The group called ‘San Ride Bukas?’ started as a group chat with just a few members. Now, it is a biking community of thousands who fell in love with the sport.
When the pandemic started, Ghia Vicente did not know how to ride a bike.
But over two years after her first bike ride, she’s sitting down for a chat with The GAME as the founder of San Ride Bukas, a Philippine-based biking community, telling us about one of her favorite rides ever — a 185-kilometer ride to Laguna.
As a very long ride, Ghia told us that they had to start early. By 4:30 AM, she and her riding group were out on the road, riding in the dark, making their way to Laguna. And as the sun had not yet risen, it was still cold out.
“You know that kind of kilig that you get ‘pag malamig? Parang [yinayakap] ka ng cold weather? ‘Yun ang naramdaman ko, na mukha akong tanga na kinikilig ako while biking,” Ghia shared with us.
And then all of a sudden, the sun started to rise.
“It was so beautiful,” she expressed, getting goosebumps while telling the story just as she had while she was witnessing it firsthand.
These are what she refers to as ‘goosebump moments.’ And she has had plenty of these ever since she started her biking group, San Ride Bukas.
How did San Ride Bukas start?
For those of you who don’t know yet, San Ride Bukas is a community of bike riders, whose members make up a mix of casual, professional, and executive riders, who get together a few times a week to ride.
“We started during the pandemic,” Ghia tells us.
“I just learned to bike pandemic time, around February of 2021. So my husband and I and a couple of our friends wanted to hang out. With lockdown and everything, you can’t really go anywhere. So they said, gusto ‘niyo mag-bike?”
Despite not knowing how to bike, Ghia found the courage to learn a new skill. In so doing, she unlocked a passion she did not expect she would have.
When it was just her, her husband, and a few of their friends, they would bike around BGC from 9:00 PM to 1:00 AM, when there were hardly any cars on the road and it was easier to roam around. And, enjoying it so much, they would do this a few times a week.
Over time, they started adding people to their small group. With extra bikes at home, Ghia would lend these to her friends who wanted to try the sport for the first time. And like Ghia, many of them quickly found a love for biking. With this, their group just started to grow in an organic way.
“We were just a group of friends, [around] 15. Back then, I was the only girl pa lang. So we had a group, it started as a coffee ride group — that’s what we called ourselves. And then we changed it to “’San Ride Bukas” because that’s what we asked each other every night.”
In English, ‘San Ride Bukas loosely translates to, “Where are we riding tomorrow?” And as this was always the question between the few friends their group started with, they coined it as their name.
Eventually, the group evolved. Starting with a group chat, they later made an Instagram account where they could document photos and videos of their rides. Their profile started with just 20 followers — just them and their friends. Now, they are inching towards 4,000.
“We didn’t foresee that it would grow,” Ghia admitted. For her and the few that the group started with, it was just a platform to pursue a passion and share it with their friends. But their exposure got a lot more riders involved to become what it is today — a real burgeoning community.
Why ride with a community?
Coming from just 20 followers on their Instagram, if you scroll through their social media pages now, you’ll see photos and videos of their entire community biking — and they are now definitely more than just 20 members.
In fact, their community has grown so much to a point where San Ride Bukas has partnered with several cycling brands and communities for different rides or events. They even have their own merchandise.
But for those of us on the outside looking into San Ride Bukas’ riding community, the question might pop into our heads: what is it about riding that seems so addicting? After all, 100-kilometer bike rides for fun do sound daunting. And yet these riders do it weekly (sometimes more).
Even Ghia herself admitted to getting cold sweats before every ride out. “But after a while,” she shares, “when you’re in the middle of the road, there’s a certain feeling. I can’t explain what happens.
“It’s like a sense of freedom on the road.”
For Ghia, this was one of the best parts about overcoming her fear of biking on the road. And once she started, it became a huge part of her lifestyle. So with this, she went from riding on a hand-me-down bike in yoga clothes to riding on her own bike, fit perfectly for her, in full-on biking gear.
And the same is true for other riders too. It is a whole lifestyle, and it expands further than just the bike rides themselves.
Apart from the endorphin rushes they get biking on the road, another huge part of this community is the bonding aspect. While riding through the busy streets of Manila, their groups always manage to add a social side to it. For instance, when they are going at a relatively easy pace, what Ghia refers to as chika-pace, she and the other riders have fun talking to each other and catching up. This is, after all, how the whole thing began. She and her small group of friends would use biking as an activity to bond.
Now part of their routine isn’t just the exercise, it’s also getting coffee, or eating breakfast together after — it’s like a weekend ritual that they look forward to. And other people look forward to it as well.
Apparently, there are also several photographers who plot themselves along popular cycling paths around the area, such as the Mall of Asia area and on the way to Antipolo. These photographers take pictures of the biking communities who pass by, and this is how many people in the community are able to share this ritual with others, getting even more people into the sport.
But, even when we see the members of San Ride Bukas biking around 100- to 200-kilometer routes, everyone started somewhere, and their community honors that by always welcoming new faces to their crew.
Can beginners join?
Of course, one of the things we wanted to know is whether or not beginners could join their rides, a question to which Ghia enthusiastically replied, “Yes!”
“Everyone was a beginner at one point. My husband and I were guided by a more seasoned rider, so it’s a pay-it-forward type of thing. We were taught how to ride, so we help others how to ride so they can experience the joy of cycling.”
This is a belief and value that the members of San Ride Bukas truly put to practice.
In one instance, at a 60-kilometer ride, a newbie just so happened to join the group, mentioning to the other riders that it was her first time biking out. And this was not an easy 60 kilometers. The route had quite a climb. And knowing this, one of the more seasoned riders in the group made sure to stick by the newbie throughout the entire route.
“When you’re riding in a group, literally no one gets left behind,” Ghia explains to us. “So if there is someone who needs extra attention, someone will really be there to assist. Everyone takes care of each other.”
But, that being said, their community rides don’t always have beginners start with a long-distance route. For instance, when they partnered with Rapha for the Rapha 100, a 100-kilometer bike ride for women, they planned out a whole month filled with training rides to lead up to the full distance. They started with 40 kilometers, then started adding every week, up to 70 and 80 before reaching the full 100.
With these training rides, San Ride Bukas wanted to ensure not only the community’s enjoyment but also their safety. Before every ride, the members would also give briefs and reminders on bike etiquette on the road, especially as they pass through major streets around the country. On top of this, they include sags (vehicles that follow the riders around) and sweepers (bike leaders who follow from the back to keep everyone at pace) to make sure that literally, no one gets left behind.
What are the benefits of cycling?
Hearing the stories of the San Ride Bukas community, it’s certainly clear there are a lot of things to love about riding with a group.
Ghia tells us that when she goes on group rides, which she personally prefers to solo rides, she feels safer. “When I’m riding with my crew, I know if I get a flat, I don’t have to do it on my own. You’re very secure,” she explains.
With that support that stems from the community, this can be extremely beneficial for beginners, especially as the riders are there to push one another to become even stronger athletes with every ride.
But another special thing about cycling, Ghia tells us, are the mental health benefits. As a form of exercise, of course, bikers get a high from the endorphins they feel while on the road. “We all know that if you move around, you feel good after. I have those moments where I feel like it’s so early and I think I don’t want to ride. But after, I’m always so happy that I went.”
Apart from this, however, is the sense of connection she feels riding with San Ride Bukas as an entire community.
“Connecting with others is really good for your mental health,” Ghia expresses. As mentioned, San Ride Bukas really is more of a community than anything. And as a group, it is a way for her, and for the other riders as well, to connect and bond over a common passion.
With all this, there really is something special about San Ride Bukas and how it has not only evolved as a community of bikers from all walks of life, from all fitness and experience levels, but also in how it has evolved the lives of its members.
Though Ghia is just one of the many members whose stories we got to hear, there is something to be said about the thousands of followers they have and the hundreds who go on their community rides, week in, week out. They’ve all been bitten by the bike bug, and they invite anyone else who’s interested to come and join.
Images from San Ride Bukas and Ghia Vicente.