Just a five-minute
ferry ride from Singapore’s busy streets is Pulau Ubin, a near pristine island oasis
with some of the best city-fringe cycling and mountain biking in Southeast Asia,
perfect for those seeking a little respite from the city.
A slice of history
For many years Pulau
Ubin – which mean “granite island” in Malay – was used as a quarry for the
granite used in many of the nation’s major structures, including the causeway that
links Singapore to Malaysia.
But quarrying started
to decline in the 1970s and only small-scale operations exist on the island
today. This withdrawal has left behind a slice of Singapore from 50 years ago: an
overgrown and rugged landscape, a small number of wooden, old-style Malay and
Chinese kampongs (villages), around
100 residents and little else.
earmarked for high-rise housing development and a proposed MRT tunnel link to
the mainland, Pulau Ubin has managed to remain green and natural. There are no traffic
jams or shopping complexes, not a single KFC or Starbucks, and very little
urban stress, making it a favourite weekend retreat for both locals and visitors.
There are very few
motorised vehicles on Ubin, and even fewer roads. Bicycles are the way to get
around, and in 2007 a superb mountain bike trail network was put in place; the 45
Mountain Bike Park, an all-weather, manmade route that has solidified the
island’s unofficial title of “Bicycle Island”. The park even has International
Mountain Bicycling Association endorsement, which pays testimony to its quality
From gridlock to greenery
Stepping off the
old “bumboat” ferry onto Ubin’s narrow wooden jetty is a relief, with the hustle
and the stress of the city suddenly a world away.
Just a few metres from the shore is a tiny kampong with a few restaurants, all set in traditional,
single-storey wooden shops. There are also bikes – hundreds of them – that are
purely for visitors. Rent a bike (or bring your own) and follow the only
pathway out of the village. This is the start of 10km of mountain bike trails.
calming woodland and across open grassland on gently winding singletrack trails
is a tonic to the heat and hurry of the city. For experienced mountain bikers
there are demanding single sections, with short but tough climbs, hillside
switchbacks and rocky sections.
riders, Ubin also has a network of rolling and flat gravel roads, and even the
odd sealed stretch. By using the gravel roads you can reach the more remote
areas of the islands, including the 100-hectare Chek
Jawa wetland area, which has a walkway and viewing platform, affording
great bird and marine life spotting opportunities.
trail builders have also created a skills area with manmade obstacles to
negotiate and a pump track (a BMX-style section for jumping) by the trails’
starting point, which can be great fun for those wishing to spice up their
circumnavigate the entire island in half a day, and would be unlikely to hear
the roar of a single engine. With its one-way directional ride system you can
plod – or blast – away in peace.
Pulau Ubin is a short
ferry ride from Changi Point Ferry Terminal. Bikes are not allowed on the MRT
or on local buses, so if you are taking your own wheels then it is best to ride
to the terminal or to take a taxi.
Bike rental costs
between eight and 14 Singapore dollars,
depending on the rental duration and bike quality. The rental mountain bikes found
on the island are well used and of reasonable standard.