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Tuning up

Assault on Mt. Maarat

(February 13, 2005) I'd been in the Philippines since June '03 and I find it unthinkable how it took me this long to hit the trails here. During a rock climbing event at Montalban over a weekend, I stumbled into Kim and his group of riders who agreed to take me with them to their next ride - Mt. Maarat.

Overview
Unlike Toronto where mountain biking is a matured industry, here, it's only a handful of hardcore adrenaline junkies who take the sport seriously. There is however, a growing following. There are no mtb-specific resorts, so what the locals use for trails are what used to be footpaths over hills.

Mt. Maarat Riders

The Ascent before the Trails
I met with Kim and his merry band of riders - Winston and Bobong the following weekend and the four of us rode the 5 km (or so) ascent before reaching the foot of Mt. Maarat. The climb itself was a workout - very steep hill climbs through several housing developments. It's no joke spending more than a full hour on a steep ascent. The view of city was awesome from the vantage point. We took several stops for chat where the guys kept me up to date with the local biking scene.

The Maarat Trails
Not for the faint of heart - it was a long, straight (winding would have been nice) steep climb and then vertical plunge with deep ruts. You don't even see the trail in front of you - it just plunges down and disappears. One descent reminded me of a short section in the Don Valley Trails where I had my 2 brakes locked up but I continued to slide down.

We even shared the trails with motocross dirt bikers (yes, the ones with engines!). These guys don't slow down when passing mtb riders even on narrow trails! Then you have the 4 x 4 jeeps as well competing for the fire trails!

Altogether, it seemed doing 3.5 hours of climbing, 1 hour of pit stops and 30 minutes of downhilling, for a total of 25 K - that's a lot of climbing! No wonder Maarat trails are dubbed by some as "Halimaw" (monster).

The Heat
If you haven't done tropical riding along the equator, this is it. The heat was scorching specially with the trails mostly open with no tree canopy to shield the sun. Sun block is a must! Half of my energy seemed to be eaten up by the heat. My sunburn was painful the following days.

Ka Vergel
While riding deep into the heart of Maarat, like an oasis in the desert, there stood "Ka Vergel", a nipa hut "corner store" with cottages for weary dirt bikers. I couldn't believe it but it was a big deal to be drinking ice-cold soda after over-heating from a gruelling climb.

A Funny Thing
After the ride, I stopped by a friend's house and joined him and his brothers for some social drinking. I was bitching to them about the motocross riders who wouldn't slow down when passing us. Before I could finish my story, we heard loud motorcycle noises from the street. What are the odds? The same motocross riders where also guests to the gathering. In gest, my host turned to them and asked me loudly, "Are these the same bastards who dissed you?" Going along with the flow, I yelled out,"Yeah...that's them!!!" Laughter ensued and we all got drunk and merry. It should be fun next time crossing paths with them on the trails.

Ending Words
Where mtb is now in the Phil reminds me of the era in California when the mtb was in its infancy and legends (Joe Breeze, Ned Overend, Gary Fisher, etc) were still pioneering the sport with their "repacks". There was no such thing as a mountain bike then and they used modified cruisers to hammer down Mt. Tamalpais. This race was unforgiving on their brakes that they had to 'repack' the grease after the race. Thus the sport mtb was born thanks to these intrepid pioneers.

Fortunately, the sport here starts off with essentially the same bikes available in N. America today (Specialized, Intense, etc. and a few Taiwan knock-offs). With mtb's increasing popularity, the increasing availability of high-performance bikes/parts and the passion of avid mtb bikers like Kim, Winston and Bobong, the future looks bright for mtb.

Wish list for the Phil MTB scene

  • I hope it won't take long before enterprising riders pool their capital in creating the first mtb-specific resort with trails/facilities catering to novice and advanced riders alike.
  • A professional mtb touring outfit that will take novice/advance riders through scenic trails with catered bbq/beer pit stops.
  • An mtb workshop/clinic that hand-holds beginners through what is perceived by outsiders as "extreme" bicycle riding. A good number of people are curious about the sport but feel wary since there's no outfit there to take them to the ropes.

Can I Tag Along?
Well...this had been my first trail riding here in the Philippines and I'm sure there's more trails out there for me to ride and write about. If any of you riders out there have a ride lined up and don't mind having me along, I'd love to hook up. Email me at webmaster@thelonerider.com.

--- TheLoneRider



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Reader Comments:

Dabobong Delos AngelesDabobong Delos Angeles
"Mtb? asteeg din....we're at the foot of Mt. Talinis...playground ng national downhill champions." -- TheLoneRider
(May 11, 2011) pwde pwde... kso xc bike na ako e... sama natin si Kram...



TheLoneRiderTheLoneRider
"...tour mo naman kami dyan sa Dumaguete" -- Dabobong Delos Angeles
(May 11, 2011) ha-ha, medyo nag-blush ako sa sinabi mo. Salamat. Dumaguete? Basta ikaw, alam mo naman, open ako. Dala ka rin ng snorkelling gear...super asteeg ang mga corals dito. Mtb? asteeg din....we're at the foot of Mt. Talinis...playground ng national downhill champions.


Dabobong Delos AngelesDabobong Delos Angeles
(May 11, 2011) dati pa yan man.... di pa kasali si Gigit (one of the 1st contestants ng Survivor) unang bike out nya dito sa Pinas...kakagaling lang nya sa Canada... sinamahan namin.. tapos nag stay na sya for good dito sa Pinas maging UP prof and UPM member na rin... isang astig na kaibigan kong si Gigit at may asim pa hehehe!!! Gigit Sulit tour mo naman kami dyan sa Dumaguete....mabuhay ka dude!!! miss u man!


Richard SozonRichard Sozon
(May 11, 2011) sikat naman ni bong...


Jeremy UyJeremy Uy
(May 11, 2011) andito ka man...


Chino CamachoChino Camacho
(Mar 30, 2005) SARAP NG BUHAY MO MAN! grabe. na-iinggit ako sayo! haha. sana lang ay may oras ako at pera para gawin lahat nung mga ginagawa mo! ride tayo minsan! pangit bike ko, pero ayos lang. gusto ko lang magbike! haha. astig.




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