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Fine, let’s talk about the BOSS Ironman Motorcycle Challenge

There’s a reason we don’t cover this controversial event

The BOSS Ironman is not a race. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

It’s that time of the year when I’m asked two common questions.

The first is: “Why haven’t you ridden the Ironman?” Well, I hate crowds. I like to ride solo and at my own pace. And as a (retired) triathlete with all the humility I can muster (hah!), I can only say that the only Ironman I’d bother joining again would be the real deal. Swim 3.8km, ride 180km, then run 42.2km.

Been there, done that, and the thought of spending the better part of a year just to finish one already makes me feel tired and worn out. “Ironman,” in fact, is a trademark of the World Triathlon Corporation, and it’s a wonder how the BOSS Ironman Motorcycle Challenge has escaped their attention.


Many years ago, a well-meaning colleague of mine in the triathlon community organized the first Philippine Ironman. But a gentle “reminder” from the WTC of the legal implications compelled him to ultimately call it the Philippine Iron Distance Triathlon.

Anyway. Call it Ironman, call it “The Big Bike Purge,” the annual BIMC was held recently, and there’s the usual ranting and raving on social media, and now I have to field the second question: “Why don’t you cover the Ironman?”

Good question. Our position at VISOR has always been for responsible and inclusive mobility. And year after year, we see and hear horror stories of how big a disturbance the event is for every town that it passes through.

Just some of the many incidents from this leg. SCREENSHOTS FROM FACEBOOK

Some might even call it a menace, especially if you saw that video of a rider counterflowing and killing another rider who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or how about those two irate riders who manhandled a local in another incident while a policeman—of all people—did nothing?

There are good eggs among the bad eggs, of course. SCREENSHOT FROM BOSS IRONMAN MOTORCYCLE CHALLENGE

To be fair, there are many positive stories that happen during the event. Father-son teams, ride buddies in it for the camaraderie and the mutual support, all-female teams…that sort of thing. Many of my colleagues in the industry joined and finished without riding like maniacs, and I applaud them for that.

The BOSS Ironman is a bucket list for many and an annual get-together-on-the-road that could be what the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is for America. Indeed, 1,200km in 24 hours isn’t a cakewalk, and having the coveted sticker on your bike is a badge of honor.

But these are all overshadowed by the many instances of bad behavior that just puts every participant in a bad light. Speeding through towns. Blinding oncoming traffic with high beams and auxiliary lights. Rampant counterflowing.

As if one big bike wasn't loud enough, imagine around 1,800 passing you by in the middle of the night PHOTO BY HANS BOSSHARD

There were around 1,800 participants this year. Imagine that many people and vehicles roaring through your neighborhood in the dead of night until late afternoon of the next day. Any local would be rightfully pissed.

And you can forget about how this supposedly promotes local tourism. Exactly how does a town benefit from tourism money when riders just blitz through like modern-day conquerors? Very few local businesses actually benefit from this event. Maybe after the event when riders come back at a more leisurely pace, but certainly not during.


As I understand it, the organizers took pains to instill more discipline into the event, such as enforcing a strict minimum finish time, installing GPS transponders, and placing marshals at critical areas.

But we go back again to how big the event is now. You unleash thousands of riders on public roads—many of whom will more than likely go faster than the speed limit (and who might not even be familiar with the route)—and you have the perfect storm for disaster.

There's no such thing as road rerouting in this event, which leads to unfortunate accidents like these. PHOTOS FROM HANS BOSSHARD AND FACEBOOK

When you organize a marathon, you close the public roads you’ll be using for the safety of thousands of participants, while ensuring that local traffic has alternate routes so as not to be inconvenienced. With the BOSS Ironman, no such thing occurs.

God help you if you’re stuck on a side road waiting for hundreds of riders to pass just so you can navigate in your own neighborhood. Sorry na lang if you’re a poor e-trike driver who gets yelled at and ridiculed for not giving way right away, right?

No wonder it’s called a “rich man’s event,” because the poor little people can only watch and wait until the elite of Philippine society are gone.

It's hard to do something about this when the people at the top are also actively participating in the event. SCREENSHOT FROM FACEBOOK

On a side note, another reason why I haven’t written about this until now is the utter futility of this exercise.

This is the Philippines, for crying out loud. We can cry to the high heavens for all we like, but ultimately, getting anything done is not so much about what you know or say but who you know and how much money you’ve got.

It’s common knowledge that many big shots support and join the event. Permits are easily secured. Incidents are kept hush-hush. And when all else fails, there’s always the so-called areglo. Only a Senate inquiry in aid of legislation would actually make a difference, if at all.

The event is full of clout chasers. SCREENSHOT FROM FACEBOOK

The BOSS Ironman is big business, after all. It drives sales for apparel, motorcycles, and accessories, so anyone with skin in the game would hate to see it go. It also gets a lot of traction on social media, making it the perfect venue for attention-hungry influencers who want to hawk whatever it is they’re peddling.

And this “first to finish” bullshit is also a major part of the problem, because getting disqualified isn’t nearly as important as bragging rights. Oh, you finished in so-and-so hours? Yawn.

Riding is already a risky activity. Now try that with hundreds of other riders, some of whom might not be as responsible as you are. PHOTO BY CACTUS PITIK MOTO

Truthfully, as much as I don’t personally have a problem with the intent of the event, the reality of what happens year after year calls out for serious change.

Do it on an island; place barriers so only participants can use the roads; make sure the locals are involved so they can get something out of it; and let every participant ride his ass off. It’s called the Isle of Man TT in the UK, so who’s to say we can’t have an Isle of Marinduque? It’s only a three-hour RORO from Lucena anyway.

But that’s just my opinion. In all likelihood, next year will be more of the same. More stories of personal fulfillment and willpower, but also more heartbreaking news of collateral damage.

Ganun e.

Andy Leuterio

Andy is both an avid cyclist and a car enthusiast who has finally made the shift to motorcycles. You've probably seen him on his bicycle or motorbike overtaking your crawling car. He is our motorcycle editor and the author of the ‘Quickshift’ column.