Cycling Across Bali

When mentioning Bali, the number one mode of transportation that comes to mind is, of course, the scooter or simply a bike. Those who prefer comfort and dislike risk opt for a car. Electric scooters are not popular here yet, except for some short tourist routes like the trail around Batur or the promenade in Sanur. Although approximately a year ago, they were banned there due to a high number of incidents and complaints from pedestrians.
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And what about bicycles? A bicycle in Bali is not really a means of transportation, as in big cities. It's more for the soul and body. People choosing bike rides here can be divided into two categories: enthusiasts of a healthy lifestyle and sports, and those who occasionally want to try something new, admire nature without getting off the saddle. For both, there is an option to use the services of agencies providing bike tour organization. For example, bike tours from the company Alternatively, gather a cool company, rent bicycles (and helmets and everything you need, but more on that later), choose a route, and set off on a cycling adventure.
Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately (for startuppers and businessmen of all kinds, this is an untapped niche), the bicycle direction in Bali remains practically untouched. Unlike surfing, the popularity of mountain biking is gradually growing, thanks in large part to the two-year Bali Bike Park located in the mountainous northern part of the island. But road cycling is still in its infancy. Small groups of cyclists set out from Denpasar and Sanur, but for the most part, road cyclists are few and far between.
In the most densely populated areas of the island, roads are not welcoming to cyclists. As the population of Bali grew, and its settlements expanded, the road network struggled to cope with this task. Most roads on the island are narrow and in poor condition, and it seems that there is almost no regular maintenance or improvement. The endless traffic jams and chaos on the roads do not add to the desire to ride a bike. But once you get beyond Denpasar and other busy transport areas of Bali, a whole world of possibilities opens up for the adventurous cyclist: quiet roads, stunning landscapes, and the realization that this tropical island is much more than just the tourist destinations it is famous for.
In this article, we will explore several scenic cycling routes and provide recommendations on how to prepare for a cycling adventure. I must note that mountain routes are suitable for the strongest, most enduring, and prepared cyclists. Assess your strength. And if you want to ride with the wind across the island without conducting endurance checks, choose, for example, paths through rice fields and terraces. The easiest route the island can offer, perhaps, is the leisurely trail near Sanur Beach. It is even specifically divided into a pedestrian zone and bike lanes. However, due to this, the number of both pedestrians and cyclists often exceeds the necessary norms for relaxed riding. Plus, locals have long chosen this track. So here you won't really pick up speed, and sometimes you have to brake, letting pedestrians who turned the wrong way or cyclists coming towards you pass by.
Also, for easy, leisurely cycling, the islands of Gili are perfect, for example, Gili Air. There, this is almost the only mode of transport competing, perhaps, with horse-drawn carts, as scooters are prohibited on the island. And, of course, the promenade around Nusa Dua Beach.
So, let's start with recommendations. As they say, good preparation is half the battle.

How to prepare for the trip?

1. For those planning a cycling vacation in Bali, keep in mind that it's best to come here during the dry season – from May to October. For the adventurous and those unstoppable, always check the weather forecast before the trip and bring a raincoat – at some point, you'll likely get wet.
2. Ride early in the morning! Even in cool months, due to heat and humidity, riding becomes particularly unpleasant later in the morning.
3. Hire a driver to help you navigate busy areas. It's cheaper than you think and can be arranged online or through the hotel you're staying in, as well as through numerous tour agencies. If you're cycling, try to avoid built-up areas whenever possible.
4. Gear up! Besides a raincoat (recommended to have one even if the weather forecast predicts no rain), bring sunscreen with at least 50 SPF and sunglasses. The sun on the island spares no one. A good cycling helmet is a must! Additional gear like knee and elbow pads is optional but won't hurt. Having a tire pump with you is a good idea. Water and snacks, a spare shirt, and a warm sweater if you're heading to the mountains won't go amiss. Carry at least basic antiseptics for falls and scratches: iodine, hydrogen peroxide, chlorhexidine.
5. Take a map wherever you go. Roads frequently turn from main roads to secondary dirt roads and back, regardless of your destination on the island. Also, ensure your phone is charged to 100%, and maps from Google Maps or (or better yet, both apps) are downloaded and will work offline. Bring a phone charger.
6. In traffic, yield to those ahead, ride confidently, avoid zigzagging, but don't be overly assertive. In Bali, as in all of Asia, one rule applies – the bigger you are, the more important you are. You may have noticed how huge trucks and long-haulers rush along narrow roads, not giving way to anyone.
7. Of course, it's safer and more enjoyable to go on a bike tour at least in pairs. But if you've decided on a solo cycling trip, inform someone about your approximate route. This applies primarily to mountain biking. Paradoxically, even in Bali, where everything seems to be explored thoroughly, tourists still get lost. They find their way eventually, but who needs extra stress if it can be avoided? And keep in mind, the internet is often unstable in the mountains.
Now, let's talk about cycling routes. Let's roll!

Where to ride?

1. The aforementioned Bali Bike Park rightfully tops our list. Firstly, it was specifically built for cycling – what more could you ask for? Bali Bike Park is suitable for family recreation, as well as for both novice and experienced cyclists. It's located in the village of Pancasari in northern Bali – a haven for mountain bikers. The Bike Park features very smooth terrain with many natural berms, trails, climbs, and descents. The journey from Canggu to Bali Bike Park takes about 1.5 hours. The length of the bike trail is approximately 3 km, with an elevation gain of about 150 meters during the ascent. A pleasant bonus is that besides cycling, you can also take a stroll in the surrounding area, enjoy local food, and swim in the lake at the end of the tour.
2. Jatiluwih Rice Terraces in Tabanan. Bali is renowned for its rice fields and various agricultural villages. A bike ride through the rice fields is suitable for cyclists of all skill levels. You can enjoy the tranquility and scenic beauty of the rice fields on your own or take advantage of local guides' services on-site. The Jatiluwih Rice Terraces are a UNESCO cultural heritage site, making a bike trip here well worth it.
3. Mount Batur and Kintamani. Mount Batur is popular among mountain bikers due to a combination of paved roads and thrilling off-road paths, ranging from gravel to challenging trails of frozen lava. The terrain is mountainous, with Kintamani's height at approximately 1700 meters, resulting in significantly more precipitation than the Bali average, and temperatures a few degrees lower. Therefore, a raincoat and warm clothing are especially essential here. The challenging route starts from the famous Batur Caldera Lake, where the subsequent descent will take you to Ubud, passing through rice fields, temples, and coffee plantations. The total duration usually takes up to 4 hours. This route is more suitable for experienced cyclists and, of course, only on mountain bikes with appropriate wheels.
4. Sidemen village. This cycling route covers Bali's highest peak – the sacred Mount Agung. The entire trip can take up to 9 hours of cycling. However, there are two options. The lighter one is a two-hour bike ride starting from the village of Besakih and ending at the Salak plantation. But if you're a daring and tireless adventurer, you can explore the mountains. This option takes about 3 hours, starting from Bancah. Stunning views of the ocean and a good calf muscle workout are guaranteed.
5. Carangsari village. The bike trail runs between the Carangsari village, providing an excellent insight into the local culture. If you take a bike tour, it will likely include visits to the elephant park, chocolate factory, Dalem Telugtug temple, Ngurah Rai monument, and a fish pond. Of course, you can visit all these places independently, stopping at designated spots along the way. The bike route is very diverse and extends to the Sangeh Monkey Forest. In my opinion, this is the most optimal route for large groups and tourists who want to see as much as possible during the trip. The journey is captivating, and time flies by quickly.
6. Bongkasa village. This village is located on the outskirts of Ubud. The terrain of the bike trail is flat, without sharp, challenging ascents and descents, making it ideal for beginners. The landscape is the classic "Ubud" – rice fields and hills. During the trip, you can also visit a Hindu temple and receive a blessing from a Balinese priest.
7. Mengwi village, located in the Badung province. The Taman Ayun Temple, built in 1634 and inspired by Chinese architecture, is the main tourist attraction on this route. In Mengwi village, narrow roads, fewer people, and minimal hilly terrain make it ideal even for less experienced cyclists. You can plan a bike tour to include a visit to the Alas Kedaton monkey forest – a small 12-hectare forest where you can see over two thousand monkeys in their natural habitat. The famous Tanah Lot Temple, perched on a large rock surrounded by the ocean, can also be part of your journey if desired. Watching the sunset from here will be particularly impressive and well-deserved after a long bike ride.
8. Candidasa, Taman Ujung Water Palace. An optimal choice is to stay overnight or for several nights in the Candidasa surroundings and explore the nearby areas. Trust me; there's much to explore here. In this case, you can rent a bike from your hotel. The second option, more suitable for tourists with limited time on Bali, is to take a tour package. It provides a transfer from the hotel to the hills, and tourists can then return with local guides to the water palace. The roads along the main coastal area are quite flat, and descending the slope is easier than in other areas. And, of course, Taman Ujung Water Palace, a historical landmark combining European and Balinese architecture, is a must-visit place!
9. Sanur beach. We already mentioned the bike path along Sanur Beach at the beginning. Perhaps less intense in impressions and beauty compared to previous options, it is an excellent choice for those not planning a strenuous ride and wanting to try biking for the first time in Bali. Renting a bike on Sanur Beach is straightforward; you can do it in almost any warung or dedicated rental spot where bikes are usually piled up, and you can't miss the persistent rental agents. Many types of bikes will be parked there, so choose one in good condition and suitable for your height. You can easily take a bike ride from the northern end of Sindhu Beach in Sanur, passing Segara Ayu Beach to the quieter end of Mertasari Beach and back. The two-kilometer track runs straight without any ascents and descents, and it's asphalted along the entire route.
10. Nusa Dua beach. Cycling along the coastline is always a dream, and Nusa Dua is one of those places. Here, you can bike while enjoying the pleasant beach breeze and ocean views simultaneously. The promenade in Nusa Dua is literally designed for easy cycling. All pathways are well-paved without sharp inclines. You can rent a bike either at your hotel or at one of the numerous rental points on the promenade. You can also rent a bike at the entrance gates of ITDC Nusa-Dua. The rental cost is approximately 25,000 rupiahs for 6 hours. The best place for cycling is around the Peninsula Island Benoa. Nearby, you can also stop by Nusa Dua Waterblow and see how huge waves crash against the shore. Many people specifically come from other parts of Bali for this spectacle. In this case, having an extra t-shirt with you would be especially useful.
These are the main cycling routes, and in some cases, cycling challenges. But, of course, there are many more. The incredible variety of landscapes, challenging climbs, stunning views, people, culture, food – all make Bali a memorable, albeit slightly quirky, place for cycling adventures. Take the plunge, don't stay home, and you surely won't be disappointed!
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