5 Mountaing Biking Tours In Albay

Today, Mayon is more than just a postcard beauty; it’s the crown jewel to Albay’s rise as a major MTB (mountain biking) destination.

By Louie Jose Marquez*
Photos by Cris Marquez

*This article was originally published in Mabuhay Magazine by Louie Jose Marquez, a mountain biking enthusiast and an editor for TheBitBag, a US-based tech gadget, video gaming site.

The first time I saw Mayon more than a decade ago, I was immediately awed. A few minutes after, I remember thinking “then what?” Back then, there was little to do beyond endlessly looking at the volcano and suffering a stiff neck. Today, Mayon is more than just a postcard beauty; it’s the crown jewel to Albay’s rise as a major MTB (mountain biking) destination.

You can bike Albay like a boss, the way Hans Rey and Brian Lopes, two of the world’s most famous bikers, rode Mayon’s 35-45 degree slopes and lived to tell the tale. Or you can ride it like me, an out-of-shape tourist out for a great outdoor adventure. With trails that cut across rivers, pine forests, beds of hardened lava, and occasional waterfalls, this is the place to test your bike.

I met Cesar Banares, owner of Mayon Expedition and Bike Tours based in Legazpi, to take me to one of the easier trails. He has helped spot trails for the recent XTERRA triathlon in Albay and he’s a member of Uragon Mountain Bikers of Albay, the group that showed Rey and Lopes the volcanic trails.  For a start, Cesar recommends these five routes:

1. Lava Front

Difficulty: Moderate

MTB run time: 1-2 hours from Legazpi proper

The most popular MTB trail around Mayon is also the most commercialized, thanks to previous visitors like Zac Efron and other local celebrities. It’s 10 kilometers of pavement from Peñaranda Park in Legazpi City and 3 kilometers of trail, a mix of hard pack, sandy, grassy, and rocky fire road and singletrack, which are narrow trails with width just nearly the size of the bike’s. With elevation reaching 350 m ASL (above sea level), the trail climaxes at the 30-foot jumble path of barrel-sized volcanic rocks spewed out by Mayon in 2006. As a highlight, you can climb this giant mound and see the volcano up close. The Lava Front is maintained by the barangay (local town), which charges Php 10 per person as environmental fee.

2. Duruko Detour

Difficulty: High to extreme

MTB run time: +1 hour from Lava Front and back

This is a detour off the Lava Front for advanced riders. At 700 m ASL, this trail is twice more difficult with 7 km of pure adrenalin rush downhill. The surface is also frequently sandy so fat bikes, MTBs fitted with oversized, wider tires for treading snow or sand, are recommended. As for me, I’ll be happy to cap my biking at the Lava Front, then make a U-turn to the city proper.

3. Cagsawa Exit

Difficulty: Moderate to high

MTB run time: +1-2 hours from Lava Front

If you’re an experienced biker but prefer a less daring option to Duruko’s rough downhill, you can continue from the Lava Front and exit at Cagsawa Ruins, the park with the iconic church bell tower against a Mayon backdrop. Trail features are similar to the Lava Front, with more creeks, grasslands, rice fields, and the occasional nonchalant carabao added to the setting. If you’re taking this route, prepare to add 10 kms from the Lava Front. You can take a break at the park (Php 10 entrance fee), which has plenty of makeshift eateries and souvenir shops.

4. Eco-Park Tour

Difficulty: Moderate

MTB run time: 1-2 hours from Sto. Domingo proper (a town north of Legazpi)

This route takes you eastward away from Mayon and into Cagraray Island, where the luxury Misibis Beach Resort is located. You’ll be biking along a paved zigzag road with occasional panoramic views of the islands in Albay Gulf. It’s recommended to start your biking in the town of Sto. Domingo, which is 15 to 30 minutes north of Legazpi by car, to cut down the distance to 24 kms (cab rental is about Php 1,000 to 2,000 Legazpi to Sto. Domingo roundtrip). Your destination is the Misibis Eco Park (Php 20 entrance), but I found the steel bridge we rode across the Sula Channel more interesting.

5. Quitinday (Pili Hills)

Difficulty: Easy to moderate

MTB run time: 2-3 hours from Legazpi proper

This route is 98 percent road, but the view at the end is worth the ride: an oddly ensemble of hills locals call Pili Hills after Bicol’s indigenous nut. On a clear day, you’ll also be rewarded with a surreal view of Mayon. It’s a round trip of 50 kms from Legazpi to Camalig, a quaint heritage town about 30 minutes north of Legazpi by car, where you can enjoy the local delicacy, Pinangat, taro leaves simmered in coconut milk.

Rent a bike: Php 700 per day (branded models of 26er and 29er, with suspension fork, disc brake)

Guided tour: Php 700/day (max. of 5 persons)

Contact: Mayon Expedition and Bike Tours at  +0943 708 0588 or +0925 899 9699

Customized package tours that include car transfers, meals, and Legazpi city tour are available upon request.

Facebook URL: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mayon-Expedition-and-Bike-Tours/378942908816005

How to prepare for mountain biking around Mayon

The bike trails around Mayon are suitable for beginners and pros alike. To best appreciate the rough terrain and uphill climbs and ensure your safety, make sure to get a guided tour, which will provide the logistics support ike biking equipment and tools, first-aid kit, car transfers (and resting), and meals (as per arrangement). You should also pre-condition your body at least 1-2 weeks ahead:

  • get a daily 15-30 minute cycle routine around your neighborhood, in a gym, or a nearby uphill/downhill trail
  • do basic daily stretching exercises
  • hydrate by drinking 8-12 glasses daily

Don’t forget to bring these things during the tour, preferably in a cycling backpack:

  • bottled water (500 ml)
  • muesli or energy bars
  • banana (for potassium against muscle cramps)
  • zip lock of nuts, dried fruit to re-energize midway in your trail
  • cellphone with full batteries
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