect from this shop. Don't go there, friends. Check out any of the shops in Quiapo, where they treated me like a valuable customer. I got my bike, new and still in its packing, at Global Craze.

** LRT2 is the only train line I know to allow passengers to take bicycles on board, and the bikes have to be folding. That and the general lack of storage space in all the places I've lived in the past seven years were what led me to seek a folding bike instead of one of those prettier and cheaper road bikes.

*** I've harped on my awful neighborhood and slimy neighbors since the day I moved here, but I've delayed moving again for the following reasons, in chronological order: too rattled by recent changes to uproot myself again, unable to afford a better place, hoping the attention stops bothering me in time, waiting for brother to decide whether he wants to share an apartment with me, and waiting for salary to be fixed. That last won't be till February, so I'll just have to put up with the jerks on the street a little while longer.

**** This morning, instead of taking a jeepney, I walked from my house to EDSA to study the roads, traffic, and people on bikes. It seems easy enough to bike on Aurora Boulevard; even with heavy traffic, bikes and motorbikes can stay safely to one side of the road and still squeeze past the four-wheelers. Crossing EDSA was another matter, but there was one biker did it. I felt like clapping my hands.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so excited for you, Kat! Do post photos of some of your trips!