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.
Camp Aguinaldo Trail
I love this trail because it makes me feel like I’m biking through a zombie apocalypse landscape. Gamers who have played “The Last of Us” will find the rusting carcasses of military hardware strangely unnerving.
This is a good place to start honing your cross country mountain biking skills. It’s a short track, but if you’re a newbie, this presents lots of challenges that will raise your bike handling kung fu and prepare you for much more difficult terrain. There’s an entrance fee of 50 pesos, but it’s well worth the expense.
I don’t know what it is with military camps and mountain bike trails but I am thankful for this strange correlation. Anyway, this is another short cross country track which has seen a few enhancements courtesy of the people at AttackMTB. Like in Camp Aguinaldo, there’s also a 50 peso entrance fee here. Lately, this has become one of the most popular trails in southern Metro Manila.
It’s located inside the Libingan ng mga Bayani compound, so bikers always need to be mindful that they are on sacred ground. You don’t want military officials hauling your ass off the track for being disrespectful.
UP Diliman Trail
My favorite trail, not because it is the gnarliest (hmm, may coñong biker ba talaga na gumagamit ng salitang ito?) but because it’s just a few pedal strokes away from where I live. There are actually two trails here: one is behind the CHK building, and the other is adjacent to the archery range.
Legend has it that UP students nurtured their inner Legolas by raining down arrows on the hapless bikers who mistakenly wandered into this track. Some say the tortured screams of the poor victims could still be heard by anyone who dares to bike there alone in the dead of night. Pero kwento kwento lang yun.
The good thing about this trail is you can bike through UP’s tree-shaded roads to build up your fitness, then get some dirt on your wheels and a reasonable amount of stoke. (Feeling surfer ah!)
The other good thing about this is that UP students believe that education should be a right, not a privilege, and that education should be free, and this includes your education in mountain biking.
Makibaka para sa libreng trails!
Mt. Maarat/ Timberland
There’s a reason why this place is often referred to as the mountain biking capital of the country. I’m sure mountain bikers in other parts of the Philippines have a thing or two to say about that claim, but Maarat does offer an abundance of purpose-built mountain biking trails that probably can’t be seen anywhere else in the Philippines.
Maarat/Timberland has IMBA rated trails like the Green Zone, the Blue Zone, and the Black Diamond Trail. Bikers who want to level up their skills definitely need to sample these trails.
The area also has some of the most challenging paved climbs courtesy of The Wall and Shotgun. Finish these long and difficult ascents, and your other climbs will feel like leisurely trips to the mall.
Those who hanker for a bit of gravity meanwhile can indulge their addiction on the downhill track of Patiis. And if that’s not enough, you can head on to the Pestaño trails for even more technical riding.
Mountain biking newbies, veterans and pros all flock to this biking mecca in the same way that La Union attracts people who seek to surf. It doesn’t hurt that there’s lots of good places to eat here when you need to refuel. There’s Aling Tina’s, All Terra cycling shop and cafe, Marc’s Store, Bikers Cafe, Ka Vergel, Giant Store, Phillip’s Sanctuary, and other smaller eateries.
From the highway, you can spy Antenna Hill with its radio tower looking almost like a trophy waiting to be won. The ascent up Antenna is very challenging, but the downhill track is what’s earned this destination its rep in the mountain biking community. Huge drops and a very steep descent make this a favorite among gravity addicts.
But if you’re not someone who likes to strap on full-face helmets and armor, this biking destination still holds a lot of attractions. There’s Thunder Trail, and of course there’s the Petroglyphs.
After tackling the trails, you can ride down to Angono and visit the Nemiranda and Balaw-Balaw resto-galleries to marvel at the beautiful paintings and sculptures by some of the country’s most legendary folk artists.
La Mesa Nature Reserve
This is one of my favorite biking destinations. La Mesa Nature Reserve is unique because it is probably the only bike trail that’s been built inside a real rainforest. Almost 90 percent of your ride will be spent under a thick canopy of trees, and if you bother to listen you will hear the sounds of several species of birds among the trees. Wooden bridges, tree houses and a view deck to the La Mesa reservoir make this one of the most scenic rides out there.
The entrance fee is a stiff 200 pesos, but the ride you’ll get is more than worth it because the fees help Bantay Kalikasan keep the place as pristine as it is.
The only trouble here is that the trails often get muddy, and the mud sticks to almost every part of your bike. Also, there aren’t any eating places inside the area so you better bring sandwiches and plenty of fluids.
South of Metro Manila is another place that’s become a mecca for mountain bikers. Nuvali in Sta. Rosa, Laguna has tens of kilometers of excellent singletrack and some very scenic cross country riding.
Nuvali also hosts the annual bike-a-palooza called Dirt Weekend, a highlight of which is the 4X race. This means it’s got a UCI-certified four cross track where you can practice your jumps and attack some serious berms. If you want to get technical, this is a very good place to start. And when you get hungry, there’s plenty of good places to eat down the road.
The only problem here is that if you’re not from Laguna, you will need to drive to this place to access all of these goodies.
This is another popular destination for mountain bikers in southern Metro Manila. If Nuvali has its Dirt Weekend, Filinvest has its Endurance Weekend where 12-hour and 6-hour mountain bike races are held.
Disclosure: I haven’t tried this trail yet because I live in QC and it’s too far for padyakoldaway. I also don’t like driving through the traffic of C5 or that hell-highway called Edsa, and I’m generally too lazy to bother putting up the bike carrier on the car. But according to friends who have biked at the Filinvest trail, this is a very newbie-friendly track. If you live down south, you should definitely try riding here.
Metro Manila is not exactly the most bike-friendly place in the world. Rapid development has also made the Philippine capital one of the most congested and polluted cities on the planet. But there are still lots of green spaces in and around this megacity where bikers can pedal to their hearts’ content and breathe easy. Let’s just hope that despite the breakneck pace of development, these oases of green trails won’t get destroyed anytime soon.