Proof that biking is one of the best ways to travel

By Kara Santos | Photos courtesy of Byron Villegas of Bikepacking Philippines

Some ride because of their need for speed. Others use bikes because it’s the easiest way to get from point A to point B. Then there are those who use bicycles for sightseeing and exploration. 

Biking is one of the best ways to travel. Having your own bike gives you more freedom compared to relying on public transportation. On a bike you can cover more ground than hiking. Bikes also give you more access to dirt roads and trails inaccessible to other vehicles.

But while most recreational bikers are satisfied with a couple of hours doing weekend rides, some bikers take it to the next level through multiple day rides. It’s called bikepacking.

What is Bikepacking?

According to Byron Villegas, the page administrator of Bikepacking Philippines, bikepacking is essentially “backpacking with your bicycle.”

Villegas is part of the fun-loving community made up of bikepacking veterans, newbie riders, and those who just love bicycles and the outdoors. Established in 2015, the group aims to promote the beauty of the Philippines by biking, bikepacking, and bike touring in general, one island at a time. The Bikepacking Philippines Facebook group currently has over 5,000 members, all of whom share tips and stories of their bikepacking adventures.

Bikepacking in Guimaras

“Instead of backpacks, cyclists use bike-specific bags like panniers, saddle bags, frame bag, handle bar bags, and top tube bags to carry their gear and go touring and camping,” explains Villegas.

“There are those who want to distinguish bikepacking from bike touring and define bikepacking as limited only to mountain bikes and exploring the trails, spending at least a night outdoors using tents or hammocks and/or sleeping bags. For our Bikepacking Philippines group though, we take the more general and ‘non-purist’ definition,” he says.

Villegas likens it to the general practice of low-cost, independent travel of backpacking, which involves carrying everything, staying in inexpensive lodging such as youth hostels, meeting locals, and seeing sights. The only difference is that they have their bikes with them all the way.

Bikepacking is a fun activity for cycling buddies, couples, and families who ride together. Rides can vary from easy overnight rides to resorts or epic cross-country trail rides through uncharted territory. Just pack everything you need, hop on two wheels, and pedal away.

Bikepacking Incheon to Busan

What to Bring

According to Villegas, the gear he packs for bikepacking trips usually depend on the route, and whether it’s a multiple day trip or just an overnighter. He categorizes bikepacking essentials into three major purposes: for the bike, for the camp, and for nutrition and hydration. For those who are interested in trying it out, here are some of the gear suggested.

A. For the bike

  • extra tubes, patch kit, and tire levers.
  • extra folding tire too (optional)
  • tire hand pump
  • multi-tool with chain tool
  • front lights and rear blinkers
  • pannier bags or bikepacking bags

B. For the camp

  • tent
  • sleeping bag
  • sleeping mat
  • soap, shampoo, shower bag, mosquito repellent
  • tent light
  • first aid kit with medicines for cold and cough, diarrhea, and fever
  • rain jacket and trekking pants (optional for cold weather)

C. For nutrition and hydration

  • biscuits and energy bars
  • at least two water bottles
  • canned goods, noodles, rice, coffee
  • multi-fuel burner/alcohol burner and cookset
  • knife or cutter with can opener

There’s also travel essentials basics like cash, smartphone, spare batteries/power bank/charger, and a camera to document the trip.

Bikepacking Pagsanjan, Laguna

Where to Go Bikepacking

Villegas himself has bikepacked in many beautiful places around the Philippines including Marinduque, Mindoro, Samal island, Talicud island (near Samal), Alabat Island, Siquijor, Sagada and the Cordilleras to name a few. Internationally, he’s gone on bikepacking adventures from Incheon to Busan in South Korea and Fukuoka to Osaka in Japan.

For those who are just starting to get into it, coming from Metro Manila, the best way to get into bikepacking is to ease into with an overnight trip.

“One of the favorite destinations for at least an overnight bikepacking trip is Soloviento Resort near Lake Caliraya,” says Villegas. The lakeside watersport eco-resort and campsite situated on the shores of Lake Caliraya in Laguna offers space where visitors can enjoy fresh air, wide open spaces, and natural mountain lake breeze relatively near Manila.

Talipanan Falls in Mindoro

The best part about bikepacking? Meeting new friends. Like this bikepacking trip in Tayabas, Quezon. Photo courtesy of Bikepacking Philippines

BaseKamp in Pintong Bukawe in San Mateo, Rizal (near Timberland) is another good choice near Manila. The area contains several mountain biking trails of varying difficulties and has spacious grounds for camping and outdoor recreational activities.

Bikepackers recently held their first ever Summer Solstice Campout in Graceland Estates and Country Club in Tayabas, Quezon, which is approximately 130 kilometers from Manila. The resort accepts bikepackers with tents for P400 per person per night.

For those who want to do a more advanced route, Marinduque is also a favorite of bikepackers. “It’s very near Manila, and you can do an island loop ride for two or three days. You can also bikepack around Mindoro, from Calapan to Puerto Galera, and stay in Talipanan Beach,” suggests Villegas.

Interested to learn more? Visit bikepackingphilippines.com or join the community on Facebook