Project CX/Touring Frankenbike

Cyclocross bike

Presenting the Frankenbike

After enduro, perhaps the hottest new trend in cycling right now is gravel grinders, also known as adventure bikes, also known cyclocross or CX. While it’s not exactly a new thing, CX seems to have caught the fancy of a lot of bikers… including me. I liked the idea of having a bike that can handle pavement with respectable speed, and still handle gravel roads and moderate trails with acceptable deftness. Such a bike would also be ideal for touring long distances where pavement is the terrain of choice.

However, I wasn’t ready to plunk down a lot of money and buy another bike. Thankfully, there was another way. And it’s called Multi-level Marketing lalo na kung open minded ka sa business

Just kidding. After doing several upgrades to my mountain bike, I ended up accumulating a lot of excess bike parts and components. Somewhere along the way, I realized that with all these extra bits and pieces, I could actually build up a whole new bike. Read more [+]

Biking the Bataan Killer Loop

Bataan Killer Loop

Bataan is famous for being the site of some of the most heroic but hopeless last stands of the Second World War. For mountain bikers, the province is equally famous for the dreaded Bataan Killer Loop–a mountain bike route so mythically gnarled and twisted, it has supposedly reduced many a mamaw to a weeping pile of Piolo Pascual.

The BKL has been high on my bucket list for quite some time now. Last weekend, I finally ticked it off my list. I got the chance to haul my bike to Bataan and see for myself what the hype was all about. The verdict? The Killer Loop doesn’t just live up to the hype, it surpasses expectations.

Take the most enjoyable and challenging features of Timberland’s Blue Zone and Black Diamond trails, stretch them ten times and you got a pretty close approximation. Technical climbs, flowy descents, bone-rattling downhills, fantastic views of mountains, rolling hills and seas– the Killer Loop has got it all. Read more [+]

MTB Ride to Kinabuan Falls and the Dumagats

Kinabuan Falls

Who needs an expensive fancy resto when you can get a whole waterfall all to yourselves for free

Kinabuan Falls in Sta. Ines, Tanay Rizal used to be just a side trip for hikers and mountaineers climbing Sierra Madre’s Mt. Irid. Recently though, it has also become a popular destination for Metro Manila mountain bikers seeking to cool off in a body of water that’s not as crowded as Daranak, Batlag or Puray. Unlike these other waterfalls that are now often crowded with noisy barkadas, Kinabuan still has that rustic frontier charm that many of the more touristy waterfalls have lost. Because it isn’t easy to get to, Kinabuan hardly sees any crowds.

Kinabuan is also home to a community of Dumagats–indigenous peoples who call the Sierra Madre their home. Like the Aetas of Central Luzon, the Dumagats live on the margins of society, and eke out a living with subsistence farming and hunting.

It’s easy to get to Kinabuan if you’re a mountain biker. By that I mean, it’s easy to figure out how to get there. Biking to Kinabuan itself, is anything but easy. Read more [+]

Philippine Bike Demo Day

Despite its massive wheels, the Trek Stache was still surprisingly nimble

Despite its massive wheels, the Trek Stache was still surprisingly nimble

When I heard that Edmund Ang and several other personalities in the biking community we organizing the first Philippine Bicycle Demo Day, the first thought that came to mind was: Hell yeah! It’s about time somebody did this.

As a long-time biker (don’t be rude and ask how long) I’ve seen the Philippine bike scene expand, develop and explode from a negligible subculture of enthusiasts into a mainstream force in society today that just can’t be ignored. Last year we had the Second Philippine Bike Expo day, which was a testament to just how far the cycling community has gone. The expo was as exciting and colorful as the car shows held in recent years in Metro Manila, albeit admittedly on a much lower budget because you know, bike companies don’t have the financial resources of those big bad polluting road-congesting automakers.

Anyhoo, the success of the expo showed that there was a huge community of two-wheeled, human-powered aficionados out there, and it was a market just waiting to be tapped.

However while it was fun gawking at the wares and salivating at the bike porn on display at the expo, a part of me also wondered what it would be like to actually ride some of those bikes. This is where the #PhBikeDemo comes in. Read more [+]

Exploring the Laiban-Daraitan Trail

Biking to Laiban Dam

The light at the end of the tunnel

Laiban Dam has intrigued me ever since I first saw photos of mountain bikers visiting this oddity in the Sierra Madre mountains. This massive concrete monolith built during the Marcos era, sticks out of a forested mountainside like an evil lair for a James Bond villain—a structure that’s meant to be broken into, entered and explored.

Laiban Dam was supposed to supply Metro Manila with more than a million liters of water per day. However, concerns over the dam’s environmental impact, and the displacement of thousands of indigenous Dumagats from their ancestral lands, eventually caused the project to be shelved. And now Laiban Dam just sits there unused like a monument to human folly.

I have been itching to ride there and see the goddamned dam for myself. It’s not everyday that you get face to face with some Cold War level coolness. Last week, I finally got to do it. And it was one hell of an awesome mountain bike ride. Read more [+]

Commuting with the Nyfti Folding Bike

nyfti-folding-bike-1

The Nyfti folding bike, an excellent urban commuter

This is a review of the Nyfti Folding bike, which as far as I know, is the only locally built folding bike in the Philippines. It is a truly awesome bike. However, while reviewing this wonderful piece of Pinoy engineering, I also felt that I had to vent out my frustrations on the problem that the Nyfti is trying solve. So please bear with me.

First, let’s get the obvious out of the way: Edsa during rush hour is the Eighth Circle of Hell. It’s a kind of punishment you would wish only on your worst enemies, and only if your own soul has become so warped and devoid of empathy that you’re willing to inflict extreme torment and suffering on another sentient being.

The fact that millions have to endure such a soul crushing ordeal 5-6 days a week is a testament to the insensitivity of the government and its abject failure to provide basic services to the public. Read more [+]

Night Ride in Corregidor

Biking Corregidor at Night

Malinta Tunnel at night

What’s it like to bike around Corregidor Island at night? This question has been nagging me like a Game of Thrones season ender since I first pedaled through this historic island two years ago. What happens when the day tourists have left?  What’s it like to ride amongst the blasted remains of its ruined fortresses when the sun goes down and the light dies? Do the blood-soaked walls whisper anything when no one is looking?

Corregidor Sunset

Apparitions at dusk?

You may have inferred from the preceding sentences that I’m probably a sucker for horror movies. And you’re right: I like nothing better than a good scare. My idea of a good time, besides biking and running, is a marathon– a Walking Dead marathon that is, with some Exorcist thrown in. If I can get a healthy hair-raising dose of goosebumps while roaming around on a bike, that would be just awesome.

Last weekend, I and my travel buddy decided it was time to bring our bikes to Corregidor again. We had some unfinished business there. We needed to find out what it was like to ride through the dark and silent paths of war-bloodied isle… when night has fallen. (Cue Twilight Zone music here) Read more [+]

Biking to Daraitan Again

Biking and Hiking Daraitan

Imaginary album cover by an imaginary rock band

Sometimes a place is so beautiful, one visit just isn’t enough. El Nido is like that. Sagada is like that too. Batanes is very high on that list. And now, I must add Daraitan to that rundown.

I visited Daraitan three years ago in one of the best 21k trail runs I had ever done. A year later I visited it again on a solo mountain bike ride. This year, I visited it yet again with my significant other and some mountain biker friends.

While climbing down some of the huge limestone boulders that dotted the landscape, even my jaded travel blogging ex-girlfriend agreed: Daraitan is a special place. It’s got that otherworldly charm that recalls fantasy novels and bygone eras from which epic sagas are forged. Read more [+]

Biking to Mt. Pinatubo

Biking Mt Pinatubo

Like exploring an alien planet

Mt. Pinatubo probably has the strangest landscape in the Philippines.

While biking across its lahar-covered foothills last week, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the deserts of Utah, Arizona and the Sahara. While I’ve only seen those places in magazines and on TV, their resemblance to Pinatubo’s blasted landscape is uncanny.

I’ve been to Pinatubo before. Back then, while riding in one of the 4X4 jeeps that ferry hordes of wide-eyed giggling tourists to the crater, all I could think of was how much fun it would be to get down and pedal across this desolate landscape that looked like something wrenched from a scifi alien planet poster. Last week, I finally got to pedal across Pinatubo’s beautiful desolation. All I could think of was that I was like an astronaut on Mars. Read more [+]

Globe Cordillera Challenge 6

Globe Cordillera Challenge 6This one is a bucketlister that every Filipino mountain biker should try once in his lifetime. If mountain biking is like a religion to you, then the Cordillera region is where you make your sacred pilgrimage.

The land of the Igorots is home to some of the highest mountains in the Philippines. It is also legendary for having some of the most beautiful mountain vistas in the country. And thanks to the organizers of the Globe Cordillera Challenge, it has also gained renown for some of the most awesome mountain biking events.

Globe Cordillera Challenge (or GCC to to the initiated) takes mountain bikers through some of the most lung-busting and leg-cramping climbs as well as most knee-crushing, ankle-shattering descents in the country. But the reward for all this pain and suffering are worth it. You get to bike through pine forests, colossal cliffs that plunge hundreds of feet deep, and massive mountainscapes that seem like the very essence of epic. Plus the rush you get from sending the downhill sections is just incredible.

I’ve biked in the Cordillera a few times before. But this place just never gets old. Read more [+]

CamSur Rainforest Enduro

Mt. Isarog Mountain Bike Enduro

With the cloud covered peak of Mt. Isarog serving as an awesome background
a rider takes off in a cloud of dust

I once referred to myself as the Jon Snow of Enduro. It’s not that I look anything like Kit Harrington in Game of Thrones; it’s because like Lord Eddard Stark’s bastard spawn I know nothing about Enduro.

But that’s in the past now. Last April 11, I finally got a taste of this relatively new mountain bike racing format that seems to be sweeping the worldwide MTB community lately. From Jon Snow, now I feel like this sport’s Tyrion Lanister–someone who is not exactly towering over the competition.

So what was it like? Enduro has generated so much hype that it’s sometimes impossible to disentangle an honest assessment from hyperbole. But this much I can say: Enduro is grueling. It is sometimes scary. It’s loads of fun! And it forced me to tap into a skill set I only vaguely knew I had. And now I just might need another dose. Read more [+]

Biking from Timberland to Wawa Dam

Bike Ride from Timberland to Wawa Dam

There’s river crossings galore on this trail

There is a tale told in whispers about a mythical elixir that can only be found beyond the far mountains of Montalban. Those who have partaken of this substance swear that it imbued them with strength, stamina, well-being and a new powerful sense of purpose. But to get a taste of this arcane sustenance, you have to climb and descend towering mountains and make perilous river crossings in the legendary land of Bernardo Carpio. This magical mixture, made from some of the best fruits and ingredients, is sometimes referred to as Shimanong’s Halo Halo.

Anyway, this was a ride that should have happened a long time ago. I bike to Timberland almost every week. But despite Maarat’s proximity to Montalban, I had never taken the Casili road to Wawa Dam.

I had a vague idea of the route, thanks to Google Maps. But I wasn’t willing to go it solo because I knew that the place wasn’t exactly spitting distance from civilization and assistance, in case someone needed to bring my shattered bones back home. There are some destinations that you can go solo, and there are some where a buddy is a must. This ride belongs to the second category.

Thankfully last week, I was finally able to convince Montalban biker and die-hard Kapuso Jeff to lead the way. Read more [+]

Switching to Steel

Steel is Real

Steel is real. This is the battle cry of a lot of bikers who feel that bike manufacturers have been making bike frames that are way too complicated and expensive. Seems like it wasn’t too long ago when steel was the bike maker’s metal of choice. Nowadays though, steel bikes have become as rare as a competent and uncorrupted Pinoy politician, which is kinda sad because steel is such an excellent material for building bikes.

I had been looking to switch to a steel frame since late last year. While I love my aluminum Venzo, I just felt that I already needed something sturdier. The Venzo was a great lightweight alloy frame that helped me nab respectable finishes in duathlons and XC races. But it just didn’t seem like a well-suited weapon for fast descents on rock gardens and technical trails, which I found myself riding more and more often. I was longing for that strange alchemy of toughness and suppleness that could only come from that bastard spawn of carbon and iron more popularly known as (you guessed it) steel! Read more [+]

Nuvali: Another Mecca for Mountain Bikers

Biking in Nuvali

Getting some air on the Nuvali 4X track during the Dirt Weekend 2015

Nuvali is a vast real estate development in Sta. Rosa Laguna has been attracting bikers from all over Metro Manila and Southern Luzon. I’d been hearing lots of good things about this place for quite some time now–chiefly about its amazing trails and scenery.

I’d always wanted to check out Nuvali and sample its dirt, but I often got discouraged from going there. Why? Because it meant loading up the bike on the car, and braving the infamous gridlocks of Southern Metro Manila. Yeah, I’ve said it before: nothing ruins my day quite like getting stuck in traffic.

But last December, I finally got to bike in Nuvali.The almighty mountain biking gods accepted my sacrifices of virgin titanium spokes and graciously granted me my most fervent wish! Or almost. Actually, my wife got invited by Seda Hotel for a free overnight stay through her travel blog. Since we were going to be resting, relaxing and luxuriating in an excellent hotel for FREE (!!!), the dreaded traffic going to Sta. Rosa seemed less dreadful. Read more [+]

Epic Cordillera Mountain Bike Traverse

Sagada

“Epic” and “hardcore” are words that are casually thrown around nowadays. While the proper use of these adjectives can be a hot topic of debate, I personally don’t think a 4 or 5 hour ride through flat pavement could count as epic. Neither should a morning romp down The Blue Zone be considered as hardcore.

But there are bike trips that leave little room for debating “epic” and “hardcore.” A four day bike traverse of the Cordillera is one of them. We’re talking here about distance, technical difficulty, remoteness from “civilization,” danger, and overall gonzo factor.

I would have loved to go on this cross country, all-mountain, four day bikepacking ass kicking trip through the Cordillera with these guys, who also rode with me in Bobok-Bisal. But work and the unstoppable forces of nature conspired against me. But it was not just that: I also didn’t know if I was strong enough for such an adventure. These guys apparently were, and this is their story as  recounted by Bong “Madjohn” Madriaga.

Sagada to Tirad Pass

by Bong Madriaga

While long rides, century rides, and races, are common and can happen on any given day or weekend, it’s not easy to go on adventure rides, because of work, family and priorities. I go maybe once or twice a year when “stars align” and I’m able to get the required “visa” from my commander in chief .
For this year’s grand adventure ride I went to the legendary Tirad Pass. Read more [+]

Mountain Bike Trails Around Metro Manila

Biking in Metro Manila

Lots of people seem to have bought new bikes lately and are eager to give this thing called mountain biking a try. Good for you, people! This is probably one of the best decisions you’ve made in your life. Fitness, fresh air, countless adventures, and the love and respect of all humankind await you.

So you got the gear. Now what? Ride it of course. If you’re new to biking, you should probably first practice on paved roads to give your leg muscles some experience and oomph. I’d recommend logging in 20-40 kms for each major ride. Try to push it farther when you feel like your legs can still take it. And take it as far away as your sense of adventure will take you.

But after getting pavement miles, it’s time to try some real trails. Unknown to many, bikers in Metro Manila are actually fortunate to have a lot of trails and destinations that were designed and built for mountain biking. And there are still other destinations that are friendly to mountain bikers. Here are some of them.
Read more [+]

Biking to Calinawan Cave

Calinawan Cave

One of several skylights in Calinawan Cave

Calinawan Cave is one of the more popular tourist destinations in Tanay. This cave lies just a few kilometers from the always crowded Daranak Falls, and is usally reached by renting tricycles from the Tanay poblacion. Last weekend however, TravelUp and I thought that it would be more interesting to visit Calinawan on our bikes.

I first learned of Calinawan Cave about two years ago when I joined the Nature’s Trail Discovery Run in Tanay. After finishing that 21k race, I promised myself I’d return to Calinawan and enjoy this place at a more leisurely pace. Last weekend, I was finally able to do that. Read more [+]

Solo Biking in Sabtang, Batanes

Biking Sabtang Batanes

The pebble beach in Chavayan village in Sabtang Island, Batanes

Sometimes you just have to do things on your own—like biking in a strange beautiful island for instance. Last April, I went to Batanes for a week’s worth of biking. After savoring the sights, sounds and vibe of the province’s main island of Batan for several days, I thought it was time to hoist the anchor and sail to another equally incredible island—Sabtang. (Actually, I would have preferred to bike with someone, but my traveling partner took off on her own for the island of Itbayat.)

This small island municipality lies just a few kilometers from Batanes’ main island. Sabtang is easily accessible by boat. The trip however can last anywhere from half an hour to almost an hour depending on how rough the waves are.

But even if you easily get seasick, you should not forego the chance to see Sabtang. If you loved what you saw in Batan, the honest truth is: Sabtang has got more of them and then some. Skip Sabtang and you’ll be cursing yourself for life. The rolling hills, the cliffs, the quaint villages with stone houses, the friendly locals, and the quiet idyllic scenery that have come to define Batanes—Sabtang has all of that. But it also has the best beaches in Batanes, and rock formations which you can’t see anywhere else. Read more [+]

7 Types of Bikers You Want to Ride With

seven-samurai

Most of the time, I go biking solo. It’s not because I don’t enjoy company. It’s because most of the time, I can’t get anyone to go with me on my trips. Or I schedule trips, drink too much beer the night before, and wake up seven hours late feeling like Jon Jones used my head for his spinning elbow practice. And so to use a popular tagalog kasabihan: Papunta pa lang ako, parating na sila.

But seriously, it’s always better to ride with a buddy or a group. If something bad happens, you can always have someone to answer organ donor questions, carry your remains back to civilization, or help fix a flat. Riding with someone better than you in terms of experience and skill also pushes you to level up your own cache of tricks.

So what sort of bikers should you ride with if you had the choice? Here are at least seven MTB archetypes I can think of. Read more [+]

Biking Batanes: South Batan Loop

Biking Batanes: South Batan Island

A road carved from a hill that plunges into the sea.
Photo by traveling-up.com

Biking around the southern part of Batan Island reminded me of a lot of things. The road reminded me of Pagudpud because of how its rocky cliffs plunged into the sea. It also reminded me of Sagada because of how those same cliffs often towered above the road. Its undulating grass carpeted hills reminded me of Bohol and its famous Chocolate Hills.

But Batanes’ southern loop also had something these places didn’t have. I had a hunch that biking through the towns of Mahatao, Ivana, Uyugan and back to Basco would send me through some very awesome vistas. But I didn’t know just how awe-inspiring this place would be.

We started riding out of Basco at a relaxed pace around mid morning. We wanted to start early but there was some mix up with the mountain bike we were going to hire. Because of this the sun was already almost halfway up the sky by the time we were pedaling out of Basco’s town center. It was mid-April and as expected, the weather was already hot. But there was also an ever-present sea breeze that made the ride quite pleasant. Read more [+]

How to Pack Your Bike for Airline Travel

Bike BoxSometimes you just have to bring your bike with you when you fly. Whether you’re going on a biking vacation or joining a bike race in some far away place, there are times when there’s no choice but to pack your bike and get it ready for air freight.

Sure, it can can be a hassle, and it can be a bit expensive. But if you’re going on vacation to a place like Batanes, the hassle and expense are more than worth it.

So just how do you go about it? A lot of readers have been asking me about this after I posted my piece about biking in Batanes. I’m no expert when it comes to packing your bike for flight, but I’ve learned a few things while preparing for our Batanes trip. So I’m now sharing the shreds of wisdom (if they qualify for that lofty description) I gathered along the way. Read more [+]

Mountain Biking Batanes: North Batan Tour

Mountain Biking Batanes

Batanes: it’s where earth, sea and sky meet in the most spectacular manner. Photo by traveling-up.com

Batanes’ landscape is special. To describe this group of islands as beautiful is to commit a grave understatement. Even jaded travellers are awed by its strangeness. I’m not sure if you can find another place in the Philippines where the earth, sea and sky come together in the same spectacular manner.

Biking Batanes is also a very special experience. Admittedly, its islands do not have the most technically challenging trails in the country, or not yet anyway. If you want to display your attitude and prowess, this is probably not the best place to do it.

But if you are in search of the ever elusive flow, you’ve come to the right place as Batanes has got loads of flow, and then some. You can find your own flow in many of its sweeping rolling hills. But its real attraction for bikers is the sheer raw beauty of the landscape, which is incomparable. Read more [+]

Tips on Mountain Biking Batanes

Biking Batanes

This landscape just oozes magic and adventure

Dream destinaton—there’s no better way to describe it. Batanes is likely the best biking destination in the Philippines. Bar none.

I thought I’d seen it all. But then I rode my bike up the crest of a steep grass-carpeted hill overlooking the sea. Then I pointed my bike down the hill’s steepest face and let gravity take over, fly me down the slope of a solid wave of green earth. If you like flow, Batanes is overflowing with flow.

There is also this minor thing of a rush of sweet sweet feeling in the blood. Surfers call it “stoked.” Bikers may call it whatever they want to call it as long as they know the feeling. There’s the most fantastic landscape, and there you are riding it. Read more [+]

Biking Thunder Trail in Binangonan

Thunder Trail BinangonanThunderbird Resorts in Binangonan Rizal is familiar to Metro Manila mountain bikers who frequent Antenna Hill and the Angono-Binangonan Petroglyphs.

Thunder Trail however does not seem to be as famous as either of these two biking destinations. This is a shame because this winding singletrack and fireroad which leads to a hilltop lagoon is one of the better MTB trails near Metro Manila.

Binangonan Rizal is my hometown. It makes me proud that the Angono-Binangonan Petroglyphs have now become part of the “must-visit” places among Metro Manila weekend warriors. Over the years, I’ve also seen Antenna Hill attain much deserved fame in the mountain biking community for its challenging climb (which offers great views of the Laguna de bay) and the excellent downhill track which was built there by gravity aficionados.

Thunder Trail complements these two destinations. This trail has got plenty of twists, fast flowy descents, and sections that require you to dip into your bag of technical tricks. Read more [+]

Biking the Temples in Cambodia

Biking in Cambodia

Two wheels, a camera, and a sense of wonder and adventure are all you need

If you’ve ever enjoyed the Tomb Raider games and movies, if you’re yearning for an adventure akin to that of Indiana Jones, and (last but definitely not the least) if you enjoy biking—then Cambodia should be part of your bucket list.

Cambodia’s ancient sites are beyond awesome. I’ve seen pictures of Cambodia’s temple ruins before. But to see these massive towers, pyramids, monuments, monasteries and stairways to heaven up close and personal is something else. For someone who enjoys snacking on Natgeo and the History Channel, this place is like one gigantic buffet.

It’s not that expensive either. Catch one of the cheap flights from the budget carriers and you’re good to go. Day to day expenses are comparable to living in Manila, sometimes even cheaper. If you can book a trip to Boracay, you can book a trip to Cambodia’s ancient sites. And the best part is that all of these ancient sites can be explored by bike.

I even think that the temples are best visited via bike. There’s a Zen element in going on a journey, moving on your own pace, reaching a sacred place, and moving on. Read more [+]

Seeing Rivendell While Biking in Daraitan

Balete Tree in Daraitan

This Ent-like tree is supposed to be 300 years old. Not sure if that’s true, but it’s awesome nonetheless

Daraitan is a quiet little village in the Sierra Madre mountains in Tanay, Rizal. Daraitan is also one of the most beautiful places you can bike to from Metro Manila, and I don’t say those words lightly. I’ve become quite jaded when it comes to mountain biking destinations. But Daraitan is worth every pedal stroke, every ounce of sweat, every painful grunt it takes to get there. If you’re a Metro Manila biker planning to do a bike tour this summer, this should be at the top of your list.

Daraitan has been cited as having the cleanest waters in the Calabarzon area. One look at its clear flowing river was enough to convince me that it deserved that citation. But besides the clarity of its streams, there’s also its forest covered peaks, the fantastic boulders, cliffs and rock formations along the river, and an unspoiled cave that’s perfect for spelunking. This place radiates magic like Rivendell.

My first foray into Daraitan was less than a year ago. I joined the first leg of the Nature’s Trail Discovery Run and found myself crossing Daraitan’s streams and hopping around its boulders in a 31k trail run sufferfest. Needless to say, while my eyes registered the beauty of the place, my mind had been drained of any capacity for awe and wonder by the agonizing run. So I resolved to go back to Daraitan some time in the future and soak in its vibe at a more leisurely pace. Read more [+]

Rock Climbing in Wawa, Montalban

Rock Climbing in Wawa Montalban

A route with a view. Photo courtesy of Dennis Pagayon

Wawa in Montalban/Rodriguez, Rizal is a well known destination for mountain bikers in Metro Manila. But this little rural village on the foothills of the Sierra Madre is also a mecca for another tribe of outdoor sports enthusiasts. Rock climbers flock to Wawa Montalban because of its limestone cliffs which offer some of the finest and most challenging climbing in the Philippines.

In my ten year on-and-off love affair with climbing, Wawa has always occupied a special spot. The first time I went there, I gazed stupefied at its cliffs. I did not know that there were walls like that so near to Manila. I’ve gone there two more times since my first visit, and it has never been boring. Just looking at the cliffs can make you dizzy with both dread and anticipation. With some crags shooting up more than a hundred feet, you need to be a real badass to try to scale them. Read more [+]

Biking to Mt. Balagbag’s Helipad

Biking to Mt. Balagbag's Helipad

The picture probably doesn’t do justice to the difficulty of this route

Mt. Balagbag and its infamous peak called the Helipad is the logical next step for mountain bikers in Metro Manila who have already pushed themselves past the challenges of Timberland’s trails. If you think you’re ready for the big leagues, Mt. Balagbag is just there waiting for you like Cain Velasquez eager to give you a lesson or two about ground and pound.

As you grow as a mountain biker, you search for harder and harder routes to test yourself. You want to see how fast you can climb, and how fast you can descend on trails that get more and more technical. For Manila’s mountain bikers, Balagbag has got to be one of the hardest routes accessible via a weekend trip. Read more [+]

Waterfalls You Can Bike to from Metro Manila

Waterfalls By Bike

There are several waterfalls you can bike to from Metro Manila

Metro Manila has waterfalls. Well, maybe they’re not exactly in Metro Manila itself. You will need to work a bit to reach these cascades. But if you’re a mountain biker, getting there is more than half the fun.

For a lot of people who grew up in Metro Manila, it can be almost hard to believe that there are waterfalls that are just an hour and a half away by car, or two and a half hours away by bike from the city. Waterfalls, after all, are part of mountain streams, which are in turn nurtured by forest watersheds. If you cut the trees in the forest, you eliminate the watershed, and you kill the waterfalls. Rampant deforestation in the municipalities and provinces around Metro Manila has probably eliminated a lot of these awesome nature spots. (This is what happened to Uugong Falls in Morong, Rizal.)

Still, the situation isn’t so bad yet. There are still a few waterfalls near Metro Manila, which means that there are still trees in the mountains to sustain them. And here are some of the waterfalls you can reach with your mountain bike.  Read more [+]

Epic Bike Ride on the Bobok-Bisal Trail in Benguet

Bobok Bisal Trail In Benguet

The scenery is breathtaking, in case you have any breath left after wrestling with gravity.
Photo courtesy of Roger of Late Comers Harcor team

The Bobok Bisal Trail is definitely the most challenging ride I’ve done so far. This trail, which winds through the heart of the town of Bokod in Benguet province, will test your lungs and legs with its punishing ascents.

However, the true test comes later when it’s time to descend. The long technical downhill will push your handling skills to their very limits. Loose gravel, babyhead rocks, roots, deep ruts, berms, cliffs and a very steep grade that recalls the roller coaster route that is The Wall in some sections: Bobok-Bisal has plenty of these.

But along with the extreme challenges come epic rewards. The views of the pine covered peaks and slopes are simply fantastic. The downhill shoots a drum full of adrenaline through your frail shaking veins. And the flowy singletrack in the cliff sections is the stuff of mountain bikers’ wet gushing dreams. Read more [+]

Biking in La Mesa

Biker at one of the bridges in the La Mesa Nature Reserve

It’s tricky to descend into and then climb out of these bridges. Photo courtesy of Bong Madriaga

The first time I came to La Mesa several years ago, I couldn’t believe that there was such a place right inside Metro Manila. I had heard a lot about the place, about the beauty of its trails, and the postcard (or is it Instagram?) perfect scenery you get to enjoy while biking there. But nothing compares to seeing it for yourself.

Let’s just get something out of the way first. The biking destination I am talking about is the La Mesa Nature Reserve, not the La Mesa Ecopark. The former has kilometers upon kilometers of well-maintained fire roads and singletrack which can take you a whole day to explore. The latter (the Ecopark) is a smaller park which features boating, paintball, and a few kilometers of biking. It’s more suited for family picnics instead of mountain biking. It’s easy to confuse the two parks because both are maintained by ABS-CBN’s Bantay Kalikasan. Read more [+]

Biking and Running in UP Diliman

U.P. Diliman Biker

For running and biking, the U.P. Diliman campus is the best destination in Metro Manila

If New York City has its Central Park, Metro Manila has the UP Diliman campus. No disrespect to Luneta and the QC circle, but in terms of wide and green open spaces, the 493 hectare flagship campus of the State University is unmatched in Metro Manila. The campus is a gigantic garden with tree-lined avenues and wide grassy areas where all sorts of outdoor activities can be held. I am not sure if there’s a place that can compare to it in the Metro.

Bonifacio Global City may have lots of runnable and bikeable pavement, but its small trees hardly provide any shade. Luneta and Roxas Boulevard meanwhile have deteriorated a lot, as evidenced by the seemingly uncollectable trash along the baywalk. If you’re sick of breathing in the brown, oily halitosis of Metro Manila while running or biking, UP Diliman is the best place to go inside the Metro. Read more [+]

Biking to Antenna Hill and the Angono Petroglyphs

Downhill bikers of Antenna Hill

Downhill bikers of Antenna Hill

Its steepness will remind mountain bikers of The Wall in Timberland. The view from the top meanwhile will recall the hills of Antipolo, which overlook Metro Manila. If you’re looking for a different kind challenge for the weekend, Antenna Hill in Tayuman, Binangonan, Rizal should be high on your list.

This biking destination also comes with several bonuses as you can head on to the historic Petroglyphs after climbing the hill, visit a first-class resort along the way, and take a tour of the arthouse restaurants in Angono. Read more [+]

Biking in Corregidor

Bikers in Corregidor, Mountain Biking in the Philippines

Biking trip through the ruins of Corregidor

Corregidor has always fascinated me. This small island fortress at the gate of Manila Bay was once dubbed as one of the most formidable outposts of American power right before World War 2. It was also the site of a fierce Fil-American resistance, some of the bloodiest battles of the War, and a futile and tragic effort by the Japanese to keep the Allied juggernaut at bay. For a history junkie like me, being in Corregidor was like being a kid let loose in Willy Wonka’s wonderland.

And is there a better way to feeling like a kid again than riding on a bike? Last May 4th, I and a group of friends got to travel around Corregidor island on bikes. It was one of the best bike trips I’d ever done. I had been to Corregidor once before, but travelling around the island leisurely on a bike is definitely much better.
Read more [+]

Mountain Biking in Sagada

mountain biker in sagada

Sagada: one of the best places in the country to do mountain biking

Ever since I set foot in Sagada over a decade ago, I dreamed about exploring this beautiful mountain town on a bike. Last October I finally got to do this.

Unfortunately, I could not bring my own bike to Sagada. We could not risk taking the car and driving all the way through Cordillera’s twisty roads. I couldn’t find a cheap bike carrying case either which would have allowed me to lug my bike safely onto a bus.Thankfully, you can now rent decent enough mountain bikes for P100/hour from Sagada Mountain Bikes. Read more [+]

Rock Climbing in Sagada

Rock climbing in Sagada

Rock climbing in Sagada

Visitors come to Sagada for its cool climate, its beautiful pine-clad mountain slopes, its relaxing vibe, and its friendly locals. Travelers stay for a couple of days to enjoy Sagada’s caves, its waterfalls, its hiking trails, and its culture.

But besides these, I think this quaint little town up in the Cordilleras also deserves fame for one other thing—its beautiful cliffs that are just perfect for rock climbing. Read more [+]

RACE INFO: Nuvali Dirt Weekend 2015

Nuvali Dirt Weekend 2014 aerial

Nuvali is the undisputed biking mecca south of Metro Manila. The gigantic estate in the foothills of Laguna and Tagaytay has become synonymous with fresh air and great riding. And just a few weeks from now, it’s going to host one of the biggest and most awaited mountainbikapaloozas in the the known multiverse– the Nuvali Dirt Weekend!

I’ve never taken part in a Nuvali Race before, but I’ve covered it for TV and written about it on this blog. This year, I’m looking forward to trying my chops at the 4X race. I know I’ll probably be sucking the dust of the veteran 4X racers out there, but at least it’s a short but very exciting event. The key word here is short because…

With months of hectic ass-sitting in the office, I did not really get enough trail miles in my quads and hamstrings, not to mention my cardio. So i’ll probably collapse into a weepy miserable mess if I dare to take on the XC races. But I’ll be cheering on some compadres who will be joining those XC sufferfests. Good luck to you guys and may your agony purify your souls. Nawa’y pagpalain kayo sa inyo pagdurusa ;)

Anyway, as we all know, Nuvali Dirt Weekend is a pioneer in bringing world-class cycling formats in the Philippines, including official races sanctioned by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), the world-governing body on sports cycling and competitive cycling events.  So here’s to a great mountain bike party this November! Read more [+]

Bathala Bike Park

Bathala Bike Park

Bathala Bike Park lets ninjas do wall rides, but simply turning the wheel is enough for pretentious fools like me :p

I first heard about Bathala Bike Park a couple of years ago from Glorious Ride Bikeshop. I saw several pictures on their Facebook page showing a pump track along with ramps, jumps, bridges and a lot of technical stuff that I used to see only on videos about that far away mecca of mountain biking called The North Shore.

However, I never really took note of it because I wasn’t really interested in tricks and techniques. I considered myself more of a traveler than a freeride enthusiast. My priority was to explore brave new worlds, to seek new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no mountain biker has gone before. Star Trekkie stuff. Riding in style was not even on the horizon.

But a few weeks ago,  I watched a short film that made me take another look at a different kind of riding. And thus last weekend, I found myself lugging a 4X bike into Bathala Bike Park with a full face helmet in tow. Read more [+]

Gear Review: Five Ten Maltese Falcon

Five Ten Maltese Facon

Five Ten Maltese Falcon: perfect for hike-a-bikes

Here’s a confession: I don’t like spending money on biking gear. Yeah, I know it may seem like a strange thing to say for someone who writes a lot about biking, but it’s the truth. While I like buying new outdoor gear like sunglasses, drifit shirts and shorts, I don’t really buy stuff specific to mountain biking unless I absolutely have to.

Shoes for instance. For the longest time, I resisted getting biking-specific shoes. Instead, I bought trail running shoes. Why? I just didn’t see any point in spending on shoes that I could only use on the bike, when I could have footwear that i could use both on and off the pedals. I also thought that a lot of MTB shoes with their plastic soles looked a bit goofy.

But lately, I’ve been doing a lot of rides that have been quite harsh on my minimalist trail runners, not to mention my ankles and calves. My shoes were getting ripped by the pins on my pedals, while feet and shins were feeling scorched from too many heel-down sessions on technical trails. So last May, I finally relented and got myself some proper biking shoes. I got the Five Ten Maltese Falcon. Read more [+]