Ciclo Cycling Trip: Riding Our Bikes To Surf Town San Juan, La Union
Even if one is done on land while the other is on the sea, cycling and surfing have three things in common: balance, reading your way and your choice of ride.
First, you need balance on a bike and on a surfboard. All of us at Ciclo know how to balance on a bike, but not so much on a surfboard. The same can be said of Team Loyola, who we joined on this trip. But that didn’t matter, we just wanted to ride somewhere. Heading out to a beach was a change of scenery to balance all the time we’ve been spending on the road. We chose La Union because we felt like we hadn't rode our bikes that much to the north of Metro Manila. And we chose San Juan because it’s a familiar place we’ve been to, but not yet on bikes.
Second, reading your way is essential in both riding a bike and surfing a wave. Before surfers head out, they first see the sea’s conditions: is it too calm, too rough or just right for a good surf? We cyclists also try to get as much information about our routes before we ride them. We check distances, elevation profiles and points of interest on the way. For this bike trip, our destination was 280 kilometers from our departure point in Quezon City. We planned a three day, two night bike trip. Our first stop would be in Urdaneta City, Pangasinan, covering 185 kilometers; while the remaining 95 kilometers would be ridden on the following day.
We chose dividing the ride that way because the terrain was relatively flat through Central Luzon, with only 1,016 meters of elevation gain spread over 280 kilometers. We also wanted to spend most of our ride during daytime as a safety precaution. We’d take the first segment in a day, and the second segment on the following morning so we’d have the entire afternoon to lounge on the beach.We were also very lucky to have other Team Loyola members tag along in SAG cars in case we needed support for emergencies.
We left Quezon City at 4 AM on the first day. Our route mostly followed MacArthur Highway all the way to Pangasinan, except for a 40 kilometer stretch where we passed a parallel road to skip heavy traffic in San Fernando and Angeles Cities in Pampanga. This was a quieter side of Pampanga where rice fields stretched as far as you can see. And the only structures on this road were houses or a warehouse every few kilometers. We returned to MacArthur Highway somewhere near Capas, Tarlac and stopped for lunch in Tarlac City. After lunch we headed on to Urdaneta City. And after Urdaneta City we passed through the town of Manaoag and then on to the Manila North Road following northwestern Luzon’s coastline.
And finally, the third similarity between cycling and surfing is that your bike or board depend on the kind of riding or surfing you want to do. Sticking to the basics of surfing, longer boards are more stable but harder to maneuver. They’re for more relaxed surfing or for beginners learning the basics. As boards become shorter, they’re less stable but have better maneuverability. And they’re typically used by more advanced surfers and in surf competitions.
Bike choices are also dependent on where and how you plan on riding it. And since our route was all on the road and gear were in our SAG cars, we used road bikes. The entire ride was smooth except for some segments during our first day in Bulacan and Pampanga where potholes and neglected excavations forced us to be more cautious. Plus, it was raining the entire day which did not make the roads any friendlier to us. Despite these conditions, we got to Urdaneta City on time right before sunset. We settled into our Airbnb, washed ourselves and our bikes, had dinner and prepared for the next day of riding.
The following day, the skies were clear with just the right amount of breeze to make it a great day for riding. A couple of punctures were the only inconvenience on our ride from Urdaneta City to San Juan, La Union. We left urdaneta at around 8 AM and arrived at our hotel a little before lunch.
It was a Saturday and San Juan was packed with tourists. We’ve all been there before, but we had a feeling of accomplishment because we rode their on our bikes. Instead of using the expressways, we chose what I’d say was the more scenic route to La Union. We saw how rivers become cleaner as we crossed each bridge farther and farther from Metro Manila. We took side roads that were much closer to rice paddies ready for harvest. Even the rain and potholes made the ride an experience in itself. Being able to finish it at San Juan, La Union was just a bonus.
Photos by Karen Sison, Jobim Bimbao and Remmon Barbaza.
In case you were wondering what our exact route was, here it is!
Looking for more bike routes? Check out Ciclo's bike route guides: