William Garcia is one of the many Filipinos who was hit hard by the pandemic. He used to work as a project manager in Guimaras for a bicycle company, something he was enjoying before the lockdown. However, due to Covid-19 restrictions, he was forced to go back to Iloilo City because his job stopped operations.
In order for him and his family to survive, he decided to let his two enduro bikes go — selling them for less than half of their prices. Using some of the money he got from the sale and through the help of some friends, he opened a bike shop that he called “Bike Lab.”
“Nabuo ‘yung ‘Bike Lab’ noong pandemic kasi nawalan ako ng trabaho. Bumalik ako dito sa Iloilo City galing sa Guimaras dahil nawalan ako ng income,” he said. “Nag-start din ako mag-invest ng bisikleta, nag-purchase ako sa Manila, I tried to ship here tapos inadapt ko ‘yung ginagawa ko sa dati kong work. Nagbenta, nagpa-renta, nag-customize.”
The idea of opening a shop started when he bought a Japanese bicycle after selling his two enduro bikes. It was something that he and his family used for commutes and going around the city.
Then one day, a person asked him where he could buy the same Japanese vehicle that he was using. William suddenly realized that these bicycles would be a hit in Iloilo.
For his trial run, he shipped seventy Japanese bicycles. In a span of one week, everything got sold out. Business became good and he continued ordering more to cater for the demands of this cycling city.
“Dati, walo hanggang dose na bike ang nabebenta ko buong araw. Mga one year siguro na maganda ang sale. Tapos unti-unting humina tapos ngayong medyo bihira na ang bumibili,” he said. “Pero ngayon, nagpapa-rent rin ako tsaka nagre-repair ng bike.”
Those who are interested can rent a bicycle from Bike Lab for 40 pesos an hour. Whole day fee, which covers from 6am to 6pm, costs 250 pesos.
William has seen how bicycles can be a great help for the city, the environment and for one’s health. That’s probably why he continued to find work around bicycles and carried on with improving his craft in this industry.
Six years ago, the bike shop owner decided to shift to cycling as his main mode of transportation by selling his two motorbikes. Back then, he was still working in Guimaras and realized that a bicycle was enough for his needs.
“Dati hindi importante sa akin ‘yung bike. Mga six years ago, ang mentality ko ay ‘bike lang yan, bisyo lang, for pleasure.’ Pero natutunan ko na sustainable pala talaga ang bike,” he said. “Sa Guimaras, hindi mo kailangan mag-spend ng malaki para mag-enjoy kung naka-bisikleta ka. Kapag nagmo-motor kasi, ‘yung 500 pesos mo parang limited na kasi iba-budget mo sa gas at iba pa.”
Now, William advocates cycling and does many things to help more individuals get into bikes. He used to conduct bike clinics where he teaches people to learn how to ride a bike and organizes bike rides and tours to encourage more people to get into this lifestyle.
Aside from being busy managing his shop, William is currently working on a cargo bike that is soon to be finished. His passion for bicycles go beyond leisure as he wants to create his own version of this sustainable transport.
“Inspired ako gumawa ng cargo bike. As an artist, gusto ko ng kakaiba. Gusto ko kasi na kapag pumupunta sa isang bike shop, kakaiba ang makikita. This was inspired by those in the Netherlands. First project koi tong cargo bike na ito, prototype pa lang at hindi pa 100% complete,” he said.
If you’re interested in renting a bike in Iloilo City, you may visit the Bike Lab along Luna Street. He’s also renting his kayaks too! Follow Bike Lab’s Facebook page to be updated with their tours, rides and other activities.