By: Prudence Roberts
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 across the island that deserve a mention. Read on for the best ones that have changed my experience of this island for the better.
Five bike trails that will have you wiping the dirt, and not just the sweat, off your face…
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).
It 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 Rd) or Hindhede Rd. 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.
Ever wanted to do a mountain bike race? No, neither did I, but Tampines was where I did one, and actually won 4th place (I won’t tell you out of how many competitors… and speaking of races, there is another one coming up). Tampines is located east, near Bedok, and the bike park has an inside and an outside part. The 4km inside track is great for beginners (it’s a bit like a big hill that people have been making trails on), while the more challenging 10km outside loop is filled with roots and rocks, logs and puddles.
3. Pulau Ubin
This island is reached via a boat ride, which involves some careful maneuvering 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 wheely-cooler-umbrella set up, selling 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 an important lesson was learned – no panic breaking!
4. 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 Rd, 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.
Finally, my favourite. I heard terrible things about this trial before I tried it: ‘It is full of roots lah! So bad! You cannot wah!’. 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 full of roots, puddles, sharp turns – and when 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. This track is accessed from Chestnut Avenue, and is recently open to hikers (read: ride with care).
My final tips
There is an abundance of fun to be had and places to be discovered with mountain biking in Sinagpore. The riders in Singapore range from mid teens to late 60s (possible 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: helmet, gloves, plenty of water, sun protection, and a readiness to get sweaty.