The Call of Negros Mountains

Jumpong Hill Downhill Bike Challenge was held in Brgy Pandanon, Don Salvador Benedicto, Negros Occidental, on June 19, 2022.

Bikes are not something new since they’ve been one of the most sustainable modes of transportation. Though biking already picked its pace up in the market before, more people are still opting to cycle their way to fitness. As doors started to open post-pandemic, outdoor activities like biking became popular choices for those keen to get back in shape. With contact sports still banned, thrill-seekers and those with an active lifestyle opted to get a breather on two wheels and a prayer.

Defying Gravity

Downhill Mountain Biking, or MTB DH as it is known in the expanded world of competitive biking, is an extreme sport. Contrary to the usual smoother paths, MTB DH takes on rough, rocky terrains where riders must know when to pedal hard and when to exert control against the natural force of gravity.

The sport isn’t for the faint of heart as it involves serious climbing to elevated starting points, potential crashes and injuries, and a lot of endurance. Riders must be prepared physically and mentally for the sport, as encountering peer accidents are to be expected while on the trail. A serious competitor must also invest in high-quality bikes and protective gear as these play a significant part in getting a spot on the winners’ stand.

Downhill mountain bikes are quite different than their more common counterparts. These bikes are equipped with front and rear suspension to help riders make their way through the slippery slopes and bumpy terrains. Riders should also wear full-face helmets, vests, knee and elbow pads, and shoes that are specifically designed for downhill mountain biking.

Lek Brodeth at the finish line of the Open Downhill Category.

Defying Pandemic  

As we ventured more into the sport, we came across Lek Brodeth, a Downhill Mountain bike enthusiast who walked us through his journey with his newfound sport. Based in Bacolod City, Lek shared how the sport satisfied his longing for adventure and then inspired the start of a full-time business.  

Lek is not new to extreme sports. He started out in judo and mixed martial arts. Things took a turn for the worse when he sustained an injury, forcing him to shift gears as he needed to rest. Though his initial intention was to get back in shape, his passion for extreme sports led him to a business venture.

Thinking of ways to come up with a good investment at the height of COVID-19, he observed that his cousin's business selling bikes online was a huge hit. This inspired him to start an online bike shop with his business partner, Chinkee Malata. The enterprise, Cyclopaedia 6100, eventually bloomed into a physical store and now employs 10 personnel.  

Mid-2022 finds Cyclopaedia 6100 in full swing. Chinkee handles sales and operations, while Lek does marketing, promotions, and partnerships. To have a wider reach, they also sponsor events and join different MTB DH competitions.

Participants of the Open Hardtrail Category with one of the organizers during their awarding,  L-R , Karl Hulleza (1st), Jomer Aniban (2nd), JR Decendario (3rd), Joever Margaha (4th), Amadeo Sekhon (5th) and Jonas Rodriguez (Organizer).

Jumpong Hill Downhill  

One of the most recent events that took place was the Jumpong Hill Downhill Bike Challenge held in Don Salvador Benedicto, Negros Occidental. We followed Lek all throughout the event where we got to meet a lot of MTB DH athletes. We also met race organizer Jonas Rodriguez who walked us through the preparations.

Though it isn't the first time for Negros Occidental to host an MTB DH competition, it has been 10 years since one was held in the province. It took them a lot of work to be able to get a green light for the event. Aside from the necessary permits from the local government, organizers also had to secure approval from private land owners along the trail. Still, getting the paperwork done is one thing, preparing the paths and doing the clean-up are quite another. Detailed arrangements had to be made, including having a stand-by ambulance and medics in case accidents happen.

More than 150 participants from different parts of the Visayas joined the Jumpong Hill Downhill Bike Challenge. Athletes saw action in five categories spanning different age groups and events, enduro and downhill.

One thing that stood out with the sport is the tight community that it formed. They may be in a competition, but it was evident that they encouraged each other to be outstanding competitors. Some even cheered their opponents on, while others congratulated their teammates at the finish line.

Starting ‘em Young

One of the youngest, 15-year-old Paula Demegillio of Tumandok Enduro Team of EB Magalona town, Negros Occidental.

The extreme sport is inclusive, regardless of gender or age. Fifteen-year-old Paula Demegillo from the town of EB Magalona in the province decided to try MTB DH for the excitement and the thrill. She's well aware of the risks the sport brings, but her father, Paul, provides her good training, thanks in part to the support of their local government. When asked if she'd still take part in future races, Paula offers a solid yes. She even sees herself in the sport through the next decade.  

Renzo Tacsagon, a 19-year-old extreme sportsman, traveled all the way from Iloilo City with his team to take part in the race. Like most, he also started his interest in MTB DH at the height of the pandemic, when contact sport was prohibited and the urge to regain vigor was irresistible. Renzo shared that one of the things he likes about the Don Salvador Benedicto trail is its endless mountainous terrain, truly a boon to extreme sports tourism for Negros Occidental.

The participants’ bikes all lined up with their numbers as the owners prepare for their final run.

Happy Trails

MTB DH may be too extreme for some, but Lek Brodeth assures that here in Negros Occidental, aficionados can hop on a bike and enjoy the beauty of the place at a slower pace. The scenery for one is captivating – lush greenery as you encroach deep into the forests, as well as an extensive roadway system that takes bikers all throughout the island, entering in one path and exiting out another.

Along the way are innumerable signs of a happy trail, starting off with landmark coffee shops and soup kitchens by the roadside, arguably the reason for many biking trips. Not to be missed are fellow bike lovers looking “sputing” in their jerseys and shades, as they speed by with a wave and a rapid head salute.

Sport can happen anywhere, but the people make the place. The biking stories they tell, the selfies they post, and the best bowl of piping hot “cansi” they’re bound to discover in the next bend.

Text By: Abbie Uychiat
Photos and Video By: Unit A Creatives

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