Of Fixies and Personal Finances

Written by Joseph Romana

I got a fixed-gear bike, also known as a fixie. Yes, after more than 6 or 7 years – the only exception being the storm Ondoy when I fetched my wife in Manila after her car stalled – the prodigal son has finally returned to the fun and exciting arms of biking. My wife Carmen Romana and I got a pair of couples’ fixies – she a mini velo and I the standard one – last 4 October 2014 from AA Fixed Gear in Pasay City with the help and encouragement of our good friends Joray Mendoza, Arjun Escober, Samantha Grace Lutz and Nathan Cabigao. Abi Paco, another friend of ours who was instrumental in enticing us to get fixies instead of regular bikes, wanted to come along but had to attend to a prior commitment.

For those who are not familiar with this kind of a bike, a fixie is a fixed-gear bicycle, hence the name. One way it’s different from regular bicycles is that you’ll have to keep pedaling in order to move. If you stop pedaling, you’ll stop moving. With regular bicycles, you can take rests by coasting while moving but with fixies, you can’t.

Another thing with fixies is that most of them don’t have brakes. Since you can’t coast in a fixie bike, your pedals also act as your brakes by countering your forward pedaling motion to break momentum, slow down or stop. It doesn’t mean, however, you can’t attach brakes on fixies – you can. It is advisable for fixie neophytes to install brakes on their fixies for safety until using pedals for brakes becomes 2nd nature. My wife and I got brakes for our bikes and believe me they came in handy during our first ride. Well, at least for me.

To have a better idea of how fixies work, watch the movie Premium Rush starring Joseph Gordon Levitt or just Google the word.

romana-fixie-bikes

MY FIXIE EXPERIENCE AND PERSONAL FINANCE

We went on our first official group ride organized by another friend, Chico Pena, with the aforementioned friends and the rest of the Southern Metro Manila-based riding group South Pedals (founded by another friend, King Lucero) 2 days after or on 6 October 2014, a Monday holiday. And that ride was very memorable in more ways than one and I want to share with you a couple of things I learned that are also applicable to everyone’s personal finances.

PACING

One of the reasons why I feel riding a fixie is more exciting than a regular bike is the fact you can’t go full speed ahead downhill without compromising control and safety – well, more than what you would riding a regular mountain or road bike. Because fixies don’t have the same freewheeling and braking benefits, I was forced to maintain a relatively safe and steady pace instead of going full speed ahead.

It’s the same with personal finances. Going full speed ahead with many financial decisions can result in financial mishaps. Case in point, the people who were hoodwinked by financial scams and Ponzzi schemes like the Aman Futures Scam. Why were they hoodwinked? They were promised super high returns on investment that were supposedly even guaranteed. Given how many Filipinos find it hard to earn money and save for their futures, a promise to double your money in a year or less can be a relatively hard offer to resist.

Another financial decision that can result in financial ruin is quickly taking on a loan without careful analysis. Many get into it for all the wrong reasons and thus, have gotten themselves into deep financial trouble.

Personal finance management requires pacing when it comes to making decisions. Haste makes waste and when it comes to personal finance, carefully weighing the benefits and costs of significant financial decisions is akin to pacing a downhill ride on a fixie bike. It may require effort but it’s worth it.

PROPER FORM

Our first official group ride was along the Daang Hari Road in Southern Metro Manila, a road with significant drops and rises that I took for granted as a motorist. Because I can’t use as much downward momentum for the succeeding rise, pedaling uphill can be quite a daunting challenge. I have been tempted to just use pure leg power but my weight won’t allow it. Our friend Arjun advised us that if pure leg power isn’t enough, don’t force it. Either pedal standing up – using body weight to push on the pedal – or just walk uphill. The reason being is if I force myself to pedal up using insufficient leg power, I run the risk of injuring my knee. By pedaling while standing up, I let my own body weight (which is more than sufficient, trust me) power my pedal and preserve my knee.

Personal finance also requires we observe some semblance of “proper form” or way of doing things if we are to successfully provide for our present and future needs. For example, we can’t continuously blow all our earnings and expect to have our needs met when we retire. We need to consistently have more cash inflows than outflows if we are to have a nest egg for our golden years or send our kids to good schools later on.

JOINT EFFORT

My wife and I wouldn’t have been able to get a good pair of fixies without the expert advice and assistance of Joray Mendoza and Arjun Escober, the fixie masters of our group. They assisted us in choosing our bikes’ colors and specs. They also hooked us up with a good supplier and made our first fixie purchase quite an exciting and enjoyable one. Without them, I suspect we would have had a difficult time scoring our 2 babies.

During our ride, I suffered a nasty knee gash, lost consciousness and while riding back home, suffered from massive cramps. My wife and I wouldn’t have been able to get back home safely and comfortably if it weren’t for the help of Rein Tatlonghari, Jim Baluyut and Pey Tomas. They helped me get to a nearby clinic, dressed my wounds and when I suffered from massive cramps, volunteered to drive me and my wife home along with our bikes. Without them, it would’ve taken us a long and difficult time dealing with my injury and getting back home.

There is strength in numbers and as the Bible says in Ecclesiastes 4:12, 3 strands of cord can’t be easily broken. My fixie experience has further solidified my and my wife’s belief about the value of being surrounded with great friends and mentors. We wouldn’t have been able to bike that far without the help and advice of our great riding friends.

When it comes to personal finances, we also need friends and mentors to not only give us wise and sound financial advice but to also hold us accountable for financial decisions and behaviors. No man is an island and if we want our personal finances to prosper, we’ll need other people to help us, teach us and encourage us.

FINANCIAL RIDE

Pacing, proper form and joint effort – just as these are key to our successful and enjoyable fixie bike rides, these are the same for our personal finances. Don’t rush into making important financial decisions, do them the right way and enlist the help of trustworthy friends and family and your chances of successfully providing for current and future needs will significantly increase.

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Photo by the Author.

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Joseph Gerard “Seph” Romana worked as a Bank Examiner at the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corporation (PDIC). He is former Market and Liquidity Risk Officer with Metrobank, former treasury trader at United Coconut Planters Bank, and former stockbroker at All Asia Securities and Apex Philippines Equities Corporation. Seph is also a resource speaker for his church’s Biblical Personal Finance seminars. On his artistic side, Seph also was the former frontman of the band Army of One. He advocates financial literacy among artists and young professionals. He is currently the President of Angat Pilipinas Coalition for Financial Literacy.

*This article appeared first at the Philippine Online Chronicles.

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