TRAVEL Factor is well known in travel circles for organizing trips for individuals seeking more than just the usual tourist experience. The company started in 2006 with surf tours in La Union and in six years has diversified to whitewater rafting, mountaineering climbs, nature treks, beach bumming trips, photo trips, dive trips - everything that has to do with adventure and the great outdoors.
With more young Filipinos being bitten by the travel bug and the upsurge in popularity of mountain biking (MTB), it was a no-brainer for the travel adventure company to come up with its newest offering - Bike PH, Mountain Bike Adventures in the Philippines.
“We see a rise in the active and sports lifestyle and if we can infuse travel with it, it can become a great new product for us,” said Cedric Valera, one of its founding and managing partners in an interview at the Travel Factor office in Pasay City.
That novel idea has since become Bike PH, which was launched in May and aims to target the weekend warrior set who are looking to try the mountain biking experience with minimum fuss and expenditure.
“One of our targets is to grow the sport and to encourage people to try out mountain biking so we take all the hassle out of it.”
If all goes according to plan, Travel Factor plans to offer weekly Bike PH trips on a year-round basis since, unlike most travel itineraries, weather is their least concern.
“I told my partners to be steadfast in promoting the trips because you can do biking even when it’s the rainy season. We might get a typhoon once or twice a month but it doesn’t mean the whole month it’ll be raining… We have a saying, “The Philippines is like a country that’s forever summer.” Sure it may rain for quite awhile but soon its summer ulit, even in September, even in December,” said a confident-sounding Valera.
At present, Bike PH caters to a mostly Metro Manila crowd who can choose from an assortment of trails depending on their skill level behind a mountain bike. Absolute beginners can try Bike UP inside the sprawling Diliman campus; beginner trails include Bike Maarat in San Mateo, Rizal (considered The 'Mountain Biking Capital of the Philippines'); Bike Nuvali in Sta. Rosa, Laguna; and Bike La Mesa in the La Mesa Nature Reserve for those in the advanced stage.
For those who want to combine MTB and a visit to exotic locales, Bike PH has its first real out-of-town trips: the first Bike Ifugao (October 5-6) and Bike Batanes (December 6-9).
Fees start from Php950 to Php25,000, depending on location and duration. Each participant is provided with the means to get to the destination and back from Giant Hardtail bikes, Spyder brand helmets, trained bike guides and even bottled trail water.
“What we offer in Bike PH are hassle-free bike tours. You just have to show up at the meet-up point with your bike, we load it into the bus. The other provision is kasama na ang transportation and yung accommodations mo sa destination, the meals are also included,” Valera said.
For the UP, Nuvali and Maarat trails, bikes are already provided during the trip. Trips marketed for the advanced beginners or the intermediate levels participants already have their own bikes.
He added that they have a support vehicle on-site which means any biker experiencing difficulties can bail out at any point in the trip.
“For example, you want to take on Ifugao but you’re still a beginner, you join anyway then pag sobrang pagod ka na or hindi mo na kaya or the trail is too steep - at any point there is a support vehicle at the tail of the group. You can stop and mount your bike back in the vehicle, ride the vehicle and then if you are able to you can start biking again,” Valera pointed out.
According to the UPLB Zoology graduate, bike tourism is really popular in developed countries and other Asian countries. “If you go to Thailand or Bali, bike tours aren’t new. There are flyers everywhere saying you can go biking to all sorts of places. In the Philippines I think we’re just starting. One reason is Filipinos don’t have a solid bike culture - we have a really strong car culture."
Despite this, one reason for Valera’s optimism is the reception Bike PH has received in the form of repeat clients, the fact they are among the first to offer this in the Philippines, and the online feedback.
“We started our Facebook page in May and after four months we’re hitting 15,000 'likes' this week,” he said.
This early, Bike PH already has plans to widen their destinations with a more “touristy” feel such as Bike Ilocos, Bike Bataan, Bike Corregidor in the pipeline.
And for those who want to see the scenic locations in the Philippines via pedal power but can’t afford the high-end models for such journeys, Bike PH provides a solution.
“You don’t have a bike? We have a bike. You don’t have a helmet? We’ll provide one for you. You don’t have to worry about how you’re going to get there or how you’re going to transport your bike. (It’s) just people trying the sport and if we convert people to becoming bikers, all well and good,” he said with a smile.
For more details on Bike PH, visit their website at: http://travelfactor.org/brands/?brand=bikeph