Knowing the basic guidelines of city biking like road safety, essentials and proper etiquette is a good start for cycling beginners
By Nicole Ganglani | Art by Tricia Guevara | Source photo by Juan Pablo Serrano Arenas/Pixabay
If anyone mentioned last year that bikes would emerge as the most viable mode of transportation this year, chances are you wouldn’t believe it—especially since Metro Manila is far from being the most bike-friendly city in the world.
But times are changing. The impact of the coronavirus has made more people realize the importance of bikes. Yes, we notice the efforts of the government in trying to make the roads of Metro Manila more manageable for cyclists and by extension promoting sustainable urban mobility. However, there’s still a long way to go before we can say that Manila’s roads are indeed safe for bike commuters.
Right now, the Philippines still lacks vital infrastructure that would ensure a safe biking experience that even private groups and individuals have taken it upon themselves to temporarily make it work to no success.
Although incidents like these shouldn’t deter cyclists and newbies from advocating safe city biking from the government, we should also educate (and reeducate) ourselves on bike safety even before hitting the road. For beginners especially, it takes time to fully master the ropes of biking around the city. Knowing the basics like road safety, essentials and proper etiquette is a good start.
We tapped some triathletes and coaches to share some biking advice for beginners.
Member of the Philippine national triathlon team
“First, learn how to handle your bike. Learn to look back while cycling and look around so you are always aware of the traffic around you. Be very attentive to the road surface. If there’s a small hole or crack on the road, it could make you lose your balance and crash. Always use a helmet and gloves. Hold [on] tight to your handlebars.”
Triathlete and coach of The Next Step Tri
“Find a bike that is comfortable for you, not one that just ‘looks good.’ Always maintain your bike well. Keep it clean and do regular checks on all the parts. Be decisive and obvious in your decision-making on the road by always signaling left or right by extending your arm out.”
Four-time Ironman 70.3 finisher
“Learn proper hand signals for turning, slowing down, stopping and the basics like pumping your tires, checking your brakes or fixing a chain drop. Practice how to change tires and always bring tools, a hand pump, patch kit or spare interior for your tires because you’ll never know when you’ll need to change a flat tire. Plan your route beforehand. Choose wider roads that have less speeding cars. Be attentive during the ride, watch out for potholes and avoid painted or metal surfaces on the road.”
Ironman certified coach
“Make sure you know the rules and etiquette on the road. Always assume that cars don’t see you and never force your position on the road (even if you have the right of way). It’s better to be safe than sorry. It also helps if you have a properly fitting bike, comfortable and functional cycling gear and other safety accessories like lights and blinkers.”
2019 SEA Games triathlon mixed relay gold medalist
“My best advice for those who want to start biking is to choose the right bike. I always recommend mountain bikes so people can ride wherever they want and [because] it’s difficult for mountain bikes to have a flat tire even if it’s slower than a road bike. Mountain bikes are also easier to manage and less difficult to lose balance. When choosing a bike, note the important factors—what’s your goal? Is it for racing? To go from home to work? Or to hang around with your friends?”
2019 SEA Games triathlon gold medalist
“Always wear protective gear like helmet, shoes, gloves and some lights (front and rear lights are the best). Bring your own tools too just in case you experience a flat tire—you need to bring an extra tube tire lever and a pump. You also need to bring water for hydration. Lastly, always be aware of other vehicles on the road, so stay on the rightmost side of the street and always pray before you leave for a ride.”
Professional Xterra triathlete
“Before you purchase a bike, make sure that it suits your riding style whether it’s a road bike (which mostly you ride it in pavements or cemented roads) or maybe an all-around bike like a mountain bike. Bring some spare tubes and some basic bike tools with you as well. And finally, the most important thing is to always wear a helmet and invest in safety lights. Always obey traffic rules and regulations.”
Ironman, triathlete and marathoner
“Be predictable on the road by cycling in a straight line and use hand signals. Be courteous, say hello to other cyclists and enjoy. Don’t push yourself too much. If you need to walk with your bike uphill, feel free. I also advise you to invest in a good helmet, LED lights and reflective clothing. Stay on the rightmost lane and take your time and bike at your own pace.”
2017 and 2019 SEA Games gold medalist
“Get used to it—if it’s your first time riding to work or a certain distance, it would be best to approach it slowly. Take your time to get to know the roads, the small climbs, traffic lights, intersections and the flow of traffic. This will make your commute more efficient.”
All World Athlete (AWA) triathlete
“Always make sure you’re hydrated. It’s super hot outside and you’ll sweat a lot. Most people forget to hydrate and end up fainting on the road. Be aware of your surroundings, make sure you’re alert and be a defensive biker. Make sure you’re wearing a helmet and know the basics of bicycle repair just in case anything happens.”
Endurance athlete and coach
“Learn and master how to start and stop your bike especially for sudden stops and sudden go. Stay well hydrated especially if you plan on biking for several kilometers in the heat (have a bike bottle filled with water always). Second, keep yourself visible at all times (wear bright-colored outfits, use front light and/or rear light/blinkers) and master how to fix a flat tire. Lastly, always wear a helmet.”
2015 and 2017 SEA Games gold medalist and captain of the Philippine national triathlon team
“Always start by knowing the right bike fit for you. It’s the first thing you should consider when looking for a bike. It needs to have your right size so you can practice thoroughly. Second, if you can’t afford a helmet then you can’t afford a bike—keep in mind that it’s safety first. Ride in the morning with friends too so you get to enjoy the social benefits that come with biking which will help you learn the ropes as well.”
Founder of Kikay Runner
“Learn your bike skills on closed roads first or in places with no vehicular traffic. If you only just learned to ride a bike, your balance may be wobbly and your ability to use your brakes will probably not yet be second nature. You want to make sure that even if you make a mistake and steer wrong, you won’t be putting yourself in any harm.”
Paolo Rigor Leano
Triathlete and coach
“Safety is paramount because drivers do not see you and most accidents come from vehicles changing lanes so always assume a vehicle can and will change lanes suddenly. Be aware that vehicles have blind spots and wear bright colors to stand out. Use daytime visible bike lights especially flashing ones.”
Ironman certified coach
“Health-wise, hydrate and eat well. Add electrolytes to your hydration. If you are a beginner and you are thinking of taking on the road, your body is your machine. The machine won’t work well without the proper nutrition. Fill it up with junk, and you will emit junk. Eat proper amounts of carbs and vegetables. As much as we take care of the body, we need to also think about our knees and our skin. Taking in a good amount of collagen helps your knees and skin from breaking down.”
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