So I brought my bike to Pico de Loro…

This year, my office had its summer outing in Pico de Loro Country Club in Nasugbu, Batangas. I was driving myself to the venue, so on a whim, I decided to pack my bike Hyro in the back of my car in search of riding potential.

For the hardcore climbers among us cyclists, Pico de Loro lies in close proximity to a very popular climbing destination: the Kaybiang Tunnel that sits in the middle of the steep and winding Nasugbu-Ternate Road. Unfortunately, this was not the time for me to face it on the saddle – and maybe for good reason. Nasugbu-Ternate Road is a proper driving challenge, a smoothly paved but narrow asphalt ribbon twisting through the mountains, and I relished pushing 40-60 km/h while staying out of trouble. Its formidable reputation among cyclists is deserved, though.

I wasn’t sure how much free time I would have left for riding, so I restricted myself to the immediate vicinity of Pico de Loro and Hamilo Coast.

The main loop road of the resort is 1.75 km long, with a trio of rotundas and lined with trees almost the whole way through. Tourist shuttles ply the route, with one arriving roughly every fifteen minutes to ferry guests around. The shuttle drivers are some of the nicest and most courteous around; they almost always let me through and waved me to pass as I rode around at 25 km/h.

I strapped my camera bag to Hyro’s handlebars, so mid-ride I stopped a number of times to take photos. It was my first time in the premises, and my wife had asked for visual impressions.

Pico de Loro Beach Club.

While I skipped riding to Kaybiang Tunnel this time, I decided to try the challenge that was the road leading from Pico de Loro Beach Club to the Hamilo Coast gate.

It…was ridiculous.

I started my climb from the Beach Club, so the elevation profile is reversed – and all the steepest bits were at the beginning!

In terms of gradient, it is easily almost as tough as Shotgun. Unfortunately for me, most of the maximum 25-29% grade inclines awaited me the moment I turned off the entrance rotunda and crossed the security boom. Immediately, I needed to summon my lowest 34×27 and 34×30 gears trying to negotiate the ascents as I passed the chapel, cranking away in pain at a crawling 10 km/h.

After cresting the very steep second rise 500 meters in, I was wary of the overcast skies and the singular rain droplets. Discretion whispered that I should turn back before any more rain fell, as descending the severe slope and jittery road surface might make for a very sketchy proposition. Dragging my brakes, I hit 49 km/h in a flash as I returned to the resort.

The surprise is how quickly gravity dragged me to this speed.

I had only scratched the surface. The whole climb is 2.8 km long. Maybe next time, I will reattempt the climb with better weather.


Reclaiming the High Street for the people

After consecutive weeks of hard riding going to, around, and back from Daang Reyna on Sundays, I took a bit of a break. Although I ride and commute at a relatively fast pace normally, bridging the 26 km going there in about an hour, my brain needed some variety.

The great thing about living in the southern Metro Manila area is that good riding awaits in multiple directions. On Palm Sunday, I decided to go northeast, at a slightly slower pace, to Bonifacio Global City (BGC).

Bonifacio Global City hosting a Honda Club Philippines monthly eyeball meeting sometime in 2004. The skyline was uncluttered with skyscrapers back then.

Ever since I attended my first car club meet there in 2003, I’ve been following how it’s changed over the past fourteen years. It has done so very quickly, and in such leaps and bounds, that it’s hard to reconcile the wide-open grassy lots of yesteryear with the cramped concrete skyline of today as one and the same place. Nowadays there’s almost no discernible line between BGC and its northern border along Makati’s Kalayaan Avenue. There used to be such a wide swath of green keeping them apart.

It still attracts the active crowd, mainly runners and cyclists, but it’s also become choked on its own traffic congestion – the price to pay for its commercial development. I find its conversion into a concrete jungle sad, to be honest. The local 1.8-kilometer road cycling loop that most riders used for training laps didn’t hold my interest long enough, so I ended up just riding around.

Riding into Bonifacio High Street, I noticed that the 9th Avenue crossing was closed to traffic going north-south. From past experience, this is normally done when there is some sort of sports event going on, such as BGC Cycle Philippines or any number of footraces, as Bonifacio High Street is frequently used as a start/finish area. This wasn’t the case, though.

Additionally, there were designated temporary bike lanes around the perimeter of Bonifacio High Street. Those normally aren’t around on weekdays.

A closer look yielded the answer. Apparently this whole initiative is BGC’s way of taking back the streets from vehicle traffic, and giving it back for people to relax, play, walk, and ride around. At the very center of 9th Avenue, on the cobbled pedestrian crossing, lay lots of things that wouldn’t look out of place on a playground. There was a limbo rock bar; a couple of poles where a span of elastic rubber opened the possibility of playing the “Chinese garter” jumping game; a set of giant slippers one could fling in a giant game of tumbang preso; and giant versions of Connect Four and Snakes & Ladders, complete with equally giant dice.

On the other side of the closed street was a bike riding clinic held by the National Bike Organization. Conveniently, the cordoned-off area had a bike rental station as well, so you could learn how to ride even without your own bike. This is a great idea. I don’t know how long they’re holding the clinic for, though, and I don’t suppose they teach hand signaling or other bike-commuting techniques, but this is a start.

This being a Holy Week ride, Bonifacio High Street had its annual Stations of the Cross exhibit with large booths for the fourteen stations. This has gone on for a number of years now, but it’s always a nice sight.

Some of the stations are more distinctive than others.

Out of courtesy, I dismounted and pushed my bike along the pedestrian footpaths for these photos.

To end this little cycling adventure, for some strange reason, this exhibit of dog portraits was put in along with the Stations of the Cross exhibit. Perhaps this was put in as a little bit of sunshine to contrast to the somber mood that usually accompanies Holy Week.

Daang Reyna training gatecrasher

Earlier this year, I asked my friend Mario if he had any rides planned for one Sunday morning, and he said he was going to Daang Reyna to join his cycling club VPx for training. I was welcome to come along.

Prior to that, it had been a while since I last visited Daang Reyna. This road on the outskirts of Muntinlupa – connecting Daang Hari road to Bacoor, Cavite with Victoria Avenue bound to San Pedro, Laguna – is perhaps best known for the glass-domed Palazzo Verde garden wedding venue (nee Fernbrook Gardens), but it is also a popular mecca for cyclists.

Daang Reyna is book-ended by a gasoline station, the Evia residential/commercial development, the three-way MCX entrance rotunda, and Palazzo Verde at one end, and a much smaller circular rotunda at the other, referred to as the “Lollipop.” A single lap going out and back is 4.7 km long, making it a more southerly alternative training spot to the SM Mall of Asia seaside road loop in Pasay City. Unlike that place, which is pancake-flat, Daang Reyna has a slight uphill grade going to the Lollipop, which becomes a slightly downhill false flat on the way back.

Louger Mendor of VPx.

While there is a freedom to relish in riding solo, I feel like I may have been riding solo for far too long. That initial invite has extended for a few more weeks as of this writing, and I have slowly seen the benefits – which are only maximized by the fact that most of the VPx cyclists I’ve ridden with are far stronger than I am. It is refreshing to not be the strongest rider in a group.

One of my first rides with the VPx crew.

One of the later ones. I’ve increased my average speed.

Yours truly with Mario Ramos.

The lady and gentlemen of VPx.