Mt Ugo is a feast for the senses. Photo by William Balanza
Mt. Ugo is one of the best places in the Philippines for mountain biking. If you want to grow in skills as a mountain biker, the challenging uphills and the ultra-technical trails of Ugo will let you know just how much you still need to grow.
Last year, I went to Mt. Ugo with a group of friends including fellow bike blogger Valleybikes. The mishap suffered by two members from our party generated a controversy in the mountain biking community.
Thankfully, this year’s trip to Ugo was devoid of mishaps and rancor. The deities of dirt seemed to be smiling on our group that day and blessed us with excellent weather, dry trails and lots of great riding.
Read more [+]
Jack’s Point on Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown, New Zealand
There are trips that are so grand that they just overwhelm your ability to process them with words. You try to jot one word down after another to describe what the place is like, but then you realize that you’ve used up your vocabulary of hyperboles and expletives on lesser experiences. You pause and try to reimagine things. This is what our backpacking trip to Queenstown, New Zealand was like. This is also why it took me so long to write this down.
Queenstown is New Zealand’s premiere adventure town. Some describe it as the adventure capital of the world, and it’s not hard to see why. Along its streets are shops upon shops of adventure outfitters ready to take you on almost every imaginable outdoor adrenaline fix. Alpine mountaineering, rock climbing, rappelling, skydiving, bungee jumping, canyoning, rafting, skiing, snowboarding, and yes… mountain biking.
People here like to point out that the ridiculous postmodern sport of bungee jumping was invented here. Why would anyone want to strap ropes around their ankles and jump from a bridge? I seriously don’t know. I guess for the Kiwis here, the need for a different kind of rush is just overpowering.
But I didn’t come here for the bungee (although my wife who has tried it before in Macau was disturbingly considering it), I came here for the biking. Just the biking–because as much as I would’ve loved to try out all these other adventure sports, the spirit was willing but the wallet was weak, so to speak. Read more [+]
Last time i was here there was a sea of clouds in this area
Last Sunday, I really wanted to ride my motorcycle. But then I also really really wanted to ride my mountain bike. I was itching to ride my MTB in Tanay again and reacquaint myself with its beautiful watery trails. I was also aching to ride my motorcycle along the twisty mountain road known as Marilaque as I hadn’t done a proper ride in several weeks.
Since July, I had been riding my mountain bike and franken-roadbike during the pitifully few days that I was not clocking in at the office. I had been training for the Brusko race (because sometimes even slackers need to train so they don’t suck). After the race, I thought that I could finally have some quality time with my motorcycle, but the weather just wasn’t cooperating.
Just as I was dusting off my riding jacket, Kuya Kim comes on TV with an evil grin saying: “Teka lang bro. What’s that in the langit? Its… typhoon Isang/Jolina/Kiko! Ang buhay ay Weder-weder lang! Nyahahaha! (insert thunder sound effects here) hahahaha.”
But last Sunday, thanks to a confluence of cosmic factors, the sun was shining and I had some extra time for a day long ride. Motorcycle ride along the beautiful open road of Marilaque, or MTB ride in the awesome mountain trails of Tanay? Damn decisions! Thankfully, I could ride them both on the same day. Read more [+]
Crankworx world pump track champion Adrien Loron gets airborne at The Bike Playground in Circulo Verde
Pump tracks are a ton of fun. If you haven’t tried ‘em, you definitely should. You’re missing out on a lot of grin-time. The pump track at The Bike Playground in Circulo Verde near Eastwood is my current favorite.
There aren’t a lot of pump tracks near Metro Manila. The old UP trail used to have a roller section where bikers could practice their pumping skills, but sadly the UP trail is gone now–bulldozed by a construction firm that very probably loathes mountain bikers.
Basekamp in Mt. Maarat, San Mateo also built a dirt pump track in its free-to-ride trail system. If you ever find yourself there, give it a go and discover for yourself how much fun it can be.
Other pump tracks meanwhile are a bit too far away for ordinary Manileño bikers. Bathala Bike Park (or what’s left of it) is in Tanay. Nuvali has a pump track, but it’s in Laguna.
Thankfully, this pump track opened up recently which is right in the heart of Metro Manila. Read more [+]
Clipless pedals, are they worth it?
It’s a question a lot of bikers ask: Should I “upgrade” to clipless pedals? When you’ve been biking for a year or so and you’re looking for the next so-called performance boost, you can’t help but think of clipless pedals.
The pros use them. Your “serious” biker friends swear by them. Heck, you might be the only guy in your squad whose bike still doesn’t have them. But should you give in to the peer pressure and temptation? Or should you keep your hard earned money for more important purchases like a case of Cerveza Sagada or round trip tickets to Batanes? Read more [+]
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. Read more [+]
New Zealand’s MTB Capital
Flashback two years ago: During my first (and still only) enduro race on the foothills of Mt. Isarog, a fellow bike blogger said a section of the race reminded him of Rotorua. Though neither I nor ‘Prancis’ of AttackMTB had ever been to Rotorua, both of us had apparently watched a video of Wyn Masters attacking a trail in New Zealand’s mountain biking capital.
The lush forest of Mt. Isarog, especially the giant ferns that lined the wet trail, reminded us of Wyn and Sam Blenkinsop’s run on Stage 1 of the Enduro World Series in Crankworx that year. It was a beautiful trail, and both Prancis and me were glad to be riding on a track that was uncannily similar to it.
But not in my wildest dreams did I think I’d ever set foot on Rotorua itself. By some strange twist of fate, I and my adventure buddy from Travel Up found ourselves last year on a bus in New Zealand en route to this mythical mountain biking town in the Southern hemisphere. Read more [+]
What better way to experience the world than riding it on two wheels? Here are seven essential tips if you’re planning to cycle your way through your travels.
Prepare for the weather
Depending on where you’re headed, there’s going to be weather conditions that you may not be accustomed to, and they become a whole new challenge when cycling. Hot weather can tire you out much quicker than usual and leave you dehydrated and tired, whereas storms and even snow in some locations pose a threat to your safety. Make sure you’re aware of the local climate, and work your day around it. Consider going for a ride early in the morning to avoid the hottest part of the day.
Read more [+]
Queenstown blends big sky mountain views with alpine lake scenery
For mountain bikers, you can’t visit New Zealand and miss out on Rotorua and Queenstown: these two towns in NZ have already become sacrosanct pilgrimage sites for the devotees of dirt riding.
For fantasy geeks meanwhile, you can’t visit New Zealand and miss out on Hobbiton. That’s like going to Banaue and not visiting the terraces, or getting a Triumph Street Scrambler and riding it only to the nearest 7-Eleven, or getting a Santa Cruz Hightower and biking solely around the UP campus. You get the drift.
That’s why, as excited as I was to hop on the saddle and start grinding gears on the trail to Rivendell, I had to make time to visit the Shire and see for myself where Bilbo and Gandalf enjoyed second breakfast and pipeweed. Read more [+]
Biking amid alpine lakes, alpine mountains in Queenstown, New Zealand
‘Magical’ is probably one of the most oft-used words to describe New Zealand. This is, after all, the site where the Lord of the Rings movies were filmed, and Peter Jackson could not have chosen a better place to bring JRR Tolkien’s books to silverscreen life. It’s hard to look at New Zealand’s mountains, valleys and forests and pretend that what you’re seeing wasn’t taken from the pages of an epic fantasy masterpiece.
For mountain bikers, New Zealand represents another kind of magic. The town of Rotorua has become famous internationally as one of the best places to go trail biking and freeriding. Rotorua has been the site of MTB mega-event Crankworx, and its reputation has rivaled that of Whistler. Read more [+]
Bike on bike lovin’
Before I begin, please forgive me for what may seem like a self-indulgent post.
I love two wheeled machines. As readers of this blog may have guessed, bicycles are like a religion for me. The mountain trail is like a church and I try to faithfully attend service more than once a week. Others who know me also know how much I love bikes of another kind–the sort that requires a throttle. Out on the open road, motorcycling is the closest you can come to flying.
For the longest time now, I’ve been trying to find a way to fuse my two passions. Years ago, whenever I wanted to go to my home trails in Tanay, I had to drive through Marilaque in a car. It always irked me to know that I could be riding my motorcycle instead of driving to the rendezvous point for the trail ride. Padyakoldaway is always an option, except when you have to get back home on a limited visa.
As someone who regularly rides Marilaque, I know just how much fun it is to carve those twisty mountain roads on my motorcycle. I needed to find a way to carry my mountain bike on my motorcycle. I needed a bike rack on my motorcycle. Read more [+]
On the way to the peak of Mt. Ugo
In any adventure, the intended results are never assured. This is one of the things I’ve learned in so many epic bike rides, trail runs, climbs, and travels. When you think you think you got everything planned and figured out, a moment’s inattention can have nature throwing you a sucker punch and leaving you dazed, confused and wondering what went wrong.
We knew that mountain biking Mt. Ugo was never going to be an easy task. But we calculated the risks versus our own abilities and made as much preparation as we could. Still, this was mountain biking: a sport where risk can never fully be taken out of the equation, an activity where taking risks is part of the satisfaction. Read more [+]
Mt. Ugo is a one-of-a-kind mountain biking destination. Whistler ba ‘to?
Mt. Ugo is not exactly the highest peak in that ass-kicking mountain region called the Cordillera– that would be Pulag. For experienced hikers, it’s a relatively moderate climb. Nowadays, it is even used as the venue for some of the country’s most prestigious trail running events.
But for mountain bikers, Mt. Ugo is the closest thing to Everest, or El Capitan in the Philippines. Bikers who have ridden its trails swear that Ugo’s gnarl factor is off the charts. If there was an hors categorie in mountain biking, Ugo was supposed to be it.
So when a friend from Valleybikes asked me if I wanted to join an exploration bike trip to Mt. Ugo, I said: Oh… Hell…. Yeah!!! There was no way on Middle Earth that I was going to miss the chance to be part of this sacred Fellowship and its grand quest. Read more [+]
Bataan is famous for being the site of some of the most heroic but hopeless last stands of the Second World War. For mountain bikers, the province is equally famous for the dreaded Bataan Killer Loop–a mountain bike route so mythically gnarled and twisted, it has supposedly reduced many a mamaw to a weeping pile of Piolo Pascual.
The BKL has been high on my bucket list for quite some time now. Last weekend, I finally ticked it off my list. I got the chance to haul my bike to Bataan and see for myself what the hype was all about. The verdict? The Killer Loop doesn’t just live up to the hype, it surpasses expectations.
Take the most enjoyable and challenging features of Timberland’s Blue Zone and Black Diamond trails, stretch them ten times and you got a pretty close approximation. Technical climbs, flowy descents, bone-rattling downhills, fantastic views of mountains, rolling hills and seas– the Killer Loop has got it all. Read more [+]
Who needs an expensive fancy resto when you can get a whole waterfall all to yourselves for free
Kinabuan Falls in Sta. Ines, Tanay Rizal used to be just a side trip for hikers and mountaineers climbing Sierra Madre’s Mt. Irid. Recently though, it has also become a popular destination for Metro Manila mountain bikers seeking to cool off in a body of water that’s not as crowded as Daranak, Batlag or Puray. Unlike these other waterfalls that are now often crowded with noisy barkadas, Kinabuan still has that rustic frontier charm that many of the more touristy waterfalls have lost. Because it isn’t easy to get to, Kinabuan hardly sees any crowds.
Kinabuan is also home to a community of Dumagats–indigenous peoples who call the Sierra Madre their home. Like the Aetas of Central Luzon, the Dumagats live on the margins of society, and eke out a living with subsistence farming and hunting.
It’s easy to get to Kinabuan if you’re a mountain biker. By that I mean, it’s easy to figure out how to get there. Biking to Kinabuan itself, is anything but easy. Read more [+]
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 [+]
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 [+]
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?
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 [+]
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 [+]
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 [+]
This 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 [+]
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 [+]
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 [+]
Getting some air on the Nuvali 4X track during the Dirt Weekend 2015
Nuvali is a vast real estate development in Sta. Rosa Laguna has been attracting bikers from all over Metro Manila and Southern Luzon. I’d been hearing lots of good things about this place for quite some time now–chiefly about its amazing trails and scenery.
I’d always wanted to check out Nuvali and sample its dirt, but I often got discouraged from going there. Why? Because it meant loading up the bike on the car, and braving the infamous gridlocks of Southern Metro Manila. Yeah, I’ve said it before: nothing ruins my day quite like getting stuck in traffic.
But last December, I finally got to bike in Nuvali.The almighty mountain biking gods accepted my sacrifices of virgin titanium spokes and graciously granted me my most fervent wish! Or almost. Actually, my wife got invited by Seda Hotel for a free overnight stay through her travel blog. Since we were going to be resting, relaxing and luxuriating in an excellent hotel for FREE (!!!), the dreaded traffic going to Sta. Rosa seemed less dreadful. Read more [+]
One of several skylights in Calinawan Cave
Calinawan Cave is one of the more popular tourist destinations in Tanay. This cave lies just a few kilometers from the always crowded Daranak Falls, and is usally reached by renting tricycles from the Tanay poblacion. Last weekend however, TravelUp and I thought that it would be more interesting to visit Calinawan on our bikes.
I first learned of Calinawan Cave about two years ago when I joined the Nature’s Trail Discovery Run in Tanay. After finishing that 21k race, I promised myself I’d return to Calinawan and enjoy this place at a more leisurely pace. Last weekend, I was finally able to do that. Read more [+]
The pebble beach in Chavayan village in Sabtang Island, Batanes
Sometimes you just have to do things on your own—like biking in a strange beautiful island for instance. Last April, I went to Batanes for a week’s worth of biking. After savoring the sights, sounds and vibe of the province’s main island of Batan for several days, I thought it was time to hoist the anchor and sail to another equally incredible island—Sabtang. (Actually, I would have preferred to bike with someone, but my traveling partner took off on her own for the island of Itbayat.)
This small island municipality lies just a few kilometers from Batanes’ main island. Sabtang is easily accessible by boat. The trip however can last anywhere from half an hour to almost an hour depending on how rough the waves are.
But even if you easily get seasick, you should not forego the chance to see Sabtang. If you loved what you saw in Batan, the honest truth is: Sabtang has got more of them and then some. Skip Sabtang and you’ll be cursing yourself for life. The rolling hills, the cliffs, the quaint villages with stone houses, the friendly locals, and the quiet idyllic scenery that have come to define Batanes—Sabtang has all of that. But it also has the best beaches in Batanes, and rock formations which you can’t see anywhere else. Read more [+]
Most of the time, I go biking solo. It’s not because I don’t enjoy company. It’s because most of the time, I can’t get anyone to go with me on my trips. Or I schedule trips, drink too much beer the night before, and wake up seven hours late feeling like Jon Jones used my head for his spinning elbow practice. And so to use a popular tagalog kasabihan: Papunta pa lang ako, parating na sila.
But seriously, it’s always better to ride with a buddy or a group. If something bad happens, you can always have someone to answer organ donor questions, carry your remains back to civilization, or help fix a flat. Riding with someone better than you in terms of experience and skill also pushes you to level up your own cache of tricks.
So what sort of bikers should you ride with if you had the choice? Here are at least seven MTB archetypes I can think of. Read more [+]
Biking around the southern part of Batan Island reminded me of a lot of things. The road reminded me of Pagudpud because of how its rocky cliffs plunged into the sea. It also reminded me of Sagada because of how those same cliffs often towered above the road. Its undulating grass carpeted hills reminded me of Bohol and its famous Chocolate Hills.
But Batanes’ southern loop also had something these places didn’t have. I had a hunch that biking through the towns of Mahatao, Ivana, Uyugan and back to Basco would send me through some very awesome vistas. But I didn’t know just how awe-inspiring this place would be.
We started riding out of Basco at a relaxed pace around mid morning. We wanted to start early but there was some mix up with the mountain bike we were going to hire. Because of this the sun was already almost halfway up the sky by the time we were pedaling out of Basco’s town center. It was mid-April and as expected, the weather was already hot. But there was also an ever-present sea breeze that made the ride quite pleasant. Read more [+]
Sometimes you just have to bring your bike with you when you fly. Whether you’re going on a biking vacation or joining a bike race in some far away place, there are times when there’s no choice but to pack your bike and get it ready for air freight.
Sure, it can can be a hassle, and it can be a bit expensive. But if you’re going on vacation to a place like Batanes, the hassle and expense are more than worth it.
So just how do you go about it? A lot of readers have been asking me about this after I posted my piece about biking in Batanes. I’m no expert when it comes to packing your bike for flight, but I’ve learned a few things while preparing for our Batanes trip. So I’m now sharing the shreds of wisdom (if they qualify for that lofty description) I gathered along the way. Read more [+]
Batanes: it’s where earth, sea and sky meet in the most spectacular manner. Photo by traveling-up.com
Batanes’ landscape is special. To describe this group of islands as beautiful is to commit a grave understatement. Even jaded travellers are awed by its strangeness. I’m not sure if you can find another place in the Philippines where the earth, sea and sky come together in the same spectacular manner.
Biking Batanes is also a very special experience. Admittedly, its islands do not have the most technically challenging trails in the country, or not yet anyway. If you want to display your attitude and prowess, this is probably not the best place to do it.
But if you are in search of the ever elusive flow, you’ve come to the right place as Batanes has got loads of flow, and then some. You can find your own flow in many of its sweeping rolling hills. But its real attraction for bikers is the sheer raw beauty of the landscape, which is incomparable. Read more [+]
This landscape just oozes magic and adventure
Dream destinaton—there’s no better way to describe it. Batanes is likely the best biking destination in the Philippines. Bar none.
I thought I’d seen it all. But then I rode my bike up the crest of a steep grass-carpeted hill overlooking the sea. Then I pointed my bike down the hill’s steepest face and let gravity take over, fly me down the slope of a solid wave of green earth. If you like flow, Batanes is overflowing with flow.
There is also this minor thing of a rush of sweet sweet feeling in the blood. Surfers call it “stoked.” Bikers may call it whatever they want to call it as long as they know the feeling. There’s the most fantastic landscape, and there you are riding it. Read more [+]
Thunderbird Resorts in Binangonan Rizal is familiar to Metro Manila mountain bikers who frequent Antenna Hill and the Angono-Binangonan Petroglyphs.
Thunder Trail however does not seem to be as famous as either of these two biking destinations. This is a shame because this winding singletrack and fireroad which leads to a hilltop lagoon is one of the better MTB trails near Metro Manila.
Binangonan Rizal is my hometown. It makes me proud that the Angono-Binangonan Petroglyphs have now become part of the “must-visit” places among Metro Manila weekend warriors. Over the years, I’ve also seen Antenna Hill attain much deserved fame in the mountain biking community for its challenging climb (which offers great views of the Laguna de bay) and the excellent downhill track which was built there by gravity aficionados.
Thunder Trail complements these two destinations. This trail has got plenty of twists, fast flowy descents, and sections that require you to dip into your bag of technical tricks. Read more [+]
Two wheels, a camera, and a sense of wonder and adventure are all you need
If you’ve ever enjoyed the Tomb Raider games and movies, if you’re yearning for an adventure akin to that of Indiana Jones, and (last but definitely not the least) if you enjoy biking—then Cambodia should be part of your bucket list.
Cambodia’s ancient sites are beyond awesome. I’ve seen pictures of Cambodia’s temple ruins before. But to see these massive towers, pyramids, monuments, monasteries and stairways to heaven up close and personal is something else. For someone who enjoys snacking on Natgeo and the History Channel, this place is like one gigantic buffet.
It’s not that expensive either. Catch one of the cheap flights from the budget carriers and you’re good to go. Day to day expenses are comparable to living in Manila, sometimes even cheaper. If you can book a trip to Boracay, you can book a trip to Cambodia’s ancient sites. And the best part is that all of these ancient sites can be explored by bike.
I even think that the temples are best visited via bike. There’s a Zen element in going on a journey, moving on your own pace, reaching a sacred place, and moving on. Read more [+]
This Ent-like tree is supposed to be 300 years old. Not sure if that’s true, but it’s awesome nonetheless
Daraitan is a quiet little village in the Sierra Madre mountains in Tanay, Rizal. Daraitan is also one of the most beautiful places you can bike to from Metro Manila, and I don’t say those words lightly. I’ve become quite jaded when it comes to mountain biking destinations. But Daraitan is worth every pedal stroke, every ounce of sweat, every painful grunt it takes to get there. If you’re a Metro Manila biker planning to do a bike tour this summer, this should be at the top of your list.
Daraitan has been cited as having the cleanest waters in the Calabarzon area. One look at its clear flowing river was enough to convince me that it deserved that citation. But besides the clarity of its streams, there’s also its forest covered peaks, the fantastic boulders, cliffs and rock formations along the river, and an unspoiled cave that’s perfect for spelunking. This place radiates magic like Rivendell.
My first foray into Daraitan was less than a year ago. I joined the first leg of the Nature’s Trail Discovery Run and found myself crossing Daraitan’s streams and hopping around its boulders in a 31k trail run sufferfest. Needless to say, while my eyes registered the beauty of the place, my mind had been drained of any capacity for awe and wonder by the agonizing run. So I resolved to go back to Daraitan some time in the future and soak in its vibe at a more leisurely pace. Read more [+]
A route with a view. Photo courtesy of Dennis Pagayon
Wawa in Montalban/Rodriguez, Rizal is a well known destination for mountain bikers in Metro Manila. But this little rural village on the foothills of the Sierra Madre is also a mecca for another tribe of outdoor sports enthusiasts. Rock climbers flock to Wawa Montalban because of its limestone cliffs which offer some of the finest and most challenging climbing in the Philippines.
In my ten year on-and-off love affair with climbing, Wawa has always occupied a special spot. The first time I went there, I gazed stupefied at its cliffs. I did not know that there were walls like that so near to Manila. I’ve gone there two more times since my first visit, and it has never been boring. Just looking at the cliffs can make you dizzy with both dread and anticipation. With some crags shooting up more than a hundred feet, you need to be a real badass to try to scale them. Read more [+]
The picture probably doesn’t do justice to the difficulty of this route
Mt. Balagbag and its infamous peak called the Helipad is the logical next step for mountain bikers in Metro Manila who have already pushed themselves past the challenges of Timberland’s trails. If you think you’re ready for the big leagues, Mt. Balagbag is just there waiting for you like Cain Velasquez eager to give you a lesson or two about ground and pound.
As you grow as a mountain biker, you search for harder and harder routes to test yourself. You want to see how fast you can climb, and how fast you can descend on trails that get more and more technical. For Manila’s mountain bikers, Balagbag has got to be one of the hardest routes accessible via a weekend trip. Read more [+]
There are several waterfalls you can bike to from Metro Manila
Metro Manila has waterfalls. Well, maybe they’re not exactly in Metro Manila itself. You will need to work a bit to reach these cascades. But if you’re a mountain biker, getting there is more than half the fun.
For a lot of people who grew up in Metro Manila, it can be almost hard to believe that there are waterfalls that are just an hour and a half away by car, or two and a half hours away by bike from the city. Waterfalls, after all, are part of mountain streams, which are in turn nurtured by forest watersheds. If you cut the trees in the forest, you eliminate the watershed, and you kill the waterfalls. Rampant deforestation in the municipalities and provinces around Metro Manila has probably eliminated a lot of these awesome nature spots. (This is what happened to Uugong Falls in Morong, Rizal.)
Still, the situation isn’t so bad yet. There are still a few waterfalls near Metro Manila, which means that there are still trees in the mountains to sustain them. And here are some of the waterfalls you can reach with your mountain bike. Read more [+]
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. Read more [+]
It’s tricky to descend into and then climb out of these bridges. Photo courtesy of Bong Madriaga
The first time I came to La Mesa several years ago, I couldn’t believe that there was such a place right inside Metro Manila. I had heard a lot about the place, about the beauty of its trails, and the postcard (or is it Instagram?) perfect scenery you get to enjoy while biking there. But nothing compares to seeing it for yourself.
Let’s just get something out of the way first. The biking destination I am talking about is the La Mesa Nature Reserve, not the La Mesa Ecopark. The former has kilometers upon kilometers of well-maintained fire roads and singletrack which can take you a whole day to explore. The latter (the Ecopark) is a smaller park which features boating, paintball, and a few kilometers of biking. It’s more suited for family picnics instead of mountain biking. It’s easy to confuse the two parks because both are maintained by ABS-CBN’s Bantay Kalikasan. Read more [+]
For running and biking, the U.P. Diliman campus is the best destination in Metro Manila
If New York City has its Central Park, Metro Manila has the UP Diliman campus. No disrespect to Luneta and the QC circle, but in terms of wide and green open spaces, the 493 hectare flagship campus of the State University is unmatched in Metro Manila. The campus is a gigantic garden with tree-lined avenues and wide grassy areas where all sorts of outdoor activities can be held. I am not sure if there’s a place that can compare to it in the Metro.
Bonifacio Global City may have lots of runnable and bikeable pavement, but its small trees hardly provide any shade. Luneta and Roxas Boulevard meanwhile have deteriorated a lot, as evidenced by the seemingly uncollectable trash along the baywalk. If you’re sick of breathing in the brown, oily halitosis of Metro Manila while running or biking, UP Diliman is the best place to go inside the Metro. Read more [+]
Downhill bikers of Antenna Hill
Its steepness will remind mountain bikers of The Wall in Timberland. The view from the top meanwhile will recall the hills of Antipolo, which overlook Metro Manila. If you’re looking for a different kind challenge for the weekend, Antenna Hill in Tayuman, Binangonan, Rizal should be high on your list.
This biking destination also comes with several bonuses as you can head on to the historic Petroglyphs after climbing the hill, visit a first-class resort along the way, and take a tour of the arthouse restaurants in Angono. Read more [+]
Biking trip through the ruins of Corregidor
Corregidor has always fascinated me. This small island fortress at the gate of Manila Bay was once dubbed as one of the most formidable outposts of American power right before World War 2. It was also the site of a fierce Fil-American resistance, some of the bloodiest battles of the War, and a futile and tragic effort by the Japanese to keep the Allied juggernaut at bay. For a history junkie like me, being in Corregidor was like being a kid let loose in Willy Wonka’s wonderland.
And is there a better way to feeling like a kid again than riding on a bike? Last May 4th, I and a group of friends got to travel around Corregidor island on bikes. It was one of the best bike trips I’d ever done. I had been to Corregidor once before, but travelling around the island leisurely on a bike is definitely much better.
Read more [+]
Sagada: one of the best places in the country to do mountain biking
Ever since I set foot in Sagada over a decade ago, I dreamed about exploring this beautiful mountain town on a bike. Last October I finally got to do this.
Unfortunately, I could not bring my own bike to Sagada. We could not risk taking the car and driving all the way through Cordillera’s twisty roads. I couldn’t find a cheap bike carrying case either which would have allowed me to lug my bike safely onto a bus.Thankfully, you can now rent decent enough mountain bikes for P100/hour from Sagada Mountain Bikes. Read more [+]
Rock climbing in Sagada
Visitors come to Sagada for its cool climate, its beautiful pine-clad mountain slopes, its relaxing vibe, and its friendly locals. Travelers stay for a couple of days to enjoy Sagada’s caves, its waterfalls, its hiking trails, and its culture.
But besides these, I think this quaint little town up in the Cordilleras also deserves fame for one other thing—its beautiful cliffs that are just perfect for rock climbing. Read more [+]