Sole Sisters On Assignment: A Non-Biker's Trail

Monday, August 05, 2013

A few weeks back, we announced an open invitation for women who want to go on assignment with the Sole Sisters. We get invites for trips on a regular basis, so we need more women to travel and document their adventures for the blog. Our very first assignment is with Trish In Transit. She went on a Bike Tour with Bike PH to Nuvali. Here's her story:

I hear the wind rush past my ears, like the sound an airplane makes when taking off, as I gain momentum, zipping by open fields and the hazy outline of Mount Makiling in the distance. A few of the bikers whiz past me, laughing and spreading their arms wide open à la Meg Ryan in City of the Angels, sans the truck of logs backing out into their path. They move swiftly on their red mountain bikes and disappear behind turns and slopes, leaving trails of dried mud on the smooth, chalky road.

We are on our way back and I have fallen behind – again. But I didn’t mind. After three hours of bumpy roads and slippery paths, this was a dream. I relish the rest of the downhill descent, imagining myself to be as fast as the wind.

I am not a Biker.

The last bicycle I rode was a utility bicycle, the kind that had curved handlebars and a steel basket in front. I biked from my home to the parish church, pedaling comfortably along the streets of my village which took under fifteen minutes.

Other than that, the only cycling I did was on a stationary bike in the gym.

So it might seem a little crazy to participate in Travel Factor’s Bike Nuvali, having had no experience in trail biking whatsoever. When I said yes to the trip, I knew I was saying yes to biking under the heat, through uneven roads, up rocky slopes (oh dear Lord!), and falling onto puddles of mud. But I was also saying yes to challenge, adventure, and the possibility of meeting new people. I know I’m not a biker but I knew that if I didn’t say yes, I would regret it.

Sole Sisters On Assignment: A Non-Biker's Trail

On the day of our biking trip, we were greeted by pleasant weather: the sky was a vivid blue with fluffy, white clouds floating high above. Our Travel Factor coordinators welcomed us in the parking lot with warm smiles and gathered us in a semi-circle for the bike clinic. Our gleaming, red mountain bikes were lined up against one side of the parking lot, waiting patiently for their occupants.

Sole Sisters On Assignment: A Non-Biker's Trail

We listened to Ayie, a coordinator with a meek and friendly face, as he gave us a short course on proper biking, demonstrating the right way to brake, change gears, and dismount. When our bicycles were handed out, EJ, another one of our coordinators, led us on a test run around the parking lot, so we could get familiar with our two-wheelers.

And then it was time to hit the open road. Before officially setting out, one of the participants asked what we should expect from the bike trip. EJ immediately answered, “Fun!” to which Ayie added, “And lots of sweat.” With that, we mounted our bikes and rode towards the highway.

Sole Sisters On Assignment: A Non-Biker's Trail

I stayed behind the group, afraid that if I went too fast too soon I would tire out easily and give up. The more experienced bikers rode by with ease and stayed ahead of everyone else. But I was never alone. TF riders circled back every now and then to check on how we were doing. One of them, a young, athletic woman named Ayla, stayed behind with us stragglers to guide us when the rest of the group went too far ahead.

The highway was relatively easy compared to the next part. We stopped just outside the trail entrance and waited for the participants who had fallen behind. I glanced warily at the rocky trail and turned to Kat, the short-haired 29-year-old who I met and got to know on the ride to Laguna. She gave me a thumbs-up sign, asking me “Kaya pa?” (Still up for it?). I nodded, throwing a look that said otherwise. But before any doubts could settle in, the last bikers had joined us and we rode into the second, more difficult part of the course.

I remembered a quote from an article in Jeff Goins blog - written by Paul Jun – which said that in any rigorous exercise, there isn’t a comfort zone.

For most of the trail I was struggling to keep balance while avoiding the slippery paths and the trail’s overgrown foliage. In some of the more challenging parts, I had dismounted and just walk alongside my bike. I fell a couple of times, and got myself covered in mud before I got the hang of it. But even when I thought I had control of my bike, I came across troublesome spots to maneuver around and fell again. Paul was right: “As we pass a threshold, a new one awaits.”

Sole Sisters On Assignment: A Non-Biker's Trail

Reaching the end of the woods, we came upon a vast cogon field with the faint silhouette of Mount Makiling in the horizon. We climbed upwards to get some fresh air and sat on the grass to catch our breath. Having gone more than three-fourths of the trail together, we had gotten to know each other a little better and were more comfortable joking about our two-toned complexions and muddy appearance. With flushed but amused faces, we talked about the most difficult parts of the trails and laughed about our “semplang” moments.

Sole Sisters On Assignment: A Non-Biker's Trail

When you fall off the bike, there’s nothing else you can do but get up, brush off the mud, and get back on. 

The great thing about biking with a group is that you’re never alone. And when you find yourself elbow deep in mud with a heavy red bicycle on top of you, someone is there to help you up and laugh with you so you feel less embarrassed.

From the top of the hill we biked a few more meters and reached the downwards sloping road that led back to the highway. That was my favorite part of the trail because I felt all the morning’s hardships rush past me as I flew down the road. Everyone else had gone ahead so I had the road to myself. It was utter freedom – the wind in my ears, the big beautiful sky overhead, and the road stretching out before me, beckoning me to ride faster and faster.

Sole Sisters On Assignment: A Non-Biker's Trail

EJ and Ayie had been right. The trail definitely challenged us to push our limits and pedal harder, but it had been fun. After about three hours of biking, we parked our muddied bicycles near the truck and changed into clean clothes. Then our guides took us to a nearby food center where we rewarded ourselves with delicious plates of food. Bowls of bulalo, plates of liempo, grilled bangus, chopsuey and rice lined our tables, and we ate with gusto, reassuring ourselves in between mouthfuls that we deserved it.

At the end of the trip, my arms were aching, my cheeks and back of my hands were sun burnt, my butt was sore, one side of my body was covered in mud – but it didn’t really matter. I was strangely proud of every little scratch and bruise because they reminded of the biking trail I was brave (or crazy) enough to say yes to. Observing everyone else’s flushed faces and darkened complexions, I knew it was all part of the experience. And looking at my Bike Nuvali “battle scars,” I knew this was just the beginning.

How to Make This Trip Happen:

- Reserve a slot at the Travel Factor website and choose from their available Bike PH trips: University of the Philippines, Maarat (San Mateo, Rizal), and Nuvali (Sta. Rosa, Laguna).

Sole Sisters On Assignment: A Non-Biker's Trail

- For the Bike Nuvali trip, meet-up is at 6:30 AM at Mcdonald’s El Pueblo in Ortigas. Be sure to arrive before the specified time so you don’t get left behind. And don’t forget to eat a hearty breakfast so you have enough energy for the trip!

- What to wear: quick-drying clothes are recommended. Go for dry fit shirts, leggings, running or gym shorts. For footwear, don’t wear slippers or sandals. Rubber shoes or trail shoes are highly encouraged. Just be prepared for muddy trails! Gloves are optional; they’re nice to have, though, since the trip will last for roughly three hours. It will give you better grip of the handlebars, not to mention an extra layer of protection and cushioning. Lastly, don’t forget to bring sturdy sunglasses/shades!

- Bring a face towel and an extra set of clothes so you can change after the ride.

- Don’t bring too much stuff with you on the trail – just the items that can fit in your pockets or in a small and light backpack. There is the possibility of rain, so don’t forget to waterproof your gadgets like cellphones and cameras. A big bottle of water is provided but you can bring an extra bottle if you want. Also, remember to hydrate the night before the right by drinking 1-2 liters of water.

- New to trail biking, too? Not to worry! The Travel Factor coordinators will be with you every step of the way. There are parts of the trail that are extra challenging, but you won’t be pressured into doing anything you think you can’t do. As our coordinators would say, “When in doubt, dismount.”

Sole Sisters On Assignment: A Non-Biker's Trail

- Lastly, have fun and make new friends! Get to know the members of your group and share stories along the way. If you’re a newbie like me, you’ll probably fall a couple of times, but that’s part of it. Bike at your own pace, but also try to challenge yourself to get through those difficult parts. Enjoy!

Newbie Biker,

Trish is a restless soul and a dreamer. Tired of being stuck in one place all day, she quit her job last year and decided to just keep on moving. No longer stationary, she enjoys hopping from one place to another, taking photographs, and writing about her experiences on her blog, Trish in Transit.

About Sole Sisters on Assignment:

Interested in going on a trip for Sole Sisters? If you are travel-crazy just like us, please email us at solesisters(dot)weare(at)gmail(dot)com with the subject line: Sole Sisters On Assignment. We prefer that you have a blog or online writing samples as well as photos that we can review. Next assignments are in Tagaytay and Coron, Palawan!

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