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Monday, January 15, 2007

Hometown Ride

Topher and Mike OI haven't gone riding with the Batangas boys for quite some time. The last time I was with the big group was in last year's Visita Iglesia and that was it. (So much for being called a a member of the Batangas Mountain Bikers.) And so I decided to drop by last Sunday for some nice old climbing Batangas-style. I brought Mike O along since he hasn't tried the trails here yet.

I left the house at around 4:30 in the morning and got to BF in Parañaque at five to pick up the Big O. We arrived in Batangas at around 6:30, parked the car in my tita's house (the place where I learned how to ride a bike), geared up and met with Topher and Aldrin at Oca's Shop.

Today was race day for them. Aside from a lot of BMB members whose names are unknown to me, there were also mountain bikers from neighboring towns and provinces. The prizes were actually small. Just P500 for the first prize winner. But it's more of the bragging rights that got these people to this part of the country - to be the first one on top of the Sto. Domingo climb and nothing less.

It was worth it!What's so cool is there are actually no corporate sponsors nor official support from the local government. The prize money, the trophies, the tokens and the food all came from the pockets of some of the members of the club. Now that's grassroots cycling!

Eventually, we climbed clawed our way to the top of Sto. Domingo and enjoyed the feeling of accomplishment. But that was after we made a slight detour and visited what the locals called the "grotto".

Well, technically it wasn't a grotto. It was a big statue of Our Lady of the Immaculate Concepcion on top of the peaks overlooking Batangas City and the bay. It was a tribute by a Batangueño politician to the City's patron.

The Immaculate Conception StatueThe route was basically the same as the climb going up the dreaded Sto. Domingo, except for a right turn going up the grotto. Now we had the choice to use the cemented road to the top, but mountain bikers that we are, we chose the steep footpath going up the peak and ended up carrying our bikes on our backs.

Getting there was really worth it as we're rewarded with a fantastic view of the city as cool mountain breezes comforted us. Eventually it rained so we had to take shelter under a small mango tree. But after a while, the rain turned into a slight drizzle.

Ala Eh!From here, we rode to the main road to Sto. Domingo initially to watch the race and go back to the city and reward ourselves with pancit from Krosroads. However, after some lauding by our friends, we climbed/walked/crawled our way to the top.

This was a great ride. The climb was about three to four times longer than Maarat's Wall and about as steep. I can't believe that this was just one part of the EBD Mountain Bike Challenge that we did last year. How those at the top finished in less than three hours is absolutely amazing.

And as tradition, we ended a good ride by rewarding ourselves with Krosroad's Pancit Guisado and rice.

If you're dropping by Batangas City, try this route. The road's all cemented now but you'll definitely need your granny gear.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The La Mesa Social

A lot of people showed upWe took a ride in the La Mesa Nature Reserve last Saturday and I must say that this has got to be the biggest number of mountain bikers in the La Mesa Nature Reserve in a regular, no-event day. I think the news of this short-but-sweet, enclosed trail network northeast of Metro Manila has spread in the local e-groups and forums. From what we know, the bunch is composed of five different groups from all over, totaling about thirty mountain bikers eager to try out their machines on this newfound playground.

It's a climb!Since we've been biking here for quite some time already, we tried out something new. Instead of the usual 12-kilometer loop that we do that takes us around a good section of the reserve, we went to Tower One. This is the farthest and highest point of the reserve and, according to the boys who have been here, the most exciting trail as well.

The way going to Tower One is about eight kilometers one-way, consisting of average downhills, lots of a turns and some pretty nasty climbs. What's good is there are a lot of places in between to recover and the trails are shaded so you won't notice your agony that much.

Now time for that rum cake.Joining the supposed fast group was forester King, Victor, Agu, Mike, Ricky, Rick, two of King's friends whose names I forgot, myself and trail first-timer Rommel. We were supposed to be the ones setting the pace in front but mechanicals and waiting for the others slowed us down.

Is that a smile?It was Rommel's first time to ride his brand new bike on the trail. We gave him tips on how to position himself on the bike and what to do on downhills, but I guess he panicked and went over the bars on the first major downhill of the ride. He was shaken. His helmet was damaged and his right upper arm felt a bit sore but he just shrugged everything off and still enjoyed himself tremendously.

When we reached Tower One, we climbed to the tower and was rewarded a great view of parts of Quezon City and the neighboring mountains of Montalban. The ride was fun and not so tiring. We're definitely going to do this again.

OK Ba?On the way back, we took a left turn and took the Cecon 24-Hour Challenge route. It wasn't really challenging but doing that for 24 hours will make you think twice.

All in all, the La Mesa Nature Reserve is a great place to really mountain bike in Metro Manila without the hassles of vehicles or stray dogs out to get you. If you're interested in trying it out, you need to book it days in advance with ABS-CBN Foundation's Bantay Kalikasan. The trunk line is +63 2 415-2272.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Overhaul

It's the start of the year, and while those who had a hefty collection the past Christmas holidays are trooping to their favorite bike shops with new components/apparel/bikes in their minds, us mere mortals need not be left behind.

This afternoon, I visited Hermie, my favorite mechanic in Cartimar, for a good old bike overhaul. It's not as serious as you think. It's just a shifter and brake cable change that cyclists often overlook.

I replaced my seven year-old cables with fresh Armadillo cables that I got from Sam at Ross Cycles - the bike shop right next door. Admittedly these are a bit pricey at P1,000 per set, but the point is one will never know how much improvement this does to an old set-up. I've been religiously lubing my cables almost after every ride but it cannot equal that of a fresh cable change. It especially did wonders on my shifting. What once was turning to be an effort is now smooth and crisp. It was miraculous, if you ask me - a few notches short of the Frankenstein creature.

This year also marked the retirement of the last piece of component from my first bike that, until today, was being used - the DiaCompe Aheadset. After years of service (11, if I'm not mistaken), it threw in the towel. And so the replacement was a Chris King knockoff, that is allegedly manufactured by Cane Creek. It's performance was OK based from my ride this evening. Of course only time will tell if it will be as good as its predecessor.

Now everything is in order, it's time to do more riding. I'm hoping this year brings us more adventures with our bikes.

Cheers!
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