Our little island city state of Singapore is the third most densely populated country in the world behind Monaco and Macau, with a total population of around 5.6 million people. With just 719.1km2, land is scarce and comes at a premium, as reflected in our steep property and vehicles prices.
It is therefore little surprise that cyclists have precious little to choose from when picking a nice cycling route, unless they are willing to bring their bikes abroad where it is more spacious. While road cyclists are still able to utilise the roads, off road cyclists are even more restricted, as there only a handful of off-road mountain biking trails on our island, and even those numbers are set to shrink as they make way for urban development. These trails are inevitably bustling with many riders, both beginners and experts, especially during the weekends when trails can get crazy packed. If you are looking for a nice stretch or trail to run your tyres on, here are some suggestions.
Tanah Merah Coast Road
The newly constructed Tanah Merah Coast Road (TMCR) is Singapore’s first and only road in its mainland with a dedicated lane just for cyclists. This means that not even vehicles are allowed to come into this cycling lane, significantly boosting the safety of cyclists adopting this route for their regular rides. Marked clearly from the main road is a bright red lane that ensures that drivers can clearly see the divider and stay clear of the cycling lane. This new stretch spans about 10km long: starting near the Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal, it bends around the shoreline and joins back to Changi Coast Road near the Changi Ferry Terminal. Since its unveiling in April this year, TMCR has been enjoyed by many road cyclists, and these days, large groups can be seen riding up and down this stretch of road, especially on Saturday and Sunday mornings.
Road cyclists looking for a route with more varying elevations as compared to the long and flat Tanah Merah Coast Road can consider the Dunearn-Mandai loop circuit. Located around the central part of Singapore, it is favoured by many riders who are living in the vicinity. This route usually starts at the heart of Singapore on Scotts Road, continues up north into Newton Road, followed by a left turn towards Thomson Road which leads you all the way to Upper Thomson Road. If you want to work on your bike handling skills, then take a short detour to Old Upper Thomson Road. Known as the old grand prix circuit, it has plenty of turns and curves, so ride with caution! After the long stretch along Mandai Road, head back down south via Woodlands Road and Bukit Timah Road, and you will find yourself back to your starting point.
Mount Faber Loops
Mount Faber is probably the only place in Singapore where you can effectively work on your uphill endurance, with the only catch being that you will have to start your rounds there at the break of dawn before the tour buses start to arrive with loads of photo-snapping tourists. If you’re successful, the entirety of your ride will be almost car-free. The ascent from Morse Road is slightly easier on the legs with some flatter sections to allow your legs some recovery before you head all the way up to the peak, but if you prefer a more challenging ride up, you should start the ascent from Kampong Bahru Road, as this route has a longer and more continuous climb to the summit. Its difficulty should not be underestimated, and may not even be suitable for newer riders. Nevertheless, this is a good test of one’s limits as he pushes them to the very end to make it all the way up. Of course, an amazing view of Singapore awaits you at the peak. As you descend, the long and fast ride will test your braking and handling skills, so ensure that your brakes are in good condition before attempting to conquer the climb.
Ketam MTB Trail, Pulau Ubin
Located on the beautiful and scenic island of Pulau Ubin, the Ketam trail is a bum-boat ride away from mainland Singapore. Making the effort to travel there is highly rewarding, as you will be treated to a reasonably long bike trail and the nostalgic Kampong sights that accompany it, much like the Singapore of old. The Ketam trail itself is not exactly very technical, so beginners should have no problems navigating the trail. Although there are some segments that will keep the more skilled riders happy, they can be bypassed if you don’t feel up to it. Overall, the trail is fun to ride on; it is extremely manageable with the added bonus of certain segments that can be taken at rather higher speeds for an adrenaline rush. In fact, the scariest part of the entire journey is getting your bikes off the bum-boats as you reach the jetty.
Bukit Timah MTB Trail
Deep inside the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, the Bukit Timah MTB trail, or more popularly known within the off-road community as ‘BT’, essentially circles around the entire Bukit Timah Hill. BT is considered the most technical of all of the off-road trails in Singapore, with a good mix of tough climbs, hairy drops, and descents that can be found throughout this 6km-long trail. If you do manage to successfully navigate the daunting course in one piece and stay on your bike, you will be classed as an advanced rider. If you’re attempting to take on BT, do note that some of the more technical portions, especially those around the rockier areas of the trail, will definitely draw blood if not tackled properly, so please ensure that you always have adequate protection on when riding; apart from a good helmet, which is a no-brainer, additional body protection like shin, elbow and knee guards will come in handy in the event of a fall.
“It is therefore little surprise that cyclists have precious little to choose from when picking a nice cycling route, unless they are willing to bring their bikes abroad where it is more spacious.“