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Return to Mt. Ugo

Mt Ugo Mountain Bike Ride

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.

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Biking in New Zealand: Queenstown
(Part 1)

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 [+]

MTB Ride in Tanay, Motorcycle Ride in Marilaque

Biking Laiban and Sto. Niño, Tanay

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 [+]

Pump Track Fun at The Bike Playground

Crankworx world pump track champion Adrien Loron

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 [+]

Pedals: Clipless or Flats?

Clipless pedals

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 [+]

Biking in Gen. Nakar, Quezon

Biking In Gen. Nakar

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 [+]

Mountain Biking in Rotorua, New Zealand

Mountain biking in Rotorua

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 [+]

7 great tips for cycling enthusiasts travelling abroad

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.

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Biking and Backpacking New Zealand: Hobbiton to Lake Taupo

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 and Backpacking in New Zealand: Part 1

Queenstown, New Zealand

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 [+]