Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Mountain biking in Surigao del Norte, Philippines

According to Wikipedia:
"Great trails run all around the Cities of Butuan and Surigao, Surigao del sur, Agusan del Norte and Siargao. There are regular cross-country and downhill competitions done in these areas which are participated by local and international bikers. Caraga has an active and hospitable biking scene. Butuan or Surigao-based bikers regularly tour the rugged terrain of the region and are eager to show their routes to new comers".
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caraga#Mountain-biking
Andrew Sheldon www.sheldonthinks.com

Buying a mountain bike in Japan

Mountain biking is one of the best ways to get around Japan after trains. If you are thinking about buying a mountain bike in Japan - my advice is DONT because there are better options:
1. Existing bike users: Probably every foreigner (gaijin) guy who lives in Japan buys a MTB - find out from classifieds who is leaving the country. If they are desperate to leave you might pick up a cheap one . They probably used it for less than a year. Try sites like www.metropolis.co.jp and www.gaijinpot.com forums. JapanTimes.com also has a classifieds section
2. Local councils: Every local government has a recycling depot where they process trash. There must be 100 million bicycles in Japan. These bikes get dumped at local depots every time the police do a sweep of illegally parked bikes, or residents dump them somewhere because they are moving and cant afford to take them with them. Many families don't even bother to collect them, and more still leave them there so the police will take them. Some are just left in the park.

I got a great mountain bike for free by going to the local depot. Sure there was a lot of rusty rubbish there, but there was also a shiny orange one that I was able to get. The local government advised me to file the previous owners name off the bike, but I didn't want to do this because I would have no recourse if the police questioned me. I had no title to it, no receipt. So check if you can get a recipe. But you can't knock a free bike.
The Japanese don't think to ask at these places, and are too snooty to even consider using a second hand bike, or anything used for that matter. Usually these 2nd hand things end up being exported to Asian countries like the Philippines or Vietnam.
I used a girls bike (with a basket) for about a month before I came across this free bicycle supply. You don't even need Japanese. Just go there and grab the bike, and when they query you, ask 'Daijobe' - Is this OK? If they 'Daijobe' - no prob, if its anything else, get an interpreter. Personally I find having a Japanese person with you makes you smell like roses. You have the credibility of being Japanese if your are with a Japanese person.

Buying a mountain bike in the Philippines

There is a place in Paranaque, Metro Manila which is well known for customising your mountain bike. I bought one here for Y10,000, then changed a few things, eg. I paid a little extra for a better seat and foam (non-sweat) grips. Having purchased the bike I was having troubles within 2 weeks:
1. Peddles: I wa riding along and one of the peddles fell off. The problem was that the peddle was incorrectly lined. This cost me an extra P3000.
2. Gears: The gears were not compatible with the bike. The bike was Taiwanese, so designed for a 7-speed gearset, but it was an 8-speed Shimano gearset, so they had a spacer filling the gap. After about 4 weeks the spacer broke, so the gears were loose, so the chain was falling in between the crack. That cost me an extra P2000.
This bicycle was starting to cost me. Well it did look good!
Andrew Sheldon www.sheldonthinks.com

Monday, August 25, 2008

Mountain biking at Lake Taal, Batangas, Philippines

One of the attractions of the Philippines is that the high rainfall and humidity tends to chemically whether most rocks into fine soils. This makes them great for mountain biking. I went for a drive on the weekend along the edge of Lake Taal. There are several attractions of this area.
1. The view of the volcano - better scene from Tagaytay, but from Laurel you can get a ferry over there.
2. The view of My Macolot near Cuenca
3. The mountain biking in the area
4. The boat services from Laurel to the volcanic island. For those of you unaware, Lake Taal has a resurgent cone in the middle of Lake Taal. According to family, Lake Taal had its last serious eruption around 45 years ago. It produced ashfalls over about a week before settling down. But that's the personal account of a 7 year old.

The mountain biking trail is actually the road running alongside the lake, from Tubig to Laurel. These towns are accessible from San Nicholas or Batangas in the south, and Tagaytay and Talisay in the north. Might route notes included:
1. Aguncillo is a small town after San Nicholas
2. Bgy Guitna
2. Bgy Panhulan has nice trees along the street.
3. Subic town.
4. Tubig has nothing of note, but its where the concrete road turns to the dirt we like for mountain biking. The road is only slightly undulating; its nice black soil, so there is little prospect of getting a flat tyre. The excellent soil arises because its unconsolidated ash deposited from the volcano over millions of years. If you are interested in geology, you will see great road cuttings on this section.
5. The road rises a little higher at Bilbinwang.
6. Bgy Buso Buso was a very nice, near the lake. There is a good view of the volcano there.
7. At Gulod the road goes up and back down. I didn't see any good views from the top. Take the right turn at Gulod that takes you the shorter and flatter route to Laurel.

The trip makes sense from Tagaytay since you can get accommodation there, or at Talisay or Laurel. there are a lot of resorts along the lakeshore. It might be a better MTB trip if you combine it with a boat ride to the volcano from Laurel. The 3rd photo above is a view of the volcano from the viewing deck of a resort in the area.
Andrew Sheldon www.sheldonthinks.com
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