Expat Cyclist guide to Singapore
Over the last few days I have had a number of enquirers about the ‘how the hell to you train for a Deca Ironman in Singapore?’/’I mean how do you cycle in Singapore anyway?’. Many of these emails are from cyclists coming from UK/Australia/New Zealand/France etc to Singapore in 2014 – and the general tone is ‘Is this the end of my cycling days?’.
(If you want to learn more about how you train for ultra endurance sport you can sign up to our newsletter HERE)
Well worry not, Singapore has a thriving cycling scene, you might just have to get up early to find it. So I’ve broken this advice up into 2 parts – midweek training & indoor cycling/clubs & routes (I’ll try to get another post up in the coming days about racing, researching that myself but their its lots of SE Asia procycling events) – all of which I hope will show that cycling in Singapore is a little bit more than what you probably witnessed in this viral video on youtube:
Midweek training/indoor cycling
So chances are if you are an expat in Singapore you work in the finance sector and therefore probably ‘shackled’ to the desk & working long hours in the CBD – at least for a while. As a cyclist, don’t panic.
In Singapore I get much of my midweek training in the mornings & evenings at Athlete Lab
This is a dedicated ‘lab’ – much better than your usual spin studio in the gym – with state of the art training bikes that measure your power output, cadence, HR in tandem with tailor made 1-1 1/2hour sessions. These sessions include hill interval training, sprint workouts, ‘fight club’, even the route maps of 70.3 Ironman or procycling races. For example I did the 70.3 Auckland route before Christmas with a top amateur triathlete. And for the cycling geeks (like myself) out there, every session is followed by a print out emailed to you, such as this:
In tandem with this focused training I get out with the Singapore cycling clubs in the evenings and over the weekend…………
Clubs & Routes
Lets look quickly at what parts of Singapore’s geography is good for cycling.
The island/city state is about 716.1 km2(276.5 sq mi) today (about the size of the Isle of Wight) with only 250 acres of farmland remaining. The highest natural point is Bukit Timah Hill is 166m (545ft) and about 5% of Singapore’s land is set aside as nature reserves. Urbanisation has all but eliminated primary rainforest on the main island, Bukit Timah Nature Reserve being the only significant remaining forest.
Not really selling it as a mecca for cycling in South East Asia am I? Particularly if you have ridden up the Alps, Dolomites or the rolling countryside in South-East England…..
HOWEVER if you just look beneath the surface you will find a thriving club community. Two of the biggest cycling clubs are ANZA cycling (a video from their cutting floor is above) and Joyriders, which host regular midweek & weekend rides. Both clubs are always welcoming, even to non-members, and it is a great way to learn about the Singapore cycling routes & of course settle in the country. Furthermore if you are an elite cyclist, you have top level clubs such as Confero Mavericks (which were born in the wake of 2010’s Tour of Bintan) which is in fact one of the best Masters teams in SouthEast Asia – and who take part in races in Thailand, Malaysia etc. Additionally many bike stores also have groups that meet up for midweek evening cycles. Last week I went out with Integrated Riding and their top squad was hammering at a ‘steady’ 40kph up the Changi airport – so not just beginners! Of course there are many more cycling clubs in the country & as you plan your relocation to Singapore I would encourage you to engage with riders on online forums such as this
If you are just getting started in cycling you will also find there is many mass participation cycling events starting to appear in Singapore such as OCBC Singapore Cycle (which started in 2010 & the last rider number figure I’ve seen was 11,000 even in 2011). Additionally if you can’t get your bike over or looking for a new set of wheels, togoparts.com is THE place to buy new & second hand bikes/components in Singapore.
So what routes can you do on this small island city state? Well particularly in the early morning and evenings there are many established cycling routes (which the clubs & solo riders use) with limited traffic & opportunities to put the gas down [notably many organized rides take place in the twilight hours because of the humidity in this tropical country]. This is particularly true for long flat stretches on the road, such as by the airport, ideal for time-trials & sprinters. Some of the most talked about routes are as follows:
But don’t limit yourself to just circuits of Singapore, like any cycling destination you have to mix it up a bit.
With a bit of forward thinking you can easily get out to the Indonesian islands of Batam & Bintan. Of course this compliments the almost limitless options of cycling throughout SouthEast Asia; some notable locations include Taiwan (the heartland of cycling manufacturing if you want to pick up a new toy and for the climbers in Singapore the landscape in Taiwan means you can have a King of the Mountains category in the Tour de Taiwan – race report from hilltop finish on Stage 2), Thailand (Challenge Laguna Phuket is one of the premier triathlon events in Asia for example & has featured top athletes year on year including 2xIronman World Champion Chris McCormack in 2013) and among others let’s not forget ‘Pick-a-triathlon’ Australia (literally the market is saturated with 70.3/Ironman and cycling races – they LOVE it). So without naming countries like a geography class, be rest assured that there are many cycling locations which you can fly to via budget airlines – AirAsia, Tiger & Jetstar.
But anyway back to Bintan and Batam.
Ferry transport to Batam is extensive, as detailed via vnbp.org
‘From Singapore, the main access to Batam is by ferry from the Harbour Front Centre (formerly known as the World Trade Center). There are three destinations: Sekupang, Batu Ampar and Waterfront City, the latter lying south of Sekupang. If you take on the ‘Pulau Galang challenge’, Sekupang is a good starting and finishing point, because of the frequency of ferries. To make the distance to Pulau Galang shorter, you could take the ferry to Waterfront City. The ferry to Nongsapura departs from Tanah Merah ferry terminal. There are more points to access Batam, from other Riau Islands. On the East Coast, a ferry terminal at Telaga Punggur offers ferry services to two destinations on Bintan. On Galang Island, there is a ferry connecting the village of Galang with Bintan and Kundur.’
Importantly its means you get a break from this in Singapore:
It is about 160km (with the return journey) along the length of Batam and the rolling landscape makes it an ideal ‘cycling’ weekend if you are based in Singapore.
Bintan island is much the same and is again accessible via ferry – a bit more convenient than planning ‘what the hell you will do with your bike bag when you land in a new country’!?!?
As described by the brief in the Tour de Bintan, a two stage race plus prologue on the island on 7-9 Nov 2014, the never ending rolling hills in combination with the equatorial climate provide an excellent challenge to any cyclist.
So that is a brief run through of how you keep up your pursuits of becoming a pro cyclist while impounded in the ‘Golden Cage’ of a career (alright maybe that’s a little dramatic). Next time I’ll try to bring a review of the races on offer whilst you live in Singapore. For starters there is the 96km Nongsa Challenge in Batam on 9th Feb; can’t wait!