In these more than five months of COVID19 lockdown, I have written twice about biking as I have seen the sharp rise in the numbers of bikers and how people have turned to riding these two-wheelers for safety and practical reasons. I accidentally learned how to ride the bike in high-school. It was one of those lazy afternoons and with nothing to do, I mounted on my brother’s bicycle idly resting in the garage. I was testing and feeling it through and trying to balance myself when it rolled slowly down the slope of the driveway. With no one around to help me stop the bike, I held on to the handlebar, looked straight ahead and decided to focus on my balance to avoid a fall. It was easy, breezy. Until I had to make a u-turn and the crash left me with gashes on my knees, palms and elbows. No broken bones. Just a bruised ego.
I have become adept at bikes since then. But I have never owned one. So when this pandemic happened, and the most practical way to go around the village to get some sunshine and fresh air is to ride a bike, I decided to get myself one. And this is how I met Jess Benlot, the manager of Gran Trail Cycles, who willingly shared his inspiring story of how entrepreneurship and grit enabled him to cope with this pandemic: “When the ECQ was announced, we closed our Gran Trail Cycles which is located somewhere south of Metro Manila which sells high-end bikes and caters to serious cyclists. But we had to think fast and pivoted the business online,” said Benlot. And it was through the information superhighway that their store started getting orders as far as Davao and from various other places around the country. “Sales was very good but the challenge was the shipment from suppliers,” he shared.
Due to the global economic slowdown because of the pandemic, they were running low on inventory, thus his boss decided to shift to low-end and affordable bikes. That is when their sales really picked up as customers, mostly health care workers, would buy their two-wheelers to get them to and from the frontlines of COVID19.
Benlot also got the idea of putting his own shop where he lives to cater to those who are near his residence: “My wife is an accountant and now works from home and I was able to convince her to man the shop while I still do my regular work.” It did not take a lot of convincing for Benlot’s boss to allow him to put his own shop on the condition that he continues to manage Gran Trail Cycles. “My boss was very supportive. In fact, he gave the bikes to me at cost so I can earn a little from my business”, he enthused. I guess when somebody does good to you, the best way to repay it is by paying it forward. This was what Benlot did as soon as he started his own bicycle business. “I try to sell my bikes with a very small margin. At times, when I know that the buyer who is usually from around my area, cannot really afford but badly needs one, I just sell it at cost,” he said. So far, business has been thriving.
While on the subject of biking, I would like to commend the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) for issuing Memorandum Circular 2020-100 “which recognizes the presence of cyclists as co-users of our roads. It has also mandated the Local Government Units to create a network of routes in their localities designed to protect cyclists from motorized vehicles and promote riding as an alternative means of transportation.” This was close on the heels of several accidents that have caused deaths and injuries to bikers, many of whom are frontliners who have to resort to biking to get to their places of work due to lack of mass transportation.
I guess the government is really serious in alleviating the plight of our bikers as according to a news report, three other government agencies, namely, the Department of Health, the Department of Transportation and the Department of Public Works and Highways, together with the DILG, have signed the Joint Administrative Order 2020-0001 which provided guidance for the promotion and safe use of active transport during and after the pandemic. Through this administrative order, the “national and local government agencies are given directions on how to properly promote and encourage cycling as a means of transport.”
With the resolution of this pandemic nowhere near in sight, I am pretty sure that there will be more and more bikers out there in the streets. Whether we bike to work or bike for recreation, let us always keep in mind and follow the rules of the road. And may I also remind our motorists to be kind to our bikers; the next one riding close by could be a health worker or nurse who is cycling to save lives afflicted with this virus and that life could be your friends or any of your loved ones.
Peachy Vibal–Guioguio is a PR strategist who has led communications departments in GMA Network, ABS-CBN, and TV5. She enjoys long drives, taking scenic routes, and finds a thrill going wherever she pleases behind a wheel. She has yet to learn how to replace a flat tire.