Archive for the ‘Singapore National Parks Mandai Bukit Timah Dairy Farm mountain biking trails’ Category

Who am I kidding? Before heading home the shortest way I know how, as the skies were darkening, I got side tracked by the National Park Board’s efforts. More manicured riding trails and the Alfred Russel Wallace Centre at the foot of Singapore’s highest point, Bulit Timah Hill. A 581 feet high hill if  I remember my geography correctly.

As cycling up to the summit is a big no no now, even since 2.5 decades back when I first rode up and got a good tongue lashing, from security up there. I carried on cycling on the happy trails near the Dairy Farm park and Zhenghua park connector. The ride ended when there was no more ‘park connector’ left, I did not fancy crossing 6 lanes of traffic, so I headed home along Upper Bukit Timah Road chock full with closed sidewalks, bus lanes and shiny SUV’s.

Riding with the sounds of traffic through the trees. It's the thick grey bar at the top of the map

Part of this civilised trail goes under the expressway with the hot mid day sun casting an eerie green glow under the bridge

Leaving the sounds of the highway I head towards the hill itself

There's just 1000 meters of real riding before I hit the gates, metal barriers not a train crossing

effectively at the end of any more dirt trails

Nice toilets at the Wallace Center

Stressed out forest wildlife apparently traumatised by dogs and bicycle gear changes

the water was cold but had a hint of ammonia....

a nice steep 'unridable' hill

I skirt the base of the hill for a few more minutes through some undergrowth

It all ends abruptly at a car park near the Dairy Farm condo.

Before the promise of more underground railways, the 10 year old school kid here will just have to rely on taxis. As the skies darken like clockwork every afternoon, I hustle up and start riding in the low 30’s (kmp/h that is) trying to beat the rain. No such luck as I get rained on 5 minutes away from home. 5 hours later I’m rewarded with another amazing sunset before dinner. Life is Good.

Time for a new rear tyre, this one's balder than Bruce Willis

Day's end at MacRitchie Reservoir, I pass here almost everyday



After an Indian breakfast which is always heavy on the curries and garlic, I find that cycling alone isn’t so bad after all. There’s no one to complain and ride away from you when your body is forced to digest and pedal at the same time, resulting in the expulsion of far from aromatic, certain abdominal gases that are going out from the same channel as where your breakfast went down. For faster, smellier results substitute coffee/tea with a can of Coke.

At the entrance of Upper Seletar and lesser traffic

Leaving the quiet of Old Upper Thomson Road, I brace myself and head out into 3 lane traffic that passes under 2 major highways, meaning some people still drive at highway speeds on the minor roads. Luckily it’s all downhill for a massive 1.5 kms before I turn left onto old Mandai Road which hugs the Upper Seletar Reservoir.

The parking lots here are dark and shielded from prying eyes. After sunset it becomes ‘makeout central’ with the resulting debris of tissues, condoms and fast food wrappers to greet the Sunday morning walkers. On this day ride there are even a few desperado couples, huddling in discreet corners, engines humming and air conditioning running at full blast.

The water's high for September's dry season and there's the smell of rain

That'll keep the pesky cyclists out

As a kid I came here often to delight in the climbing of this viewing tower

It can get creepy cycling here at night

I leave the reservoir park and get on to old Mandai Road along the waterfront for maybe about 2 kms. It has a nice narrow shoulder to test your steering skills, ride fast on road tyres on the broad white strip or crash onto soft grass and hard rails when you offend other larger road users. It’s also morbid that the crematorium is nearby.

The start or end of.....something ?

The black tarred bit is meant for cyclists while pedestrains have to use the concreted path. My bike rests on a low wall signalling the end or start of a bike path ? Novices who venture on to the  6 laned highway past the grass do so at their own risk.

It's a wide bike path after all

As there is no convenient and legal parking anywhere for those who drive their bikes, nor signs promoting a bike path, I have it all to myself 😉

I Christian this bike path the Mandai Loop as it carries on for another blissful 3 or 4 kms before I reach the Zoo and the path morphs into a dirt trail. Mandai Road undulates quite a bit attracting peletons of road cyclists on the weekends. There are even a few side excursions along this loop, mostly ending in water.

What? Another hinderance?

The deserted road ends at the water's edge. Without scuba gear I turn back

Singapore’s acclaimed zoo and night safari park lies across the water. Back in the 70’s there was a scare when a black panther escaped, swam it’s way to freedom and was found only 10 days later in the cargo hold of a ship in south Singapore, about 25 kms away. Smart fella, travelling in the dark and trying to head home on a ship !

At the entrance to Mandai Lake Road and the Zoo there are some stiff creatures

After another lengthy 1.0 km along a nice granite chip trail, I come across another sign telling me to postpone my ride. The trail ends here, 1000 whole metres, turn back as there is no connection onwards to the Gangsa Loop , a nice challenging and ‘legal’ mountain biking trail further in to the jungle. As you can see there’s some sort of road after the sign, so I ride on for a while and it joins up with the Gangsa Loop. Life is good, the sign is misleading and though well meaning, a tad selfish. After all, with most of my ‘preferred’ trails closed, I have to ride 18 kms on the road to get to this trailhead.

Turn back! Turn back! or else you'll have a good time

ah this looks very familiar....and illegal on a MTB

Deep in the woods, there are the army's firing ranges breaking the silence with gunfire

You don't want to crash onto these. Parts of the loop are just old abandoned broken roads topped with granite chips

......while the real off road trails are nice and soft mud that seldom see daylight

These launch pads to get your bike airborne have been around for years

Really quiet by a small stream

Out along Chestnut Avenue after only 10 kms

Resting under the Bukit Timah Expresseway

A real hazard after exiting the tunnel, huge flooded potholes and a hump to damage even a car. Well the idea was for you to slow down anyway

Another condo coming up on the fringe of the jungle

Dogs, even on leashes are not allowed  in the ‘water catchment areas ‘ Signs prohibiting this are everywhere explaining that dogs are noisy and can scare or frighten the delicate forest creatures. The last time I checked even my neighbours’ loudest dogs were no match for automatic gunfire, construction vehicles, and the Park Rangers Land Rovers and off road motorcycles. Can the shifting of my 9 speed gears and chain be too loud too ?  I can barely hear my bike disturbing nature’s quiet as parts of the riding trail parallels the Bukit Timah Expressway !

Living close to a nature reserve in a very built up country, one would think that I’d make more use of this huge ‘green lung’ more often. Not. People from near and far, mostly far would ride their road bikes on the fringe roads of Singapore’s largest fragmented forest, while the more gung ho would try their their off road skills or lack there of, on dedicated mountain biking trails and shared paths close to the housing estates (lots of bike / pedestrian / roller blader conflict here) Sometimes park rangers are involved doing Sly Stallone’s Judge Dredd impresonations of, “I AM the law !” Google it, it was a futuristic judge, jury executioner  kind of movie.

On a recent skirmish, I had to plead ignorance, or illiteracy, saying that all these trails were open to bicycles, er 10 years ago. While there’s some truth in that statement, fast forward 10 years later, I was told to walk my bike out a few kms to the main road. What a nice chap. Of course he declined my invitation to follow me home to take a peek at my ID which he vehemently asked for.  I just can’t remember whether it was at home in a drawer or in my wallet I had with me and didn’t bother looking. As we both knew that walking a few kms seemed ridiculous, I cycled out when he was out of sight.

4 signs, 1 destination

Drivers have to be reminded of other users down the food chain

C'mon, save some $ and go to the zoo down the road

Lower Pierce Reservoir and the jungles beyond

The more adventurous amongst us ie. those who interpret rules more holistically, would ride off road on any trail ridable, period. (hand raised 😉 ) There were many, in the days before the ‘National Parks Board’ was even heard of. Single track along the water’s edge of 3 big reservoirs, into and across the whole water catchment areas and some sensitive areas deemed as off limits military training grounds. Sigh now we really have to ‘share’ all these with a variety of interest groups. Joggers, hikers, bird watchers and men in green sprouting vegetation from their helmets toting automatic weapons.

Of late, sharing seems OK, ‘we’ can all just get along, as long as the mountain bikers are not in on it.  We’ve  just got to be more shall I say, innovative with when to ride. You fellows with high powered lighting systems will know what I’m talking about 😉  For now I shall do this in broad daylight. The photos will turn out nicer too.

A manicured walking trail, great for cycling before it was officially opened...oops

Required reading. Can dogs read ?

Required carbo loading, 5 kms after leaving home

3 kms of quiet along Old Upper Thomson Road

The end of quiet as I exit along the new road, at times on the road bike, I just turn back but not today

a glossy map

I’m going to do the loop, anti clockwise starting at the bottom at MacRitchie reservoir, and venture off road at the Zoo, 18 kms from home. After 10 kms cycling off road,  I get out at the Bukit Timah reserve, pump my tyres and ride another 12 kms on traffic ridden tarmac (yawn…) home. 18 kms to warm up, digest breakfast, only about 10 kms off road and 12 kms left to fling the mud of my tyres = 40 kms, 2 kms shy of the length of our whole island.