Tales From The Dark Side – Pulau Ubin

Tales From The Dark Side
Report from the Ketam Trail in Pulau Ubin
By: Massimo Nanni

MTB in Singapore may at time become a bit frustrating due to the very limited offer of off road trails, this is due to the size of the island, the amount of population which requires extensive building, and the strict rules enforced by National Parks to keep a lot of the still available forested area off limits to cyclists.

Ubin001We do have, however, some beautiful trails nearby.  One of these is the 7km Ketam loop located in Pulau Ubin which is North-East of Singapore in the Singapore Strait reached by bumboat from Changi Village Ferry Terminal.

Going to Ubin is an adventure from the start.  Boarding the bumboat at Changi Village which takes you and your bike to the small Island is a jump into the past, and a very welcome one considering what has now become of Singapore.  The 15 minute cruise is normally shared with people going to the island for various interests; fishing, bird watching, walking, a family escape, or a bike ride.  On the island cars are not permitted, except a few vehicles used by the ‘locals’ to transport mostly food and drink goods around, making the Ubin004location perfect for a peaceful outdoor adventure.  Having arrived on the island early in the morning to avoid too much crowd on the trails and the usual tropical heat,  it is a 10 minute ride west on a small tarmac road, perfect for a quick warm-up before hitting the Ketam trail which basically revolves around the west-most old quarry.

The first section of the trail is a flattish grassy path, without any major technical difficulty, perfect for anyone who might be willing to start getting the taste of some off-road, or even for kids.  The trail then enters an intermediate section with a few tight corners between trees before reaching ‘The Hut’ which marks the entrance of the technical part of the loop.

Ubin002The trail has been designed to provide the perfect experience for hard core riders as well as off-road newbies, with choices possible between technical lines (marked by black diamonds signs) or easier ones (blue diamonds signs).

Taking the black diamond route right after ‘The Hut’ there is the first technical rocky drop; nothing too dramatic but a good wake up call for the senses and for what is coming.  The trail start to rise inside the forest in a nice single track path, with switch backs, up and downs, zig-zags between trees, and few technical passages always avoidable by going through the Blue route if preferred.  The first half section of the trail is fast and Ubin005flowing with uphills and downhills that feel like riding a roller-coaster until the ‘Rock Garden’ which is a compilation of big uneven rock and roots which even the most seasoned riders will be challenged to ride over without putting a foot down.

The Rock Garden, is the start of the second half, and most technical portion of the trail.  A series of sharp rises and drops with rocks and roots scattered in every direction (let me rephrase, always in the direction of your front wheel!), make this section very challenging but still fully rideable by the more expert rider.  A couple of decently long up hills with following fast, technical down-hills (including the very technical ‘Black Cobra’ route, normally avoided even by the best riders) spice up the whole experience to conclude one of the best MTB loops around.

Ubin003Ubin is an experience worth making the trip for, and can be easily combined with a family trip on a weekend morning or late afternoon.

Cheers from the dark side.

Massimo

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