Explore, discover, be passionate
People who ride their bikes in Bali are passionate about biking. And while most do so on tarmac roads, the best way to see the countryside is off-road on a suitable mountain bike. It can be hard work climbing up the side of a mountain, but then there is the ride down, which is exhilarating at speed.
Kids start learning to ride at an early age on three-wheelers, then graduate to proper bikes with stabilizers, before getting the confidence to ditch them for the speed and freedom of riding solo. But the biggest turn-off to ever getting into the saddle in Bali are other road users, whether four-wheel or two, who seem to think the road is there for them alone. It can be pretty scary coming fast down a hill with a big truck close on your tail!
Pick your bike well
A good bike is a must for a serious cyclist. And you need to pick it well. It should have at least 18 gears, but 28 is even better. Wide tires are best and so the picky rider will almost certainly go for a mountain bike with independent suspension, front and back. A proper cycle helmet is a must as it will certainly come off and it can save your life, not just your head, from serious injury. These bikes are not cheap, so a good quality lock is a must.
Here is a short specification for a suitable off-road bike for use in Bali.
Banshee Paradox 29er hardtail size M, with RS Reba 120mm, drivetrain X.9 with race face crank, carbon brakes and WTB tires.
High-end mountain bikes can also be hired through a local shop called ‘The Bike Shop’ (BMTBonline.com) and biking holidays can be arranged through several companies, one of the best being Trailblazers, where a bike can be hired for $50 per day and you can join one of their organized rides. If you are planning a riding holiday for a group, they will help you organize it with some spectacular rides included days on the beach or canoeing down the rapids to break up the days on the saddle.
There are very few bike clubs in Bali, some being associated with particular schools, but one which has its own Facebook page is the Bali Road and Mountain Bike Club. New members are always welcome. They are a group of cycling enthusiasts, both on and off-road, who are passionate about cycling in Bali. They explore single tracks into the jungles, rice fields, and rivers and invite new members to join this recently formed (2011) and fast-growing club!
One definite advantage of joining a bike club is that you get to meet new people who are passionate about biking, who can help you to find good rides in your own neck of Bali. They also typically help by providing assistance with training or maintaining your bike and sourcing bike equipment.
Great bike journeys in Bali
Ring of Fire tour
Spend a night in the Batur caldera on the slopes of Mount Batur’s volcano and experience the famous Mount Batur sunrise, before riding over the latest lava field! Then cycle the dramatic single track Batur volcano descent! You won’t forget this ride!
Try the Lake Buyan rainforest trails or tackle the tricky ridge-top singletrack in Karangasem.
One of my favourites is the top end road of Bali, from Singaraja to Menjangan dive resort, finishing it off at the Balai Taman National Park on the north eastern tip of the island. This road is quieter and a lot safer.
It is a good idea to have someone in a car or van who is trailing you if you are on the road. They can carry your gear and provide support when you burst a tire or break down.
Off-road biking on your BMX
There are many footpath trails in the mountains and these can be explored on your BMX singly or as part of a group. There are many good rides in and around Ubud and Besakih, and for sheer beauty of scenery, try riding in the caldera at the side of Mount Kintamani.
There is no Bali equivalent to Jakarta’s Sudirman Carfree day on Sunday mornings, but if you are an early riser, you’ll find many roads are quiet on Sunday mornings. And if you are cycling solo, be sure to wear a dayglo vest to ensure you can be seen from afar by speeding motorists.
Finally, youngsters like to use their BMXs for performing stunts – whether in the air or on the ground. It can be great fun jumping from one level to another. You definitely need a good helmet, plus arm and knee protectors because you will be spending a lot of time hitting the dirt before you master the finer motor skills that this activity takes.
Watching stunt experts go through their routines is impressive, but as such riders will tell you this is not a sport for the faint-hearted and takes a hell of a lot of practice before you can master the moves.