How the pandemic got photojournalist Lisa Marie David into cycling

During a Tambike Session podcast episode about cycling as a newbie, Lisa mentioned that she’s grateful that while she was literally biking alone during the start of her cycling journey, she had friends who were always ready to answer her bike-related questions.

This photojournalist will never forget the time when she found herself crying in the middle of a bike ride after a frustrating day at work. The cyclist was 15 kilometers away from home and as tears ran down her face, it started raining.

Photojournalist Lisa Marie David’s cycling journey only began during the pandemic, back when restrictions during the lockdown were tough and moving around the city was difficult. She recalled being drawn into purchasing a bicycle because she needed it for work.

“Noong April 2020, bumili ako ng folding bike. Freelancer kasi ako so wala akong service and going from point A to point B eh kailangan ko ng masasakyan. ‘Yung bike ‘yung naging service ko for work,” Lisa said in a Tambike Session podcast interview. “Eh wala akong license, wala rin akong sasakyan. Ang only choice ko was to get a bike.”

Her first bicycle was a second-hand folding bike she bought online. Aside from meeting her budget requirement, it has a basket that could carry her stuff for work. That time, she was covering the pandemic news at hospitals and crematories.

Getting a bike was not difficult for Lisa — thanks to her former partner who gave her tips on what to look at in buying a bicycle, the needed accessories that she must have and the trustworthy bike shops to get all of the essentials. However, she had a big problem. The photojournalist was not sure if she can balance on a bicycle.

“Parang huling beses ako nag-bike ay 5-6 years old ako. Eh hindi naman din talaga ako nagba-bike noon, angkas lang ako that time. So hindi ako sure kung kaya kong mag-bike,” she said. “’Yung first time kong lumabas gamit ‘yung folding bike, triny ko papuntang supermarket. Kaya naman pala, nagba-balance naman ako.”

She added, “Maluwag ‘yung daan nun so ‘yung introduction ko sa city cycling ay madali kasi as in wala talagang sasakyan. As in hindi ako nagwo-worry na biglang may jeep na makabangga sa akin or motorcycles or mga galit na SUV.”

Her first proper bike ride was from her home in Quezon City to a media company’s headquarters in Pasig.

Back then, since she’s almost always cycling solo, there were moments when Lisa felt that her trips were difficult. As a commuter who depended on navigation to whoever is driving, going to her destinations alone was challenging. She said that Google Maps became her reliable buddy.

“Noong time na ‘yun, wala pa akong kakilala na photojournalist na nagba-bike so medyo nagugulat ‘yung mga kasama ko na ‘hala nag-bike ka lang papunta dito?’ Wala pa akong gaanong matanungan nung time na ‘yun. Tapos iba rin yung conditions noong lockdown so kinapa ko talaga siya from scratch,” she said.

Two years later, there was an evident change in her cycling activities. Eventually, her friends and other photojournalists would bike to their coverage too. She was able to get a bicycle with bigger wheels — she’s using a gravel bike. Lisa is also enjoying cycling as a recreational activity.

In 2020, the photojournalist was struggling with 15 kilometers. Now, she can confidently say that she has managed to finish a 100-kilometer bike ride and can conquer the hills of Rizal solo.

“Pero stressful siya that time kasi wala pa ‘yung idea sa akin noon na gagamitin ko ‘yung bike for leisure. Ang tingin ko talaga ay gagamitin ko siya for work,” she said. “Tapos may times na ginagabi ako sa mga shoot, so physically exhausting. Minsan umiiyak ako habang nagba-bike pauwi tapos uulan pa.”

During a Tambike Session podcast episode about cycling as a newbie, Lisa mentioned that she’s grateful that while she was literally biking alone during the start of her cycling journey, she had friends who were always ready to answer her bike-related questions.

However, there was this instance when she posted a catcalling incident and there were people in her network who advised her to be careful of what she wears while biking. For a time, this made the cyclist conscious — even though the real problem was the disrespectful men. Thanks to more women in the cycling community, Lisa was empowered and got the confidence to wear whatever she wanted to wear.

“May mga nag-advice sa akin na ‘kahit gaano kahaba ‘yan, wag ka mag-shorts.’ First time ko mag-bike na hindi work-related. First time ko ma-catcall. Pinost ko ‘yung experience ko doon. Siyempre hindi mo maiwasan na may nagco-comment sa Facebook, ‘mag-ingat ka kasi, wag ka mag-shorts,’” she said.

“The entire time, umiiwas ako mag-shorts. Even sa mga casual rides lang. Last year lang ata ako nagkaroon ng lakas ng loob na mag-shorts. I’ll wear whatever I want kasi ang daming babaeng nagba-bike na hindi naka-pants na nakakapag-bike naman sila. Bakit hindi ko pwedeng gawin din ‘yon?”

Since restrictions are eased now and public transportation is back, Lisa admits that she gets less saddle time to work. But she still rides her bike, mostly for leisure and especially when she’s with friends.

When asked to give tips to people who’d like to ride a bike, Lisa recommends finding a community.

“Find a cycling community. Pero it doesn’t necessarily mean nab ago ka mag-bike, kailangan may kasama ka na. In cycling, you can do it alone and then you can find a community,” she says.

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