Dec 18, 2017
Playing Mountain Bike Tour Optimizer
Location: Fox and the Firefly Cottages, Loboc (municipality), Bohol (province), Philippines
Looking for Blind Spots
Life continued at Fox and the Firefly Cottages with my single-minded focus on optimization. The resort already operates at a high standard with everything they do. I had to use a finer-tooth comb to uncover whatever blind spots there are. One such area is where my heart is - mountain biking
Since I've already spent a full month in Loboc doing all kinds of mountain bike rides with Jeffrey and Juan, I was only keen on doing the same rides again but from an observer - in short, I'm not participating for the fun of it. I'd be vigilant at seeing how things work and fix what's broken and optimize the weak links.
Before even getting on the bike, I inspected the portable tool pouch of the guide - it was almost complete except for a spare tube, air pump and adhesive for the patches. If there was a flat tire, they would have to call the resort for back-up. Given my background where I ride deep into the forest in the dead of winter where I can be 5 kms away from the nearest road, this practice was not acceptable. I prepared a list of 'to buy' parts which the owner quickly addressed.
The resort has a stable of six 29" hard tails (front suspension with 29-inch diameter wheels). For a public tour bike, I would say that these bikes are just about the best you could get. Usually, the bikes offered by an outfitter would be shitty. But these bikes are clean, lubed, tuned and fully functional. Even the Danish guests were pleasantly surprised. The owner is smart in not having the bikes rented out. The bikes can only be used for guided tours. This way, they don't get trashed.
Presta vs Schraeder
We would have left at 9am but had to wait for the earlier tour to arrive to use one of their bikes. Apparently one bike for our tour didn't have enough air. It had a presta valve and the only pump was a schraeder. It was that one inner tube out of 6 bikes that delayed Tour B. Instead of accommodating the presta (buying a separate presta pump), it made more sense to make this one tube, a schraeder. I requested the owner to add another schraeder tube making all the bikes schraeders.
Mountain Biking Tour B
2 travelers from Denmark, Mads and Emma, who were strong riders signed up for Tour B - a 20-km intermediate level ride that includes moderate climbs and downhills. Teroy, the tour guide, led the way while I played sweeper (guy at the back making sure the group is intact). As sweeper, I can ward off any aggressive dogs that might spook the riders (but we didn't encounter such), see how the riders are holding up, observe the bikes' trail manners and see if anything falls off the trail.
We rode mostly on the backroads with a mix of dirt and paved trails cutting through several villages. Our mid-point rest stop was Limpia Beach in Loay. Heading back, we took a different back road where we ended up doing a canopy ride along the river bank - that was nice. We arrived at the resort hungry for lunch!
Mountain Bike Maintenance and Troubleshooting Workshop
I saw the need to conduct a maintenance / trouble shooting workshop for the 3 resort tour guides - they should be self-sufficient while out there without being reliant on resort back-up. It has already been scheduled end of week where we will do:
- patching a flat tire
- changing inner tubes
- connecting a broken chain using a chain tool with my own trench-proven technique
- cleaning, lubing, wiping a chain using race-established practices
- tuning derailleurs
The ride went well with no mishaps but I noticed that there was nothing memorable to it - nothing that was fun to talk about after. I would suggest a few things into the tour:
- include a tour highlight - a good highlight would be the Virgin of Guadalupe or Cruz Daku on the hill, but it might be too steep a climb even for intermediate riders. Maybe a stop by the Spanish Tower in Loay where you walk a bamboo stilt bridge.
- make it a talking tour as well - since the tour is not a race and the pace isn't too frenetic, the tour guide could talk about the things passed by - talk about the river, it's legends, fables, trivia info. The talk simply adds dimension to the experience when you know the story behind it.
- take action shots - after a rest stop, the tour guide could go ahead to a photo-opt vantage point where he can take action shots of the riders. Maybe a little panning with slow shutter to give it that blur for break-neck speed mirage. The guests would love this - specially because they can't take selfies while riding a mountain bike.
While being observer and noticing so many things that could further enhance rider experience, I was amazed at how much I've cummulatively picked-up over the years from club races in Toronto, cycle mag subscription, Youtube tutorials and bike-outs with my mountaineer friends that were just coming out on-demand.
Additionally, by being an observer, I saw a different facet of the tour that neither the riders nor the tour guide were probably aware of. And that's cool. I'd like to think somebody was cleaning the ashtrays while they were partying.
Next stop: Firefly Tour on a Stand-Up Paddle (SUP)
Loboc, Bohol, Philippines
Bohol FYI / Tips
- the tourist area where most of the hotels, restaurants, ticket offices, tour operators are, is located within the Alona Beach area
- the tourist attractions in Bohol are far apart and spread-out. It would be difficult to visit them all using public mass transit. Better hire a van (P3500/day) if in a big group, or rent a motorcycle (P400/day + gas)
- Bohol relies on its tourism for revenue. As expected, everything they can capitalize on from tourism is extensively used and developed
Tagbilaran Port to PanglaoYou can charter any tricycle from the port all the way to Panglao (~P300), but if you want to do it on the cheap,
- don't take the tricycles lined-up inside the port. Walk past the port gate and immediately outside, you'll see many tricycles. Take one to the bus terminal in Dao (~P15)
- in Dao, take the jeep that plies the Panglao route (~P20)
Tagbilaran (Bohol) to Cebu City by boat** schedules and rates keep changing, call for latest schedule
- Weesam Express - departs 6:15 AM, 11:30 AM, 4:00 PM
one way: Economy (aircon) P500.00, Economy (non-aircon) P400.00, First Class P600.00
round trip promo (at least 2 days advance booking): Economy (aircon) P600, Economy(non-aircon) P500, First Class P1200
round trip promo (1 day or on the day booking): Economy (aircon) P800, Economy (non-aircon) P700, First Class P1200
- Ocean Jet - departs 6-7:05-8:20-9:20-11:40AM, 1-2-3:30-4:20-5:30-6:30PM, 2 hours, arrives Pier 1 in Cebu
Open Air / Tourist Class P800, Business Class P1000
+63(32)255 7560 / +63 (32) 255 0115 / 0917 638 0000
- SuperCat (2GO) - departs 5:50-11AM, 3:45-5:25-8:15PM, arrives Pier 1 in Cebu
+63 32 233 7000
Things to do, Places to go in Bohol
- Chocolate Hills - this is a clustering of more than 1200 hills within a 50km2 area. They range in height from 30-50 meters. What's unusual is their near-perfect conical shape resembling an individual chocolate chip. No one knows how they were formed. Entrance is P50/pax.
- Tarsier Conservation Area - located Upper Bonbon, Loboc. The tarsiers are no longer being played at by tourists as circus props, but instead, visitors now view them in cordoned-off areas in their natural 6ha habitat. As they are territorial and nocturnal, they are predictable on where they can be viewed. P50/pax.
- Alona Beach (Panglao) - Alona Beach is the tourist hub of Bohol. It has 1.5 kms of white sand beach lined-up by bars, hotels and restos. Alona is also the jump-off point for Balicasag Island, a world class dive destination.
- Danao Adventure Park - located in Barangay Magtangtang, 72 kms (2 hours ride) from Tagbilaran. Adventure activities include river trekking, tyrolean traverse, rappelling, bouldering, rock climbing and ziplining.
Carlos P. Garcia Island
»» next story: Firefly Tour on a Stand-Up Paddle (SUP)
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