If you’re new to mountain biking in Singapore, there should be plenty locally to keep you occupied. It's advisable to take your time to bed into the sport and generally figure your way round your shiny new equipment.
But as a consequence of this, you too, will eventually start to suss out your riding preferences.
Singapore has a good variety of fairly even, pedally trails, with punchy ups and short, fast, downs to break things up - pocket sized fun.
At one end of the spectrum though, some riders look forward, and we mean, really, really look forward to riding downhill for longer runs- anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour; letting gravity do all the work, but more importantly, letting some other source of mechanical assistance (gondola, van, truck, horse, Go-Jek rider with a tow rope) get them to the top in the first place.
Sure, it sounds a bit lazy, but hey, it’s a bit like skiing or snowboarding- just swap snow for dirt; no shame, and in this part of the world, you can do it all year round.
If you reckon that this sort of gravity assisted riding is your bag but you’ve never done a shuttled downhill run, then it’s something that should be explored in time- it’s extremely fun and if treated the right way, will help you grow as a rider.
Where would the closest places to offer such convenience be?
Anywhere in Singapore?
Surprisingly not. While KL has some great trails in Bukit Kiara, they run in a national park and you can’t get an uplift service there.
So then Chiang Mai in Thailand then? Maybe you’ve heard some chatter about it from ride friends.
Yes- Chiang Mai has a few companies running shuttled services. The Downhill scene is mature there and the trails are epic; but Chiang Mai is also a bigger trip that would need a bit more planning and a larger commitment time-wise, something best done over a week or so to make it worth packing your bike for. Also, the steepness and roughness of the natural trails can be a slight step too far for those just getting into the sport.
There are places for shutting in Jogja and Bandung, but happily for us, there is also Bukit Dangas in Batam, a short ferry ride away and doable in a day. It’s not absurdly steep and has enough technical features to open up your riding mind.
To close out 2019, with the weather turning rainy and cold and all of us becoming sloth like in the shop, we made the call to head over to Dangas for a shuttled downhill ride- something to blow out the cobwebs and burn off the tubes of chips we’ve been shotgunning between delivery fast-food.
To say that the rain was biblical when we got to Batam would be wildly overstating it, but it was heavy enough for us to concede that a dry run that day would be completely, totally unlikely. One of us thought that keeping his full face helmet on the whole day would be a great alternative to using an umbrella, not an entirely bad idea, but he was was also the person who proceeded to ride without goggles and was tearing up as he had the most amount of mud in his eyes - we consider him half interesting.
Anyway, into the rain we rode.
Dangas has 4 lines, all short enough to commit to memory, yet long and detailed enough to be fun - Say, 3 to 5 minutes depending on your skill and enthusiasm.
When you start the day off, it’s customary to ride all the lines as a warm up.
Trail 3 (SS 3) was first up and was manageable enough to ride despite the squishy soil, some blown out switchbacks and the constant threat of glistening, exposed roots lying in wait to send your tyres perpendicular to the direction of intended travel. SS 3 has good flow in the dry but was sketchier than usual today- one of us pumped his bike against what looked like a dip at the edge of the trail and ended up somewhere down in the trees after the soil collapsed from under his tyres.
Trails 1 & 2 (SS 1,2) also seemed funner when we were here last, but the wetness of today really changed their personalities to a treacherous degree.
SS 1 opens with a smooth, steepish drop into the forest, leading into a sequence of deep switchback ruts. Already technically challenging in the dry, it was slimier than an otter’s back today- fun if you’re an experienced rider with peerless bike control, but for most of us, the creamy, steepish surfaces just triggered a loud “alamak” and mostly a frantic squeeze of the brakes, leading us to tri-pod down the trail in the least steezy of fashions. No one take any videos please.
SS 2 is a fast, XC-ish trail that is usually brilliant in the dry, but today, again, the slickness of the ground amplified the treachery of the long, gentle, off-camber sections of the trail - no amount of text book riding will help you through some of these parts - go a bit slow and gravity will take over, your side knobs will cut through the mud easy, and you’ll slide down sideways off the trail and into the forest in comedic slow motion.
That leaves Trail 4 (SS 4- sorry about these SS’s, that is how these trails are named, a racing convention), the original line that started this bike park off.
Get the hang of SS4 in the dry and it always becomes more fun with each run, and actually, unexpectedly, SS4 was turning out to be even more enjoyable in the wet? Traction was at a premium of course, but a wet SS 4 inherently rewarded balanced, smooth riding and the roots didn’t want to kill you outright. That it remained the trail that we rode the rest of the day repeatedly, drizzle to downpour, was also down to one simple thing: line choice.
It would be easy to be distracted by the steep (rollable) drop near the start (called Black Cobra), or the drop further down the trail called “Pink Rock” (go and you’ll figure out why) as the highlights of SS4, but in reality, it’s the flow of the trail and the option of various riding lines in the open areas that really kept boredom at bay. And as a bonus, at the very end, you get rewarded with a balls-out, chunky downhill sprint that feeds into a smooth concrete berm, hooking you into a mild table top jump that makes you feel like a hero- even if all you do is roll it.
We rode SS4 till it ended up in a hilarious 2, borderline 3 bike pile up. Perhaps not the best way to sell this experience, but rarely did we all find ourselves in a froth discussing a trail- one that had become comically fun in the wet.
Perhaps the pile up was also a sign for us to pause the stoke and call it a day- and so we did. But we will be back soon. We’ll just make sure to check that showers are expected then!
Close to Singapore via ferry, you can do it in a day. Fun digestible trails that are not too steep, but can be blown out in areas, which, honestly, is good for riding experience. Great place to practice riding skills like pumping the bike for free speed, looking down the trail. Good first taste of shuttling.
Suitable for - advance novices and up
A sophisticated rear coil shock on a short-travel, trail eating, Evil Following? With its fun and poppy reputation? What are they thinking?