So as not to lose some good habits, part of the MIA Santa Cruz team set off to spend winter in the Republic of the Philippines, the south East Asian island state, located in the Pacific Ocean.
Traveling with their Santa Cruz, heading for this quite unusual destination for us mountain bikers were the riders Maxime and Yohan, accompanied by photographer friend and video maker, Will Camus. While Thiromana Yin, founder of “Adventure We Like” was in charge of logistical planning.
Heading for Baguio, seeking out the first mountain biking areas.
At 200 kilometres north of Manila, Baguio is a town of 300,000 inhabitants, situated in the Province of Benguet, at 1500 metres elevation. In the middle of the town, you can find the John Hay Camp wildlife reserve, which in the last century was where American troops stationed there, spent their free time. While today it is a place which all Baguio citizens can enjoy. Easily reachable, with its vast network of purpose built trails for mountain bikes, it is a little paradise for the many riders who go there.
Yohan is given a free rein to unleash his passion for street trial riding around most of the reserve, jumping from one tree trunk to another or performing 360 nose picks from walls. Pretty challenging!And now, on to the Flow
In Trinidad, close to Baguio, is the Flow, a bike park built by a group of desperate riders using picks and shovels, on the hill overlooking the town. In the high part of the trail, you can find the most awesome jumps, some as long as 10 metres, all perfectly shaped.
Two lines cross one another, one is straight with high jumps, while the other is a series of turns and small jumps. Guaranteed fun!On with the adventure!
Accompanied by Jordan, one of the famous “desperate pick axe bikers”, we set off early in the morning for a natural location which he himself has recently discovered. A three hour drive to start off followed by a four and a half hour climb on our bikes.
With long hike a bike sections in the middle of the jungle with leeches clinging to our legs, in the rain… we wanted adventure and we found it!
After reaching 2150 metres elevation, we had a short break to admire the spectacular views. A 14 km descent awaited us; we were not going to miss out on anything! The first part of the trail had awesome flow which took us to a ridge, where the trail turned into a really technical singletrack. What bliss! Our morning’s efforts were being repaid way beyond our expectations. Lower down the atmosphere changed again. We went through a rice field, passing by cattle and horses grazing freely.
When we got to the valley floor, a suspension bridge took us across a river.
Despite our efforts, the ride was very long and tough, and it is dark by the time we arrived at the “excursionists’ house” in a little mountain village, where we were in for the warmest of welcomes.Balanga, facing Manila
The next day, we managed to get a lift and passing the “Gold seekers “valley, we leave the mountains and head for the quiet town of Balanga, facing Manila, on the other side of the bay.
News about our arrival has spread and many local riders come to join us. A shuttle service is improvised and with just a few pesos, we climb Monte Samat pulled by... side cars!!! From its peak, you can see a 90 metre high cross, erected in honour of Philippine and American soldiers killed during the Second World War.
It is time to get the bikes out and take off to discover the routes prepared by the B.E.E.R team riders. The trail, just like a DH, offers all kinds of biking challenges, including roots, steps and rock gardens.
It twists and turns through banana and coconut tree groves. It would be hard to find anything more exotic.
The day flies by, with heart-stopping descents and climbs. The trip comes to an end in the evening, with an incredible dinner of fish and seafood on the beach.
If you want to cut short your winter, think about the Philippines, it was a marvelous discovery for us. We would like to thank Thiromana Yin – Adventure we like – for the logistical planning, all the riders who accompanied us during our stay, the sponsors of the MIA Santa Cruz team and Race company.
Words: Maxime Peythieu
Images: Will Camus