(Note: This blog post is intended for Shotgun and Timberland newbies. I’m sure most bikers in Metro Manila have been here. Just feel free to comment any other info you might want to add to help out our fellow bikers enjoy their Shotgun/Timberland experience!)
I’ve been getting positive feedback (thank you dear readers!!!!) from my first Ride Review about my Shotgun ride (read here), so I decided to now try its sister route, the more popular Walls 1, 2, and 3, along with a taste of two of Timberland Heights’ popular trail networks, the Blue Zone and Roxas Loop.
I left home last Thursday, April 6, 2017, at 5:30 a.m. riding my trusty Trinx XC3 (wala na naman akong ibang mountain bike eh!) going to Timberland Heights to ascend its infamous Walls. One has to take the same route going to Shotgun and take the right fork instead of the left.
(It just dawned on me that with our bestfriend Google Maps, the road is actually named as Circumferential Road 6, or simply C6. Nonetheless, in the biking community, just mention to anyone “Wall 1, 2, and 3” and almost everyone will know where that is.)
As it was a Tuesday morning, expect the area to be, again, almost devoid of any biker or runner. Most bikers or runners will have had their share of these uphells during the weekend. I’m quite lucky that as a teacher, without any April duties, I’ve practically got all the time for myself. Anyway, after several minutes doing my stretching, I started climbing Wall 1.
Wall 1 is the most populated area of the three Walls since this is still part of the public road, and as such, most of the bikers and runners just go up and down Wall 1. You should see Wall 1 during Saturday and Sunday morning. Party! Ganun karaming bikers at runners umaakyat dito!
Since there is quite a population of people going to Wall 1 especially during the weekends, there is a number of food establishments lined up there: several stores at the fork, Bikers’ Cafe at the first elbow, a few peddlers by the roadside selling nilagang saba at itlog, water, and even Gatorade, and another cafe near the Timberland Gates. Oh, I almost forgot! Manong taho and manang suman also station themselves at the top of Wall 1! (Yes, you could actually go on a food trip here!)
Believe it or not, I haven’t tried any of these! Since I live just a 5-kilometer ride from Timberland Heights, after every ride, I’d rather go straight home and have either my mom’s or wife’s heartwarming home cooking! 😀
Anyway, going back to the main discussion, according to my Strava recording, Wall 1 is a 2-kilometer winding climb beginning from the fork below and ending at the fabled gates of heaven, errr, Timberland, possessing an average grade of 10%. Wall 1 possesses “killer” elbows, such as below:
Since time immemorial, there already has been quite a number of reported crashes and overshots here due to the steepness and sudden curves of these elbows, with some victims escaping with just minor injuries, and a very small few having fatal consequences. If you try zooming in the picture, you could see tire-covered steel posts at the curves of these elbows, to help stop (rather painfully) any biker who might have some untoward incidents while descending Wall 1. Also, thanks to the local government unit of San Mateo, Rizal, several ambulances are also stationed every Saturday and Sunday morning here, ready for any emergency.
Again, for the newbies out there, better set your gears to the lowest settings in order to conserve your energy. One will pass Bikers Cafe, the Columbary of the Divine Mercy Shrine, several more elbows, the beautiful facade of Amiya Raya Highland Homes, before finally reaching the Timberland Heights gates, the end of Wall 1.
A few years ago, the public could just enter and exit Timberland Heights as they please, but starting just last year, access is now limited, and one now has to leave an ID at the gates to be able to enter, where Walls 2 and 3 are located. After leaving an ID with the guards at the Timberland gates and after about a minute of rest, I continued pedalling through Walls 2 and 3.
Wall 2 now is about 1.5 kilometers long and has an average grade of 8%, though again, this number is a misnomer. Majority of Wall 2 actually flattens out a bit, but there are few tough climbs as well which will leave you huffing and puffing as much as Wall 1 did. On the other hand, the wide expanse of the main Timberland Heights road will show you a breathtaking, but disappointingly sad view of smoggy Metro Manila:
You will be passing by the glamorous subdivisions of Banyan Ridge, Mandala South, and finally, the Timberland Sports and Nature Club which marks the end of Wall 2 and the start of Wall 3.
Finally, the last stretch of uphill – Wall 3! If the coast is clear, I usually just stitch up this last uphill to reach the end. Tiisin na lang ang pagod, malapit na ang pahinga!!! The end of Wall 3 also marks the entrance of one of the hardest trail routes in Timberland Heights, the Blue Zone.
Being the weekday that it was, I was not surprised to see no one else at the entrance. Usually, during weekends, the entrance of the Blue Zone is teeming with bikers, either doing final preps before traversing the route, or waiting for their biking buddies who are still not yet done climbing Wall 3. But today? Woohoo! At least, I could take my time riding through the Blue Zone without feeling any pressure from harkor riders sudenly appearing from behind. (Personally, I really feel the pressure when I’m taking my time here then all of a sudden, the tunog-mayaman sounds of hubs coming from behind start getting louder and louder. Paano ako tatatabi para sa kanila, eh most of the Blue Zone is single-track?!)
The Blue Zone is about eight kilometers long. It is my personal favorite among the different Timberland trail routes as it features varying terrains of varying elevations of varying difficulties. The first segment, about 2.4 kilometers long, is called the Maarat Enduro Attack, features single-track fire trails, meandering through the hillside sloping up and down with different variations.
The middle segment of the Blue Zone will take you to a mini-forest at a lower elevation, complete with a wide canopy, blocking out sunlight, bringing down the temperature at this part, thus making it significantly cooler than the rest of the route. One will pass by several bamboo bridges here, as well as the wetter and muddier sections of the route.
The Blue Zone ends by merging with the last part of the Basic Trail. You’ll find the backdoor of Timberland Heights at the end of the Basic Trail where a store is found, serving as a rest stop for all bikers. The store sells ride food staples such as nilagang saging at itlog during weekends, but today, it just has its softdrinks and Gatorade to offer. I took my “take five” here, munching on the biscuits I brought. After that quick rest, I started heading back, this time, taking a reverse Roxas Loop.
The Roxas Loop is a 3.6-kilometer ride. The first part is concrete road with fallen grass, trees, and vines everywhere, covered again with trees growing from the roadsides, giving this first segment a cooler temperature like the middle part of the Blue Zone. From these, one can deduce that before, the Roxas Loop might actually have been used as a road for vehicles, and not really part of the Timberland trail network. Later on, the rest of the Roxas Loop will revert back to gravel-y trails exposed to the sun, with tall cogon grasses growing right by the trailside with gradual elevation climbs. The entire Roxas Loop has an average grade of just 1% starting from the backdoor to the Blue Zone entrance, but don’t let this fool you! It has a good mixture of uphills and downhills, but far easier than the Walls.
The Roxas Loop winds back to the concrete roads leading to The Glades, the highest concrete part of Timberland Heights. Since it was already 8:30 a.m. and I have daddy duties to attend to that morning, I need to be back home by 9:00 a.m. I started pedalling my way back home. I reached the Timberland Heights gates again, claimed my ID, and headed straight for home.
Here’s my raw video of my downhill ride from Wall 3 to 2 to the Timberland Heights gates! Feel the rush!!! 😀 😀 😀
As always, here’s my ride elevation profile as per my Strava recording, along with my Relive video:
For trail biking newbies, let me share again some tips based from my personal experience of having done the Timberland routes several times before (taken from my previous post Recon Ride #2: A Newbie Trail Biker’s Walkthrough of the 7-Eleven Trail 2016):
- Lower your saddle! It will gonna be a pain in the balls especially during the bumpy segments if your saddle is high enough to hit them! A 1-inch difference in saddle height will help you lower your center of gravity especially if you’re going downhill or have a tall 29er bike like I do.
- Increase arm strength! Our arms will carry majority of our upper body weight during descends, especially during bumpy descends. I felt mine getting numb at some point. That means I have to increase my arm strength.
- Strategize on how to let faster and stronger bikers pass you at single tracks! Either hurry up and hope that there’s an opening up ahead where you could stay for a while to let them pass you, or try your best to really step aside for them.
- Bring your tools! My saddle kept getting loose during my rides before, so I have to stop by several times and tighten them with my tools. Also, make sure you know how to use them! Hindi lang ‘yan pang-display!
- For the 29ers like myself, keep your center of gravity low during uphills and downhills! The Science teacher in me knows that since my center of gravity is higher due to a taller bike (because of bigger wheels), lowering my center of gravity during uphills and downhills will help me avoid toppling over.
- Know how to play with your gears! Know when to shift to lower or higher gears before it’s too late. Wrong gearing (especially during uphills) would mean a waste of a lot of energy.
- Know how to adjust your suspensions! I’m using a hardtail, so my suspension is only in the fork. Haven’t tried a full sus yet, so make sure you adjust them properly!
- Bring trail food! Magugutom ka! Trust me!
- Check your brakes! Make sure your brakes are working! You really need them here!
- Make sure your tires are good! I am using an all-stock bike, and I don’t have the budget to buy tires more suitable for trails, so just make sure your tires are good enough for the trails. At least a 2-inch wide tire with good treading will do.
And that’s that! Next time, I’ll try to complete a continuous Shotgun-Timberland ride!
Feel free to comment any other helpful tips or trivia to help out our fellow bikers!