For every bike destination there are these special places that earns a special place in the hearts of the riders (and in the pocket of the establishment owners). Its either the assembly point, the trail head meeting place, the mid point rest stops or the end point post ride “mini” party venue.
For Maarat, its either Chowking, Jolibee, Tropical Hut (ok these are not “special” in a sense but it will do as official designated meeting points) or Aling Tina’s at the base of “The Wall”; which serves as the meeting place and parking area. The “Giant” Store (haven’t asked them why it was called Giant) as the midpoint rest area (removing the status from Mountain Dew after a lost cellphone incident that gone viral amongst the cycling community) or maybe Pestano Farm on a weekend for a more formal dining.
In Sierra Madre,its either Burger King in Marcos Hi-way for the epic seekers, or an easier Inang Valing’s Bulalohan (a.k.a Cycling Park) for those who wants to cut corners literally; as meet up places with midpoint stops at either the famous Vic’s Bulalohan in Boso-boso or farther up to the store within the radar facility. Then an endpoint/turn-around point at either the Sierra Madre Hotel or the newer Pranjetto Hills Restaurant or even the Batangas Goto even farther down towards the Tanay Sampaloc crossing. For Bugarin, stores such as the Coffe Shop in Pililia (renamed and currently closed down), the “eateries” before the Bugarin climb, the popular cycling stop- Manag Rina’s Store over at the top of Bugarin (where pictures of popular cyclist and wannbe’s who made it that far adores a small shrine at a portion of the store wall) and the “pancitan” further down Siniloan (which served as the name of the ride itself- a ride to pancitan) serves as the cycling friendly stops.
I would guess the most popular store amongst cyclist is the small store in Mangga
in Sumulong in Antipolo based on the volumes of riders everyday (not only weekends) that call it their rest stop. I may not be that familiar on the other routes but I would say, I had been to a lot of those which are too numerous to mention here.
For every route there is this store that serves as a pit stop, a converging area, a trun around point. Whoever may claim as the pioneer who have declared such store as “THE” cycling store for that particular route are not recorded in history but such places that becomes the “official” gets an advantage and no matter how a new establishment opens up to get a pie of the cycling customer, very seldom does one becomes THE “new” place.
It has been said that Filipinos love eating and even in the cycling word, its not only about the route but also the stops within the route, which is most often a food store, that matters and which cements that relationship between Filipinos and food. So for some of us cyclist, its about cycling, ride buddies and food.
For me, I make it a point not to stick to these traditional stops as I search for newer restaurants, coffee shops or carinderia, as much as I search for new cycling destinations. In my sorties to Bugarin, I tried stores like Camp Kay Buli which is an art gallery- coffe shop, or the Kambingan at the intersection of Tanay Sampaloc, Halamanan also in the same intersection, Kawayan Farm in Bugarin etc. From low end carinderia to higher end restaurants, from the ordinary sari-sari store to the out of the ordinary (the likes of Exotic Restaurant in Kalyaan). Variety in route and in food adds up spice to my cycling word.
But if I were to list, what are the ideal features of a bike food stop, that would make a food stop “a biker friendly food stop-” it will include the following (I hope shop owners who would read this would take heed):
1. No bamboo slit benches with nails protruding. Its the number one cause of cycling short cuts. I still remember going to Inang Valings with my brand new pricey cycling shorts. Afer sitting in their bench- poof, a hole just appeared out of no where. There goes my hard earned money.
2. Ample parking lot and consideration for long hours of parking while the owner is riding. This is the reason why Jolibee was displaced by Chowking in San Mateo as the meeting place one time in the history of Maarat riding. Jolibee does’nt want bikers to leave their cars in their precious parking lot while Chowking accepted us. Not sure if this is still the case today. But we are not unreasonble- we are open to being charged for the parking fees, just don’t ask us to leave, else we will definitely do and we will never come back.
3. Ample bike parking facility/stand that would ensure bikes will be secured both from thieves and from the elements (i.e. falling and getting scratches). A simple bamboo pole to hang the bikes by their saddle would be enough.
4. Bike services like mechanics and cleaning facility after a muddy ride- Ok this is asking too much, thus this is just a want rather than a need but hey- in La Mesa, they were able to put a bike cleaning service right there after the ride. So an enterprising soul might want to check on this.
5. Sport specific nutritional needs. You should sell not only Coke but also Gatorades. As we the wannabes are true to our persona that we even eat and drink as if we are olympic athletes. A true wannabe not only in deeds but also in drinks. Does serving rice considered “scientific nutritional needs” ?
6. Bike related ambiance- say a bulletin board, buy and sell corner, pictures etc. If Giant can do it, so can you. It gives us an impression that, yes this is a real bike rest stop. Why waste your time in the next door store?
7. Finally this is my specific requirement for an end point store or restaurant- you should serve cold beers period.