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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 [+]

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 [+]

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 [+]

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 [+]

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 [+]