Ten Things I Learned From Biking in the Philippines

The post is written by Kevin Olega follow him on twitter.

Last weekend, after consistently trying to convince myself to buy a bike and to not buy a bike I decided to put my decision in favor of the opposite of where my fear was trying to take me. I decided to buy a bike. Buying and using the bike in the Philippines can be a little scary. It is terrifying because filipino bus drivers can turn bikers into minced meat in a heartbeat. I don’t want to live my life afraid of death. I realized that I can die at any time. Even if commuting is the most powerful vehicle I could be on “The Bus” I can still die from it. I’ve always wanted to buy a bike and use it. I stopped using my bike at ten or so because my parents didn’t want me to die, or so they said. To overcome my fear I exposed myself to peer pressure and influence myself in favor of buying. So after all this self inflicted existential mental torture I decided to get on with it and throw in a fork full of money to buy a bike.

Here are some of the things I’ve learned.

  1. Travel Light. The cheaper bikes are heavy. As you upgrade, you learn that the more expensive or the better quality parts are lighter than their cheaper counterparts. Bikers know that the lighter you are the better your experience is. I eventually learned when I practiced minimalism TK (link to minimal changes) the lighter I go in life the better quality I had in my life because I had less to think about. When I studied User Experience Design I learned that the less (but better quality) choices the user has the more enjoyable the experience is. So what I'm really trying to say here is that less is more.
  2. Plan Ahead. You can't predict the future up ahead. You can guess some parts of it. Here's the thing, I learned that if you don't know what you want to do next you spend your time deciding indefinitelty and that's a long time. We spend too much time deciding what we want to do on a daily basis by the time we already decided then we already have used too much time and mental resources deciding and we don't have time to execute what to do.
  3. Do Not Kid Yourself - Use Honest Measurements for Endurance Level. Admitting your level is not a display of weakness but intelligence. When someone asks me how far I can go with my strength, I can bench 250lbs I can run three hours straight I can fight 12 opponents bigger than me. The reality is I can do less than that, I already am past the prime of my strength. In real life I take on too much projects. More than I am honestly capable of. I have trouble saying no. I try to do more that I think I actually can and it gets me in trouble not just with others but more importantly to myself.
  4. Know where to stop and take breaks. You can't be "on" 100% of the time. You'll eventually get tired and you'll need to take a break. It's foolish to ignore exhaustion. Running out of stamina whether physical or mental can be fatal if this occurs in the right conditions. If you don't plan breaks or recognize indicators of the need for breaks you will end up failing because of your incorrect application of hard work. Whenever my performance is not doing well I know it's time to take a break. If I'm happy and energized I feel like I can do anything. If I'm not, I kinda suck.
  5. Remember to pray. We profess that God is the creator of all and is in control. This is an encouraging message but I fail to apply this everyday to how I live. Being on the bike reminds me that one day I am going to die. One false step and I'm dead. It reminds me to settle all unfinished business that I have. The bike isn't a way for me to escape reality, it's a way for me to escape lost perspective.
  6. Security and safety is an illusion but do what you can to stay safe on your end. One of my favorite lessons from my mentor Carlo, I was walking with him on the busy street of Ortigas back when the iPhone 3g was new. He took a call and shortly after, replied to a text. I asked him how much the iPhone was then. He said he got it for about forty thousand pesos. It was brand new then. I asked him if he was worried about it getting snatched or getting mugged or stabbed for his iPhone? These things happen. He reminded me that "Everything is under God's control. Until he fulfills his purpose in life, he is immortal. God is in charge of his protection." Watching Game of Thrones made me realize that God's protection (in the show's case, the author's protection) is better than any armor but it's still a good idea to wear a helmet and follow traffic rules.
  7. Start with the lowest acceptable model. Sales people and well meaning friends will do the best to get you the highest model they can get you to spend on. When I began working on learning how to cook, Tim Ferriss gave the same advice on buying knives. In his recommended starter items for aspiring home chef's, he picked a $7 cleaver to which he anticipated the criticism, "why would you recommend such garbage?" he then responds by and I paraphrase "It's a good enough item to start with. If you get advice from sales people they will recommend the highest priced item that fits your budget." Start with your interests and as you get better increase the quality your hardware.
  8. Be prepared for the worst case scenario. Someday I'm going to die and until I know that and embrace that, I'm crippled by my fear of dying. I can die prematurely even if I don't bike. I am not testing the limits of God's protection. I am acknowledging God's soverignty and the rules he set on this planet that humans are mortal. Modern humans, as technology evolved have been successful at taking themselves out of the food chain. There are no wild predators to avoid on a daily basis because we live in the city. Upgrades in technology enable us to live longer and overcome a whole lot of diseases that killed many in the past. We eventually wanted immortality, or at least to live as long as possible. In all these blessing that we received, we tend to forget that we will eventually die. That our death will come at our ripe old age of eighty or longer. > Mercenary: How would you like to die? Tyrion Lannister: At the rightful age of eighty and with a young woman's mouth wrapped around my cock.
  9. Pay attention by single tasking. I can't write while riding the bike. I can't listen to music or a podcast. I can't play a game while on a bike. All I can do is pay attention to the road. Not doing so will get me killed. Doing many things at once had caused many failures for me. Multitasking is scientifically a lie. What happens is switching attention focus between tasks. And it takes more energy and limited brain power to do more things at the same time. One thing at a time. Only what's in front of you.
  10. Enjoy the process. Biking is exhausting. It's sometimes a real hassle. Long bike rides are painful. Despite that I get stronger, healthier and save a little money. It's painful but fun. I would recommend that you give it a shot. As soon as you've done your first run you'll love it.

**Have you tried biking in Metro Manila? How was your experience? I’d love to hear about your lessons in the comments bellow. **