Get off the beaten track with your bike!
Cycling can be tough in tiny Singapore what with the roads jam packed with cars seemingly oblivious to bicycles and public parks full of people wandering on the bike lanes. But there are many places, within the island to ride your bike far away from the madding crowd.
Of course you need to navigate the roads to get to the quieter stretches, but with some defensive riding it’s actually not as dangerous as it might seem on the tarmac. Keep to the left of the lane and assume every vehicle in front of you is going to turn or stop suddenly without indicating and you’ll be fine.
Easy: Rifle Range Road
Distance: 6.88 km
Start: Junction of Rifle Range Road and Dunearn Road
End: Rifle Range Road (off Bukit Timah)
Remember not to feed the monkeys! Photo: Alan Grant
The route: Within seconds of turning off the busy Dunearn Road into Rifle Range Road (RRR) the hustle and bustle of the city are instantly gone. There’s nothing but trees on either side as it rolls towards the lungs of Singapore, the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve.
However, in its entirety, RRR is only 3.4km in length before it comes to an abrupt halt at the entrance to a military base. That seems like a very short ride but that’s part of its beauty. Ridden out and back it’s a tough little circuit as it’s rarely flat and some roadies use it as a place to build strength. One 6.8km lap involves about 70m of climbing, so do five laps and you’ll certainly feel it in your legs.
But it’s not just for the serious cyclists. There are many access points to the warren of trails inside the nature reserve so another option is to lock up your bike and go for a hike. Rifle Range Road is also famous for its monkeys. It’s rare to ride RRR without coming across a troupe or two of our simian friends. Stop and check them out, just don’t feed them!
The wheels: While Rifle Range Road's smooth and rolling surface make it suitable for road bikes, the fact that some of the trails leading off it allow mountain bikes provides an opportunity for a dual road/dirt experience on your knobbly tyres.
Start: Junction of Woodlands Avenue 3 and Kranji Road
End: Junction of Jalan Bahar, Old Choa Chu Kang Road and Lim Chu Kang Road
Bollywood Veggies. Photo: STB
The route: A popular place for dedicated cyclists but perhaps unknown to the occasional weekend rider is the Kranji countryside area. If accessed from Woodlands Road there’s a short stretch of an industrial area to be negotiated but thereafter it’s green all the way and when you cross the causeway separating the Kranji Reservoir and Strait of Johor you’re in a different world.
The main route combining Kranji Way, New Tiew Road and Lim Chu Kang Road is 20km long. You’ll pass the site of the World War II Battle of Kranji, the Sungei Buloh Wetlands Reserve and the famous Bollywood Veggies farm/restaurant.
But there’s much more to see too, so why not explore the maze of country lanes that lie off Neo Tiew and Lim Chu Kang into Singapore’s agricultural heartland. Lots of small-scale operations dot the landscape, including hydroponic growers, fish farms and a goat dairy.
Once done exploring get back onto Lim Chu Kang Road and either head north to the Coast Guard station overlooking JB or south towards Jurong and the huge plot of cemeteries.
The first 5km of LCK is protected from the sun by a canopy of trees but then it suddenly opens up as you enter the “runway”, a 3km stretch of very wide road. It moonlights as an emergency runway, which the SAF test every few years or. It’s a spectacular sight watching all the lampposts removed with military precision.
You’re choice now is to head back into civilization in the shape of Jurong West or turn around for another stint in the countryside.
The wheels: The Kranji Countryside route is accessible to all sorts of bikes, from road to mountain, to single speed or foldie.
Hard: The Southern Bumps
Start: Bottom of South Buona Vista Road
End: Top of Mount Faber
The route: Singapore is basically flat. But there are challenging little cycling climbs to be found all over the island, including the Southern Bumps, a series of short but sharp hills running west to east along the West Coast Highway.
The circuit starts at the bottom of South Buona Vista Road. This 2km hill isn’t so steep so it’s a relatively gentle beginning. At the top, turn around. About three-quarters of the way down comes a sharp left turn, which delivers you onto Vigilante Drive. It’s only 600m to the top but the first 300m are the sharpest inclines Singapore has to offer – 17 percent at one point. Be careful at the bottom when coming back onto SBV.
Back on the West Coast Highway and the next hill to be tackled is Pepys Road. Again it’s short, only 600m, but again it’s steep; you’ll gain 60m in elevation.
Now continue along the southern coast before turning onto Henderson Road, itself a gentle incline about 1km in length. But as the road nears its peak, take a left into Telok Blangah Green. The rise to this steep little peak is 750m long, with a loop at the top that takes you back to Henderson.
Take in the awesome panoramic views of Singapore when you're up on Mt. Faber. Photo: Alan Grant
Then it’s onto Mt Faber, the jewel of Singapore’s cycling climbs. Begin with the “steep” side, which is accessed from Kampong Bahru Road. This little beauty, 1.7km in length and 80m high, is enough to test even the best of legs but even when you get to the top you’re not quite done.
Zoom down the other side, where the one-way system takes you to a T-junction at Pender Road. Turn your bike round and head back up; the road takes you to the peak by a different loop. Once you reached the top, you’ve completed the Southern Bumps.
Depending on what time of day it is, why not reward yourself with a cold drink at the “mountain-top” café and take in the views of Singapore. Or do the circuit again! The route is about 20km in total and depending on your speed can be completed in anything between one and two hours.
The Southern Bumps are best done in the predawn hours to avoid the traffic but they can be tackled any time. Additional short, sharp climbs nearby can be found on Sentosa and in Labrador Park.
The wheels: With its steep inclines, the Southern Bumps circuit is best suited to road bikes as the lighter the frame the easier it is to climb the hills.