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Monsoon Biking

Rain clouds brought on by the Habagat darken the Metro Manila skyline.

Mountain biking is one outdoor activity that generally becomes more enjoyable with a bit of rain. Trails get more challenging when the dirt gets soaked, and pedaling up a slope becomes even more of a mental game when mud enters the equation.

Mountain bikes are also all-weather machines that can take the worst of what nature can dish out and still get the rider to where he or she wants to go to.

The soaked up soil only makes the ride more interesting.

I got a chance to prove this in August as the Habagat (the weather phenomenon and not the store) drenched Metro Manila and Luzon for what seemed like a biblical 40 days and 40 nights.

On Saturday, August 4, just as Tropical Storm Gener seemed finished with helping Habagat whip the Metro with intermittent downpours and gale force winds, I joined Kara who was invited by Spyder Inc. to an urban bike ride around Marikina.

I have to admit, while I love biking trails in the rain, my idea of fun was not exactly riding a bike amid storm-level gusts and downpours, while avoiding clueless pedestrians and Metro Manila drivers who seem to have graduated from the Grand Theft Auto school of motoring. But I was willing to give it a shot since it was going to be held in Marikina, which reportedly had very good bike lanes.

The event was organized by Spyder to promote biking as a green and reliable means of transport within cities. And with the assistance of volunteers from the Firefly Brigade, Kara and a group of mostly travel bloggers got to try out riding in Marikina’s bicycle lanes.

The rains calmed down enough for us to bike through Marikina’s streets. Days later these same streets would be underwater.

Marikina is known all over the country for its shoe industry. The skill of its footwear craftsmen has been a source of pride for the town for decades. But the town can now also boast of another thing: it is the only city in Metro Manila that has actually integrated the bicycle as a means of transport in its infrastructure.

Marikina’s main roads and side streets have lanes dedicated to two-wheeled pedal pushers. And it’s not just for show–an ordinance keeping the bike lanes from being usurped by motorized vehicles and used as parking spots is strictly enforced. The city even has a dedicated agency–the Markina Bike Pathways Office– to ensure this.

Habagat (southwest monsoon) was already dumping loads of rain on Metro Manila on August 4, but it had yet to reach Ondoy proportions that weekend.

What this meant for our group of blogging bikers was that the 15km ride went smoothly despite the weather, and was thankfully devoid of incidents that would normally merit 30 seconds of shock and sob on TV Patrol. The ride was finished in about 3 hours, with plenty of photo ops and even a breakfast at Pan Amerikana thrown in.

But while the ride itself was thankfully uneventful, the trip back home (pajakoldaway) to UP Village was not. The sky, which until then seemed content to spray sneezefulls of moisture down on us, suddenly seemed stricken with diarrhea. It began dumping sheet-loads of rain on me just as I was pedalling past smoke belching jeepneys on A. Bonficaio Ave. Rain continued to come down in sheets as I huffed and puffed my way up Katipunan Avenue. As if that wasn’t enough, traffic was backed up all the way to Miriam College. I forgot that the UPCAT was being held that day.

I finally made it home after nearly an hour of snaking through gaps in the traffic. And, as if on cue, the rain stopped. The weather gods have a sick sense of humor.

 But this also turned out to be good practice for Tuesday August 7, when Habagat pulled out all the stops.

On August 7, Habagat outdid Ondoy and nearly dumped two months’ worth of rain on Metro Manila and other provinces in Luzon. Public transportation ground to a halt as streets became flooded and littered with stalled vehicles.

Since I still had to go to work despite the ongoing apocalypse (in my line of work, you don’t get a day off during disasters, you only get double the workload) I had only one choice: to ride my mountain bike through hell and high water.

Thus through raging foot-deep floods and downpours I rode my bike. And the machine didn’t fail me.

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  • I would love this monsoon biking provided not too heavy flooding and rain. It’s cool for a stop and have a cup of coffee somewhere along the track.

  • Ferdinand Marte

    August 26, 2016 at 1:27 pm

    Oh yeah, monsoon biking – that’s something I want to do one of these days. Though, I would like to do it in a forested area, not in concrete or asphalt. Better yet, on a rocky cliff overlooking a raging sea – it’s going to be a beautiful day, imho.