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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.

Mt Ugo Mountain Bike Ride

The only times I get to wear a full face helmet. And I don’t even like wearing fullface on a motorcycle.  Photo by William Balanza

I wasn’t really planning on riding Ugo again this year. What I really wanted to ride was Bobok Bisal so I could shoot some drone footage over its famed seven hanging bridges. But (this is always how it happens, it seems) as luck would have it, a friend was set to ride Ugo the following week. I asked if I could join, and luckily, there was still a tiny sliver of a slot left on the truck that would carry his group of bikers there.

My second trip to Ugo was less excruciating than the first. We skipped the trek through the limatik-infested mossy forest. We were planning to ride the truck all the way to the jump off point at the “waiting shed” in  Domolpos, Kayapa. However, part of the road going there had just been paved, and the concrete was still curing.

We had to disembark and arrange for a local jeepney to take us to there instead. This caused a bit of delay, but pedaling all the way to the waiting shed was out of the question as most of the bikers in the group were on downhill and enduro bikes–not exactly the best tools for climbing 10 kilometers of Cordillera slopes.

After a roughly one hour jeepney ride, we were at the jump off point. By skipping the mossy forest trail and the trek to the peak, we saved roughly a whole day’s worth of climbing.

“This is how I want to live my life. Immersed in nature, surrounded by friends, and riding bikes,” so said Alex of The Singletrack Sampler. I could not have said it any better.

It was a nice flowy ride from Domolpos, and then a gruelling hike-a-bike to a ridge where the trail forked and you could either go all the way to the summit, or a detour to the right where you ride close to the cliff around the peak.

Bikepackers usually go all the way to the summit–we took this route last year. But those who just want en-joo-roh and downhill riding opt for the detour. By opting for the latter, we could be in Tinongdan by sunset, which was our target.

I am familiar with rock gardens and steep slopes, they don’t scare me as a mountain biker anymore. Ugo however acquaints with two other things that amps up the risk factor–narrow cliffs, and rows upon rows of roots.

Mt Ugo Mountain Bike Ride

Magic mountain. Photo by William Balanza

If you’re scared of heights, you probably shouldn’t be riding Ugo. I’ve done a bit of rock climbing before, but riding those narrow cliffs on a bike is something else. Roots are another thing. Fullsus bikes can handle roots very well, but if you’re on a hardtail like me, you need to pick your line. Wet roots can really screw you up. But fortunately, the trails and roots were pretty dry that day.

I was hoping to do a lot of drone shots of the mountain, but since our schedule was delayed and we we wanted to be in Tinongdan by sunset, we had to hurry up.

Mt Ugo Mountain Bike Ride

Thanks to William Balanza of Enduro Adventure for letting me join the trip!

Ugo was as beautiful as the last time. There is magic in this place. A man from Manila would easily be overwhelmed by the sights, sounds and even smells of this mountain. It’s a feast for the senses of someone who loves great heights, the sound of birds, the clearest blue skies as well as clouds blanketing green slopes, cool mountain air and both adrenaline and lactic acid in the bloodstream.

I hope to return to this place again soon, stay a bit longer, soak up its vibe and spend more time with its people.

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  • Sir gd am po. Taning kulang po kong saan add niniyo po sa manila meron dun kayo sa iloilo po

  • Good day Sir Art, kamusta po ang performance ng Labici frame 29er na gamit nyo po before? palnning to build another mtb for touring po kasi ako. Ano po mapapayo nyo using that frame? Mas okay po ba ang fire eye funseeker na gamit nyo po ngayon? maraming salamat po!

    • Outside Slacker

      January 21, 2018 at 6:07 pm

      Hi Drebskie, ayos naman ang labici steel 29er. Nasa akin pa actually sya kasi iniiisip kong gawing singlespeed bike. Kung epic rides, ok ang labici. Kaya lang ako nag-switch to a fireeye funseeker e dahil kailangan ko ng mas mahabang fork for more aggressive riding. hanggang 100mm lang kasi labici, which is ok for xc trails. pero on more technical trails, having a longer fork is better. 130mm rating ng fireeye

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