Blazing Saddles, a new off-road biking company based in Bali offers enthusiasts some hilly thrills and tailor-made tours through some of the most stunning scenery in Asia.
The void between heading into the Balinese hills on your own bike, never to be seen again, and following a train of day-trippers freewheel downhill to the next cold towel stop has recently been filled. Over the past four years a small mountain biking outfit, Bali Trail Blazers, has been developing trails across the island’s mountainous heart, aimed at the more serious off-road biker who doesn’t mind the odd calf-swelling ascent or two.
With its extensive network of farmers’ tracks and motorbike paths weaving up through the island’s volcanic peaks, Bali is excellent mountain bike terrain. Away from the humid heat of the lowlands, the air is fresher and cooler allowing for a furious climb or two up a grassy knoll without the impending cardiac arrest.
The opportunity to create some bone-charring trails across Bali was recognised by British geologist Clare Price in 2005. While spending four years working in the oil business in Jakarta, Price was introduced to the wonders of volcano biking on weekends at the nearby Sentul Selatan in the mountains of West Java. It didn’t take her long to realise that she’d rather be in the saddle on weekdays as well and Bali provided the perfect opportunity for a drastic career change. With no serious single-track off-road biking on offer but the infrastructure and terrain for some superb rides, Bali was the obvious place to set up an operation. After spending months tracking out trails, armed with a GPS and a Balinese guide, Bali Trail Blazers was born, designed for overseas enthusiasts looking not only for some serious single-track action but also a holiday at the same time.
Designed to be flexible to riders’ requirements but also offering a choice of established rides, ranging from day-trips to 14-day safaris, Bali Trail Blazers is aimed mainly at small groups, with an eight rider maximum on most trails. The itineraries cater to different skill and difficulty levels depending on the riders’ pre-tour brief. The company offers ten hard-tail 27-speed bikes but bikers are welcome to bring their own if they feel more comfortable on their own saddle.
With only time for a one-day ride, I opted to bike the trail around the outer crater rim of Mount Batur. The rainy season was drawing to an end so I was hoping for clear weather and lots of soft mud to cushion any unplanned upends. I was lucky; dawn broke into a perfect morning and as we climbed up from the coast to Kintamani through the picturesque craft villages around Ubud, all of Bali’s volcanic peaks were proudly on display.
At the set-off point Clare kitted me out with bike, helmet, gloves and water and after a safety review and a quick spin on the road to get used to the gear shifters we were off. The trails are designed to be mainly single-track paths with only a bare minimum of time spent on concrete or paved roads. Soon we were off the tarmac, charging down rocky descents and up weaving paths, nowhere near a road, with not a soul in sight.
The Batur crater is an incredible sight from pretty much any angle and I was trying hard not to be distracted by the view and concentrate on staying on the bike. Clare had advised me not to worry about my immediate path as the Rockshox would take care of most of the bumps, but it’s not that easy to ignore what’s in front of you when hitting it at full speed may catapult you into a muddy ditch. As we worked our way around the crater we sped through tiny villages whose inhabitants greeted this strange colorful apparition with a mixture of bemused shock and whooping excitement.
Despite the relative cool of the air, it’s not hard to work up a sweat in the tropics and pretty soon I was ready for a gallon of isotonic fluid and a much-needed refuel. Lunch was just around the corner and we stopped for grilled fish and steamed greens in a local restaurant overlooking Lake Batur. Here a chorus of feline approval told us the fish must be good and we weren’t disappointed. After a suitable rest, we saddled up and continued on the trail around the lake towards the fields of volcanic lava, evidence of the most recent eruptions. This black jagged rock is a completely different terrain to the lush greens of the descent and is definitely not somewhere you’d want to come off the saddle at speed.
As we approached the foreboding volcanic cones, the weather added to the dramatic setting by changing, with dark clouds rolling in from the south threatening a major downpour. Luckily the track was not technically difficult and was wide enough to avoid most mishaps and we reached the pick-up point just as the heavens opened, exhausted but exhilarated.
Those of you who may be looking for a more leisurely guided biking excursion around the same area in Bali can choose between Sobek or Bali Adventure Tours who both offer cycling tours down through the villages below Kintamani towards Ubud. These tours focus more on experiencing traditional life in Balinese villages rather than the cycling itself and are a good way to get off the road and out of a car and to see a bit of the island on two wheels.
Source: Hello Bali