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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.

Bobok Bisal Trail in Bokod Benguet

Our group takes a breather after negotiating a very challenging downhill section of the Bobok Bisal Trail. Photo courtesy of William Ballanza of Late Comers Harcor team

I have been in love with the Cordilleras ever since I set foot in Sagada nearly two decades ago. The travel writer Pico Iyer often describes his first journey to Lhasa Tibet as the most life-changing trip he has ever taken. I am not sure if my first trip to Sagada could compare with Iyer’s Tibet, but the Cordillera is just as special to me.

Thus, when I got invited to try one of the Cordillera’s more famous trails about two weeks ago, I immediately said yes. I had no idea what I was in for. And besides my friend Bong, I knew no one else who would be coming with us. But passing up a chance to do an epic ride like this was not an option.

Bobok Bisal Trail in Bokod Benguet

A mountain biker negotiated one of the seven hanging bridges that connect the trails of Bobok Bisal

The Late Comers
Our group of four riders (Bong, Mike, Reynan and me) was hosted by Alan Baldoria in Rosario La Union. Alan is an old-time mountain biker who is not easily impressed by any Manileno’s tales of epic riding. While talking to him over bottles of Red Horse, you get a sense that he has ridden more trails in the Cordillera than you have spokes in your wheels. Alan was also going to be our guide to Bobok-Bisal, and he said the ride was going to be a real treat.

Biking Up Kennon Road

We did a practice ride from Rosario La Union to Baguio City via Kennon Road to shake off the cobwebs from our legs.

To shake off some of the rust from days of desk-bound lethargy, Bong and I rode up Kennon Road to Baguio a day before the Bobok-Bisal trip. It was tiring, but it also felt good to get some blood pumping in the calves again.

The next day, we woke up at 4am to load the bikes onto a huge jeepney that was going to take us to the trailhead. Our group of five, was joined by another five riders from the Late Comers Harcor, (sic) and Once in a Blue Moon. I immediately liked them because of their groups’ names. Apparently, they got that name because punctuality was not their strong point. These guys were slackers too.

Bobok Bisal Trail in Bokod Benguet

Jeepney’s all loaded and ready to go

The trip from La Union, through Baguio, Ambuklao and finally Bokod took about five hours with plenty of stops along the way. When we arrived at the trailhead, everyone was already raring to mash their pedals.

Bobok Bisal’s trail includes two climbs which were moderate in length, but were still steep enough to make veterans of Shotgun and The Wall dismount and push their bikes. But the hike-a-bike was made more tolerable by the tall pine trees which lined up the trail and provided more than enough shade for our group as we made our way up the trail at high noon.

Bobok Bisal Trail in Bokod Benguet

Pushing our bikes up the steep trail. Photo courtesy of William Ballanza of the Late Comers Harcor team

The Descent
We were all thankful by the time we got to the start of the descent. Finally, we were going to get some respite from the pushing, and get a healthy dose of adrenaline.

I thought I had prepared quite well for the downhill. I had changed my front tire from a fast rolling WTB Nano 2.1 XC tire to a Continental Trail King 2.4 with lots of biting teeth. I also swapped my Spyder Helix XC helmet for the all mountain Spyder Grip helmet. I was also advised to bring along some armor, but I thought that it was unnecessary as I had never experienced a serious crash on the trails.

Bobok Bisal Trail in Bokod Benguet

The long downhill. Photo courtesy of Roger of Late Comers Harcor team

Big mistake. While the first few minutes of downhill seemed well within my limits, things turned exponentially more challenging soon enough. What was supposed to be hardpacked earth became loose gravelly soil that barely had any traction. Ruts, roots, rocks, and a cliff on the side made things even crazier. I was white knuckled from gripping the handlebars for dear life, and my legs and feet were ready to leak battery acid from the strain.

I crashed on one particular turn as my rear wheel lost traction and I lost balance. Maybe I should have also changed that wheel to a 2.4. Or maybe I should just ride more trails like these so I can level up my skills. Scrapes and bruises aside, the downhill ride was the best I had done so far.

Bobok Bisal Trail in Bokod Benguet

We were just midway into our descent here

Bobok Bisal Trail in Bokod Benguet, Mountain Biking in the Philippines

The Cordillera offers some of the most challenging trails in the country

Seven Hanging Bridges and Flowy Singletracks
After having lunch at Bisal, we took off for the final leg of the trip. This was supposed to be the XC leg of the trail, and I was assuming it was going to be a walk in the park.

For the most part it was like a walk in one of the most scenic natural parks you can imagine. Nevermind the narrow footpath where you could plunge over a rice terrace or a cliff with a moment’s inattention. Nevermind the tight turns on the singletrack where you will definitely go over the edge if you foolishly try to negotiate it at speed. Nevermind all of these because your eyes are feasting on some of the best views a mountain biker can ever hope to see in the country.

Bobok Bisal Hanging Bridge

One of the seven hanging bridges we needed to cross along the trail

Bobok Bisal Ride

Trail master Alan Baldoria, with Roger And William of team Late Comers

Bobok Bisal Hanging Bridge

One hanging bridge leads to another

Seven hanging bridges later, and we were back on the pavement. We could have kept on pedaling but it was the end of the trail. And it was already getting dark by that time.

Bong’s bike odometer said the whole trip was only 17 kilometers. I couldn’t believe it. That device is definitely lying or broken. A ride like that is worth more than the hundreds of kilometers I’ve accumulated in so many weekends this year.

Bobok Bisal Trail in Benguet

Posing for a souvenir group shot after an epic ride

Mark Twain said: “Twenty years from now, you’ll be disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the things you did do.” Honestly, I’m not really sure if he said that–I only picked it up on the Internet. But this bit of wisdom resonates on an epic bike ride like this. Bobok Bisal is definitely one for a Pinoy mountain biker’s bucket list.

Thanks to Bong Madriaga for this great video

Bobok Bisal Trail in Benguet

There’s no dismounting for puny drops for these guys

Bobok Bisal Trail in Benguet

Bobok Bisal Trail in Benguet

Bobok Bisal Trail in Benguet

Bobok Bisal Trail in Benguet

These kids were just all too happy to strike a pose

Bobok Bisal Trail in Benguet

Thanks to Glorious Ride Bikeshop for the excellent jersey! My shoulder was bruised, my arm warmers got ripped, and my legs were scraped, but the jersey was unscathed, though it did pick up some dirt on the crash. Many thanks also to Team Spyder for providing the Grip all mountain helmet. This tough lid likely saved me from an amnesia-causing head bump worthy of a telenovela.

And this is a video of the Bobok Bisal downhill shot by the legendary Team U.L.A.W. You gotta admire how these guys zone out fear and just ride.

And this is team U.L.A.W’s video of the singletrack that follows. Absolute respect.

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  • Hello sir,

    we would like to ask sana for your help how to get to this trail? any contact person po or guide?

    what to expect and bring thanks

    plan po akyat kami baguio fri night (3/21), then trail on sat (3/22) and back to manila evening.

    mel ramos

    • Hey that’s cool bro. I’ll ask our trail master there if he can help you. Ilan kayo? Magdadala ba kayo ng sarili nyong sasakyan or aarkila kayo?

  • more or less nasa 10 kami, baka magdala kami sasakyan to baguio, then from baguio to trailhead e jeepney ride. may nakausap kami na biker din from ulaw , still finalizing things but definitely march 21 =) tnks for the reply sir… and thanks for this blog

    • outsideslacker

      March 3, 2014 at 5:22 pm

      ayos yan bro, kasama nyo pa pala ang legendary ulaw riders! practice na kayo ng downhill. matindi yang bobok bisal 🙂