The island province of Bali, Indonesia might be a hugely popular tourist destination but it’s hardly renowned for its trails. But perhaps it should be because when you have access to hundreds of kilometres of world class trails across a wide range of locations less than an hour from your hotel door you know you’re somewhere special.
Disclaimer: We paid full price for our day with Bali Dirt Bike Tours in order to maintain journalistic independence and because they do such a damn good job they deserve every dollar.
The company was founded five years ago and was the first such enterprise in Bali – perhaps all of Indonesia. Gede Wirawan is a native of the island who has been riding since a very young age. He founded Bali Dirt BIke Tours in 2010 after returning from a five year stint working in Australia. Gede, his business partner Panu and the guides are all Balinese, meaning all the money stays in the country – a positive for those who are socially conscious about these things.
After being collected from our hotel in Seminyak, we arrive at the home base of Bali Dirt Bike Adventure Tours, located in the Gadungan Jungle of Tabanan. Not only is this where most of their tours originate from, it’s also home of their motocross track where everyone does a few laps of for the tour guides to assess each riders’ competency. As you can imagine for a place like Bali that attracts many young tourists, the group gets a lot of fairly inexperienced riders through. Some (such as myself) have plenty of road experience but little on the dirt while others have never ridden on anything more complicated than a scooter.
“We often we get the question, ‘How far, what’s the distance we travel and how many hours?'” says Gede. “It all depends how you ride. If you’re good rider, you cover distance more. If you’re a less competent rider you cover less distance.” Once the team assesses your abilities on the bike they’ll lead you out, giving you a taste of what Bali has to offer and depending on how you’re going (or your levels of fatigue) they’ll continue to adjust the tour accordingly.
I was riding with a relative newbie, Vladamir, who has lived in Bali for the last six months. His experience was limited to scooters but also downhill mountain bike riding so he had an idea of what was in store – just at a higher rate of speed. We were put to the test on what our guides Kadek Wira & Yoga descried as medium difficulty trails – some slippery hills covered in leaf litter (which I failed at the first time), some winding and sloping single track that required heavy use of the rear brake, rocky creek crossings and some extremely patchy roads.
The learning curve is high, as are the levels of fatigue – that’s a combination of the difficulty for someone with little experience in enduro riding plus the always warm and humid Balinese weather. The guides thankfully have plenty of drinking water on hand and ensure that after an hour or so of riding we can have a cool break at a local waterfall.
The scenery on offer is stunning. Jungle, farmland, rice fields, small villages and towns. It’s incredible the sheer variety on offer within what is only a few kilometres radius. And this tour we’re doing is only half a day long – I can only imagine what would be in store on multiple day stints.
Noticing our tiredness, the guides give us some easier trails after our dip in the water. These were faster flowing trails instead of the more technical stuff we’d just encountered. It was capped off by a few minutes of riding on the beach – another highlight to what I can only describe as an amazing day.
There’s very little I can say in the negative about the day we had. Perhaps bring your own nylons or a long sleeved cotton shirt as the nylons they provide didn’t breathe very well. They do however provide excellent quality boots and good helmets, too. Elbow, knee and body armour is also all provided should you want it.
Bali Dirt Bike Tours offers half day, full day and multiple day tours and even do major events once or twice a year where they’ll do trans-island tours from Bali onto other islands. The price for our half-day tour was $100 US and included transfers to and from the hotel as well as lunch. When you cosnider the beatings these bikes take (plus the fact that dirt bikes aren’t exactly cheap in Indonesia) it’s brilliant value. Multiple day tours even include accommodation which thankfully also has a swimming pool to ease the muscle strain at the end of the day.
What I loved about the whole organisation is that they’re big on developing the bike culture in Bali. Every weekend they get hundreds of young riders together at their motocross track and go off on the trails. Every participant is encouraged to donate to the local farmers, thereby giving them something int he region of $500 each weekend to share among the locals to improve their lives.