Bikes > Cycle

You don’t need an expensive bicycle for commuting

The author got a heavily used MTB for P5,300

You'll save as much time bike-commuting in the city whether you ride a cheap MTB or a carbon-fiber road bike. PHOTO BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT

Although cycling is advocated as an affordable mode of transport, some bicycles can easily cost as much as—if not more than—a motorcycle or even a car. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. However, not everyone has the budget to splurge on a commuter ride.

While I already own several bicycles, they are far too precious to leave in a shady area. That’s why I’ve been thinking: What is the cheapest bicycle I can use for commuting?

A ‘mamachari’ like this looks tempting, but there are better alternatives. SCREENSHOT FROM FACEBOOK

Technically, any bicycle in working condition can be used to get from point A to B. But I had a few criteria to make it worth the thousands of pesos I’d be spending.

For one, it has to be comfortable and capable of hauling cargo, so a road bike was out of the question. Two, it needs disc brakes because I wouldn’t want to lose stopping power in the rain (like during my Laguna Loop). And finally, it must have suitable gearing for climbing, as the patch of earth I live on is anything but flat.

Considering these, a modern mountain bike (MTB) made the most sense. Although I prefer a drop-bar gravel bike, there aren’t any available with a budget of around P5,000.

That doesn't look like a bad deal. SCREENSHOT FROM FACEBOOK
Santo Tomas is so near, yet so different from the author's neighborhood. PHOTO BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT
There doesn't seem to be anything wrong with the bike. PHOTO BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT
The seller knew what he was doing. PHOTO BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT

Now that I knew what to get, the next question was where to get it. While there is some fun in scouring surplus shops, they might not have the cheapest offers as these businesses have to make a profit from selling used bikes. Instead, I went to the online jungle known as Facebook Marketplace.

However, typing in “bike” or “bicycle” isn’t going to yield relevant results. I had to be smart with how I used the search bar. So, I narrowed down the ads by looking for specific budget-friendly brands, and limiting the location to a 3km radius (so that meeting up wouldn’t be a hassle).

Trinx was the most notable manufacturer within my circle, and it even has a factory in the country. There weren’t any available listings for that. But there was one for a Foxter Evans 3.2 being sold for P5,300. Shortly after chatting with the seller, I biked to his place in Barangay Santo Tomas, Pasig, across C5.

At first, I was only going to check out the bike without committing to buy it yet. Upon inspection, there weren’t any major issues and the size was right. What really convinced me was that—for an additional P100—the seller would tape the bike to his motorcycle and deliver it to my doorstep. That beats anything Grab or Lalamove could offer, and I wouldn’t have to come back for it with my car. So, I ended up with an additional bicycle in my house that day.

This is not that different from the MTBs used by delivery riders. PHOTO BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT
Foxter is one of the more common brands you'll see on the street. PHOTO BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT
The rusty suspension fork has zero travel. PHOTO BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT
Because of the hydraulic brakes, the Foxter has the most stopping power among the author’s bikes PHOTO BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT

There’s nothing special about this Foxter Evans 3.2. Although it is an MTB, it won’t be going anywhere near the trail with its condition and my use case.

Most of the components appear to be stock save for the pedals and the hydraulic disc brakes. The Shimano Tourney is fine since there’s a triple crankset at the front with a granny gear for climbing.

The bike shifts, but not smoothly. PHOTOS BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT

The first order of business was to bring it to the shop for an overhaul. Thankfully, the only components that needed replacing were the shifter cables and the headset (the part that connects the fork and the frame so the bike can be steered). These set me back a total of P1,950 (with the overhaul at P1,000 and the headset at P550).

Even after a tune-up, the chain scrapes against the front derailleur at the middle chainring. Also, the chain has to be at the largest cog at the rear to be able to shift to the granny gear at the crank.

The suspension fork is as good as rigid, no thanks to the rust. Contrary to what some might think, that’s no big deal as the 27.5-inch by 2.1-inch tires are supple enough for bumps and potholes.

Weapon isn't exactly a reputable brand, but its headset gets the job done. PHOTO BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT
Gold is a strange color for the hubs. PHOTO BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT
The author would have preferred 26-inch wheels. PHOTO BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT

Despite these annoyances, the bicycle is rideable. While not as fast or as light as my gravel bike, it rolls more efficiently and comfortably than my trifold. If there was anything I wasn’t used to, it was the flat bars.

The width makes squeezing through tight spaces difficult. But as much as I’d like to reduce it, there might not be enough leverage for steering, which is already sluggish due to the bike’s geometry and wheel size.

The two bags cost a bit more than the bike. PHOTO BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT
The author wouldn't trust this rear rack with valuable or fragile items. PHOTO BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT
The rear rack is clamped to the chain stays and the seat post. PHOTO BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT
Panniers are easy to attach and remove. PHOTO BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT

To keep the build as cheap as possible, modifications were minimized, and I had to be resourceful with the parts. In addition to attaching my spare bottle cage and kickstand, the saddle was swapped for something more comfortable.

I can strap my bags to the handlebars and a saddle rack for cargo hauling. But for greater convenience, I ordered a rear rack from Lazada worth almost P300 to attach panniers.

While aluminum bikes are generally lighter than those made of steel, that isn’t the case with this one. It’s surprisingly front-heavy due to the suspension fork. Unloaded, the bike tips the weighing scale at almost 17kg.

This could easily be reduced with a rigid fork and a lighter crankset. Still, those are unnecessary expenses as performance is of no concern. All that matters is that the bike works and that it does so reliably.

The author biked for 9km from Makati to Pasig during Friday rush hour. PHOTO FROM CHENEE ANG JIMENEZ

To conclude, I didn’t get the Foxter because I wanted another bicycle. Rather, I deeply cherish the freedom and mobility of cycling—even if it meant riding a cheap bike and parking it in the sketchiest of places.

However, take note of the difference. I don’t mind the Foxter’s condition and quality because it isn’t my only bike. It won’t be used most of the time, and if the worst happens, I won’t mourn over its loss.

If you’re looking for a first bicycle, you can find solace knowing that the point of entry is low, and that the value of a bicycle doesn’t always depend on its performance. But if you spend the money on the right stuff, the benefits will go a long way. That’s the beauty of bike-commuting.

Leandro Mangubat

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