Prudence Roberts dons the lycra and a helmet to explore some mountain biking trails that will have you wiping more than just sweat from your face…
When people think of Singapore, the word ‘cleanliness’ generally tends to pop up somewhere. But there is a grittier side to the city that largely goes unnoticed and is full of mud, dirt and all sorts of mess: mountain bike trails. I’m a big mountain biker and have discovered a fair few trails that deserve a mention. Read on for the best ones that have changed my experience of this island for the better.
1. Bukit Timah
This is where the magic first happened for me. I felt like I was lost in a remote island, deep in the depths of some undiscovered jungle paradise. (Unfortunately, this is also where I had my first crash…)
Bukit Timah is the oldest trail in Singapore and consists of a range of medium to difficult tracks. Parts of the trail are challenging – rocky, steep descents, sharp turns – while other parts are flowing and smooth and leave you smiling with joy. You can always take it slow and enjoy the sound of the tropical birds or the sight of a squirrel while pushing your bike along. The trail is 6km and there are entry points to the trail at the Dairy Farm car park (Dairy Farm Road) or Hindhede Road. For those who live nearby, the green corridor is an ideal way to warm up and reach the trail car park while avoiding most of the roads.
2. Pulau Ubin
This island is reached via a boat ride, which involves some careful manoeuvring of your wheels, but once you’re there, it’s mountain-biking bliss. The official name is Ketam Bike Park, and it offers 10km of track that is both challenging (my legs nearly caught on fire on the steep climbs) and rewarding (some really smooth downhill parts, where the cool breeze swept through my hair). The best part about riding here is that there is a lady with a wheely-cooler-umbrella setup, where you can buy a perfectly chilled coconuts – or perhaps a thirst-quenching beer, if you’re done riding for the day!
Unfortunately for me, my refreshing beverage came sooner than expected after this little fall (below). All part of the fun, and I learnt an important lesson: no panic breaking!
3. Kent Ridge
Think of this trail as like the cheeseburger of mountain biking: easy to get to and goes down fast, but probably not all that good for you. Kent Ridge is located off Pasir Panjang Road, and is 2km of highly technical downhill riding that is one of the most challenging places to ride in Singapore. It could be the place that leaves you feeling dejected and overwhelmed, wishing you’d never climbed on the bike, but get a good grasp of it and you’ll feel like the king (or queen) of the mountain.
My favourite. I heard terrible things about this trial from some local friends before I tried it: ‘It’s full of roots, lah! So bad! You cannot!’ That was enough to make me want to give it a go.
Of course, the day I went, it was torrential monsoon-esque rain – but I had already committed to the task. The trail is indeed full of roots, plus puddles and sharp turns. When it’s wet, every few moments is a near slip. But this is a relatively flat trail and the bumps just make it fun. You loop around the clear blue water of the reservoir and feel as if you could be about to hit a white, sandy beach. Access the track from Chestnut Avenue.
5. Chestnut Nature Reserve
This is the newest area of trails and includes 8.2km of both beginner-friendly (“blue”) trails as well as some more technical ones. At the main Chestnut carpark, there’s a bike shop that provides equipment hire, snacks, a bike wash, and a fixing service. There’s also a tarmac pump track, which is a great place for the kids to get their skills up (though note that it’s under maintenance until some time in January 2020). On the northern side, there’s an area with four “downhill” trails that are short and sharp and offer drops, jumps and berms for those after a little more of a challenge. Do be wary of the first tarmac gap jump. Despite its unassuming appearance, many a collarbone has been broken here!
My final tips
There is an abundance of fun to be had and places to be discovered with mountain biking in Singapore. The riders here range from their mid teens to late 60s or even 70s! There are locals, foreigners, racers, weekend riders – everyone is welcome and the community is open and helpful. If you do start mountain biking, just make sure you have the essentials. You’ll need helmet, gloves, plenty of water, sun protection, and a readiness to get sweaty.
Like this? See our Health & Fitness section for more!