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Biking in Gen. Nakar, Quezon

Biking In Gen. Nakar

It feels like Palawan, minus the expensive air travel

The Sierra Madre offers some of the best mountain biking in the country and Gen. Nakar is blessed to have some of the most pristine parts of this glorious mountain range. Last weekend I got to sample some of Nakar’s offerings and came away wanting more.

Here’s the lowdown: Nakar is a slice of unspoilt tropical paradise. This quaint town has big sky mountain vistas, crystal clean rivers and streams you can literally drink from, quiet secluded beaches, a sea so warm and pleasant that’s just begging you to take a swim, and people so friendly they make you wonder if you opened a portal into a universe that is the opposite of everything that is Metro Manila.

In my many years of mountain biking, I have sadly not yet been to a place like Nakar until last weekend. Legendary bikepackers like Dru Kalakas have mentioned it before in their multi-day adventures, but I could never find time to embark on more than an overnight trip.

Biking In Gen. Nakar

I have to thank the organizers of the Brusko Pacific Coast Epic Race for organizing this event and letting hundreds of other bikers like me get acquainted with the beauty of this place.

That being said, the race was an extreme exercise in excruciation especially for those who opted for the leg-cramping, lung-busting, masochistic suckfest that was the 100 km event.

Tragic past
Nakar was in the news years in 2004 for devastating landslides triggered by a typhoon. An estimated 1500 people in the towns of Nakar, Real and Infanta were killed in those landslides, which were blamed on illegal logging in the forests of the Sierra Madre.

Biking In Gen. Nakar

Sunset over the Sierra Madre mountains

Today, there’s hardly a scar noticeable in Nakar, which would remind you of that tragedy. The mountains are verdant and alive, the streams and rivers are clear as Evian, and the rice fields foretell of abundant harvests.

Nakar, Real and Infanta apparently are now strictly enforcing laws against logging in the watersheds. Thanks to these environmental conservation efforts, Nakar and its neighboring towns seem to have bounced back with a vengeance from that traumatic episode 13 years ago.

During the race briefing at the municipal hall, me and Travel Up couldn’t wait to see more of what Nakar had to offer.

Biking In Gen. Nakar

Refreshments at the race briefing. Nothing like a cold one paired with some tasty palitaw and shrimps to get you motivated!

I joined the 100km race because I wanted to also challenge myself. I had joined races before but none as long as 100km, and Nakar seemed like the perfect place to try such a distance. I even trained for the race, fearing the possibility that I’d bonk in the middle of this mountain bike marathon and finish dead last. Heck, I even learned to love Strava.

Biking In Gen. Nakar

All smiles before the sufferfest. This is Travel Up’s first MTB race btw, and it’s 50k!

But apparently, all that training still wasn’t enough. At the gun start, I paced myself knowing that this was going to be a six hour or seven hour event for someone as pathetic as me. Still, the eagerness of other participants was infectious, and I found myself needlessly picking up the pace in some climbs.

Biking In Gen. Nakar

Let the pain begin!

After about just an hour into the race, I was already feeling winded out and was getting passed in the climbs. I made up time in the descents and passed other racers. (Strava said 55kph on downhill loose gravel! Woohoo!)

But still, races like this weren’t won in the descents. Hordes of mamaws layeth the smackdown in the flat sections and climbs and passed me again.

Biking In Gen. Nakar

Why can’t all trails be downhill??! Honga pala, XC marathon ito :p

I later learned that the downhill section over the loose gravel roads had claimed two racers that day. They had to be hospitalized after crashing.

While crossing the first wooden bridge, I finally gave up on the idea of racing, got off my bike and just took photos of the place. There was just no point in punishing myself when I could be soaking up the scenery.

Biking In Gen. Nakar

Look at that mountain stream!

Biking In Gen. Nakar

This biker’s got the right attitude. Race times be damned, we need to take selfies in a place like this!

Biking In Gen. Nakar

Libreng bike wash!

Biking In Gen. Nakar

Dapat pala nagbaon ng Speedos dito

Biking In Gen. Nakar

Travel Up enjoying a stream crossing

In the hours that followed, hundreds of bikers would cross rivers and streams, climb hills, ride through gravel roads framed by the mountains on one side and the sea on the other. While the mamaw bikers pushed the pace, I was just glad to still be able to pedal in such beautiful surroundings.

But the race organizers saved the best for last. At the turn around point of the 100km event, there was a beach. And what a beach it was.

Biking In Gen. Nakar

Biking in Gen. Nakar

On the way back to the Nakar town proper, the suckfest finally caught up with dozens of bikers. Many of them were running out of gas. Like me, a lot of them were wishing that they had registered in the 50km event instead.

“Sana kanina pa tayo tapos!” some of them groaned in between vain attempts to suck air into their lungs.

Biking In Gen. Nakar

Several hashtags flashed through my semi-delirious mind: #MalingDesisyon #NasaanAngAlaxan #ShutUpLegs #NasaDuloNgRutaSiSolennAtYayakapinKa

I am not exactly sure how I was able to finish the race myself. Maybe all that training paid off after all. Or maybe there was just something in the beauty of the place that charged me with energy.

In any case, Nakar is worth another visit.

Biking In Gen. Nakar

Travel Up finishes her first MTB race!

Biking In Gen. Nakar

We’ll definitely go back to Nakar. But next time we’ll be biking at a more relaxed pace, bikepacking style.

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  • Super epic pala ng race. Salamat sa write-up . Kudos for both of u and congrats!

    (Baka rumors lng ung mga nagsasabi na may NPA daw jan). Hahaha!

    • Outside Slacker

      August 20, 2017 at 7:49 am

      epic nga. kulang ang six weeks na training. dapat 3 months haha. pero sulit ang pagod dahil sa ganda ng lugar 🙂

  • That loose gravelly downhill section is still on replay in my head. The event could have been another write-up and an addition to my personal history, pero mas ginusto ng bike ko mangilala ng pader nung mga oras na yon hehe.
    Your description of the place is spot on. Thanks for writing this. Mas nagka idea ako about sa lugar. I will definitely go back. ???

  • Frederick Villanueva

    September 8, 2017 at 1:59 pm

    please post it to your FB page once you finalized your bikepacking schedule.