A word of thanks to NParks (sent via email)...(below, photo of one of my favourite spots - the mossy green rocks, taken by eaglet)
C/o Alvin Lok
"You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view...until you climb into his skin and walk around in it"
To Kill a Mockingbird
To understand what a mountain biking trail means to a mountain biker, I think it best to see it from the viewpoint of a mountain biker. I am a keen mountain biker who has been mountain biking for over 8 years, and have dedicated 5 years of my life as a volunteer for the Singapore Amateur Cycling Association (SACA).
I will try my best to tell it like it is, based on my experience thus far.
Biking is one of the top 5 sports in Singapore attracting more than 10,000 cyclists; I believe the numbers are growing by the minute. Cyclists who cycle on the roads either do so to commute, to get from point A to point B, as part of their training programme or for the pure enjoyment of cycling. Many "leisure cyclists" prefer congregating at the crowded East Coast and Pasir Ris Parks, or riding along park connectors. Anywhere which is relatively flat, concrete, not remotely close to the hazardous bike-unfriendly roads, you will find these bikers. These paths require very little off-road skills, albeit a decent amount of road savvyness.
The above just about describes the bikers that most of us are familiar with. Many people are not aware that there is more to cycling than meets the eye. There is a creature called the "Mountain Biker". They are generally nature lovers who bike so that they can be close to nature. They take the opportunity to socialise with other like-minded mountain bikers while on the trails. In the process, they get a good work-out bursting their lungs on the uphill, and then feel a sense of satisfaction in negotiating a challenging downhill! It makes them physically and mentally stronger, allows them to bond with other bikers, and promotes a healthy lifestyle!
Many mountain bikers start off on their BMX bikes from as young as 4 years old, and then pick up the sport later when they can afford to buy a mountain bike. We have kids as young as 4 years old joining our youth races! Some start out riding on the Tampines BMX and MTB trail - a good introductory trail to basic off-road cycling. Next, they will attempt Pulau Ubin - which offers a variety of off-road trails to suit beginner to advanced level bikers. As their skills improve, they are ready to take on Track 15 and Chestnut, and then eventually graduate to the mother of all MTB trails in Singapore - the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve Mountain Biking Trail, touted to be Singapore's most technical trail. They will continue riding BT every weekend until they master it. So, what's next?
Many mountain bikers are content just riding these same trails for the rest of their lives. Some turn to other trails not sanctioned by the authorities. Others will no longer find these trails challenging and will venture to our neighbouring countries in search of new trails. Some will cross over to road cycling. Some will stop cycling completely. With the few mountain biking trails Singapore has to offer, one would naturally ask : is the sport of mountain biking dying? Well, statistics show that it is very much alive in Singapore!
A few hundred hardcore bikers have ventured into competitive mountain biking and most participate in the SACA races and races in the region. To compensate for the lack of mountain biking trails meeting worldwide competitive standards in Singapore, these bikers will look to regional trails to train and to compete. The Subaru Mountain Biking Championships held in Sentosa attacted 600 participants and 5000 participants over a weekend! That trail was touted to be even more difficult than BT, but unfortunately, part of it has been destroyed to make way for a more lucrative "luge" track! The up and coming sport of adventure racing, such as the Action Asia Challenge, will see more worldwide participants coming to Singapore to take on the multi-sport discipline. This sport will almost always include a mountain biking leg, and the usual biking venues will include the BT, Sentosa or Ubin trails.
It is amazing that our national athletes are able to remain competitive when their skills are pit against the region's best cyclists, given the limited trails on which to practice on; in particular, there are no "mountains" in Singapore. In order to be a world class cyclist, one needs to have the facilities to train on. Some countries rank their trails on a scale of 1 to 6, 6 being the most difficult. None of our trails even come close to reaching 6 or even 5 for that matter! Wouldn't it be great if we had a technical trail in our own backyard where our national atheletes could improve their bike handling skills? They could in turn pass on these skills to our youths who may wish to take on the challenge of winning honours for their school, their club, or maybe even in the long run, our country?
The bikers who have been assisting and consulting with NParks on the Kent Ridge trail are a passionate lot! They all have had extensive experience riding in overseas mountain biking tracks and are more than ready to share their knowledge and give back to Singapore in terms of trail creation! They have been busy gathering information, surfing the net, consulting with other trailbuilders such as IMBA on how best to create biking trails while taking all necessary anti-erosion and safety measures suited for our climate and weather conditions. And they all unanimously gave the KR trail three thumbs up!!! You can almost see the pride in their eyes and hear the lilt in their voices when they speak about the new KR MTB trail!
This infectious disease has spread to the mountain biking community of Singapore, who can't get enough of this new trail! Many are discovering their newfound biking skills, while others are summoning the courage to experience it! About 3 videos have been produced about this trail, the trail has been discussed ad nauseum in biking forums, and bikers are coming in droves to check out what this new trail has to offer!
So, what's my interest in the KR Trail? My fascination with trail creation and maintenance started off in Malaysia when I took part in a biking event at Bukit Kiara located just off KL City. To read more about how that trail was created, you may wish to go to :-http://lingthemerciless.blogspot.com/2005/11/evolution-of-biketrail.html
I then helped to organise the BT Trail Maintenance event 2 years ago, a community project run by mountain bikers! It gave bikers a sense of ownership in the trails on which they ride on, while understanding that a trail is only worth riding on if maintained properly.
I have also been attending the Penang Mountain Bike Jamboree held in Penang since 2002. It is an annual event organised by a Penang bike group where the Penangites get to boast about their awesome mountain biking trails ...and their food! The ride includes a food and heritage ride on a Saturday, followed by a super challenging ride on Sunday! This ride originally attracted 270 participants, and has grown to over 500 bikers from all over Malaysia and even Singapore! It is easily one of the biggest events held in Penang, supported by the government!
To find out more, you may wish to visit these urls :-http://lingthemerciless.blogspot.com/2005/12/penang-jamboree-2002-1-hill-ride.htmlhttp://lingthemerciless.blogspot.com/2005/12/penang-jamboree-2003-expect-unexpected.htmlhttp://lingthemerciless.blogspot.com/2006/01/penang-jamboree-2004-see-u-dare.htmlhttp://lingthemerciless.blogspot.com/2006/01/penang-jamboree-2005-ready-for-more_23.html
I thought to myself : wouldn't it be great if we could organise our very own Singapore MTB Jamboree? Then I thought about the mountain biking trails that we had to offer and decided that the only way we are able to make this work is to create more challenging trails and string all the existing trails together (even the ones which are off-limits to bikers) so that it would be worth the while of overseas bikers to come to Singapore for this event!
Now that we have a new KR MTB trail, I could proudly tell my fellow Malaysian riders that we have a reason to entice them to cross the border to ride in Singapore for a change! I would also advise our local bikers to hone their technical skills at this new trail so that they can at least remain competitive with our friends in the region!
And I am able to do so because NParks has made this happen by giving us another trail that we can be proud of! On behalf of all mountain bikers that I know, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts!
I will end off with a quote from a famous bike visionary :-
"I live for the moments when the bike just blots itself out, and every little element is singing the same note - me, the bike, the trail, the sky, the dirt. Yes, yes, yes.
Maybe what I'm trying to say is this : ride more.
Get on a bike.
Fall off a bike.
Leave something of yourself in it.
Does a bike have a soul? Only if you do."
I say, does a mountain biker have a soul? Only if a good trail is in the equation!
Avid Mountain Biker (hopefully with a soul)