As the popularity of cycling on our shores continues to grow quite spectacularly, bikes are playing an ever-increasing role in family leisure activities.
We wouldn't recommend you take your young children out on Singapore's roads but here's a few suggestions for some safe but fun two-wheeled action.
Changi Coastal Road to Changi Village
Best suited for: All bikes | Ride time: 1-3 hours | Ride intensity: Easy
Most parents might head for that 11km-long lush strip of activity known as the East Coast Park but it can get rather busy and at times even dangerous to cycle there. A lot of park users, from cyclists to skaters, or runners to plain old beachcombers, seem to have a problem sticking to the designated paths so you always have to have your wits about you and your hands on the brakes when cycling there.
But the crowds thin out towards the eastern end of the park just past the National Sailing Centre and so this is a great spot to begin a relaxing 12km trip to Changi Village – all on the safety of a Park Connector bike path. The East Coast Park itself ends at the NSRCC Sea Sports Centre after about 1km but the route then winds through a wooded area and alongside a canal before emerging onto the Changi Coastal Road path.
This section is wide and well-surfaced and runs parallel to Changi Airport for an uninterrupted 6km. Even on a weekend it's not too busy and is mostly shaded by a canopy of trees. But if you do find yourself out there on a particularly hot day, or if a sudden Sumatra Squall hits, then salvation is never far in the form of brick shelters situated along the path.
There's more. The route continues on for another 4km or so to Changi Beach. The section from Changi Ferry Terminal to the village itself is breathtaking as it weaves its way through a beautiful forest of tall pine trees, with the sea and sand always just metres away. A Park Connector Pit Stop provides sustenance if needed and of course once you hit the end of the path, the culinary delights of Changi Village await. The hawker centre there is being upgraded through December 2012, but there are other good bites nearby. Have a spot of lunch perhaps, or unpack that picnic, then head back to the East Coast Park.
Pulau Ubin is great for a day of cycling with the whole family. Photo / NPARKS
Best suited for: Mountain bikes | Ride time: Half or full day | Ride intensity: Easy to difficult
If you’re looking for something a bit more adventurous then Pulau Ubin is the place to go for a family cycling day trip. Access to this green haven is by bum boat from Changi Point Ferry Terminal where a fleet of the little vessels await. The cost is just $2 per person and boats leave whenever they have a full load of 12 people. If you don’t want to wait then just “charter” the whole boat for $24!
If you don’t fancy the extra hassle of taking a bunch of bikes onto these little boats then just rent a ride from the numerous outlets that pop up as soon as you land at Ubin Jetty. Prices are cheap (starting at $2 per hour) and you can find anything from well-equipped mountain bikes to old clunkers. The island is well sign-posted and its network of roads, paths, trails and tracks offer options for everybody.
Hardcore dirt lovers visit Ubin for its selection of technical trails at the Ketam Mountain Bike Park, but you’re as likely to see groups of families and friends leisurely riding around, exploring the charming island at their own pace. None of the roads go further than 4km so it’s impossible to get lost, but you can have fun trying! Why not spend the day there, just a few hours, or even make it a family weekend away by camping or staying at a guest house. Once you’ve biked in Ubin, your family is sure to make you take them back.
Best suited for: Mountain and hybrid bikes | Ride time: 30-60 minutes | Ride intensity: Easy
If Pulau Ubin or even the East Coast to Changi ride sound like too much for your little ones, a shorter but still enjoyable option for the family is a ride around Bedok Reservoir. The track around the lake, a mixture of pavement and pebbly path, is just 4.3km long but the beauty of this route is that you can stop any time to let the kids play, spread out a picnic, do a spot of bird-watching or simply enjoy the view across the majestic water. And you’re never going to be more than 2.15km away from your starting point, just in case junior gets a bit antsy. Of course, if after one time lap he or she wants more, just ride around again.
Bedok Reservior is of course not just open to cyclists, the path is shared with runners, skaters and walkers, so this isn’t the place to train your kids to be the next Lance Armstrong. Be especially careful around the more-crowded areas, such as near the Water Sports Centre, the Jetty Walkway or the playgrounds.
Alan Grant is an exiled Scotsman who, apart from a four-year stint in the USA, has spend the last 20 years living and working in Asia. Among his employers have been the South China Morning Post, the Straits Times, Discovery Channel Magazine and Time Out Singapore. Addicted to cycling, he spends too much time in the saddle and the rest of it writing about anything related to the pedal-powered lifestyle.