I haven’t quite been bitten by the biking bug as much as the travel bug. Though I enjoy taking leisurely rides around UP, biking for 5 hours uphill, in the rain, or through muddy trails is really not my thing. I (conveniently) haven’t been able to join a lot of rides which are scheduled during weekends due to other trips. However, I do see the need to get more into fitness activities like biking, and it can be a great way to travel and explore different places as well.
Earlier this year, I got to try trail biking for the first time in La Mesa Nature Reserve. It was a brutal yet fun experience that took us through 22 km of rocky and root-lined dirt trails, crazy downhill descents and steep uphill trails. And that was the easy route.
For those looking for places to mountain bike, here’s a guest post by my husband Art of Outside Slacker, on places you can check out relatively near Manila:
For those who want to get into biking, check out this related post: 8 Tips on buying your first mountain bike
The dry season is over, and the beach crowds are beginning to thin out. For a lot of people, the onset of the rainy season is like a light switch, which signals that the trips to the great outdoors ought to be shelved for the dry comforts of the indoors. While planning a trip does become more problematic when you need to take the weather into account, this does not mean that the months from June to October, which mark the height of the rainy season, should be spent just playing Diablo, vegging out in front of the TV, or malling. I’ve found out that some outdoor activities are actually improved with a bit of rain. Mountain biking is one of them.
As kids, we all loved our bikes. I remember growing up with a BMX which I would ride whenever I got the chance. The bicycle was the most exhilarating toy I’d ever had as it allowed a seven year old kid like me back then, to venture out into places that were supposed to be out of reach. Against my mother’s advice, admonitions, and even threats, I would ride out my bike for hours and get to areas of our town which were several kilometers away from what my parents clearly demarcated as a safe zone for someone my age. I knew I was breaking the rules, but I was exploring and it was just too much fun.
As I got older and bigger, the BMX started to seem to small for me. I would still ride it all the way to high school, but when I reached college, something had to give. When I got my first look at a mountain bike, I was immediately hooked. It looked badass and nothing like any bike I’d seen before–not the Schwinn ”butterfly'”bikes, road “racer” bikes, or even the beloved BMX “pang-exhibition” bikes. It looked high tech. This was back in the early 90s, before hydraulic disc brakes, air-oil suspension forks, hydroformed aluminum frames, and indexed shifters. But even then, the mountain bike with its steel frame, and (in hindsight) clunky friction shifters looked aggressive, looked impressive, looked like… it could take on a mountain. Thus came my second love affair with bikes.
Binangonan, Rizal does not have a lot of mountains, but it does have a lot of hills, which were just perfect for anyone with a mountain bike. And so I would spend weekends exploring those hills, sometimes stumbling upon a foot trail or two, and generally having a great time outdoors. While most of my friends then would be playing basketball, I would be riding my bike. Even in the rain. I found out that sometimes, a drizzle actually improves the quality of the ride, by taking out the heat and making it more comfortable.
Years later, that is still the case–a little rain is no obstacle to having a good time riding my bike. I’ve since moved out of Binangonan and into Diliman, traded my hometown’s hills for the tree-lined streets of UP, but the biking bug has stayed with me. Travelers who live in QC and want to try out mountain biking are in luck because there are a lot of places nearby that are great for mountain biking.
1) Topping the list is La Mesa Nature Reserve. By far this mountain bike mecca offers the best trails in Metro Manila. It has lots of well-kept single track, challenging ascents and downhills, plus the views of the man-made lake are postcard-worthy. You should not confuse it though with La Mesa Ecopark, which is a smaller and more family-oriented park. [MAP] [NOTE: There’s a biking fee of P200.00 per rider]
2) Next on the list is Timberland in San Mateo Rizal, the site of the infamous “The Wall” and “Shotgun.” Mountain bikers spoiling for a challenge should definitely try scaling The Wall–a very brutal climb up 2 or so kilometers of pavement ending at the gates of the Timberland estates. If that is not challenging enough, you can ramp up the punishment by taking on Shotgun, which is just as tough a climb but stretches even longer. Timberland is not all about climbs though, the place is one of the most famous biking spots in Metro Manila as it offers several fire roads and singletracks, for those who are more into “technical” riding. [MAP]
3) Bikers who want to put on the miles and enjoy beautiful scenery along the way, can try Marilaque–that long stretch of road that starts at grimy, polluted, congested Cogeo, winds through the Sierra Madre and ends in either Tanay Rizal or Real Quezon, whichever you prefer. While Cogeo may seem like Divisoria on a hillside, the view improves dramatically a few kilometers away. Just tough it out and you’ll be in for a treat. [MAP]
4) Tanay Rizal meanwhile offers a variety of spots for the more adventurous biker. One such place I’ve visited there with is Sta. Ines. The ride is as challenging as it is scenic. At the end of the trail is a waterfall that few people know about. I biked there in January 2011 with Broomba, a group of 4×4 enthusiasts and mountain bikers from my hometown. It takes half a day to ride the 20 or so kilometers to the falls. You need to cross streams more than a dozen times to get there. This is definitely not for the beginner as the ride back is even more punishing than The Wall. And watch out for flashfloods when it rains. Fun! [MAP]
5) Though I wouldn’t recommend it to newbie bikers, another interesting place to mountain bike is Talim Island. Its the nearest island to Metro Manila, and the view from Mt. Susong Dalaga is pretty cool. Be prepared to carry your bike on your shoulders for about 40 percent of the way though as even mountain goats can have problems with some of the rocks and non-existent trails. Binangonan, Cardona and Angono offer some great interconnected trails. [MAP]
Of course, if a bit of rain daunts you, you can always just fire up your computer and take vicarious pleasure in reading Travel Up.
Guest post and photos by Art Fuentes of Outside Slacker. Additional photos by JC Gonzales, Trixx Ramos & BROOMBA (Binangonan Rizal Offroaders, Outdoors and Mountain Bikers Association, Inc.)