From scratch

Over the years I’ve had this blog up and running, I guess one could say I’ve continuously engaged in an equipment and technological arms race with myself. As I steadily got better as a rider, my investment in ever-shinier new things and baubles kept escalating, perhaps culminating ultimately in the preparation for my 2022 Subic-Masinloc-Subic audax return.

It was a good run, and I got a lot of content out of it, but this kind of spending has also slowly become unsustainable. Not on my day job’s salary, and not on the reputation this website has. Some of you may think that I get free stuff or review samples regularly, but the reality is I pay for 99% of what I write about here.

I felt like hitting a reset button.

That came from a former colleague of mine, Troy, who lived just down the street from me and had finally gotten a bicycle of his own. He was excited to get pedaling, but our immediate vicinity didn’t offer the space nor the terrain variety to satisfy his budding riding tastes, and venturing out into the roads leading to the city was a challenge too far for a relative novice.

So I invited him to ride around my usual stomping grounds down south. Lots of room, good variety of terrain, and relatively safe for a cycling newbie. Troy was delighted, finally able to stretch his cycling legs and push man and machine farther. Riding a bicycle in the Philippines is a lot about building confidence in your abilities and your equipment, and this ride was a good opportunity for both.

It was an easy ride for me as I spent the morning leading my friend and showing him around the premises. However, it was also exactly what I needed. Troy’s second-hand hardtail mountain bike barely had anything on it: plastic flat pedals, no water bottle cages, no saddle bag for spares, no bike computer, no sensors, no power meter, and no lights. Yet it successfully reminded me that you don’t really need all that much to have fun on a bike ride.

Sometimes all one needs is to stop being jaded and go back to basics.

Bisikleta Iglesia 2022

Living in a predominantly Catholic country, we Filipinos have all sorts of traditions that happen around the 40-day-long season called Lent, and especially around the end period of Holy Week. One of them is the visita Iglesia, which literally translates to “church visit,” and it intertwines frequently with the via crucis or “Way of the Cross.” The idea is to visit a church on Maundy Thursday, then pray the fourteen Stations of the Cross which commemorate Jesus Christ’s judgment, humiliation, death, and interment.

People being people, it’s evolved somewhat from this basic premise. First was to divvy up the fourteen Stations of the Cross across multiple churches – most frequently, praying at two stations over seven different churches. As the title of this post might suggest, one of the other changes to this formula is to do the visits by bike. With Holy Week almost unfailingly falling under the hot, dry summer, the Bisikleta Iglesia has become a favorite Lenten pilgrimage for Filipino cyclists.

I was looking for a first morning long ride after more than two years of riding under relative isolation, so I invited my friend Manny Illana. He brought along two of his own buddies, Edison Dungo and Jojo Salvan, and just like that, we were a party of four.

Ours was a rather compact route, going through as many churches and landmarks as possible within a short distance. Just as well, as the cool morning breeze went away by 9 am and the sun proceeded to cook us all in dehydrating heat. Our relatively low speeds and multiple forced dismounts didn’t help ventilation much either. All in, we passed nine churches over 30 km before we had lunch at Pancake House and I had to split off.

I could write at length about our trip, but Manny brought his GoPro – and some nice shooting and editing skills – along with him on the ride. I’ll let him do the talking on this one, as pictures and video speak a million words.

Shooting twenties

A new year is upon us – and with it come the excess calories most of us ingested from the holidays. And maybe a bit of introspection.

I’m sure we’ve all got our resolutions and goals for 2020. It’s no secret that I got sidetracked from riding in 2019 due to various reasons; given all that, it’s surprising I managed 3,000 kilometers on the saddle that year. Going forward, I unfortunately have to log even more distance pedaling while bolted to a turbo trainer going nowhere, but saddle time is saddle time and Strava does say it all counts.

As of this writing, I am on track to join my second 200 km audax in the next few months, after five years of frustration and false starts. I have yet to put in a simulation ride of at least 100 km, which I hope to do soon. Everything else I can prepare for, however, is as ready as it could be.

I would also love to be in a position to clock a 100 km ride at least once every couple months or so.

My wife has had a few goals of her own as well. Over the year-end holidays, she’s been pedaling Bino and riding loops around our usual stomping grounds, building both her confidence and strength. The 12-kilometer loop has climbs, straights, downhill stretches and some dodgy surfacing, and she’s now at a point where she can ride a complete lap. Considering her starting point of nil, this was a great improvement. I am hoping she sticks to the habit.

As far as cycling goals go, these are pretty tame, I know, but sometimes riding time does have to give way to life. What are your goals for 2020?