Creating safe spaces amidst a chaotic public transport system in the city
The idea of making the painstaking journey across C5, Pasig river, & Pasig Blvd just to have his bike fixed inspired Kevin Skinker to start the Tambay Cycling Hub + Bike Shop. We got to visit the shop and learn more about Kevin Skinker, his whole team, as well as friends who helped Tambay Cycling Hub be what it is today and what they want it to be in the future.
Kevin studied International Relations & Urban Studies in college where he first started using the bicycle as his primary mode of transport before moving to the Philippines in 2014.
When Kevin moved to the Philippines, he continued to use the bicycle as his primary mode of transportation.
“I got a surplus Araya bike for my daily commute along Commonwealth for football training and I still ride it 8 years later.”
One day, he wanted to have his bike fixed but learned that his local go-to bike shop was permanently closed. So instead of crossing C5, the Pasig river, or climbing Pasig Blvd. on a broken bike in search for another bike shop, he finally put up Tambay Cycling Hub + Bike Shop. Liezl, Jonathan, and the team at LMS Bike Trading in QC taught him how to be a bike mechanic. He highly recommends them.
Kevin shares more about how he met his team and how important it is for them to have Tambay Cycling Hub and Bike Shop.
Can you tell us about your team and starting the bike shop?
The Tambay Cycling Hub team members are Tal, Rey, Eugene, and Aneka.
Tal, my wife, is Website Lead & Visual Merchandising Head
Rey is a volunteer firefighter for the barangay in his time off, so we met him when he was helping us trim branches in our yard prior to opening the shop. He was the hardest working one who would volunteer to climb trees and ladders and the like to help us out. When I found out he bikes and was open to being trained as a mechanic, we brought him on board.
Eugene is our most recent team member to join, but he’s been with us since our very first pop-up events late last year. He tagged the shop on Instagram and I yelled “sino si BikeWrench” until I found him, and he ended up spontaneously fixing guests’ bikes at the cafe/event we were at, using our repair stand and tools to do so. When he finished his job as a teacher in June, we got him on board as soon as we could. He is more of a performance mountain bike expert, but he bike commutes and is well-known in the community as well.
Aneka went to high school with Tal, and they reconnected by chance at KombiBrew one evening in Greenfield. She’s a cool-kid bike influencer and was even featured on the Surly blog, and speaks our language in terms of safe bike infrastructure and inclusivity as well as anyone we’ve met, so it’s amazing having her with us too.
“We believe that bicycles are essential and that every barangay should have a bike shop to serve the community’s needs even if current zoning laws don’t always allow them, ironically due to the stated belief that they will add traffic to residential neighborhoods.”
We also believe that people need safe places to simply exist. Metro Manila is one of the most anti-human, car-centric places in the world in my opinion. Public parks basically don’t exist, especially at times or locations where people can actually use them.
There’s this general consensus in the country that suffers from the belief that “tambay” are lazy and have no discipline when in fact we don’t have access to places where we can productively make “tambay”.
I would gladly give up running the bike shop in an instant if we could have public parks, efficient mass transit, and protected bike lanes; but in the meantime, opening up our space to help fellow commuters and give people a space to relax for a bit is one small thing we can do.
Our friends Judith and Bjan of Habitat 570 add to the welcoming, tambay vibe I think. They run a tattoo and fiber arts studio in the front section of the property. We’ve had a few customers who have supported both of our businesses on their visits.
What’s your team’s initiative?
The bike shop strives to serve bike commuters. The current state of the bike industry in our country tends to cater more towards sport cyclists than it is for riding bikes for transport. We are always on the lookout for distributors who understand our goal and products that can help support it.
The bike shop has dedicated a small section of the shop for “Community Parts,” where people can donate gently used bikes or parts. This is to make biking more accessible and to continuously reach the goal for bike commuters. With this, the shop also lends tools and provides a space for people to work on their own bikes.
Eugene is a former teacher and we hope to utilize his skills at teaching others basic bike maintenance in the future.
We learned that your store resides in your house. Can you share with us your everyday routine and how the team works there?
Our cats, Piña and Pomelo, wake us up half the time. When the shop is open, I tend to do a big brunch that will get me through the day until dinner with Tal after closing. Rey usually arrives first since he’s also from Brgy. Pineda, and we open the shop, located in the garage & basement of the house, 4 days per week. Aneka and Eugene are here 3 days per week. We’ll open up 5+ days per week once Rey is fully trained as a Lead Mechanic.
The team is largely able to run the front of the shop on their own at this point, so I’m only in the shop maybe half of the time. I mostly handle business-to-business transactions, ordering stock, updating our website, or other things behind the scenes now. It can be hard to focus on office work in the shop itself at times because I’m always tempted to make tambay lang with our team or our customers! On days we’re super busy, I still help out with tuneups or other minor repairs when needed.
When the shop is closed once a week, I like to bike to local bike-friendly cafes like 1c, Flklore/Poco Deli, Arts & Beans, Type A, or Sound Coffee with the shop tablet in my Gouache Pigeon Bag and work in a different environment for a change.
As a team of cyclists, do you have routines and cycling routes/ journeys you do together or even with customers and fellow cyclists?
Our only ride as a team (including Judith & Bjan of Habitat) so far was to Type A Coffee, since we carry their cold brew and mixers sometimes.
We also had a ride last November to different public parks and people’s streets (car-free streets). Participants can use demo units of Lumos helmets courtesy of Liberty & Co Cyclery on the night ride, where we can use the Team Sync feature to synchronize the helmet lights & turn signals for maximum visibility and safety.
We saw that you also have Gouache in your store. Can you share with us the curation of products in your store?
Gouache has a nice variety of bags, designed specifically for bikes, that we carry and proudly display front and center in our Made in the Philippines #SupportLokal section of the shop. They’re the first things you see upon entering the shop. We carry, from smallest to largest, the Crosby, Otto Mini, Otto Rider, Holga, and Pigeon. We’ve had customers request custom sizes and colorways, and Gouache has been generous enough to sell them at no added cost, so their customer service and business relationship has been brilliant. Tal uses her Otto Rider bag on her handlebars regularly, while I prefer the Pigeon to carry the shop tablet around, as well as my tried-and-tested Gouache x Spark Bag I’ve had for years.
Hopefully, we can carry the pannier bags and the basket bag designed by Jeric soon!
What is most challenging about your work?
We have a limited budget and are located in a somewhat hidden, residential neighborhood not exactly known as a destination, even given its proximity to Kapitolyo. Serving Brgy. Pineda, which generally has a budget to stick to, while also earning enough money from higher end parts and accessories has been a tough balance. Most of our customers tend to be bike commuters, so selling built bikes and helmets has been slower than we expected; 98% of our customers already have them. We also don’t have a designated car parking space, so that may turn a few customers away too.
What’s the best thing about your work?
Making friends, seeing cool bikes, and building safe cities and communities together.
Do you have any advice for fellow cyclists and enthusiasts?
Everyone loves bikes! They’re all over the place—in art, media, and businesses that have nothing to do with bikes (see: bikewashing). However, need to remember that they’re vital parts of a healthy modern city and not just beautiful expressions of ourselves and our #FitnessGoals. Everyone wins when cities have better public transport, walkability, and bike lanes. If you ride a bike for daily errands like commuting, you’ll automatically be converted into an advocate for safer streets. That’s where the real work gets done and where we really need to fight for Vision Zero (no road deaths), equitable transport, more flexible zoning (or no zoning), more housing, and a National Building Code that doesn’t effectively force 88% of the population to subsidize parking costs for the few among us that even have cars.
The Tambay Hub + Bike Shop continues to be a place where “tambay” is actually a safe space for communities to grow and create a better quality of life amidst the chaotic transport system and lacking parks and recreational spaces. Each team member was focused on different industries but came together with similar goals to be a productive “tambay” in our country.
Find them and tambay at: