Marin Four Corners: Initial Impressions

I’ve had the Marin Four Corners for about 3 months now but i havent had a chance to tour with it. Recently, a couple of friends and i had a short multiday trip up north and used this bike for that purpose.

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For starters, the Marin Four Corners  (check the specs here https://www.marinbikes.com/bikes/2019-pavement-drop-bar-utilitour-four-corners) was designed for bikepacking expeditions.

Made of chromoly steel, lots of mounting points for racks and cages, the frame also features varying wheelsizes depending on the size you’d get. In my case, i got the small size with 650b wheels. In terms of drivetrain, it sports Shimano sora 3×9 components with 50-39-30 upfront and 11-34 for the sproket. For stopping power, it has the TRP spyre mechanical brakes. the rest of the pieces are typical OEM components with the exception of the tires which are wtb resolutes (650bx42)40025462_10212822169855755_7147014241277444096_n

In terms of the ride, the Marin four corners reminded me of the Surly Disc Trucker on 650b wheels-slow yet the low bb height and chainstay length gave you sure footed stability during climbs. While i haven’t loaded this much as i packed light during the tour, i felt that the bike has a livelier feel when loaded with racks and panniers.

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With regard to gearing, i felt that this was adequate giving a wide range of gear ratios, the 3×9 sora can definitely be a good option for long haul touring. while it is the first time ive used TRP mech brakes, there’s nothing really special about them. it does the stopping with fine modulation. One of the interesting things about the stock build is the compact 12 degree flared drops which to me were comfortable despite the sizing (mine had 40mm width). It reminded me of the soma condor in terms of comfort as you would prefer to stay on the drops while cruising.

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While the recent trip ive had gave me an idea of the comfort and adequacy of the Marin four corners for touring, what i look forward doing with this bike is some off road expeditions as well as loaded trips using racks/panniers.

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Overall, similar to the Marin Pine mountain, the Four corners’ specs are value for money for a built bike which may appeal to those interested in starting their own expeditions on two wheels without breaking the bank.

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Rain Gear review: Waterproof Socks (Antu, Dex Shell, Seal Skinz, Showers pass)

The wet season is a bane for all cyclists. In the Philippines, the rainy season lasts for about 5 months (June-October) and typhoons can get really strong. Another problem is the prominence floods in the metro.

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Since 2013, ive tried all sorts of rain gear, ponchos, jackets etc. But I couldn’t find a solution to wet feet. Getting your feet wet isn’t just uncomfortable (I just hate the feel of soggy socks) but wading in flood water increases the risk of waterborne diseases.

I’ve learned about waterproof socks early this year and was able to get some and test them over the course of a month. From lights showers to torrential rains, here’s my take on 4 brands-Antu, Dex Shell, Seal Skinz and Showers Pass.

If you choose waterproof socks, there are several considerations:

Waterproofing-how long can the insides of the sock stay dry?

Breathability-Can it wick sweat and stay cool while pedaling?

Price and Availability- Which is best for my budget and are they available locally?

 

For this review, I did two tests:

The soak test:

Simulating similar conditions while cycling, ive placed each sock in a small container filled with water-around 500ml and let it sit there for 1 hour (average time of my bike commute/leisure rides)

 

The field test:

Ive done a range of rides over the month using each in varying conditions (light showers and heavy rain) between 2-5 hours. Using cycling sandals to allow exposure as well as easy draining of water, these socks were exposed to varying weather to simulate conditions on a tour or longer ride.

 

Antu (Php 1350, locally available at M Paps cycling house- https://www.facebook.com/mpapscyclehaus/?timeline_context_item_type=intro_card_work&timeline_context_item_source=1135239754&fref=tag)

The Australian brand, Antu (https://antu.com.au/) is a three layer sock made of nylon and breathable fabric assuring you that water won’t get in but you remain cool inside . Among all the socks tested, this feels like a regular sock despite its layered construction.  Sizing is exact (I have a medium for my size 42 shoes)

It performed well in the soak and field test as no water came in but it did feel damp suggesting that extended exposure may cause a leak.

The verdict: Among the ones tested, this is the best bang for your buck sock if you intend to go bike commuting or urban rides rides and can serve as a back-up while on tour.

 

Dex Shell (Php1250 available at Lagalag Store SM North Edsa-http://www.dexshell.com/)

I got these when I was about to get home from a meeting and realized that rain was about pour down. Getting my bike from the shop, I pedaled for an hour under heavy rain and encountered flooded parts down south. The Dex shell socks also has three layers that claim to repel water and wick sweat. While it did the job for my commute home, it was never the same after washing it. Apparently ,it lost its waterproofing quality and the soak test verifies this. As some reviews claim, this is the problem with the socks. While I was advised to hand wash them, the packaging and website suggest that these socks are machine washable which I did. But I suppose regardless of the method of washing, quality should be better.

 

The verdict: don’t even bother

 

Seal Skinz (Php 1500 available x7107 outdoor gears-https://www.facebook.com/Xplore7107/)

The UK brand Seal Skinz (https://www.sealskinz.com/) is claimed to be as one of the best out there but pricing has been quite high in the US. In fact, I was surprised that a store in the Philippines carried this at a lower price. Aside from the typical 3 layers, this had a silicon type material surrounding of the sock to prevent entry of water. Sizing is a bit odd as you need to size up (I’m using XL for this one)

For the soak test, this remained dry but during two test rides, I was a bit mixed about them.

For the first ride which was five hours, we encountered heavy rain and flooding at the middle of our journey and it ended up trapping water inside my feet. I suspect that the absence of rain pants was the culprit and the extended period of use saturated the socks’ limit in taking in water.

For the second ride which was shorter (about an hour), it held pretty much well despite the heavy rain and flooding. This time I was wearing rain pants preventing entry points for water.

The verdict: This may be a good choice if you’re commuting to work but you might need to search elsewhere if you want something on tour.

Showerpass cross point (34 USD available from online sellers in the US-https://www.showerspass.com/)

Claimed to be used for bikepacking ( see for a review of this one https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oatYzLAti5E), this pair is quite snug fit (I use M/L). Testing suggests that this has characteristics for a bombproof sock due to the thick material and intricate weaving making sure that your feet are dry outside and inside. It performed well under the soak test and even several rides under varying weather conditions. While I happened to stand in flood water for a few minutes, the sock didn’t even feel damp or soggy. In addition, unlike the other three socks, this sets quite higher in the calf of your leg allowing greater protection from entry when passing by muddles or flood

 

Verdict: If you could source this, this is would be an ideal choice.

 

 

To conclude, while waterproof socks can help you get through your bike ride, I’ve learned that using a combination of other clothing (rain pants, overshoes) increases your chances of staying dry amidst extended periods of rain.

 

 

Note: this is an independent review and no sponsorship/financial support was given for the conduct of this review

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bike Adventure: Ambon-Ambon Falls, Laurel, Batangas

With the extended summer season, a group of friends and I wanted to do another short trip. In the past, we’ve done day rides to different waterfalls in Luzon. The problem though is that aside from the distances and elevation traveled, most of the time, trips would entail hikes limiting our appreciation of these landmarks of nature.

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This time, we set an overnight bike trip to Ambon-Ambon falls in Laurel Batangas, which is approximately 70km from Las Pinas (about 85km from Manila). Since one of our friends comes from the area.

For the first day, several riders and i met in Molito Alabang to pedal our way to Tagaytay. The fastest route was through Paliparan heading to Silang. Reaching the roundabout of Tagaytay city early afternoon, we went down via the Sampaloc road, an approximately 15km descent to Batangas.

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The meetup

Upon reaching Talisay, we pedaled our way to Laurel, Batangas (about 8 km and left our stuff in one of our friend’s house) and proceeded to the falls.

riding to the falls is both a rewarding yet physically challenging experience due to the mixed terrain of gravel, rock and mud and several stream crossings. This went about for approximately 2km. Good thing weather was dry and heading to the falls wasn’t much of a problem.

Hike, Bike, Hike

 

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otherwordly groupfie (courtesy of Ferd Mangubat)

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To end the first day, we spend the night at our friend, Ferd’s house on top of the mountain.

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dinner is served

The next day, we got back home by pedaling our way up to Tagaytay via the Sampalo-Talisay Road which is 15km of mostly climbs. The early part of the day was really hot but rain fell early afternoon making the climb more manageable. Heading home was a breeze as we simply backtracked our way.

Pic with Ferd’s Dad and Nephew at the house on the top of the mountain

Climbing home

Rider Notes:

  1. bike hikes can be demanding as you need to dismount constantly on varying terrain. In this case, it was good that we used slippers or sandals during the trek to Ambon-Ambon falls.
  2. It is advisable to make the trip 2  months after the rainy season as the falls wasn’t too strong during the summer. In fact, some friends said that the there isnt any water in the falls during the peak season of summer.
  3. Bringing a light bike helps when you carry your rig around during the hike. It is advised to set your bike rackless for trips like this.
  4. I’d say Ambon-Ambon falls is a good day trip if you’re looking for a good challenging ride with a taste of varied terrain in your adventure.

 

Strava route for the trip: https://www.strava.com/activities/1584026203

Featured image courtesy of Ferd Mangubat

Bike Adventure: Tingloy, Batangas, Philippines

Batangas, which is located south of Luzon, Philippines features one of the best diving spots in the region. Though I have had a couple of day tours and a 2 days bike trip, a couple of friends and I organized a tour on the island of Tingloy in Batangas. I’ve heard of the enticing beach in this place but what intrigued me is the bike route that lies ahead. Given the summer season, this tour was  perfect to do cycling and swimming.

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Masasa Beach, Tingloy Batangas
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meetup at Buendia, Pasay

We were 13 riders in total and met at the Buendia bus station in Pasay and left 2 in the morning to catch the first trip of the day. After 3 hours, we arrived at Batangas Grand Terminal and pedaled roughly 20km on our way towards Anilao port passing by the town of Mabini and others.

heading to the port early morning

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lock and loaded (Courtesy of Rai Reyes)
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steel forks on sea water!

 

After going to the market for food and supplies, dealing with our boat captain, loading our bikes on the boat and We got to Tingloy island around 8 in the morning and started our trip towards Masasa beach, the popular public beach in the Island. While the route was quite straightforward and mostly paved, we were amazed with the site of the beach as well as the rock formation around the area.

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mini lagoon

heading to the rock formation

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climbing back

After a long climb back to head to the town proper, we decided to proceed to another beach in the island and explore the backroads after a light snack. The road to the beach was both an exciting yet challenging one as it was a combination of paved, hardpack and singletrack paths. Though it was estimated that the backroad to the other beach was about 7km, the intense heat, varying degrees of elevation of climbs and terrain made the trip an ordeal. We arrived at the beach early afternoon and setup camp. Good thing there was a nice homestay that allowed us to stay for the night.

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another beach (courtesy of Rai Reyes)
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taking a dip (courtesy of Rai Reyes)
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as the sun sets (Courtesy of Rai Reyes)
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Grilling it (courtesy of Julie Alparan)

For the second day, some friends went to the beach for another round of swimming while others just relaxed in different areas. After meals, we were picked up by the boat at 2pm and got to Anilao port an hour later. Getting to the terminal early evening, we left for Alabang terminal at 630pm and got back to the city around 9pm.

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heading home

 

Rider Notes:

While i’d recommend Tingloy Batangas as a short get away tour for those who have limited days off and budget, there are several considerations:

 

  1. For an island trip that runs around approximately 15km, this has got to be one of the most challenging routes for me due to the heat, climbs and terrain. Aside from steep climbs on paved and trail paths, we had to contend with fist sized rocks throughout the offroad parts (about 40%) and in some of the steep descents. Though CX bikes can manage this, plus/fat bikes are very much capable of handling the terrain in the island. Of course, skills in trail riding helps.

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  1. The cost of the bus from Buendia to Batangas is 160Php but we were ripped off by the DLTB bus as they charged 200 pesos per bike! Good thing the ALPS bus service going back home didn’t charge any for bike storage.
  2. Heading to the Tingloy Island from Anilao port can be tricky as boat trip schedules can be tight . Though you can take the regular trips for as little as 70 Php (which you may arrive late morning in the island as we have seen with other bikers during our trip), it is advised to go with a group and arrange transfers with other boats and negotiate the price. For our trip, we spent 730 per person for roundtrip transfers. Sure it may be pricey, but we chose our own schedules our stuff was secured by the staff throughout the trip as we were the only passengers on the boat.
  3. Since bike tours help you manage expectations, it is best that items such as cooksets, canned food and water filters are brought when you do this as stores charge higher for items in the island and there are very few them. Also, the island cuts power at 12 midnight and resumes at 12 noon.
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camp food! (Courtesy of Julie Alparan)

Check out the strava route here:

https://www.strava.com/activities/1539231565

 

 

 

Corregidor Biketour

Historically, the Philippines has been instrumental in the Second World War due to its strategic location for the western allies. Corregidor island is one of those sites that has not only been used by the American and Filipino forces to defend the country, but is a historically rich island filled with stories of valour and hardship.

Converted into a tourist destination, I’ve heard stories from friends that Corregidor Island offers bikers a chance to go and experience history on two wheels.

A month ago, a couple of friends and I availed of the Corregidor biketour offered by Sun Cruises (you can check out the details here http://www.corregidorphilippines.com/activities.html)

Leaving early morning from the Seaside terminal near Mall of Asia, the ferry trip lasted about 2 hours. Once we got to Corregidor, our guide met us and gave us an orientation on what to expect during the tour.

From different military buildings established by the Americans, to heavy cannons, the spooky tunnel to a Japanese memorial and the local museum, Corregidor island has everything to offer for the history buff. Aside from great sites, the ride is pretty straightforward-a climb here and there, a nice view of the beach and plenty of scenery!

We opted to stay for the night and had a good time going around the island the  next morning. Overall, the Corregidor biketour is an ideal itinerary for those intending to do relaxing cycling trips in preparation for longer biketours.

 

Fully loaded and all aboard

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The start of the tour

Ride Orientation

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the beach
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up the war memorial zone

Some of the Military Structures destroyed during the War

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The Cannons of Corregidor

Japanese Memorial and War Museum

 

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the  Spooky Tunnel

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Hostel and mealtime

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Lovin the Buffet
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Strike a pose
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heading home

Ride notes:

  1. The ferrytrip costs Php 2000. this includes the roundtrip fare, bike stowage fees (the staff will load your bikes), buffet lunch and guide (it’s advised to give a tip to your guide after the tour). It is also advised to book your tickets early as ferries that shuttle from Manila to Corregidor have a limit on the number of bikes allowed on the cargo. Also, you’ll need to fill out a waiver and bring the necessary gear (helmet, tools etc before loading).
  2. Sun Cruises can also help you with reservations in the hostel (good for 25 people). the hostel charges Php500 per person for overnight stay. The hostel is quite basic, a large air-conditioned room, with plenty of  double deck beds, a shared bath,  and drinking water dispenser is provided.
  3. The buffet is the only meal provided in the tour. though there are several stores around the island, it is advised to bring food with you. In our case, we brought food and cooked in the hostel

Basketpacking Baguio

In the Philippines, Baguio is considered as one of the foremost destinations if one decides to do serious cycle touring. Located north of Luzon, it is the one of the places that offers stunning views amidst challenging terrain and weather conditions.

In 2015, together with several friends, I went on my first multiday tour but failed to reach our destination due to bad weather. Late last year, I wanted to complete the trip but with a different setup. Ive heard of basketpacking from friends who have done tours and have read initial experiences from their trips

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my disc trucker with a basketpacking setup

So, with two friends Edan and Prixie, we took off early morning and we’re lucky to be accompanied by Dennis of Bulacan. For day 1, our trip was fairly straightforward- riding through 180 plus km of flat road. Good thing cycling to the Pozzorubio, Pangasinan was less miserable as the weather was cool even in the afternoon.

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with Dennis (right) of Bulacan
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Steel Bridge to Tarlac

Day 2 was a challenge as we had to get to Baguio via Kennon road which was a narrow road varying grades of climbs in addition to the many vehicles passing by.

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With Donald Uy of Pozzorubio, Pangasinan (Courtesy of Sagada Loopers)

The trip was quite fine-though we had difficulty looking for accommodation on the second day as many people were in Baguio during the holiday season.

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the sleepy dog
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Bridal Veil Falls (Courtesy of Sagada Loopers
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The Iconic Lion 
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heading home

Below are some insights on the use baskets for cycle touring:

  1. I used a wald 137-a medium sized basket attached to a surly 8 pack rack using zipties. For storage, two drybags for clothes and items for the trip. Given the generous space of a basket for goods and stuff, I found this as a big plus as I don’t need to remove all the bags whenever I need specific items. Easy access even while pedaling is an advantage when you’re riding using a basket.
  2. Given that all the stuff is just in one place, securing the load is fairly easy (I used a bungee cord for my bags). No need for attaching different bags on parts of your bike.
  3. In terms of durability using a basket works best when it is attached to a front rack. During the trip, the basket didn’t move or sway even on bumpy roads.
  4. However, there are two issues when using baskets. First, though I have experience in riding with light to heavy loads, steering with a basket can sometimes get twitchy. And second, basket commuting can pose issues in tight spaces during heavy traffic. So far,I don’t find these bothersome in the overall quality of the ride.

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Cover Image Courtesy of Sagada Loopers

Review of the Marin Pine Mountain

I got the Marin Pine Mountain mid 2017 (got it from Ross Cycles in Cartimar, Pasay) and this is my first plus bike…So far after clocking in 850km, mostly used in bike to work trips/urban rides, a two day bike tour and trails hits, I’d have to say the bike is a nice piece of kit.

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Among the available 650b plus bikes in the market, the pine mountain is a solid bang for your buck ride. What I like about the bike is its comfortable geometry fit for touring and xc riding-the Columbus steel frameset is a big plus for its flex and toughness. The SRAM 1×10 speed drivetrain is quite capable in handling different types of terrain with possibilities of upgrading to a fun monstercross. Though the bike is equipped with non series shimano hydraulic brakes, the stopping power is quite adequate given the wide wheels. It’s sure footed on the ground with the nobby nic 27.5×3 tires set on tubeless 35mm rims on asphalt and trails (ive set them up tubeless using the Orange sealant and so far it’s been great). What’s good is that there’s no toe overlap which is a hassle when climbing

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I have done minimal upgrades on this bike-I changed into a Surly moloko bar and brooks C17 which are both fit for touring even on off road trips. Moreover, the rack mounts extend the potentials for the bike for extended trips and cargo hauling.

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at the Filinvest Trails (Photo Courtesy of Arnold Herrera)

 

My only gripe with the Marin Pine mountain is the new rear hub  spacing (Boost QR, 141×9) which may limit the options for rear hubs in the market.

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Overall, the bike will appeal to bikepackers and trail riders seeking a decent built 650b plus bike  that wont break the bank (you can refer to the specs of the 2018 model here https://www.marinbikes.com/bikes/pine-mountain)