When I heard that Edmund Ang and several other personalities in the biking community we organizing the first Philippine Bicycle Demo Day, the first thought that came to mind was: Hell yeah! It’s about time somebody did this.
As a long-time biker (don’t be rude and ask how long) I’ve seen the Philippine bike scene expand, develop and explode from a negligible subculture of enthusiasts into a mainstream force in society today that just can’t be ignored. Last year we had the Second Philippine Bike Expo day, which was a testament to just how far the cycling community has gone. The expo was as exciting and colorful as the car shows held in recent years in Metro Manila, albeit admittedly on a much lower budget because you know, bike companies don’t have the financial resources of those big bad polluting road-congesting automakers.
Anyhoo, the success of the expo showed that there was a huge community of two-wheeled, human-powered aficionados out there, and it was a market just waiting to be tapped.
However while it was fun gawking at the wares and salivating at the bike porn on display at the expo, a part of me also wondered what it would be like to actually ride some of those bikes. This is where the #PhBikeDemo comes in.
A fellow blogger from Valleybikes said going to the Bike Demo Day was like being a kid let loose in a candystore with free taste tests. I thought it was more a like a bunch of potheads let loose in a shining shimmering splendid field of Jamaican herbs while chips and dip rained down like manna from the kalangitan. In short, parang mga adik na pinagbigyan.
Some of the biggest brands in the business were present at the roll call: BMC, Commencal, Trek, Specialized, Lynskey, Rocky Mountain, Niner, Norco, KTM, Pivot, and even our very own boutique brand Bambike was there.
I wish I could have tried them all, but I had to make do with a few brands because of time constraints.
Bambike: Bamboo Mountain Bike
First on my list was the Bambike mountain bike. I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of using bamboo to make a bike frame. Sure, the kung fu movies of Jet Li present bamboo staffs as weapons of nearly indestructible quality, but how well would this green organic material stand up to real world abuse on the trail. The short answer: it’s TRUE kung fu.
The bamboo MTB with the unique twin top tubes flew though the trail! I was afraid that the bike would be too flexy because bamboo is known to be quite bendy. Instead I felt that the bike was actually incredibly stiff! It was almost way too stiff until I checked the tires and realized that the air pressure there was suited for pavement and not for trails. But in any case, whatever doubts I had about bamboo’s strength and durability were completely erased.
Lynskey MT650: Titanium Goodness
After bamboo, next on my list was titanium. A lot of my friends ride titanium bikes and they swear by it. So I tried the Lynskey MT650. The first thing I noticed about the bike was how light it was. Compared to my heavyweight steel bike, the Lynskey felt like something that would get carried away by the breeze if someone so much as sneezed at it.
Titanium’s springy characteristic was also legendary and I wanted to find out the truth behind the myth. What’s the lowdown? It was really fun to ride. However, I still felt that besides the weight factor, steel still gave a smoother more solid feel. I also wish they’d spec’d the demo MT650 with a much more current drivetrain because I was really missing the clutch switch amid the chain slap.
I’d probably choose titanium (if I could afford it) for XC racing in places like La Mesa. But for day long rides in Balagbag or the Sierra Madre trails, I’d still opt for the stability of my steel bike despite its weight penalty.
Next was the Trek Stache. Much has been written about this uncanny beast that came out of Trek’s top secret weapons lab. With 3-inch wide 29er tires, the Stache really stood out from the crowd. The raised drive-side chainstay was also a curious thing.
So how did it ride? Like I said before in a Facebook post, this was hands down the best bike I’ve ridden. I’d trade my steel bike for this rig in a heartbeat (so very very sorry my steel steed!). The wide tires soaked up the bumps but (strangely) never seemed too heavy for accelerating towards the jumps in the trail.
The Stache is the kind of bike I’d love to bring to Daraitan, Kinabuan, Laiban, Pinatubo and the Cordillera. Anyplace that has rock gardens, river crossings and sketchy terrain: this would be my weapon of choice.
And despite the huge tires, I think it’s also still nimble enough for a romp through the Timberland Blue Zone. I can easily see the 3-inch tires providing enormous traction on loose gravel and slick mud. On some switchbacks, you would probably need to apply more body English to turn the bike because of the enormous traction, but it’s something you will easily learn.
This bike is making me seriously think about switching to the 29+ ecosystem. The vibration damping and massive traction of the nine plus system just seem too enticing. Tears rolled down my cheeks when I had to return the Stache to the Trek people… (Cue Wiz Khalifa’s See You Again here)
Next was the Niner Rip9. This is the venerable brand’s flagship full suspension trail bike. I’ve always been a fan of Niner’s meticulous workmanship with their bikes. I’ve always thought that this was a brand that took aesthetics as seriously as functionality. The Rip9 was one such bike. Besides being an awesome looker, the Rip9 was a lot of fun on the trails.
Since I’m more used to riding hardtails, the rear suspension initially felt a bit weird for me. Since I wanted to finish the test trail as fast as I could, I did most of my biking standing up and mashing the pedals.
This meant that I wasn’t really feeling the benefits of the rear suspension because my elbows, knees and other joints were acting as shock absorbers. It was only when I sat down that I felt what a great idea full suspension was. Wow!
Speaking of full suspension, I got to try another fullsusser in the Specialized Camber. This was another pretty solid bike. But by the time I had gotten around to riding it, it was already well past noon, the heat was intense, and my legs were already feeling noodly from the previous sprint sessions.
I was getting buzzed up from the Juan Brew and Joe’s Brew craft beers I’d been chugging. So instead of standing up and mashing the gears, I took it easy and sat down. The Camber’s squishy rear was heaven sent. If I was racing an 80km MTB marathon in Nuvali, this would be one of bikes I’d choose.
I really wanted to try some of the AM bikes on display at Commencal and Rocky mountain but I just didn’t have any more time. I had to go back to QC and work on a Sunday. Yeah, work. In the immortal words of Metallica: Sad but true. Some people do have to slave even on a Sunday.
In any case, the bike demo event was a huge success. However, there’s still some room for improvement:
- The 150 Php entrance fee seems a bit steep. Sana 100 na lang hehe :p
- The long lines could’ve been avoided if there were more bikes to demo. Some of the demo bikes didn’t have pedals, which was kinda confusing
- While heroes’ trail in Taguig is ideal for security reasons, I don’t think the trail was really enough to test the climbing and descending abilities of some of the bikes. Maybe the more technical segments of the heroes trail could have been included for the advanced and intermediate riders.
- Finally, there should be more food stalls and nooks where tired bikers could rest their weary legs. A complimentary Gatorade would be welcome. Let’s have more beer choices too :)
Anyway, congrats to the organizers of the #PHBikeDemo. Can’t wait til the next one.