The long and winding road…grows ever longer

It was 2001, and I was in my final year of high school.

One of the things I was doing back then was riding around on my dad’s bike. To the best of my sleuthing abilities, and based on its checkered-flag top tube, it is a 1981-1982 Peugeot P8. It was a heavy steel ten-speed road bike in deep blue, which my dad says he bought from a flea market.

My dad’s 1981 Peugeot P8, as it is stored today. As much as I would like to restore or modernize this bike, back then, the French used idiosyncratic screw thread standards that translate into restoration headaches.

It had friction shifters mounted not on the downtube, as was the fashion at the time, but on the base of its quill stem. Unlike the now-prevalent “700C” (622 mm) wheel size and Presta valves, this bike had slightly larger so-called “27-inch” (630 mm) rolling stock and Schrader valves – the same kind you’d see on a car. It also had “safety levers” on its brakes that allowed braking while holding the tops of the handlebars. Brake hoods weren’t really a thing when this bike was made.

A scan of Cycles Peugeot’s 1982 catalogue featuring the P8 road bike and P18 “mixte” women’s bike. The livery and Carbolite 103 tubing match those of my dad’s Peugeot. Photo credit: bikeboompeugeot.com

Like many people, back then, I never really thought of the bicycle as a means of transportation. Sure, I could pedal to my friends’ houses in neighboring villages, but the thought of venturing any further on pedal power just never occurred to me. As a pimply high school kid with low self-esteem, I was always worrying about my body odor and underarm sweat – a mindset not really conducive to serious cycling.

Back then I had a rather sheltered upbringing, in hindsight.

Yet, one afternoon that year, raring to do something different, and way overdue for solo adventures, I thought of going out the village gates and riding south. What the hell, I was curious.

I rode the back route my school bus used to take from Sucat to Bicutan, but in reverse. I really had no idea how long it would take or how hard it would be. I just wanted to keep on going. On I went, out Parañaque Municipal Hall, then on to Dr. A. Santos Avenue (Sucat Road).

I eventually stopped in front of a classmate’s house, somewhere in the middle of El Grande Avenue in BF Parañaque. I was 7.5 kilometers out from where I started. The excitement ran through my veins, because I didn’t really believe I’d make it this far on my own two legs. It was nothing special while aboard a car or school bus, but on the bike it felt pretty damn amazing.

I distinctly remember the sky slowly getting darker. Time for me to turn around and head back the same way. I had no real understanding of hand signals or lane placement as a cyclist, other than what I had just learned from driving school back then. Needless to say, I made it back home in one piece.

I wanted to do it again.

===

A few days later, fate proved it had other plans.

The blue Peugeot’s chainrings got warped and bent out of shape. Each turn of the crank resulted in the chain shifting itself between the big ring and the little ring. Our house was in the middle of renovation and expansion, and it seems something happened to it while the carpenters were doing their job at the time. Pimply high school kid that I was back then, I had zero knowledge of bike maintenance and repair. Nor did I have the proper tools. Nor did I know any local bike shops.

So began a long spell off the saddle…only ending with Bino’s purchase in 2013.

===

Today, that 15-kilometer trip I relished as a teenager is a very normal part of my Sunday morning long rides. I have since covered longer and longer distances, but like everybody else, I had to start somewhere and start small. The discovery of the sheer freedom that riding a bike brings, though – that never left me.

My longest ride to date is a 210 km brevet. It all started from that 15-km ride out and back, all those years ago, though.

Many of my friends don’t ride. They are aghast at the distances I cover with nothing but my own two legs, some even joking that I’d go into palpitations from the physical demands of riding the distance. All I can say is, the now-iconic theme song of a chocolate energy drink’s advertisements contains everything they need to know: “Great things start from small beginnings.”

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