Bike messenger, tour guide, or photographer: which one is for you?

Text and photos by Kara Santos | Additional photos courtesy of Pedal Express and Jun Reynales

Unless you’re a professional cyclist with a slew of sponsors, you’re probably not earning from biking. In fact, most hobbyist bikers I know spend most of their cash on gear, upgrades or trips to biking destinations.

And while most of them don’t mind, it’s always cool when you can earn from something you love to do. Here are three jobs for people with a passion for cycling who want to make extra cash on the side.

Bicycle Courier

Let’s face it. Traffic in Manila sucks. Sometimes you leave something at home that you need to get in a couple of hours. Or maybe you want something hand-delivered fast, without having to deal with the gridlock.

This is where bicycle couriers and urban bike messengers come in. Yes, we have bicycle couriers in Manila, just like Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character Wilee in Premium Rush.

Pedal Express is a bike courier service offering same-day delivery for as little as P140 per package. The rates go up the faster you need something delivered, with services ranging from three to five hours. They recently expanded their services to include one- to three-day delivery, allowing them to offer a lower and competitive rate.

According to managing partner Jim Pronstroller, Pedal Express was borne out of a passion for biking and a desire to provide a truly “express” delivery service with a minimal carbon footprint. The people behind Pedal Express are all avid cyclists and believe in cycling as a sustainable mode of transportation that also helps promote a healthy lifestyle.

“A bicycle courier needs to love cycling in order to do the job, otherwise they will not stay long. You really have to be passionate about it and make it a way of life. It is not an easy job and the riders who stay are those who honestly love what they are doing. Age limit is not really a factor as long as you are reasonably healthy. In fact, we even have several senior age riders. They also need to be honest, street-smart, and friendly,” says Pronstroller.

Pedal Express currently employs around 50 to 80 regular and part-time bicycle couriers. For those who want to apply, send your resume to [email protected] and check them out on Facebook: Pedal Express PH

bambike tours photo by kara santos

Bike Tour Guide

For personable and outgoing bikers who like being around other people, working as a bike tour guide is another option.

There’s an increasing number of bicycle-centered tours being offered in the city catering to foreign backpackers and tourists. One of these is Bambike, a socio-ecological enterprise that hand-makes bamboo bicycles with fair-trade labor and sustainable building practices. Their ecotours take guests through the streets of Manila while sharing trivia about the different sites and Philippine history, much like guides on walking tours.

Rey Ballesca, a former bike tour guide of Bambike who is establishing his own bike tours, says that guides can often make or break the overall experience of the participants.

“A bike tour guide should have a lot of patience. They have to be energetic, organized, engaging, have a good sense of humor, and be knowledgeable about the place and especially about the bike’s maintenance,” says Ballesca.

For those who want to start their own bike tours with their friends, Ballesca advises to keep groups small (12 to 16 persons) because it’s easier to manage small groups on the road.

Bike Event Photographer

If you’re a freelance photographer with a passion for cycling, biking photography is something you can also get into. Photographers interested in covering races, events, product launches, and expos can make money off their photos if they market themselves professionally and network with potential clients during biking events and expos.

According to photographer Jun Reynales, cycling photography takes special skills. Other traits needed include patience and perseverance to perfect their craft. Reynales works with various clients and organizers who have a budget for advertising and events photography. 

“Most cycling events organizers think that when you have a camera eh pwede na. But of course it’s different when done by a professional photographer. You need to be a cyclist to know how best to shoot a cyclist,” says Reynales.

Cycling photography often involves covering events in all weather conditions, starting work at the crack of dawn, and hanging off the back of motorbikes—just to get the best race photos for people to enjoy after the event. So if you’re an event organizer looking for a professional photographer, please be generous. And if you’re a biker whose photo gets snapped, please don’t crop out the photographer’s watermarks. Some photographers are willing to sell hi-res unwatermarked copies of your photo for a minimal fee.

Got any other suggestions on how cyclists can earn money here in the Philippines? Let us know in the comments section.