In this new section of Travel Up – Extreme Explorers, I’ll be featuring interviews of people who get to travel the country in a different manner.
I’m currently watching the documentary series “Long Way Round” (starring Ewan McGregor & Charley Boorman) and am getting really getting inspired to ride all over the Philippines by motorcycle. Associate Editor of Motorcycle Magazine Karlo de Guzman, a.k.a Riderman Manila shares in this interview some of the best places to ride around the country and gives great insights about traveling by motorcycle.
Riderman named his first motorcycle (a yellow 2004 Honda Wave Alpha) Bebop, after jazz music and the anime Cowboy Bebop. Right now, he rides a Demak Duta 125cc from Malaysia, a two-tone retro-scooter, but has had the chance to ride more than 20 motorcycles so far, each for different periods time, riding to all kinds of places, be it for a test or a review, for a brand tour, or marketing junket. He rode for 11 hours to get to Callao Caves in Cagayan, cruised all around Nueva Viscaya, Ilocos, Baguio and Pampanga by motorcycle, and rode to Legazpi and back (from Manila) one weekend just for the heck of it. Here’s one of the cool insights he shared:
“Motorcycling is more than just transportation, nor is it just a tool, and it shouldn’t be cheapened (or hyped-up) by its kind or brand. Others may see it as to be nothing more than two wheels with a seat and an engine at its core. Truth be told, it is the rider’s heart and mind. The motorcycle is an extension of himself. Any experience from riding defines his relationships with the people around him and how he views the world.” — Riderman Manila
Where is your favorite weekend getaway by motorcycle?
“I wouldn’t need to wait for the weekend to ride. I used to go on Wednesday night rides to Tagaytay. I’d leave at 9PM and go through C-5 and East Service Road to take a short break at Alabang. From there, I’d pass Daang-Hari, Aguinaldo Highway, and end up at the Summit Ridge Hotel. I’d ride a bit further (up to the radar towers) for a hot bowl of bulalo, or a simple bowl of goto, or for just a cup of instant coffee if I’m short on money. There’s virtually no traffic and the evening ride is so much cooler. Then I’d take the same route home and be sound asleep before 2AM.”
As a rider, what are your travel essentials on the road?
“My standard apparel would be a full-faced helmet, reflective vest, and back, elbow and knee armor. I also wear knuckle armored gloves and ankle high boots. In case of an emergency, I’d keep a Gatorade bottle of emergency fuel, an oxygen air hose for tying things down or to siphon fuel, and my personal information with emergency contact numbers on a piece of paper inside my boot. Later on, I realized that there’s only so much that I can fit in my saddle bags (and tail bag, tank bag, belt bag, and even up to the utility box under the seat in some of the bikes I rode).
It’s not entirely reckless abandon nowadays. Sometimes I just wear an open-faced helmet, but it’s important that I make sure that my ride is well tuned, that I’ve enough money, and my cell phone is fully charged. I’ve had Wednesday night rides to Tagaytay with only quarter tank of gas, still wearing the clothes I wore to work with just P100 in my wallet, only three sticks of cigarettes, and a lighter that didn’t work.”
Where’s the best place in the Philippines you have gone to by motorcycle?
“I was impressed with the Bukidnon-Davao (BUDA) Highway in Mindanao. The BUDA from Davao City up to the Seagull Mountain Resort is favored by motorcyclists in an almost similar fashion that riders in Manila like to go to MARILAQUE on weekends. It had a lot to offer for any kind of biker; long stretches, scenic mountain roads, gentle curves, harrowing bends, and there is a stretch out there where you’re always sure to ride through some real mountain mists even at high noon.
And then there’s a great strip of road from the San Juanico Bridge up to Calbayog, Samar where I had my fastest ride on a Suzuki Raider R150 underbone.
Watching the sunrise at Baler, Aurora was something else. I’ve seen the sunset in Manila Bay, Pagudpud, and Batangas, but the Aurora sunrise was just too much for words or photographs. I simply can’t share what I saw by describing it, or by telling you how I felt. You should go there and see it for yourself.
The Maguilas Trail from Rosario, going further up north, is a great stretch of road worth going away for, where I always make sure to stop and eat native white corn by the roadside.
Dalton Pass’ rocky mountain roads have some kind of foreign appearance, more picturesque than Kennon Road.”
What’s been the most challenging ride you’ve had?
“On a Chinese made prototype of a 250cc entry-level sports bike, I followed the BOSS Riders Iron-Man Challenge route that goes around the North Luzon Loop, counter-clockwise, from Manila, to Nueva Ecija, Isabela, Tuguegarao, Cagayan, Ilocos Norte, La Union, Baguio City, up to Clark, Panpanga, all 1,400kms of it as non-stop as I could. That endurance ride took me 28 hours to complete. If I ever do it again and make it in less than 24hrs, then I’ll consider joining the Ironman. It was the most exhausting and spookiest ride I ever had.
Riding a 150cc standard bike to Irosin, Sorsogon, the engine started sounding wrong by the time I passed Legazpi City. I also got lost late in the evening and found my way deep into Albay instead. Despite the unusual SHROE-SHROE-SHROE noise, the bike performed normally, so I just kept going. When we inspected the bike at the factory, we saw a broken camshaft bearing. I didn’t make it to the hot springs in Irosin that time, but at least I got to see Mayon Volcano by moonlight.”
Where is your dream destination for a motorcycle tour?
“If it all falls into place, on my annual insanity ride that I do right after my birthday, I plan to install a 50cc two-stroke engine on a 50 year old bicycle. It’s a National roadster with 26” tires and rod-linked brakes, a typical English-styled bicycle, only Japanese made. I hope to ride it to Sagada and back. I really can’t explain why I want to ride that way this year, but ever since the absurd idea came up, I just felt compelled to do it.
They said that there are also great roads in Bohol and some awesome trails in Palawan. I am aiming to ride there by 2012, and then I’d like to ride all of South East Asia. Should the world get snuffed as the Mayans calculated, I’d like to keep my helmet and armor so I can Mad Max my way in a post-apocalyptic world.”
Any tips for people who want to ride all around the country?
“Don’t rush. Take motorcycling lessons from the Honda Riding Center in Bicutan if you can, because when you complete the course, you’ll become a better rider than I am. Explore slowly, starting from your immediate neighborhood. There’s nothing quite like riding a motorcycle while finding a beautiful place to get lost.”
All photos courtesy of Riderman Manila.