All Terra Cyclery and Timberland Corp really need to be commended for setting up the bike trail systems in the hills of San Mateo. These guys are taking mountain biking in Metro Manila to the next level.
Last Saturday, a brief respite from the rains allowed me to again explore Timberland’s Blue Zone. I got slathered in mud, whipped by the berms, scared shitless of the fast twisty descents, and had a hell of a good time figuring out how I was supposed to maneuver my bike through this roller coaster of a trail.
For those who have never been to Timberland, the Blue Zone is one of many trail systems in the area—the others being the Green Zone, and the White or Basic Trail. White is easy, Green is Intermediate, Blue is for seasoned riders.
These are rated according to difficulty classification set by IMBA or the International Mountain Biking Association. I guess it’s akin to Karate where fighters who have leveled up their skills get the corresponding colored belt for their pain and perseverance.
So be warned Daniel-san, if you don’t think you can crane kick your way through the Blue Zone, pedal back and do more of that “Wax on; wax off” routine. Otherwise, prepare for some “Sweep the Leg” action, and a lot of pain. And when shit happens, don’t go blaming your bike.
(What? Me, a child of the 80s? Why would you say that?)
Anyway, I wasn’t really planning on tackling the Blue Zone that day. The original plan was to join some fellow bikers from work, and go all the way to Boso-boso. I needed the lung exertion to level up my fitness for the upcoming La Mesa Offroad Duathlon. However, as is often the case with the best laid plans, this one had to be changed on the day of the ride itself.
My companions weren’t feeling up to the challenge of a long ride that day after getting drained at The Wall. So I had to go it alone. But instead of biking solo all the way to Boso-boso, I made a detour for the Blue Zone.
The technical sections demand a lot of concentration. You need to anticipate the descents, plan for the berms, and make lightning quick decisions on whether you should attempt that drop or immediately bail. I always bail, as shameful as it may sound. Why? Unlike other mountain bikers who profess to have balls of steel, mine are of the squishy delicate kind. And let’s just say I’ve grown far too attached to them to subject them to possible harm. Maybe someday I’ll level up my skills and grow a metallic pair, but until then I’m OK with being the bailout king.
The Blue Zone was already challenging enough in the dry season. But it got even gnarlier after getting soaked in monsoon moodiness. Fast descents ended in mud puddles and pools that sucked the speed from wheels. Steering got sketchy. Tires struggled to get traction in the soft earth while climbing.
And thanks to the generous rain, the trail was also blanketed on all sides with thick cogon grass. It was almost impossible trying to get some speed going in the flatter sections, as sharp talahib blades kept high-fiving me in the face. I also became wary of tree branches which might pull a Hulk Hogan-style clothesline maneuver on me while I biked.
I wasn’t complaining though, because the greenery was cool. It made the panoramic vistas of the Sierra Madre mountains in the distance into an even more refreshing sight. The rains also made the streams come alive with clear flowing water. Crossing the streams added both charm and challenge to the trail. Isn’t this why we bike in the mountains after all?
On arriving at the last stream, it was time to decide which route to take to the exit. The Blue Zone gives only two choices: hard, or harder. I chose the latter.
On exiting the Blue Zone, I looked like someone who had a ringside seat to a mud wrestling bout between Andre the Giant, the Big Show and The Undertaker. But I also had a wide smile, and I wasn’t ashamed of flashing my smiley teeth even if they had gravel, twigs and chunks of mud between them.
I’ll probaly come back for more this week. My solo ride through the Blue Zone made me realize that while my mountain biking engine may already be okay, my technical mojo could use some sprucing up. I could also use a dropper seatpost. And I seriously need to upgrade to a pair of titanium cojones.
TIPS FOR BIKERS IN THE BLUE ZONE
- Check your bike before diving in. You don’t want to be hiking out of there, it’s tough enough on a bike.
- Wear sunglasses or goggles. The cogon here can get in your eyes.
- Ride with a buddy. Yes, I violated this tip, but it’s a good tip nonetheless.