Six cycling routes around Manila for beginner cyclists

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Metro Manila is a fun place for cycling when you have community. In photo: MA+D Café in Teacher's Village, Diliman. Photo courtesy of ALLIE PRINCIPE and LANDO CUSI

I consider myself a neighborhood cyclist, part of the wave of new cyclists that came about during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some got on a bicycle for necessity’s sake as they needed to find a new means of getting around when public transportation got suspended. Some were looking for a way to get exercise and see friends in a safe, socially distanced way. The reasons varied across factors such as class, age, and occupation –– and this led to the rise of various online groups. They behave like any other hobby group, which would contain advice, sales listings, and advocacies. Even sh*t-posting and meme-ing have found their ways to these niches. Your people are waiting for you online, no matter what kind of cyclist you are.

READ: How these cyclists built their bikes, with prices ranging from ₱8,000 to ₱37,000

I’m somewhere in between as someone who doesn’t know how to drive and who needs the occasional break away from the work from home life. Most of my bike rides are for grocery runs and meeting up with friends to eat. In order to cover Metro Manila routes, I would need help.

Each time I ventured out of my neighborhood, it was always an adventure with friends. My cycling life has always been intertwined with community. My bike community is a very diverse one and the different kinds of riders within it see Metro Manila in their own unique ways. In writing this article, I tapped people like my bike commuter studiomates, who were the ones who got me back on a bicycle in the first place. I reconnected with someone I met when we both were speakers for a selvedge denim and menswear event during pre-pandemic times. I reached out to the Facebook Marketplace guy I bought my classic road bike from, because we eventually became friends after the transaction.

My hope is that as you read through the list, you try a route that isn’t the kind of riding you’re used to. The routes are a mix of beginner-friendly and intermediate –– some of them can be customized and combined. Metro Manila is a fun place when you have community, and I promise it becomes even more fun when you’re on a saddle.

You can make it a family activity out of biking around BGC to find murals and sculptures. Photo courtesy of CORINNA PETTYJOHN

The Bike-With-Kids Route

“Maybe you’ve considered going out for a ride with your kids, and need a safe, but still interesting, place to start. Here’s an easy beginner route through BGC, where there are protected bike lanes on most of the streets, plus many places to stop for food and drinks. I also love that it’s possible to stay completely outdoors here without ever needing to step into a mall or restaurant.” — Corinna Pettyjohn, 39, teacher, with kids ages two and four, transport cyclist for two years

Terra 28th

“A great place to get your bearings, especially if it’s your first time riding with kids. After checking all your systems and loading up, make a couple of easy rounds down 27th street and off you go!”

9th Avenue

“There’s a bike lane here, and with schools closed, it’s so quiet, you’ll even hear the birds.”

Burgos Circle

“There are plenty of places to get a quick drink or snack here. My personal favorites are the MOS Burger food truck and the Max’s Group building (this is my favorite restroom stop!) with a Jamba Juice and a Krispy Kreme.”

Forbestown Road to 26th and into De Jesus Oval

“Find the little entrance into Kalikasan Garden, and the coolest places to sit down for an outdoor snack. The tree cover makes it a great place to hang out at any time of day!”

The "Between the Lines" mural by artist Crycle is located at the Icon Plaza Building, near the corner of 26th Street and 7th Avenue). Photo courtesy of CORINNA PETTYJOHN

26th and 7th

“After the picnic it’s time to look for some of the murals and sculptures BGC is known for.

There are a few more murals around the High Street area, so bike around the side streets to find them. You’ll probably run into my favorite BGC milk tea stop, Yi Fang, which does some truly refreshing fruit drinks. Pick some up as you head back to where you started. If the kids still aren’t tired out, let them run around the park while you kick back with your fruity drink in the shade.”

View the full route here.

The First United Building in Escolta. Photo courtesy of JERIC RUSTIA

The Architecture Route

“I personally like this route because it takes you back in time from the American Period (National Museum, Rizal Park), to post colonization (Escolta as it was our central business district back then), to the Marcos/martial law era (CCP Complex). It makes me think about what was, what could have been, and what is possible. Especially with what you end up experiencing in Escolta, where they successfully revived the First United Building with commercial spaces below and interesting office spaces in the upper floors.

It would be best to try this route on a Sunday as Manila traffic can be pretty harsh during weekdays and Saturdays. This way you get to ride with dozens if not hundreds of other cyclists in the area.” — Jeric Rustia, 31, Architect, cyclist for seven years

CCP Complex

“The easiest way to bike to CCP Complex is to take Buendia Ave. westward until you cross Roxas Boulevard. From there you can just loop the roads clockwise and you’ll see in order Manila Film Center, Folk Arts Theater, PICC, and lastly before you exit back to Roxas Boulevard, CCP.”

Rizal Park

“From CCP you can take a left at Roxas Boulevard and proceed north until you get to Rizal Park. It’s a common spot for bikers to meet up so it isn’t difficult to miss.”

National Museum

“From Rizal Park, take the first intersection north of it and turn right (it’s right before Intramuros). Follow that road then you’ll see the National Museum just before the road curves left into Taft Ave.”

Escolta (First United Building)

“To get to Escolta you can take either Jones Bridge or McArthur Bridge. The former is a bit tricky to take as it will make you swerve to the left most lane of Taft, while the latter will make you use the middle lane.

The end destination is the whole stretch of Escolta where you can chill at the First United Building and hangout at The Den or Fred's Revolucion. They let bikes park there!”

View the full route here.

The date route is a fun Marikina-QC bike date route with a good mix of nature, food, and coffee. Photo courtesy of ALLIE PRINCIPE and LANDO CUSI

The Date Route

“This is a fun Marikina-QC bike date route with a good mix of nature, food, and coffee. The destinations on this route are near enough to be flexible to switch around depending on your preference. Visit all or just a couple of them depending on what time of the day you start, where you’ll be coming from, and how much time you have.” — Allie Principe, 32, artist and managing partner, cycling for two years; Lando Cusi, architect and design director, cycling for two years

Lay-by Coffee

“They open at at 8 a.m. daily, so it's a good option for a morning ride. There's also a bike shop next to it which is super convenient if you need to have something checked. There aren’t many seats so in case you’d like to hang out while having your morning coffee, you can grab one to-go instead.”

Marikina Riverbanks

“The pathway is quaint and shaded with trees, there’s lots to see, and you get to enjoy the nice, cool breeze from the river. You can even find someplace nice to sit and enjoy your coffee if you got it for takeaway. We like that it’s one of the very few available green spaces in Metro Manila that you can actually bike in.”

UP Diliman Campus

“You definitely shouldn’t miss hanging out at the Sunken Garden, especially if you find yourself there during the late afternoon because it’s a great place to watch the sunset. You do have to check if they allow people to go inside because of varying COVID-19 restrictions.”

Snack Shack

“They’re open from late morning until dinner time, so you’re free to go anytime during the day and refill all the carbs that you’ve lost from biking.”

MA+D Café

“We’re never really satisfied with just one coffee stop on a day ride like this, so our last suggested destination is this small gem of a cafe tucked along quiet Matahimik St. in Teachers’ Village.”

View the full route here.

The once bustling nightlife area of Poblacion is now populated with plenty of quaint cafes and coffee shops. Photo courtesy of CELINE MALLARI

The Coffee Shop Route

“Casual city rides to favorite coffee shops have turned into what my friends fondly nicknamed ‘Coffee World Tours.’ The following is a route you can take to hit as many of these coffee shops as possible in one day. These stops are particularly dear to me, thanks to the countless number of friends I’ve made in each of them.” — Celine Mallari, 24, content writer and fashion designer, cyclist for five months

Poblacion (Kohi MKT, Coffe ARTea, Good Sh*t Coffee)

“Kohi opens bright and early at 8 a.m. and serves their famous Kori Kohi and Hottudogu’s — Japanese style iced coffee and hotdogs. Coffee ARTea’s roadside seating is perfect to bike right up to for some refreshments. Good Sh*t Coffee is another great spot and has baked goods from Komu and craft beer!”

Legaspi Village (Yardstick Coffee, The Curator Coffee and Cocktails, The Coffee Academics)

“From Poblacion, take Makati Avenue, then Paseo de Roxas to get to Legaspi Village. Yardstick Coffee on Esteban and The Curator Coffee and Cocktails on C. Palanca are some of the most beloved tambay spots by coffee lovers and bikers alike. Down the same street, you can check out the newly opened branch of the award-winning international franchise Coffee Academics.”

Kapitolyo (1C Coffee, Caferista)

“Bike down Ayala Ave. then cross EDSA to head to McKinley. The road isn’t too steep, but the constant ahon or uphill stretches nearly two kilometers, which the unseasoned leg and lung will definitely feel by the end.

Then get ready to shift to low gear (or you know… power through if you’re on a fixie) on your way up the new Kalayaan bridge connecting BGC and Kapitolyo, then head up Brixton, which is shorter but steeper than McKinley.

Luckily, if you need to take a break halfway through Brixton you can stop by Caferista to recharge. Once you’ve cleared the end of the road, take a right and you’re only a little ways away from the 1C Coffee’s new spot on San Francisco street.”

You can end your ride here, assuming you’ve already had enough caffeine for 10 people. If you’re looking for a little more adventure, recross Kalayaan bridge.”

View the full route here.

Bonus Side Quest: Old Manila

“The Pasig River Ferry is a great way to add a little bimodal transport to your trip — the ride is free and you can bring your bikes onboard! Get on at Guadalupe station, which is right down JP Rizal. It’s a 40-minute ferry ride to Escolta. Once you’re in beautiful old Manila, don’t miss The Den coffee shop in the First United Building. You can also head through Lucky China Town and down Jose Abad Santos to cap off your day at Wait Coffee, or cross Jones Bridge and watch the sunset in Intramuros.”

View the full route here.

The Filinvest Bike Trails is a network of trails scattered throughout Filinvest Corporate City in Alabang, Muntinlupa. Photo courtesy of RICH TAN

The Trails Route

“The Filinvest Bike Trails is a network of trails scattered throughout Filinvest Corporate City, in Alabang, Muntinlupa. It currently comprises 12 trails with seemingly random nicknames such as Roller Coaster, Sampaloc, Cobra, Tunnel, and SLEX. The trail names aren't set in stone, and we've heard several versions of the names from non-locals.

There's no set route either, one can hit each trail in whatever order they like. The trail heads aren't always clearly marked, so it's best to ask local riders how to find the less visible ones like SLEX and Bulate.

The trails cater to all skill levels, and walking tough sections is never frowned upon. Locals would prefer that actually, because we've had a number of accidents stemming from overzealous riders who have more bravado than trail skills. These accidents unfortunately give the trails a bad reputation, not to mention trouble from Filinvest management. Filinvest partnered with the local mountain bike (MTB) community to build these trails, and they let the community use the land for free. So we all work our hardest to keep everyone safe while making the trails challenging enough to encourage skill development and progress.

So for riders new to the area — especially those who just wanna gravel a little bit and not really do any Blue Square or higher level singletracks, Condo trail, SLEX trail, and B's Quicky are a good place to start. There are also some stretches of road that are pretty free from cars, they're excellent for night rides. Most visitors park at Westgate and simply cross the street to the trailhead to access the trails and other bike friendly roads the area has to offer. Pacific Rim Extension is closed off to cars, and in the afternoons and evenings, you'll find just about every flavor of alternative transport there, practicing skills and doing laps.

For MTB riders who want take things up a notch, there's Cobra, Tunnel, and EXO. These trails might be too difficult (or uncomfortable) for rigid bikes and novice trail riders.” — Rich Tan, 31, copywriter and editor, cyclist for 20 years (trail cyclist for two years)

View directions to the trail here.

Boso-Boso is for intermediate cyclists who want to take biking to the next level. Photo courtesy of SOLEIL IGNACIO

The Adventure Route

For the intermediate cyclist who wants to take your biking to the next level — and I do mean next level, because the elevation there is for real — try Boso-Boso. It’s near enough from the city and you’ll get to experience great views of it too. Just make sure you ride out early to avoid the traffic. It’s one thing biking on a constant uphill and trying to avoid all other motorists, especially the motorcycles. After the Cogeo area, traffic will be much better and then the suffering (or fun, I guess!) starts. — Soleil Ignacio, 32, illustrator and designer, cyclist for two years

The Buko Juice Pit Stop

“Our first stop is always after the first long climb, it’s a stretch of small stalls selling buko juice and other snacks and drinks. Drink buko juice because you’re gonna need it. After a lot more climbing, there are a lot of wide shoulders along the road where you can rest and take photos of the view. No shame in resting!”

Habagat Coffee

“And then, there’s this one long uphill stretch of a road where right at the top-ish is Habagat Coffee. A real oasis after that grueling climb. They have great coffee and home brewed iced tea.”

The Boso-Boso Landmark

“Once you’ve refueled, more climbing. But at least you have more energy now! And then you’ll get to the famous Boso-Boso text/sculpture landmark thing. There’s also a restaurant there called Boso-Boso Highlands where you can eat brunch/lunch with a great view; but there’s always a lot of people there so we try to avoid it.”

Mang Vic’s Bulalohan

“Instead we go further (downhill now) until we get to the small local eateries and bulalohans along the road — Mang Vic’s Bulalohan is a favorite among cyclists. This is the furthest I’ve got and after this we’re just ready to go home finally and rest.

Heading home is much better (slightly) because all that uphill is now downhill. So make sure your breaks are in great condition! Good luck and have fun!”

View the full route here.