Tour de Ayala MallsScroll Down
Ready to level up your biking experience? Here’s a two-day 100 km challenge that will take you around Metro Manila.
We all know the saying that goes, “If you can drive in Manila, you can drive anywhere.” Well, have you tried biking in Manila?
The recent influx of new cyclists in Metro Manila during the pandemic has spurred a conversation about Metro Manila’s bikeability, and rightfully so — in a capital where car owners only make up about 12% of the population, who do our streets serve?
As a new cyclist myself, I wondered what it was really like for people who used their bikes to commute on a daily basis. I don’t have a car and used to take public transportation to get everywhere, but since the lockdown, I haven’t really gone places. This was the perfect opportunity to try it out for myself.
I had recently completed my first 100 kilometer ride with some new friends to Cavite and back, and I thought, “If I can do that, I can probably do it again, anywhere.” Famous last words, let me tell you.
To challenge myself — and to experience the commuting on a bike — I wanted to do the ride in the infamous streets of the national capital region. As I set out looking for a suitable route, it hit me: why don’t I do a tour of the Ayala Malls in Metro Manila?
It was perfect: the various malls covered the north, south, east, west, and center. And when I plotted it out on Google Maps, it came out to just over 100 km. Magic.
Looking at the route, which goes from my home in Makati to Alabang Town Center to Fairview Terraces and everywhere in between, I decided I couldn’t do it in one day (I thanked myself later).
So I split it into two: a day for the southern half, and a second for the northern half. Don't be intimidated by the estimated time — cycling routes aren't on local Google Maps yet, so this map shows the walking route.
The first day starts out in Makati, loops down to Alabang, then comes back to BGC, totaling about 50 km:
1. Ayala Malls Circuit
4. Ayala Malls Manila Bay
5. Alabang Town Center
6. Market! Market!
8. Bonifacio High Street
The second day picks up right where the first day ends, so if you’re feeling confident, you can actually do the entire route in one day. It’s not a loop like the first as it terminates at Vertis North, but it rounds off because of the distance going home. This route, if you’re coming from Makati, totals to almost 60 km.
1. Ayala Malls The 30th
2. Ayala Malls Feliz
3. U.P. Town Center
4. Fairview Terraces
5. Ayala Malls Cloverleaf
7. Vertis North
Obviously you can modify the route so you start out from the nearest Ayala Mall to your home, but what’s great about this is that it will probably be more or less the same distance.
If you’re apprehensive about being able to do it, the first thing I will say is that it’s certainly doable.
However, the trip requires some level of confidence on the road, because virtually none of the streets on these routes have protected bike lanes. You’ll be riding alongside speeding cars, swerving motorcycles, jaywalking pedestrians, and of course, other cyclists.
Riding for 50 to 60 kilometers in one day seems daunting at first, but it’s fairly easy to build up to it. You’ll be surprised at how short 10, 20, or even 30 km is on a bike, simply because we’ve been conditioned to sit in traffic for hours only to travel less than that.
And remember, you won’t really be pedaling throughout the whole distance; there will be lots of times when you’ll be freewheeling. Plus, you can take as many breaks as you need. No pressure!
Once you’re ready to take on the challenge, here are some things to keep in mind:
Start as early as you can.
This ride will take a few hours, so it’s best to get a head start not only on the traffic, but on the sun as well.
To give you an idea, I rode out on a Sunday at around 6:30 a.m. and finished just around noon. It will feel like you have all the time in the world, but trust me, when the sun starts getting high in the sky, you will feel the difference, especially on a clear day and the heat is pounding down on you.
Select Ayala Malls restaurants and cafés now open at 7 a.m., so even if you ride out at the crack of dawn, you can make a pit stop for some breakfast and coffee along the way. Which brings me to my next point:
Nutrition and hydration is key.
Nutrition is a crucial part of doing long rides like these, and unless you’re very used to doing fasted workouts, you must have some food and water in your system.
There’s a wise saying in the cycling community that goes, “Drink before you’re thirsty, eat before you’re hungry,” and it’s the best advice you can follow especially on long rides.
The last thing you want to happen is to get thirsty or feel hungry while you’re pedaling; getting ahead of it also prevents you from bonking, which is basically low blood sugar. Pro tip: you should drink about a liter of water for each hour you're riding.
Push yourself, but know when to take a break.
It’s easy to feel numb to your limits when your adrenaline is pumping, and this can lead to unexpected bonks and injuries. Always remember to listen to your body!
There are accessible bike racks in virtually every Ayala Mall, so stepping in for a quick water or food break won’t be a hassle.
And remember, you still have the ride from your last stop to your home, so don’t empty out your energy on the last stretch. (I mean, you can call a cab and stash your bike in the trunk, but that’s cheating.)
Study your route.
You don’t have to memorize each and every turn, but it’s helpful to know which streets you’re taking in general — you’re not going to have fun checking your phone at every corner to see if you’re going the right way.
It’s also going to help to know if you’re going to take highways, small eskinitas, pedestrian bridges, and more.
It’s also fine to deviate a bit — the first version of my north route avoided taking Commonwealth Avenue, but when I got there, I discovered that riding on that behemoth of a road wasn’t too bad, and I quite enjoyed it.
Get enough sleep.
This is perhaps the most important tip to follow. Nutrition and hydration are easy to get around, but riding on no sleep will bog you down big time.
It can be challenging to fall asleep on the night before a big ride because of anticipation, which is why you need to know what it will take for you to fall asleep. And don’t forget to set an alarm!
This sounds like such a cheesy thing to say, but the ride is just as enjoyable as it is challenging, especially when done with other people. So round up the gang, make the loop, and have the biggest lunch you’ve ever had once it’s over.
Need more tips for biking in the city? Read Life Cycles PH co-founder Keisha Mayuga's pointers here.