Learnings, Tips and Realizations from our Mindoro Bikepacking Adventure

On the boat, on our way back to Batangas, I started writing down the stuff that I learned from this trip. And now I'm sharing them with you. It's in no particular order.

1. Always bring a water bottle even if you have a hydration pack. You can never tell when the next store will be if you run out of water. If you ask the locals where the nearest store is, be ready. We didn't realize that the store at the corner was about two kilometers away.

2. Start your day early so you can finish early, or at least be in your destination before nightfall. Bring a headlamp and taillight in case you need to do an impromptu night ride. We arrived at Abra de Ilog at 5:00 in the morning and there were no street lights. If it weren't for our headlamps, we would have no choice but to wait for the sunrise to start riding.

3. Bring a small bottle of chain lube with you. A well-lubed and clean drivetrain matters a lot when you're doing long rides. Come to think of it, if you can bring a dirt rag, that would be great, too.

4. Bring a rain cover for your bag, or at least wrap everything inside a big plastic bag. Also, don't forget to bring extra bags for your dirty clothes. You don't want to mix them all up and end up smelling like sweat at the start of the day.

5. Bring two lenses for your eyewear: one clear lens for late afternoon and night rides, and one for riding during bright and sunny days.

6. Bring lots of change. The roadside stores don't carry change for P500.

7. Bottled water is the way to go every time, even for your hydration pack. They're available at the mini grocery stores in all the towns we passed by. As for the roadside stores, it's a bit rare.

8. Smile and they smile back to you. At least in Occidental Mindoro. This experiment wasn't as successful in Oriental. They're a bit more snobbish there.

9. Make sure you have the perfect seating set-up for the trip. Break-in your saddle months before the ride, and while you're at it, check your seatpost height and saddle position as well. I almost quit after the first day because my seatpost was a few millimeters too high and my saddle was a few millimeters too backward.

10. Petroleum Jelly is your friend. Apply it on your butt before you hit the road to avoid saddle sores.

11. Always have emergency food with you and eat at least every three hours. We brought Nature Valley's Trail Mix bars and it saved us from running on an empty tank.

12. If the hotel has clean towels, use it rather than using your own to avoid the weight of bringing a wet towel in your bag. By the way, microfiber towels rock! They're light, but they get the job done and they dry faster, too.

13. Using racks and panniers on multi-day rides is the way to go. A backpack puts too much strain on your back and shoulders. If your frame allows it, get a rack that connects to your seatstay rather than a beam rack that just clamps on the seatpost because it's more stable and allows you to bring heavier gear.

14. A helmet with a visor is better than a helmet without one. A visored helmet may suck in terms of aerodynamics, but it's quite helpful during rides under the sun or when it's raining.

15. Baggy shorts look cool and offer lots of pockets to put your stuff, but nothing beats the comfort and lightness of just riding wearing nicely padded cycling shorts. I rode with just cycling shorts on days two and three.

16. Barends are lifesavers because they helped keep my hands from getting numb. I can't imagine going through the whole ride with just one hand position. On the ride back to Calapan from Roxas (everything was nicely cemented before the Pinamalayan-Calapan mudfest), there were instances when I wished I had aerobars so that I could rest my arms.

17. Plan your rest and eating stops wisely. You can never tell when the next eatery will be. You have to rough it out and not be too picky with your food or you'll end up not eating anything at all. Based from our ride, the restaurant staples are rice, adobo, and fried fish. Sometimes there are vegetables.

18. Energizer Ultimate batteries are awesome. I never had to replace the batteries of my headlight and my Flip videocam. It would've been a different story if I used the Flip's rechargeable battery.

19. Cellphone signal on the island is intermittent, even in the towns. Despite that, I was surprised that Globe's signal was relatively stronger compared to Smart and Sun (they're my friend's service provider). That explains why I can post my pictures on Facebook in the middle of nowhere.

20. Don't just ride it, experience it. Mindoro's sights are just too awesome to be missed. It's OK to stop at the side of road to take pictures, appreciate the view and absorb everything. Converse with the locals. Immerse yourself.

21. Never quit. It is almost all rideable (except for the first climb from Magsaysay to Bulalacao where we pushed our bikes on loose rocks and gravel). The daily mileage may be over a hundred kilometers, but the key is to cut it down into bite-sized pieces. It's like connecting the dots from one town to the next. It's OK to rest somewhere in between.

22. Take advantage of your bikemates' slipstream. Take turns in the front and don't set the pace too high. If you're the one setting the pace, it's good if you have a cyclocomputer. Also, check every now and then if your buddies are still there in your draft.

23. I think I used almost all my gears during the ride. On the road I was using the big ring more (I wasn't a fan of it before) and on the climbs I'm thankful that the granny gear is there to save me. To whoever invented the 34-tooth rear cog, you're a genius! Now i can't imagine how easier it would be if I'm using a 36-tooth. I probably wouldn't have needed to shift to the smallest chainring. Maybe.

24. Install a bell. It's cheap and it's better than shouting at people and vehicles to let them know you're coming.

25. They sell the most delicious soya milk I've tasted at a roadside stall less than 10 kilometers from the town of Sablayan going to San Jose. It's on your right. It's sold inside catsup bottles for only P10. You absolutely have to try it.

26. This tip I learned from King Bernas: to dry your cycling shoes, stuff it with old crumpled newspapers. It was raining when we arrived in to Roxas on the third day. When we got to the hotel, I asked for some old newspapers and stuffed them in my shoes. The next day, it was comfortable and dry enough to wear.

27. Whoever created all of these is awesome. Call Him God, Allah, Bathala - whatever you want or believe in. The point is He (or She) is there and is guiding us. When I asked for nice weather, He provided. When I asked for some wind, He gave me some. When I asked for it to rain, He made it happen. It was just amazing. I don't know if my bikemates felt the same way, but I hope they did.


Anonymous said…
thanks jovan. i used your info on my motorcycle ride around the island last month .

i would like to bike it also. just bought a used jamis dakar. still working out the bugs.

all the best !

chimmy ramos
Jovan Puyo said…
Hi Chimmy!

It's great to know that I helped you in your adventure.

Maybe next time you'd consider bringing a bike instead of a motorcycle in your next adventure. Aside from being more environmentally friendly, a bicycle will let you see the little things that you can't see when you're riding at fast pace.
Unknown said…
Very inspiring bike adventure sir jovan! I wish me and my son could experience this Mindoro loop.. You guys are such an inspiration to us! More power to you..
Jovan Puyo said…
Thanks for the message, Sonny. I'm sorry I wasn't able to reply sooner. Yes, I wish that you guys experience Mindoro together. It would be such a bonding experience. And maybe you can share your learnings too.
Anonymous said…
Hi.. we're planning to do mtb x prov in time for the 65th Founding Anniv of Occ. Mindoro. Would you mind if we use your blog (pix)? We wish to share your experiences by posting them on our fb page - Occ. Mindoro PGO Sports. Thanks!
Jovan Puyo said…
Sure thing! Just link back to my blog (www.bisikleta.ph). Email me at jovan @ bisikleta dot ph so that we can talk about it more.