One of the obvious perks of running our own graphic design studio is having a lot more control of our time. Back when we were still grinding it out in our 9-to-5s, there was never enough time to properly pursue other interests and passions. Starting the studio gave us some semblance of work-life balance, but it was the pandemic that really opened up the floodgates for us.
Don’t get us wrong, the pandemic affected us just like all other businesses around the globe, but it also taught us to adapt and be more efficient with our processes. This freed up a lot more time to focus on Off-Kilter projects that we felt were long neglected.
Now aside from all the R&D stuff that we’ve been doing the past year and a half, one other aspect that got going was our ability to ride off-the-grid on a whim. Back before the pandemic, we would always have some sort of issue doing these kinds of things due to conflicts in our schedule. It was easier for us to do structured training rides in and around the metro — but most of these were geared towards the prep work needed for the Audax season, and as such, would sometimes become tedious as the season progressed.
The best rides we figured out, the ones we often remember the most, were these randomly planned rides to some unheard-of destination. We always felt that this was riding at its most fun and free, and to some extent — the best avenue to test gear, one’s fitness, and everything else in between.
The pandemic forced people to re-evalute a lot of things, and being cooped up indoors for such a long period of time opened everyone’s eyes to the full potential of what was there all along — exploring the great outdoors. We had recently started a bikepacking event with some friends from All Terra Cyclery to kinda get with the times, and we were in the process of adding new routes and destinations when the call to visit Harvest Hills came in.
Mike Roxas, one of the partners at Specialized Quezon City and pretty good friend of ours, approached us about the possibility of checking out Harvest Hills to see whether we could help promote his friend’s place. Batangas still has a lot of undeveloped land and tons of backroads, so that in itself already got us hooked. A quick introduction a few moments later via Facebook and we were off to the races with H.H.’s owner, Eric De Belen.
Eric developed Harvest Hills a few years back and opened up its grounds to campers and glampers alike. Like everyone else, the pandemic also made him re-evaluate a lot of things — and to keep up with emerging trends, has now opened his place up to bikepackers (offering multi-day bike tours to sweeten the pot as well). Situated somewhere between Nasugbu and Magallanes, one of the things we loved about Harvest Hills was that you had to travel about 12+ clicks from the main road thru dodgy roads and terrain to get to the farm itself (which was an adventure on its own already)… that meant there was still a bit of remoteness to it, and that the area was not overdeveloped. Add to that the cap he put in place to limit the number of guests he can accommodate at any given time, and what you have is a scenic campsite that offers some form of exclusivity to people dying to get away from the maddening crowds.
So what was the riding like?
Well, we only got to ride a short 40km course, but we pretty much got a feel of what to expect if the range was extended. Eric offers this Batangas backroads tour as part of his Harvest Hills bike/camp package. We did the compressed short route which only scratched the surface of the Lian area, but the much longer route also features a trip to the beach, albeit in Calatagan this time, where lunch is usually served (also part of the package he offers). There were a few short but punchy climbs ranging from 10-15% along the Lian course, but it was very manageable. The trailways in this area were mostly loose over hardpack — with the backroads ranging from smooth to cracked concrete, all the way to some sort of chip seal type of road here and there.
I heard there were some trailways that mostly featured brown earth (potentially setting things up to be muddy if the conditions were right), but overall a “gravel” bike would not be out of place in these here parts.
We actually told Mike that we would be using our RLTs to kinda assess if this can also be a potential playground for the Roubaix and Diverge owners (Yo, no Seqouia love?? Bring them in too please! They would be great on this terrain!!) And from what we’ve experienced so far, yes, those bikes will perform very well in these mixed conditions! Not a lot of tight technical turns would pose problems for these bikes, especially if your whip has some sort of toe overlap. A 32-35c tire with some side knobs is recommended though so that things don’t get squirrely in the off-road sections.
Overall, our first foray into the backroads of Lian and Nasugbu was a refreshing experience. The scenery and terrain features are sure to keep you engaged all throughout. Then there’s Harvest Hills as a bonus. We only stayed overnight, which was a shame, but we’re now looking to do a much longer session in the near future to really get an in-depth look of the place. So, who wants in?
HARVEST HILLS FAMILY FARM
Situated in Bgy. Latag on the mountain range of Nasugbu, Harvest Hills Family Farm is a peaceful campsite that offers provincial living away from the hustle and bustle of urban life.
The farm offers a few campsite areas for you to pitch a tent, hang up your hammock or park your overland for some glamping action. The farm’s location offers multiple adventures to suit your interests such as hiking, trail running, trail riding, 4x4 off-road adventures, and even horseback riding. A short walk from the campsite leads you to the river below where you can take a dip and cool off in nature’s jacuzzi or fish if that’s your jam. Or for those wanting to venture out, Karakawa Falls is a short hike nearby as well as the peak of Mt. Kaytalang.
For cyclists interested in some off-road adventures, contact them for more details on their bike tour package which includes food and accommodations.
For more information, drop them a message on the Harvest Hills Facebook Page.