Bali - The Surprise Cycling Destination
While hundreds of thousands of Aussies visit Bali each year, surprisingly few realise the incredible cycling secrets the island destination holds.
Soon to start his second year of residence in the Balinese town of Canggu, well known cycling photographer and writer Jarrod Partridge has followed the sport around Australia and the world for more than a decade. Having had enough of Melbourne weather, and looking to go full time with ‘Upshift Tours’, his cycling holiday company, we started by asked him why Bali?
“Many think of Bali and instantly associate traffic, scooters flying around corners and a general party atmosphere,” he said.
“What we’ve done is put together an experience that’ll have clients in Bali in style, with a full support team to keep you safe. The tours never enter the crazy streets of Kuta or Seminyak. We stay in regional areas, amongst the rice fields of Canggu and Ubud. Riders set out at sunrise on quiet roads with a ride guide, lead moto, sag wagon, plus the soft sun on your back and a cool breeze on your face,” he added.
“With five days of cycling and plenty of down time to eat, rest, relax and explore, visitor’s go home with experiences and memories that you won’t read about in a guide book” he said.
We asked Jarrod about the itinerary for a typical 5-day balinese cycling tour - this was his reply.
Ease into the first day of cycling in Bali with a traditional Balinese breakfast. Then it’s a quick intro to your ride support crew for the week.
Leave at 6:30 am and cycle west, taking in the villages of the Tabanan region before heading to Tanah Lot. The day may seem short but riding in the tropics can come as a bit of a shock to the system. This is an acclimatisation day, so there are no punishing climbs on the menu just yet.
Instead, it’s a 60-kilometre loop through the green growing rice villages with a break at the breathtaking Tanah Lot temple to take in views, a banana or two, and water.
No cycling holiday in Bali is complete without a ride through the Tabanan region to the world-famous Jatiluwih rice terraces. This dramatic landscape is photogenic 365 days a year, making it perfect for selfies that cause jealousy back home. The breathtaking ride to the summit includes 600 metres of climbing and plenty of opportunities to pocket Strava segments on this little-used road.
Fresh Air Cycling At Its Best
Leaving at dawn, the kilometres tick by unnoticed as you’re bathed in the soft air and warm glow of sunrise in paradise. With ‘only’ 600 metres of climbing, the ascent to the rice terraces is gentle for the most part.
In the closing stages the incline increases leaving those quads feeling the burn. Shortly before the summit, there is a lookout that offers a welcome respite from the climbing, and panoramic views of the surrounding rice terrace covered mountains. From there, it is only three kilometres to the summit.
At the top, Billy’s Terrace Café is the perfect spot for a refreshing juice and a snack, as the open-air dining area gives you an elevated view of the whole region. After cooling off, take a walk around the summit and take in the vastness of this incredible destination.
What goes up must come down, so after pausing to take in the stunning vistas you’ll descend all the way back to Canggu for more coffee, passing through rice fields unseen by the tour busses. We like to take the road less travelled.
The first 100km day as you ride to the lake and temple at the Pura Ulun Danu Bratan before turning east to Ubud and the new villa.
To get there, you’ll climb 1400 metres in approximately 50 kilometres, with the roads steadily heading upwards almost from our Canggu front door. This ride is on some of the smoothest roads in Bali. At times, it’s like being on a magic carpet. On the climb, you will have views of some of the most impressive volcanoes in the region; Batur, Kintamani, and Agung.
You’ll almost fly off the mountain, descending at speeds of 80km/h at times, and then jump straight into the pool while lunch is prepared.
Then it’s time for your 30-minute in-house massage. After lunch, visit a Luwak coffee plantation and the sacred Monkey Forest, a cool and beautiful ancient forest grove where you have the option to feed the monkeys.
After a small sleep in on this partial rest day it’s time for a gentle spin to Tirta Empul, the most important and most holy water temple in all of Bali. Here you can purify yourself in the traditional Balinese way by slipping into the icy cold waters and bowing under the one or all of the 11 water spouts that flow into the pool. By getting there early, this can be done in peace, without huge crowds that are seen here throughout the day.
The afternoon sees an opportunity to head to a traditional Balinese kitchen to learn the art of Balinese cooking. Everything is created from scratch, step by step, and you’ll have recipes to keep and recreate true Bali cuisine at home.
The final ride through the famous Gianyar region on our way to the Kintamani volcano is a stunning one, where after 35 kilometres of climbing you will be met by the staggering beauty of Mt Batur and the surrounding lakes.
There’s no easy way to say this. 35 kilometres straight up, 35 kilometres straight down. That’s 1500 metres of climbing and a massive sense of accomplishment at the summit. This climb rivals anything you will find in Europe, but is still relatively unknown, meaning you’re in with a pretty good chance of earning yourself a Strava KOM to brag about!
At the top, the views of Mt Batur are unbelievable. From the picturesque lake to the scorched black slopes of Batur, you’re going to spend as much time taking in the views as you will taking selfies.
Then it’s time for one of the highlights of the trip: 35 kilometres descending through the amazing rice fields of the Tegalalang region.
This is the perfect place to practice your aero tuck as the roads are smooth and quiet. Towards the end of the descent, the riding gets a little more technical, and you’ll find yourself buzzing through the ambience of Bali’s central heart.
For further details on cycling Bali visit www.upshift-tours.com.au