With Ian’s assurance it will be safe I finally agreed. He assured me we’ll be riding the most newbie-friendly downhill tracks. Plus, he promised to lend me complete safety gear: a full-face helmet, body suit, knee and shin guards.
We also borrowed a DH bike for me to use. A Kona Stab Supreme.
I arrived at the meeting place on time. My riding buddies, Ian and Edwin, weren’t there when I arrived. Are they backing out? Hah! Yeah, right.
The travel was a time suck. Because of both the distance and the hellish traffic on SLEX (South Luzon Expressway — EXPRESS my ass) approaching the toll gates. The distance is bearable. The traffic I’m sure something can be done about, but dare I say making money off of motorists is more important than easing the highway users’ inconvenience. OK, I’m ranting, but seriously. 1 hour and 30 minutes of SLOOOW moving traffic towards the toll gate early in the morning, and the same thing in the afternoon going home (on the same lane/direction), on a Saturday? Common sense dictates something should be done about it! OK, I’m still ranting. I’ll stop this now.
From the very beginning I was experiencing a whole new way of riding: the bike’s setup and body geometry, the cumbersome safety gear strapped on the top tube and hanging from my back, the nice and plush suspension system of the Kona Stab Supreme, the pair of cycling rubber shoes I was wearing and the platform pedals (naturally, I’m not clipped in), and the weight of the downhill bike.
Starting from the parked cars I tried to pedal as far as I could go but it was impossible to pedal it all the way up the Mud Spring tracks. I didn’t take note of the time but if I remember correctly the ascent of pushing the bike up where we started took a little over an hour, including the pit stop at Station 5.
First things first, upon reaching the stores that mark our starting line: fresh buko (coconut)! Natural energy drink. And a much-needed rest. I’m not made for hiking… yet? We’ll see.
I was still wheezing from the uphill push when I noticed my guides and mentors were starting to prepare for the downhill ride. With much effort to push myself up from the bench I was sitting on I started getting my gear ready.
Now we’re ready to go. Being a first-timer on this trail and on this bike I was fairly cautious. As long as I can see way way ahead of me I wasn’t scared to let go of the brakes. But as we were riding down a (wide) mountain trail the tracks have non-stop winding curves — and these scared the shit out of me. I still have a way to go in learning to ride turns with speed so I apply the brakes as I approached and slowed myself down to a unimpressive speed.
I’d rather be unimpressive than overshoot the damn cliffs. So I ignore the voice of my self-conscious mocking me about my form. SHUT UP, I thought, shouting at it. I kept alternating between sitting down on the low saddle and standing up on the pedals to be able to use my legs as additional shock absorbers. I felt my feet and legs shaking uncontrollably from the stress of standing too long and from the vibrations from the rough terrain. I’m more used to doing descents much slower than this.
Then I hear the noise, the rattles than can only be associated with bicycles barreling fast down rough terrain. A split second after, as I go slow around the bend, a blurred vision of the downhill rider appears in my peripheral vision. With the streak of yellow on his shorts I recognized him to be Ian. Seeing him pedaling around the curves made me want to slap my hand on my forehead, as I thought to myself how the hell he did that.
I turned my attention back to the trail. With the moss-covered baby heads (rocks embedded into the ground) I had to make sure I’m following a good line and stay alert. Even though I’m not going as fast as I want to I know crashing in this terrain will hurt.
I entered and passed through another right-turning curve. I started to notice the rocks up ahead are slightly bigger than what I’ve just passed. I gripped the handlebar tighter. Then I saw a huge rock in my path. Huge enough to form a small drop. The drop isn’t really a problem, I know I can manage that. What I didn’t know was the interior tube couldn’t. As soon as I passed it I heard a different kind of sound as the fork absorbs everything the trails gives it.
I thought it was a normal thing as I’m only getting acquainted with this bike on this ride. It’s the sound of some kind of metal hitting a hard object, like a rock. I kept riding.
Then my front tire wiggles, which in turn passes it on to the handlebars, then to my hands, then to my arms. I almost lost control. My heart skipped a beat. Then I regained control back.
The trail up ahead curves left. Then I hear a shout. It was Edwin, behind my. Checking me, guiding me.
“What?!” I shouted back.
“Flat!” he said.
I applied the brakes. No wonder I almost lost control, shit, I thought. I thank God and Edwin for staying behind me.
And finally we’re done. Off we go again to continue the ride!
Knowing Edwin will be staying behind me as a guide Ian went ahead to have his fill of his downhill rush. 5 seconds after taking off I didn’t have any idea where he was. I couldn’t see him anymore.
I focus my concentration back on the trail, looking ahead a few feet in front of me to see what’s coming and to anticipate if I should/could roll over is, jump over it (heh!), or swerve to avoid it.
Finding me too slow Edwin alternated between staying behind me and slowing down to let me pass. Then I saw it again. Similar terrain characteristics of where I think I got the front tire flat. I was too chicken to swerve and, at the same time, too confident with the patch job we just did. I could pull the bike up a little to lessen the impact, I thought.
As I neared the small rock-formed step I pulled on the handlebar. A split second after I did a slight jump on the pedals.
Then I land back down. BLAG! I felt and heard the rear tire touch down on the trail hard. Too hard for it to be a smooth landing. I felt a slight wiggle, this time on the rear. Shit, I thought.
Edwin passed me a few meters back. But on the next curve I saw him riding slow, waiting for me. As soon as I was within earshot I shouted, “Am I flat?”
“Is my rear tire flat?” I asked again.
We stopped. I flipped the bike. He got his tools and we started working on the flat. One last patch left. Gulp!
Done. We inflated the tube and got ready to put it in the tire. Edwin pumps while I squeeze the tube checking if it’s inflating.
It wasn’t. Hrmm…
I don’t know why but I checked the front tire. I squeezed it. The tire folded. No air.
No patch. We ran out of.
We looked at each other. We were both disappointed with me not being able to finish the whole downhill ride.
After putting the tube back in the tire I flipped the bike back up, checked our stuff to make sure nothing was left behind, and I started the hike down. Edwin opted to walk down with me. More “mountain bike hiking…” Descending this time.
Watch out for the post about the next Mt. Makiling trip we did which had way way better results than this trip. Stay tuned!
Ride safe, ride hard!
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