Bikes > Cycle

A love letter to cycling

The simple yet profound joy of riding a bicycle

Ayala Avenue belongs to cyclists and runners on Sunday mornings. PHOTO BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT

Think about
All the places we could reach,
All the people we could meet,
All the stories we could tell,
While turning the cranks of our bicycles.

This was composed by a friend in celebration of World Bicycle Day. But I am sharing it with you this Valentine’s Day as it encapsulates my love for cycling.

I’ve gone through many hobbies such as anime, video games, Krav Maga, model-making, and photography. Yet none have left such a profound impact as the simple act of riding a bicycle.

Biking is many things to different people. For me, it is a form of mobility, recreation, and sport—all rolled into one.

The author's college life would have been more colorful had he biked around campus. PHOTOS BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT

Having loved automobiles as a kid, I looked forward to the day I’d start driving. Sadly, the anticipation turned into dread when I actually hit the road.

Back then, I was a new driver who happened to be studying fluid mechanics. And I remember vividly describing Katipunan as if it were the bottom of the ocean, where I was drowning under the pressure from the endless sea of cars.

I never got hurt physically behind the wheel. But during my latter years in college, the suffocation from the daily slog took a toll on my mental health. It made me resent motoring to the point of avoiding it as much as possible.

With no leisure to be found in driving, it was reduced to nothing more than a costly means to get from point A to B. And if there were a better alternative, I’d gladly take it—even if I had to give up the comfort of air-conditioning.

For a change of environment, the author would sometimes visit a café in the neighborhood. PHOTO BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT
Having 'merienda' at Kowloon House. PHOTO BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT
Taking out Mexican food for lunch. PHOTO BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT
The author tried Crosta Pizzeria for the first time on a rainy evening. PHOTO BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT

I wish I could have begun commuting earlier, even if it were limited to driving my car to UP Dilimanwith a folding bicycle insideand cycling around campus. But April 2022 wasn’t a bad time to start, coming from the seemingly endless lockdowns of the pandemic.

Living in the wonderful neighborhood of Barangay Kapitolyo in Pasig, I had just passed the board exam for mechanical engineering and was about to begin my first job at VISOR. A whole new world was unraveling in my adult life, and the bicycle was the perfect vehicle for exploring it.

Back then, I didn’t expect cycling to be my main mode of transport. But I couldn’t resist how liberating it was—getting a breath of fresh air and taking in the sights, while traveling to my destination without having to worry about traffic, fuel or parking.

Don’t be mistaken: I don’t hate cars. Rather, as said by a colleague: Because I’m not dependent on them, I am free to enjoy them. This is especially true for out-of-town media drives.

The author encounters these dogs around the neighborhood late in the afternoon. PHOTO BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT
Car-spotting is easier when you don't have to worry about parking. PHOTO BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT
It's not every day that the author sees a train on the PNR railroad. PHOTO BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT
The author rode on the Pasig RIver Ferry with his bicycle to get to Manila. PHOTO BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT

Because I’m not constrained by a glass-and-metal cage, I’m directly exposed to the environment. And this makes the commuting experience immersive and interactive, like when spontaneously encountering people on the street. Getting around the city has never been more enjoyable.

Sure, I get hot and sweaty, and close calls are inevitable. But those risks can be mitigated, and they don’t diminish the inherent pleasure of biking. Who knows? You might end up as passionate as I am in advocating for it once you actually experience how efficient it is.

Cycling and tourism complement each other well. PHOTO BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT
Chasing the sunset at Punta Fuego in Batangas. PHOTO BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT

I mentioned earlier that cycling is just as much a sport as it is a form of leisure and transport. While I don’t compete in races, I find satisfaction in challenging myself to go farther and do more on a bicycle.

This includes doing errands, dining in restaurants and cafés, shopping at the mall, or exploring uncharted territory inside and outside the city—which are all amusing in their own way.

There is a sense of delight and achievement in celebrating the milestones of my journey, such as biking on EDSA for the first time, going on my first long ride, and cycling in another country.

You can encounter some pretty epic views. PHOTO BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT
Going off-road can be just as fun as riding on pavement. PHOTO BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT

It’s amazing how well an ordinary machine—one that has been around for two centuries—has stood the test of time while being a solution to some of society’s biggest problems.

Biking is practical, just as it is innately fun. And that’s why I love it so much. If you’d like to get a taste of this, try searching for a local cycling community and reach out to them. They’ll be more than glad to help you.

And if you’re as head-over-heels as I am for the pedal-powered lifestyle, perhaps now is a good time to reflect on this question: Why do you ride? Perhaps there are as many answers as there are bicycles.

Leandro Mangubat

Leandro is our staff writer. Although having a background in mechanical engineering, he enjoys photography and writing more.