By Darrell Wright
If you’ve lived in Singapore for any length of time, ride road (or mountain) bikes and haven’t taken a day trip to Batam in Indonesia, then you are missing out. Just an hour on the ferry from Harbourfront terminal, Sengkupang is the start point for a variety of rides ranging from an all-day sufferfest to a gentle scenic ride or even take advantage of the several mountain bike parks.
On Saturday February 16th, 2019, (Iron) Mike Musing took around 40 ANZA roadies over to Batam to tackle the fabled 6-bridges route. It was a challenging 157km out and back ride raking over five of the Batam archipelago islands and rising 1400 metres in total along the way. While not a massive amount of climbing for this distance, the rollers kept on rolling, only giving respite on several flat sections along the way. As we rode on in our three (speed-tiered) groups, the promise of a cooler, overcast day gave way to a burst of rain that quickly dried into sun-blistering 33+ degree heat.
The road quality along the ride is generally good, but you do need to be alert to potholes and traffic. In the middle segment of the ride, there a few vehicles to contend with, but near the ferry terminal, it’s a different story so vigilance and calling out for hazards is important.
Out back in group 3, we had a mix of abilities that made it critical to find our rhythm and stick together. The bunch settled into a nice tempo and took on the early stages of the ride at a comfortable pace while watching the kms tick over.
Pete ran out of luck and we passed him at around the 30km mark with what looked like a mechanical. (Later on, we heard over the airwaves that his passport had dropped out of his back pocket on the road. Bad luck mate!)
As the groups turned around at the mid-way mark (55km for Group 3, 78km for Group 2 & 3), our wheels sliced into head winds and as we began to realise that the ride home wasn’t going to be as easy, a few groans started to emerge. Nevertheless, the riders hunkered down and helped each other out, spreading the effort against the wind out front.
Each group was also accompanied by a support van. Loaded with ice cold water, soft drinks and bananas, these became essential as each rider sucked down around 1L of liquid per hour, far outstripping what could be carried on the bike for a route of this distance. The vans also provided broom-wagon services for anyone who felt they couldn’t complete the ride in one-piece.
While the heat and rolling hills make this route a serious challenge, it is made easier by the scenery and the warm welcome from the locals. The route passes by many local townships and villages and as we flashed past them, there was always a smile and a wave to be had from the residents. Add to this the bright azure waters and panoramic views of the islands and inlets, and it makes for a very enjoyable day out.
A word of warning to all those going across in the future: do not mess with the Indonesia immigration. They are very serious about keeping quiet in the line for passport control, and whatever you do, don’t climb over the barriers to try and speed up the access to the front of the queue. This, as one unfortunate ANZAnian found, might land you in front of the duty-manager immigration officer, and force an embarrassing apology and subsequent scramble for the ferry…