Bali is probably not the first destination that comes to mind when planning a cycling trip. Most people only know Bali as a hip and trendy beach destination. But this Indonesian paradise island has so much more to offer than cocktails at the beach and selfies at rice terraces. The rich Hindu culture, nature’s beauty around every corner, friendly locals, amazing gastronomy and the steepest climbs you’ll ever ride.
We arrived on Bali when the Covid-19 pandemic was about to hit the world hard. The situation on the island was still relatively calm. We had big plans to discover every region; hike-a-bike the active volcanos, cruise along the coast line and explore the undiscovered northern part. In reality we only went out for day trips and a few overnighters.
We stopped touring
The Indonesian government hadn’t proclaimed a lockdown, but it felt wrong to freely travel around. With genuine biketouring out of the question we still felt extremely lucky to be able to go out and ride our bicycles in the area around our base, Ubud. Riding in this area made us fall in love with the island. It’s pretty much a perfect cycling destination if you ask us.
Riding on Bali
Riding on Bali is extremely challenging. The tarmac may be perfect everywhere but temperatures are boiling and the humidity is insane. Monsoon rain showers are a common thing. They come out of nowhere and leave you completely drenched. We weren’t complaining since it’s the perfect way to cool down.
Since Bali is a volcanic island the roads are ridiculously steep. Most roads are north-south oriented, however there are east-west connections too. Riding these usually means conquering deep gorges and fighting your way back up on inclines well over 20 percent.
The scenery makes every drop of sweat worthwhile. Starting at black colored volcanic sand at the beach you’ll pass bright green rice paddies and eventually make it to higher altitudes with magnificent sights on active volcanos.
Local cycling community
There is a small cycling community on Bali. Especially in the early morning we saw young kids cruising around on mountain bikes. Further inland you can find some pretty hardcore bike parks located between the lava fields. Pickup trucks with downhill bikes in the back are a common sight. In the lively capital of Denpasar there is a cool bike shop called The Bike Shop Bali. They carry a lot of cool brands and have quality materials if you might need spare parts.
Another great thing about cycling on Bali is the abundance of warungs (local shops). Gado Gado, Nasi Goreng, Satay, fresh coconuts and of course Kopi Bali. Every local warung can fix you up, and usually for a very decent price too. A good thing, because cycling on Bali burns a lot of calories and refueling is super easy this way. Indonesian and Balinese food in particular is amazing.
Perfect little Ubud
Ubud was the perfect base for us. Getting lost in the small streets of the family compounds where the aromatic smell of sweet incense fill your senses. It’s central and within five minutes you are surrounded by rice paddies. The layers upon layers of green rice terraces are broken by weaving palm trees. Ubud also tends to be a few degrees cooler than the concrete jungle of the southern beach towns.
What bike to bring
There are roads for every type of bike on Bali. Take your full suspension mountain bike on a spin in one of the bike parks. Race up the steepest climbs on your road bike or pack your panniers as light as possible and tour around the island as soon as it’s possible again.
The amazing scenery combined with the excellent craftsmanship gave us a real creative boost. Taking some time away from touring also provided us with the opportunity to think about how we want to continue our travels. Instead of viewing this pandemic as a blockage on our way we seek new paths. Our new path is now leading us to Sweden, but to Bali we will someday definitely return.