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Why buying a super bicycle worth more than a million makes perfect sense

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Meet the MAMIL (Middle-Aged Men In Lycra).


WORDS  ROME JORGE

Super bicycles. That’s the name for them. They’re the equivalent of super cars by manufacturers such as Lamborghini and Ferrari in the automotive world. They are vehicles finely engineered with aerodynamics and aerospace materials such as carbon-fiber composites and titanium for speed and performance. They have been tested, honed, and vindicated in the world’s most prestigious and grueling races. They are machines that have passed muster with the world’s best professionals.

But unlike with super cars, the vast majority of the very select few men and women who ride super bicycles are not laughably corpulent middle-aged men compensating for lost virility with powerful motors and sleek car bodies. Unlike horsepower, you can’t buy pedal power. Lycra doesn’t lie. And bicycles aren’t for picking up chicks; they are serious racing machines for serious racers.

The men and women who ride super bikes are focused on performance. Cyclists who ride super bikes earn it through arduous training and determination undaunted by the world’s toughest Ironman triathlons, giros, and tours. When you are the engine, you take every bit of unnecessary weight, every bit of unnecessary wind resistance, and every bit of unnecessary discomfort personally. The race is tough enough without adding to it a bicycle that weighs you down on the climbs, holds you back in the wind, and rubs you the wrong way causing sores and numbness. You want the very best your money can buy. Being one with the bike—it truly is an extension of your body.

Triathlons are the new golf—the sport of today’s executive class, with the likes of Fernando Zobel and Fred Uytengsu leading the way. Any seasoned triathlete will tell you that: a.) It’s all about the time management, and b.) it’s age-groupers 40 and above that are most competitive. Only those in leadership roles wherein they can delegate responsibilities have the time to train in three different sports.

The Tour de France and other famed road cycling events have also inspired a new breed of men who have embraced the media’s moniker for them: MAMIL or Middle-Aged Men In Lycra. And unlike those that deal with midlife crisis by purchasing super cars and super motorbikes, MAMILs have earned their rides with sinew worthy of their steeds.

‘MAMIL’ PUSHER
The men who supply the Philippines’ elite cyclists with the world’s very best bicycles—some worth over a million—shared with High Life who buys their bikes, what they ride, and why. They know what they are talking about; they are avid cyclists themselves who earned their success with their passion and involvement as with their customer service and premium brands.

Glenn Colendrino, a stockbroker by profession, cofounded Primo Cycles at Forbes Town Center, Burgos Circle, Rizal Drive, Bonifacio Global City, Fort Bonifacio after he had his own midlife transformation. “I got into cycling through mountain biking way back in 2000 when my son and daughter were born. After that, I felt that I had to get in shape. I was a party guy, as I would go home at six in the morning and stuff like that, so I needed a drastic change of lifestyle. Me, I’m guilty of that. I’m a MAMIL.”

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Pinarello Bolide

In 2008, Mr. Colendrino decided that he wanted to train for triathlons and shift from mountain bikes to road bikes. “But when we went around there were only a few choices carrying decent products and shops that were actually covering warranties the same way western businesses would really uphold warranties and provide after-sales service and the whole customer service experience,” he recalled.

He and his partners, John Clogg and David Almendral, opened Primo Cycles in 2011 to fill this gap. “We wanted to change the whole industry by offering honest-to-goodness service and parts.” When it opened, Primo Cycles carried brands such as Pinarello, Cervelo, and Felt. The shop’s clientele—guys who already own bikes and want to progress to the next level—know that they can get more choices and customization when they visit Primo.

Today, clients include celebrities, sports icons, and executives. One regular patron, on the occasion of his 40th birthday, passed on a Porsche from his mother and asked for a bike instead. “True story,” said Mr. Colendrino, “the thing is, the guy could afford to buy the car on his own, but it’s the thought that counts.”

Primo Cycles pays it forward by supporting Filipino athletes. “We’ve been helping so many cyclists and triathletes, from your age-groupers, to some pros, to some of our national team athletes. When the Triathlon Association of the Philippines sends their triathletes to me, I don’t charge them.”

‘WINNINGEST’ BRANDS
Primo Cycles sells the Cervelo P5X Lamborghini Edition carbon-fiber composite triathlon bike, which is the top-of-the-line P5X in a gorgeous Lamborghini yellow pattern. Price tag: Php1.1 million. Mr. Colendrino revealed that out of the 25 bikes produced, two are heading to the Philippines. “I’m not at liberty to tell you who’s buying, but one bike is going to Manila and the other one is going to Mindanao.”

According to Mr. Colendrino, the reason the P5X is so expensive is that each and every frame is hand-built in Minnesota. And yet, despite the cost, the P5X is popular among triathletes who are doing the full Ironman: Cervelo Bicycles dominate the bike count at the Kona Ironman—the world’s toughest triathlon, with more ironmen and ironwomen using Cervelo than any other bike brand.

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Pinarello Dogma

Another much sought after bicycle is the Pinarello Dogma—one of the most esteemed road bikes in the world. The frame set alone costs Php340,000. More Tour de France races have been won with Pinarello than with any other bicycle. Another bicycle from Pinarello, the Bolide, specifically designed for time trial races, costs a million.

ITALIAN COLLECTION
On the other side of the Metro is Paul Laurence Tan, owner and CEO of Mega Ideal Enterprises. He is better known as the man who is bringing to the Philippines Bianchi bicycles—a vaunted Italian heritage brand founded in 1885 made all the more iconic because of its patented shade of green known as “Celeste”—as well as some 30 other renowned cycling brands, many of which are Italian such as ITM components, Astute Italia saddles, Challenge handmade tires, and Suomy bike helmets.

Mr. Tan is poised to make his presence better known to high-end bicycle enthusiasts with Celeste Cycles shops. Already in operation along Congressional Road is Celeste Cycles, a Hong Kong-style shop that’s chock-full of bicycles and parts. Opening soon is the Celeste Café and Cycles, a retro-style bicycle concept store in Circulo Verde Mall, Pasig, which will open its doors in time for the launching of the Escuderia Ferrari bicycles jointly developed with Bianchi.

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Bianchi Oltre XR4

The affinity for cycling is in Mr. Tan’s blood. His father was a mechanic who tinkered with bikes and motorcycles in a small shop in Daraga, Albay. In 1996, the elder Tan came to Manila and, with the help of his brother—who owned a metal factory—opened a bicycle manufacturing business called Megabikes in Valenzuela. “Those bikes were steel frames, mostly commuter bikes, and bicycles for kids. In 2001, with the boom in the Chinese economy, we realized it was cheaper to buy bicycles from China. We shut down the factory in Valenzuela and became a trading company,” he recalled.

An avid cyclist himself, Mr. Tan has joined executive tours. But it was his passion for bike collecting—he owns about 70—that led him to distribute the very best European brands. The authentic parts he needed for his bicycle collection are the same brands that Celeste Cycles carries today. “I really love bikes, it’s addictive—like drugs,” he said.

Among his most prized possessions is one of several Bianchi Specialissima bicycles specifically tailored for the late legendary Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia champion Marco Pantani. Other bicycles of note are the vintage Bianchi L’Eroica and the Bianchi Oltre XR4 “Leon” aero road bike with a custom paint job (it’s emblazoned with the Philippine flag). The latter was gifted to Mr. Tan by none other than Bianchi CEO Bob Ippolito. “He gave it to me as a token of friendship,” he said, adding that it’s valued at around Php700,000. “But for me it’s priceless. It’s unique. It’s the only one in the world.”