Have you ever wondered whether road cycling in Bali is feasible?
It’s not the most usual of cycling destinations, and not somewhere you’re likely to head if you’ve got the choice of going to any cycling destination in the world. But trying to juggle training with a holiday with your family/other half is a (first world) dilemma competitive cyclists often find themselves in. Sometimes the cyclist in the family is simply not in charge of deciding the destination!
So, is it possible to get in some decent road cycling in Bali?
We asked one of our readers, Andy, who recently spent a few weeks in Bali with his bike to share his experiences.
Map showing Bali and places mentioned by Andy in this Q&A
1. Where did you stay and what was it like?
We were based in North Kuta, which is to the north-west of the capital, Denpasar. It’s the most popular area with tourists in Bali, particularly Aussies.
Bali is a stunning tropical paradise with tropical beaches, crystal clear seas, (great for scuba and snorkelling), as well as jungles and volcanoes.
Bali is the only Hindu island in Indonesia. It has real ‘eastern’ feel to it, and is covered in beautiful temples and statues to various gods.
Outside of the main towns you find the ‘true Bali’: ancient temples, tiny villages, dense forest and a MASSIVE volcano, Mt Batur!
2. What’s cycling in Bali like?
In Bali there are really three types of rides:
a) City roads. Just DON’T! I found the city roads around Denpasar horrendous (and Ubud was similar)! The traffic (any time of day) is mental. Swarms of scooters use every part the road, don’t indicate and generally travel slower than I did on my bike. That said, if you find yourself needing to negotiate any city road, give mapmyride a go – I found it really useful (when on ‘car setting’) for finding the small back roads to avoid the jams.
b) Coastal beach front, generally on the south, east and northern shores. Stunning sea views, undulating terrain, plenty of cafes to stop at and deserted beaches.
c) Mountain roads. Mount Batur, in the centre of Bali, is unlike Mount Teide that I am used to in Tenerife. On El Teide there are around six routes up that generally snake up over 30-40 miles (this article has more information). By comparison, from the south of Bali, the climbs are less curvy: Mount Batur has created huge fissures that deliver numerous (relatively) straight roads that climb these fissures at about 3-5% for over 40 miles from sea level to the crater rim (about 4k ft). These are linked by a network of tiny and very steep roads that go up and over and link these long straight roads. On the west there are more undulating (but very steep) short sharp mountains where the roads are deserted.
3. What was your favourite cycle route in Bali?
My favourite ride went pretty much straight up to the top of the crater of volcano Danau Batur via Ubud (the religious centre that’s home to some incredible temples) from the sea, via rain forest and rice paddies to the stunning crater view point. This ride was around 90 miles, and went from 40°C temperatures to a pleasant 20°C at the top. It included long steady ‘tempo’ climbs and some awesome technical descents.
There was an option to do a loop into the crater and back out of around 6 miles. I didn’t do this, due to time, but beware it’s VERY steep > 25%!
4. What’s the best route that not many people know about in Bali?
The best unknown ride I came across was from the far west from Blue Lagoon (near Amlapura), snaking up an impossibly steep climb tagged on Strava as ‘Manggis Putang’. The climb goes from sea level to 2,000 ft in just four miles! It took me 38 minutes! The route then takes you past rice paddies, via Ubud and back to Kuta.
The first climb is pretty unknown with (I think) only 38 Strava ascents. Its amazingly steep and goes on for 4 miles with no let up – I averaged just 6mph!
5. What are your best tips for people cycling in Bali for the first time?
It’s VERY hot, so take plenty of water, refuel often (there are loads of shops and locals selling by the road and I always wanted to support and buy from the small holders).
If you’re training to heart rate or power, be prepared for numbers different to the ones you may be used to at home.
Focus on rehydration post ride (the beer is great)!
Plan routes wisely and really avoid the centre of Denpasar. I’d also suggest avoiding the south-eastern end of the island where the roads seemed busiest. Head north and west for the quietest routes
Use mapmyride – but on ‘driving’ setting to plan routes. I found it really useful.
6. Did you come across any really good coffee/bar/café stops in Bali?
Head for Kayah Bali Bike shop, close to the coast at Sanur on the east side of Denpasar. It’s just off the main dual carriageway, heading west towards Blue Lagoon and the stunning beaches, and is run by Pete Collis. You’ll find awesome coffee, fresh fruit and drinks.
7. Is there anything that visitors shouldn’t miss?
Ubud is world renowned and worth a visit for the temples, markets, shops and food experience.
A trip through the rice paddies is iconic.
Mt Batur volcano is worth visiting, just for the view (and cooler temperatures!).
If you are into scuba / snorkelling then head to Blue Lagoon (loads of trips available). It’s stunning and we saw a massive array of fish including turtles.
8. What can non-cycling partners do in Bali?
Non-cycling wise it’s all about the beaches: surfing is good and scuba/snorkelling, as mentioned above.
Bali is internationally famed for its food and you can get a good meal for two and beers for £20-£25. Street food (which was excellent) costs pennies.
There are lots of shopping opportunities too. However be aware that the ‘western targeted’ areas are (relatively) expensive.
9. What’s the best town/city to stay in?
If you’re fully focused on cycling, I’d say don’t choose Denpasar. Instead, head to the north coast’s Singaraja, or maybe west to Kubu and Amalpura.
However, if you’re looking for a mix between a cycling and non-cycling holiday or if your partner/family don’t ride, the Kuta/Seminyak/Denpasar area gives a good balance.
10. What’s the best time to visit?
Bali is pretty tropical and generally is similar temperatures all year round. However it probably makes sense to avoid the rainy season which is generally between October and January.
Big thanks to Andy for sharing these really useful insights on cycling in Bali.
Want more tropical island cycling destinations?!
Or what about Japan?!
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