By Nom Seyer
I was enjoying a bottle of Pinot Noir with several of my close friends one night when our conversation turned to the subject of mountain biking. They were trying to convince me to get into it and ride with them. All of them claimed that biking made riders smarter.
It is made even more believable on the strength of a study by the famous Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, USA that showed that a person’s brain worked better because of activities like mountain biking. The balance, quick reaction and decision making skills helped adults focus and concentrate. I considered that survey. It was focus and my lack of it — I know I needed that. The study ended with this bold claim: 40 percent of the participants were more likely to solve a puzzle than a person who did not engage in a similar activity like mountain biking. The takeaway was that if you are stuck with a problem, go for a ride. Life as I know it is full of problem-solving dilemmas, from choosing what to wear for work (hard because I don’t seem to have a style), to even what to eat for lunch.
I was sold. I took a gander at mountain biking and started planning my bike purchase. Now here was the challenge, a tough one too— a mountain bike was actually a toy. My wife did not like me buying toys and frowns at it like a bad episode of acne vulgaris. Why? Because a toy costs something; like any wonderful toy it was going to cost a lot more than just something. I had to make my case compelling —like it was going to be heard in a court of law. So I studied and researched it throughly.
These are the facts of “How I Bought My Mountain Bike”.
Fact 1: My bike is my friend.
I figured out that my future bike and I will be spending a lot of time together out on the bukid or bundok. The bike had to be reliable and be a right fit for me. It had to be efficient, fast and can stand up to every kind of riding that I wanted to do. The best guy to help was someone from the nearest
bike dealer. Of course your cycling friends will eagerly pinch in with their own ideas but here is the thing — their suggestions will probably be biased on the kind of equipment that they own. I sought out the help of a buddy of mine, Hans Yao-Co who is also the Managing Director of Gran Trail Cycles at the Solenad 3 Nuvali in Santa Rosa (Laguna).
Fact 2: Buy it for the exercise.
This would be by far the single most important fact that could sway the approval in favor of the “Go-Ahead-Purchase” verdict.
Although riding a bike will not reduce my not-so-attractive tummy bulge, it will surely do wonders for one’s health. It is generally accepted to be great cardio workout and yet gentle on the legs, hips, and glutes. However for beginning bikers it is prudent to start slow, like on flat terrain and progress to more challenging trails as one gains experience and miles. A minimum of half and hour is good target to start you with bike riding.
The bike has to fit your body buid so that it causes no strain on muscles and joints (that’s in Fact 3 next). I thought that perhaps my mountain bike should be custom-built using the parts that Gran Trail Cycles sell as well. Hans thoughtfully dissuaded me from this because a complete bike like the Rocky Mountain Soul is 20 percent cheaper, mainly because of discounts given by (for example) component maker Shimano Japan to bike brands like Rocky Mountain. Incidentally, Gran Trail Cycles is the exclusive distributor of Rocky Mountain bicycles in the Philippines.
Fact 3: Know what size to buy.
Most novice buyers do not know that bicycles in general are sold in a variety of sizes. For example, the wheels of the bike come in 3 different sizes. Up until 2011, ninety percent of bikes sold had
26-inch wheels. Later, 29-inch wheels were introduced followed a few years later by 27.5 inch models. Here is the rub — 26-inchers are old school and not cool. The 27.5” is hot at the moment — the newest standard in mountain bike wheel size that has the rolling benefits of a 29” with the agility of the older 26”.
The actual bike frame is also manufactured in various sizes. It varies between brands. Hans suggests that you take the bike out for a spin. It’s like try-tasting Baskin and Robbins ice cream before buying. Ride the bike, get a feel for it then judge if it is for you. You can do this at a Gran Trail Cycles shop near you.
Fact 4: Decide on a budget.
Finally we come to the most crucial argument for the purchase proposal — the price point. How much money should be budgeted for the mountain bike? On this topic Hans shares a clever tidbit of observation: “Filipinos are drawn to the “barkada purchase, a friend or a group of them can influence the final purchase decision”.
At certain price points, most brands will offer essentially the same features. The decision will come down to individual preferences like color, symmetry and the sticker art on the frame. As the price goes higher, the choice then rests on more technical or mechanical differences. We concurred that for the newbie mountain biker, the ideal price range is from PHP 30,000 to 40,0000.
Before sending you off to a grand mountain bike adventure, your new bike will go through a final mechanical tuning and safety inspection by Gran Trail Cycles’ in-house mechanic.
Fact 5: Ride safely.
Mountain biking, depending on what kind of rider you are can either be a laid back activity, or a mild to uber-extreme sport. It might even be (IMHO) correlated to how the rider woke up in the morning. Waking to a slight feeling of irritation may coax a more aggressive ride. Do it any way you want but ride safely. The list enumerates riding essentials that are indispensable as the bike itself.
Helmets. Whether you go for the standard mountain-bike-style helmet with lots of vents, or a ull-face jaw-protecting motorcycle-style helmet, for obvious safety reasons your helmet MUST fit properly.
Gloves. Full-fingered or fingerless gloves with good padding will keep your hands from going numb and getting blisters, cuts, and scrapes. They are also good for wiping snot!
Goggles. Any shatter-proof eyewear is great for keeping debris and overhanging foliage out of your eyes.
Food and Water. Unless one is brain-dead, no one rides without these necessities. A hydration pack with enough room for a litre of water, snacks and tools is a good item to buy along with the bike. Incidentally, a cell phone is a smart thing to bring on a bike ride.
In the end these facts were presented and I argued my case in a way that was short of brilliant. I managed to persuade my wife into giving her seal of approval for the purchase. In hindsight, I wish I could have renegotiated for more money to buy the awesome Niner RLT hybrid bike instead but I settled for a mountain bike. The wiser part of me begged me to rest the case, which I did. The Niner will be a target for another time perhaps.
I live in Sta. Rosa and my favorite route is to ride all the way to Tagaytay. The trails here are numerous and safe because vehicle traffic is not dense especially in the early morning hours. My first ride with my mountain bike was an experience that was indelibly printed in my mind. The greenery passed by me like a silent river as I descended a hill. I felt the wind on my face. Midway through the ride I came to a hill, climbed to the top, and took a breather as a slight drizzle fell. At the pause I looked around and marvelled at the scenery that I never imagined existed so close to home or so far from the beaten path.
Every time I ride my mind is cleared of the concerns of life and quite often, it brings fresh insight and new ideas. Perhaps your first ride will be as unforgettable. It will all happen on the trail and on your new bike. As quickly as it started, your first ride will end — after hours of riding, you feel like you have achieved something.
Gran Trail Cycles is at the Nuvali Solenad 3, Santa Rosa Laguna with other branches at El Molito Commercial Complex in Madrigal Avenue, Alabang and 830 Arnaiz Street in Makati