Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Evolution of a Biketrail


How does a bike trail evolve? Who were the first bikers to have rode it? What was it like before it became a biketrail? What do you have to do to make it a biketrail? Who maintains these trails? Do we take our trails for granted? How many of these thoughts ever crossed your mind while you're pedaling....or posing with your biker friends....or while chomping on prata after a hard day's ride?

Well, it has crossed mine, several times.

I felt honoured to have been one of the few cyclists to have tread on virgin trail when we took part in the CGW Cyclethon organised by NWCDC and NParks on 12 Nov 2005. For more photos, go to Siva's blog (including the one which the photo above was lifted off from).

It was a cyclethon around the northern half of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve as part of Clean and Green Week 2005. Bike Route : Zhenghua Park - Gangsa Track - Track 15 - Mandai Lake Road - Old Mandai Road - Seletar Reservoir - New offroad trail - Old Upper Thomson Road - Bishan Park!

I have ridden on most of the route, except for the new offroad trail. But still, it was splendid!

I wondered what other bikers thought of the whole exercise?

Did the seasoned cyclist friends think the new path was not challenging enough? Most of the new trail was rather flat and muddy, compared to a more challenging Bukit Timah biketrail.

Would they ride this trail more often, now that they knew it was a new trail sanctioned by NParks? I did last Sunday and it felt great to explore the new territory once again.

I felt it was encouraging (and almost miraculous) that new trails could be created in this little island that we live in! It was a breath of fresh air, compared to the barage of news sounding like : XXX reclaimed for security reasons, or XXX cleared to make way for more condominiums etc. etc.


My fascination with trails started when I met Patrick Brunsdon in Malaysia. More than just one of the regular bikers, he deserves special mention for his dedication and effort in maintaining and building new trails in Bukit Kiara on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. The hills there are a biker's last wild frontier and Patrick is the fearless pioneer.

According to Patrick (a.k.a. Pig Pen), his initial motive for developing and maintaining the trails were mainly for his own purposes and satisfaction. However, his passion, perseverance and efforts have helped to shape the face of Bukit Kiara as it stands today and fuel the path to the Kiara Grand Prix (KGP) Mountain Bike Championship in 2001, a 6-staged series of time trail races. Many races have been held at Kiara ever since, and Patrtick I hear has been asked to be an adviser on all matters relating to trail-creation.

Anyway, Patrick figured that if he wanted the trails at Bukit Kiara to stay open so he could ride and enjoy them, he'd have to take it upon himself to take care of them. He did the trail maintenance for his own benefit and satisfaction. He tried to encourage people to ride there but for various reasons very few tried it.

He had long since mapped the whole area using a GPS, again mainly for his own purposes. He needed the map to figure out where to add a few key trails, which changed the whole complexion of riding there. It added a lot of variation, and also made it possible for riders who weren't expert to make a complete loop that was fun rather than a descent into the third ring of hell!

Finally, Patrick posted his trail map in a couple of bike shops and passed it out to anyone who asked. All of a sudden the map was everywhere! People were hiking and biking, and when Patrick would stop and talk to them they would pull out a copy of his map, so he could help them find their way around (even with a map, Kiara is still confusing to the uninitiated).

For more info about Kiara, go to Battlefield Kiara. And for more trailguides in Malaysia, go to Bikehash Malaysia.


Now, back to Singapore. I often hear Singaporean bikers complain that Singapore doesn't have many biketrails to offer. Many either turn to Malaysia for more enjoyable rides, and some quit mountain biking completely to take on road cycling or other sports.

For me, I believe it took great pains for the existing bike trails to be carved out and built in Singapore, and we should be proud of what we have!

How did the Bukit Timah Biketrail come to be? It was said that back in the 1980’s or thereabouts, bikers were riding illegally on the BT trails before it became bike trails! SACA, who was then represented by Mike Bailey, had approached Nparks to open up the BT trails to bikers, since the demand for biking had increased and Nparks didn't have to continue issuing summons to bikers. Something good must have come out of those meetings because today, we have a wonderful bike trail called the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve Bike trail!

I do ride in Malaysia and other countries, but I would highly recommend my friends to our local trails, which I ride religiously over the weekends. For more information about cycling in Singapore, go to SACA's url on Cycling in Singapore and a Cycling in Singapore blog.

Wouldn't it be great if Singapore could open up more biketrails? :)


Sivasothi said...

Onee more link for the CGW Cyclethon 2005 - Habitatnews.

JHop said...

As a hiker for years before I took up cycling, I view trails such as this with mixed feelings. Perhaps you can tell me what is done to prevent destructive soil erosion and silting of creeks and rivers where bike trails are created. For the moment, I'm inclined to keep my wheels on the road.

LingtheMerciless said...

Hi jhop.

I'm not even close to being in any position to give advice on trail maintenance. A group of bikers have joined forces with our National Parks Board to conduct a trail maintenance exercise on one of our commonly used bike trails aka Bukit Timah Nature Reserve Bike Trail. The more technically inclined bikers would read up from trail maintenance websites such as the imformative IMBA site ( and extract the information which is useful for the type of trails for our weather condition. We toyed around with the idea of swtiching trail direction maybe half year to prevent soil erosion. We don't really have problems with our mini creeks (if you can even call it that), but have issues with drainage due to heavy rainfall. This is a continuous learning process for us I guess. And there's a magic to riding on trails which the roads just can't offer. :)