When they turn forty, most men buy sportscars and/or take a more than passing interest in younger women.
But not me.
I had no such cash for the first and no such luck with the second.
After all, money—minus rent, books, and beer (in that order of importance)—was tighter than rush hour traffic on EDSA.
Meanwhile, matters in the relationship department deserve very little mention because awkward, introverted, and separated males—such as myself—rarely become popular among women overnight.
In short, immediately before I hit the Big Four-O, I was unloved, unwanted, and uncool, much like a Filipino politician’s pork barrel funds. [See: Why are pork barrel funds unpopular in the Philippines]
Financially challenged, socially inadequate, and—to complete the tragic trifecta—hopelessly drunk, I figured I needed to make a turn for the better now that I was at the cusp of—for the lack of a better term—adulthood.
So I got myself a bicycle.
It wasn’t just any regular bike.
It was a white-colored, single-speed, Japanese-made Bridgestone Radac road bike fitted with a rear rack that could carry a house and a pair of Italian-manufactured randonneur tires thinner than an anorexic supermodel.
It was sleek, it was beautiful, and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life.
I almost missed the chance to buy it.
Initially, artist, cycling champion, and bike collector Egai Fernandez offered to sell me a fixie. [See: Egai Fernandez]
Held in high regard by collectors and afficionados—many of whom are hipsters—the fixie requires getting used to because it didn’t have any hand brakes. To stop and/or slow down required a combination of moves such as jerking the pedal backwards and/or twisting the handle bar to the left or right.
It was too much work, especially for someone who wanted to cruise around the University of the Philippines’ carless oval and not train for the UFC.
All I wanted was to shed weight and, if possible, get to see some flash of spectacular thigh (to quote Donald Fagen’s Pixielene), courtesy of female joggers at the oval.
Good thing I chose the Bridgestone Bike.
Because the minute I got on it, I almost never wanted to get off.
It wasn’t just simply about riding a bike—which is an activity that is fun by itself—it was the whole slew of possibilities that came with living a life on two wheels.
At first, my bike and I only shuttled between three locations—the apartment, the gym, and a cheap canteen that managed to serve decent food with enough grease to lubricate my bike chain for a year.
About a month later, I got bored by the routine.
So I brought the game up a notch—I decided to travel to work on my bike.
It wasn’t as difficult as it looked.
After planning my route to and from the office—which at that time was ten or so kilometers away from home—biking to work as I later learned was a cheaper and a healthier alternative to public transportation.
Biking to work also became fun and addictive, much like drinking after biking to work, a practice that a fellow biker and I indulged in on several occasions.
Once I knew my way around several parts of the city on a bike, I became addicted to biking that I bought three bikes—one brand new—in a period of six months.
To make full use of these bikes (now cut down to two, one for work and the other for weekends), I became something of a bike messenger, especially to friends who had to run errands but had no time to do so.
Armed with pannier that clung on to the bike rack like a needy partner, I was able to pick up and deliver boxes of pizza to a busy couple and their kid, bring medicine to a sick friend, and even buy, bring, and deliver a slightly-used Sony Playstation 2.
All these favors were repaid in several ways by the biking gods. [See: The Biking Gods Must Be Crazy]
For one thing, I was able to shed two inches off my waist without any effort at all.
And for another, I had gotten lost and was able to find my way back when I went to Novaliches from Marikina, by far the most epic bike ride I ever took since it involved more than ten kilometers of uneven roads, steep hills, and congested pathways.
To this day, I remain grateful to a young boy on a noisy BMX who rode beside me and guided me until I reached Novaliches.
As he sped away to a destination I had never even cared to ask about, I finally figured out what Blanche du Bois said about depending on the kindness of strangers.
I guess you could say the same thing about bikers.