Planning a Bicycle Tour in Bali
Having cut out our climbing in Chaing Mai due to the political situation in Bangkok we suddenly had an extra two weeks in Indonesia. We arrived in Bali on the 14th of April and had until May 1st to get to our WWOOF farm near Ubud. What better way to assuage the disappointment of not getting to climb than to take a little bike tour? All we needed was, well, everything. Back in Cambodia we had caved and bought a lovely set of panniers from a local non-profit. This purchase was a large part of the inspiration for taking the tour in the first place. Lugging around a set of panniers is a little silly when you don’t even have a bike, not to mention a pair of socks, so we jumped at the opportunity to put them to good use. We arrived in Bali at 9 pm with no real plans given the last minute itinerary change. If there’s one thing I have learned while traveling it is that late arrivals and tired eyes can bring high prices. If I’ve learned anything else it’s that the best place to arrive late at night without getting ripped off is the backpacker neighborhood full of nearly naked drunk foreigners and techno dance clubs. Ugh. Kuta it was and boy did it deliver. Our room was a stones throw away from a club where the thumping bass music was going until 4am. We must be getting old. Having avoided Khao San Road altogether I was feeling good on my outlook of humanity and my place as a tourist in the developing world. Kuta was exactly what we expected and we spent as little time there as possible. The first day we went into Denpasar, tha capital of Bali, in search of bikes. The Google led me to two bike shops, Rodalink at 152 Jalan Teuku Umar and Planet Bike at 148 Jalan Gunung Agung. We decided to take public transport into town and go on foot rather than renting a scooter. We had grand notions of riding our new bikes back to Kuta and didn’t want the complications of having to deal with returning a scooter and getting two bikes back. This was a pretty bad decision as we ended up spending just as much money on the bus (bemo) and probably walked at least 6 miles total. Phew. A few words of advice on finding a bike in Indonesia: the word “bike” means motor scooter and bicycles are commonly referred to as “push bikes.” Also, if you are looking for a used push bike the magic word is “second” as in second-hand.
We eventually found five bike shops in Denpasar. Two of the shops were local shops stocking primarily Polygons and Wims (Indonesian made bikes of decent quality) and a few Dahon folding bikes. They have some accessories but don’t expect anything performance oriented. The low end Polygons start at around $120 as do the Wims. Rodalink and Planet Bike have the same stock as these other shops but also carry higher end Polygons, several Western brands and some more accessories. Rodalink has a good selection of saddles, some clothing and I even spotted a pannier! A little further up the road from Rodalink is a Specialized shop carrying complete bikes (even made to order), components, accessories and apparel. While we would have loved to fork it over for a new Specialized and a pair of shorts this was out of our price range. Still great to know it’s there! For reference I have included a Google map with the approximate location of all the shops we found.
View Bike shops in Denpasar, Bali in a larger map
All in all, our trip to Denpasar was bust but we gathered a lot of information about what is available on Bali. None of the shops sold second push bikes and all laughed at our intentions to sell the new bike in a few months. If you are only looking for accessories or components Denpasar is the place to go, but we decided we’d be better off making an offer on a rental bike. After returning to Kuta we looked around for rentals but saw very few. Eager to get out of that hole we booked a bus to Ubud for the following day and decided to try our luck there. Funny side note: we still haven’t actually seen Kuta beach. Ubud is a picturesque destination lined with upscale restaurants and art galleries. The overall atmosphere reminded me of a mix between an Indian hill station and Carmel, CA. We got dropped off by the bus and started walking up the road under menacing clouds. It began to sprinkle a few minutes later and we found a warung (restaurant) to duck into for an iced coffee just moments before the sky opened up. It poured for over an hour. We got a hold of some friends who were staying in Ubud and got directions to their place. When the rain let up Kyle found us some “transport” and we hopped in some dude’s car. There are no taxis in Ubud so if you need transport you will likely find a local with a car who will take you where you need to go—and charge you of course. More making small talk than anything else I asked our driver if he knew of any bike shops in town and told him we were looking for a second push bike. He said that there was only one bike shop in Ubud and that they sold seconds. Slowing to give us directions he pointed out the turn in the road that would take us to the shop. The next morning we went to the shop and met the friendly and helpful Madé and told him what we wanted. He didn’t have any second bikes but right off the bat he offered to sell us bikes and buy them back at 60% of the cost. I am pretty sure he has done this before. He gave us two Yokota Speed Boys for 850,000Rp ($95) each. Boy was that ever easy. We bought two helmets at 90,000Rp ($10) each and I upgraded my seat for a still-too-soft saddle with a cut out for another 125,000 ($14). He told us he would buy the helmets and saddle back at 50%. On top of this he outfitted us free of charge. He put rear racks, water bottles and cages on the bikes and gave us an allen wrench multi tool, a wrench for everything else, tire levers, two tubes, a mini pump and two cable locks. We were ready to go. Said and done the bike purchase cost us $225 total and with buyback we should only be out $90. The bikes are certainly not any sort of quality but they are 21-speed comfort bikes and have Shimano gears and derailleurs of dubious quality. We are in this for the adventure anyway. Madé gave us an itemized receipt that even says the buyback rate. I am confident he will keep his word. In case you are in need of a bike in Ubud the map below shows the location of Madé’s shop.
View Ubud bike shop in a larger map All geared up we were finally ready to start our tour. I know that it will be an adventure in more ways than one. Hopefully the bikes hold up and we come away from the experience proving that expensive gear and fancy energy bars are unnecessary for touring success. Chamois-less capri pants and flip-flops it is! I am sure that Bali’s dense population will also serve us well as we will never be more than a stone’s throw away from a snack shop or potential bike mechanic. Onward and upward, below you can find links to our daily touring diary, maps, and an elevation profile. You can download a GPX file of our trip here (right click – save as). Day 1: Ubud to Pura Pasar Agung via Sideman Road Day 2: Pura Pasar Agung to Amed Day 3: Amed to Yeh Sanih Day 4: Air Sanih to Lovina Day 5: Lovina to Bedugul (by bemo) => Bedugul to Ubud via Majapahit Road