DB riders are leading the pack as the international craze for cycling goes into overdrive. Beverly Au reports on the thrill of the sport, both on and off road.
Packs of cyclists, often wearing matching jerseys advertising their favourite charity, are an increasingly common sight in and around Discovery Bay. And it’s not just ‘elite’ local cyclists who are pumping out the kilometres, entire families are taking up the pursuit either on DB’s 12 kilometres of paved road, or on the surrounding trails.
Aiming to explain increased interest in the sport internationally, Tony Pringle, bike fitter and bike consultant at Bike Energy Lab in DB, focuses first on the social aspect. “Riders like to stop and have a drink of coffee and then continue on their way,” he says. “It is also an exhilarating sport and a lot of fun, as well as being a clean and virtuous pursuit.”
Karen Fairley, business manager at sports shop Action X in DB North Plaza, and a keen triathlete, echoes Tony’s sentiment. “People will ride with friends, so some people see the sport as a good chance to be social. They also want to be active, want to be seen to be interested in fitness, and wearing the clothes. There is so much awareness of the benefits of fitness and health.”
A virtuous pursuit
Cycling with family and friends is not only an easy way to appreciate the outdoors but also a great way to get a workout. The fact that cycling is a low-impact sport and easier on one’s body than, for instance, jogging on concrete roads, is also a major plus.
“It is easy on your joints,” says Tony, a DBer of 10 years. “A three-hour ride is not too difficult after a few weeks, once you get used to being on the saddle.”
Tony adds that cycling rewards time spent. In other words, the more you cycle, the more benefits you reap. You can also continue to do it well into your golden years.
Gogo Yung has lived in DB for over 20 years, and has been a passionate mountain biker for much of that time. Noting that many of his friends have switched to road cycling in recent years, Gogo says he’s stuck by his first love. He generally tackles the trails from DB to Mui Wo twice a week.
“I cycle for fun, recreation and fitness,” Gogo says, adding that he prefers trail cycling to road cycling, since he considers it safer – and of course more scenic.
Getting kitted out
One of cycling’s main draws is of course the exhilaration riders experience due to the speeds involved. Tony, who prefers not to reveal just how quickly he can make it down Golf Club Hill in DB, says: “Risk is part of the attraction.”
If cycling sounds like fun to you, there are therefore a few things to consider. “Do some research before you buy a bike,” advises Karen, an eight-year DB resident. “Try and get a bike that fits, and wear appropriate apparel. A helmet is a must, and people new to the sport need to learn good bike skills, including how to fix a flat tyre.”
“I would suggest that someone who is looking to cycle goes to see a professional,” Tony says – someone who can advise you on which equipment will suit your needs best. “I recommend carbon-fibre bikes as they are lighter, which makes it better for cyclists who are biking for fitness purposes.”
Tony will basically build a bike for you, having sourced individual components on the internet, and he points out that this can actually work out cheaper than buying a ready-made bike in a shop. But cycling, at this level, doesn’t come cheap. “You are probably looking at HK$8-10,000 for a good bike,” Tony says. “You can get completely kitted out for HK$10,000 but I would recommend spending HK$15-20,000.”
Tony also advises novice cyclists join a bike club, with like-minded people of a similar skill set. Karen and Tony are founding members of the Lantau Buffalos, a 200-strong, multi-sports group. The club is affiliated with the Hong Kong Cycling Association and the Hong Kong Triathlon Association and stages regular adventure racing and triathlon events.
On Tuesday mornings, the Lantau Buffalos do hill repeats up Siena Hill and Golf Club Hill in DB. On early Saturday mornings, the group organises vans to carry bikes through the DB Tunnel, from where cyclists typically head out to the airport, Hong Kong Disneyland and South Lantau.
Cycling around Discovery Bay is great to begin with as there are 12 kilometres of paved road for riders to enjoy. “When they are feeling more confident, cyclists can head to the best road riding on the island in North Lantau,” says Karen.
“The road to Disney is fantastic, as it is mostly flat,” adds Tony. “You can do a 100-kilometre loop in around three hours, depending on the speed you are going.”
Other recommended routes involve taking on ‘The Beast’, the hill over to South Lantau from Tung Chung on the main road, which has an 18% gradient. “Cycling from Tung Chung, over The Beast and up to the Big Buddha, takes approximately one hour and 15 minutes, with an additional 15 minutes down to Tai O,” notes Karen. “I enjoy this ride as you get a bit of everything – the challenge of the climbs, beautiful vistas, nice descents, some fast flat sections, uneven road surfaces, cows, buffalo, dogs and of course the camaraderie from fellow cyclists.”
For trail cyclists, Gogo recommends either of two routes from DB to Mui Wo. “The old Trappist trail is only a 30 to 40 minute ride (5.5 kilometres), assuming you start from the entry to the left of the underpass on Discovery Valley Road,” he says. “If you take the Lo Fu Tau Trail (8 kilometres), it usually takes more than one hour, including the hike up to the top from the trail near the pagoda (before DB Reservoir dam).”
Heading back to DB, Gogo usually takes the coastal trail along Nim Shue Wan (5.5 kilometres). This leg involves hiking up the steep steps from Silvermine Bay to the Trappist Monastery and can take a hour.
Gogo also enjoys cycling South Lantau’s official mountain biking trails, and has worked hard to have them improved and expanded. “I’ve inspected the trails in Chi Ma Wan Peninsula with officials from the Civil Engineering and Development Department and members from both the Hong Kong Cycling Association and Hong Kong Mountain Biking Association,” he says. “There are plans for more trails in the years ahead.”
While Gogo cautions cyclists against riding up or down excessively steep or eroded trails, and advises them to hike these sections with their bicycles on their backs, being aware of inherent dangers is even more important for road cyclists.
In the past decade, nearly 100 people have died while riding a bike in Hong Kong, and more than 16,000 have been injured. Here in Lantau, the boom in amateur cycling is clashing with extensive development, which has seen significant growth in vehicle traffic, especially trucks and buses.
The tragic death of Tung Chung resident Colin Robertson, in June 2014, really brought this home to local residents. Colin was hit by a truck when it swerved wildly across double white lines on the South Perimeter Road near the airport.
Local cyclists are calling for improved driver education, as well as dedicated cycling lanes on key routes to make our roads safer for cyclists. For now though, the onus to cycle safe is on riders themselves.
“As a cyclist, you need to be constantly aware of other bikers, motorised vehicles and other road users, including kids and dogs,” Karen cautions. “Wear appropriate clothing (including helmets and bright reflective clothing) and follow the rules of the road,” Tony adds.
• Action X, www.actionxstore.com
• Bike Energy Lab, www.bike-energy-lab.com
• Lantau Buffalos, www.lantaubuffalos.org
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