text | Carla Ocampo
photography | Yo Muan
Semplang. A Bahasa-sounding Filipino street word used to connote crashing unto the ground while on your bike. Er, technically not always ON your bike… but you get the drift. Semplang is, simply, a bike crash.
Since I think this onomatopoeic term rhymes more closely with the sound of narrow wheels running out of control (“sss-ss-sss…”) and then light metal frames and helpless, flailing limbs finally hitting concrete or mud (“‘em-plang!” or sometimes, “em-plak!“)… I would wish to limit this post and exclude motorcycle crashes. Those types would sound more like Skrimbogkratas. “SKREEEEEEEEEEM-BOGGG!” (KRATAS would be the part where the broken glass parts scatter on the pavement. Mommy…)
Given that, what makes a bicycle crash such a glorious occurrence is the fact that it is borne out of— more often than not— pushing yourself beyond your physical limits, and then winding down to plain… stupidity. A.K.A. failure to check your bike’s safety features before the ride. A.K.A. failure to keep your concentration on the task at hand (which is, biking). A.K.A. failure to improve your cycling skills in spite of the numerous times you’ve been out on the warpath.
Glorious? Stupidity? It’s a matter of perspective. For a rider that is more like the lordy, omniscient type— mistakes are for sissies.
A self-effacing, self-critiquing rider, on the other hand, sees each stupid semplang moment as a milestone. A chance to get better. A chance to grow wiser. After the fall, the bike and its rider— as a single spirit— rises again and pushes on bravely (cue in Chariots of Fire Opening Theme).
As for me, my latest semplang was the bloodiest yet. But you know what they say about the fruits of blood, sweat and tears: they are the sweetest.
Some weeks ago, I crashed not once but TWICE in a single ride, skimming the off-roads of Puting Bato, to Tanay in Rizal. Both accidents were during rocky downhills. That day, I was using Wing‘s bike— whom he named Nikki— since my own bike Giliw had to have some parts replaced. Wing was in Baguio at that time. He would, later on, check on my condition as a brother would, never minding the “injuries” his own bike sustained.
I can now say I am five scrapewounds and eleven gigantic bruises wiser… ergo… I have learned—with such a price to pay— to familiarize myself with a borrowed bike at least two full days before the ride. I am also a better handler of brakes now (rear brakes in control, front brakes just for some wee bit of support). And I’m never going to take for granted these words again: SHIFT-YOUR-WEIGHT-TOWARDS-THE-REAR-WHEEL-WHEN-DOWNHILLING-ANAK-NG-TINAPA-NAMAN-KASI! Whew. So there.
I’m lucky to have my KT Boys with me during this— yes— moment of glory. Yo, as usual, was ready with his feel-good jokes and a portable icepack. Elton, as usual, was ready with his gentle words and a bottle of isopropyl alcohol. Our guest rider that time, Dennis Tojos of the UP Rockhounds, was ready with his pep talk and energy beans. Asyuswal.
And as always, my man Lester was ready with his… maximum tolerance. Hehe. And more. He received the bulk of my pig-like screams and bore the brunt of my horribly low threshold for pain (I squeezed his arms like a pair of beat-up stressballs as he tried to cleanse my badly scraped knees). But more importantly, he was there to remind me that these wounds… that would turn into scabs… that would turn into unsightly, permanent scars… are badges of honor.
All the better reason to treat each semplang as a moment of glory… as these would weed out superficial, skin-deep attraction… and show you the kind of love that is proud of your upward development as a person. Blood. Scars. And all.
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