Sagada Mountain Biking

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mountain biking

Riding Ampacao - Balili with Downhillers January 20, 2007

Riding Ampacao - Balili with Downhillers

Downhiller Written All Over Him
How can you tell if a guy is a mountain bike downhiller? He travels with his full-face helmet even if he's without the bike. Such is the case with UK guy, Simon. He's got stripes to show for - 2 broken collar bones, broken ribs and numerous concussions. I've riden with him twice - to Kiltepan and Bangaan Ridge with Steve. The technical sections I would approach slowly and methodically, he would just blaze on with complete abandon - and he's good. I was thinking, he should ride with Joey - they'd be a perfect match.

Ride Itinerary
So, I get this text from Joey inviting me to ride with him and Simon to the top of Mt. Ampacao and bomb down Ambasing and bomb further down to Balili. Hmmm...we're talking about a barrel-full of steep downhill runs here. Sure, I'm game.

top of Ampacao saddle

Ampacao Climb
They've gone ahead to Mt. Ampacao while I followed an hour later (hey, I'm not gonna miss out on Saturday market). Mt. Ampacao using the Ambasing route is defintely one of the most brutal climbs I've done on a bike. I've done it 2 years ago and it winded me out even after a few rest stops. It's completely rideable and doable, but it requires super-fitness to make it to the top without stopping.

X-Country vs. Downhill
I finally hooked up with them on top. It was an interesting play in contrast. There I was, dye-in-the-wool cross country - spandex, straight handle bars, and 3 inches of suspension play. Joey and Simon? They looked like action-hereos from a sci-fi flick - full body armour, full-face helmet, rise bars and monster forks. Suddenly a song hummed inside my head, "... one is not like the other". It was a clear message of what's to come.

Bike Issues
They continued playing on the Ampacao saddle, doing big air. Both bikes had issues though. Simon's was a borrowed hard tail from Steve, and hardtails are never designed to withstand the kind of pounding downhilling demands. Result? pinch flats. Cumulatively, there were only 2 spare inner tubes and 1 patch. Joey's bike also had issues with the chain. Later on, his sprockets got loose. As bombproof as they are, wear and tear is as fast as they come. Downhilling gives the bike a lot of manhandling.

A Brutal Terrain
From thereon, there were 2 downhill runs - from the saddle top to the main road, and from the main road going down Balili. Both of them are wide dirt roads with tight switchbacks, with terrain ranging from rocks, deep ruts, a few drops and blind curves. Penalty for miscalculating? An unforgiving ravine fall. This was the moment they'd been waiting for. Like junkyard dogs let loose, they flew off like kamikaze on a dive. I was going as fast as I controllably can to catch up, but I was just eating their dust. It was almost embarrassing - I was on my full suspension bike and I can't keep up with a hardtail!

The Long and Winding Walk Home
It was on the run to Balili that Simon double pinch flat again (read: four holes). The sharp rocks combined with speed was simply too much on the hard tail. With a spare tube leaking air and only 1 patch available, it was a long walk home for Simon. Luckily, a jeep passed by and gave him a lift...some lucky dude! That left me and Joey grinding back on the uphill return home. That was one decent workout.

Ending Thoughts
This is the first time I'd riden with downhillers on a downhill run. Given my full suspension rig, I was still no match to a hardtail in capable hands. This is also the first time I've seen a rider push a bike beyond its capability. Even without the pinch flats, I think the bike would have fallen to pieces at some point - rocks are very unforgiving to a hardtail driven at speed. Downhillers live in a different world...very cool to have riden with them and catch a glimpse of it.

--- TheLoneRider

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