Take a ride on the wild side, where fun and fitness meet

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 September, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 01 September, 2006, 12:00am

There are many ways to appreciate the natural beauty of Hong Kong - on foot, on two wheels, on four wheels or on horseback. Each one offers a unique experience.

One of the most exhilarating ways is mountain biking. There are three categories: cross-country, downhill and trail riding.

Cross-country is the most common. It is riding point-to-point or in a loop including climbs and descents on different types of terrain.

Downhill-specific bikes are typically equipped with front and rear suspension and bigger brakes, so they are larger and heavier than other mountain bikes.

Trail riding means getting around obstacles. It can be done off-road or in an urban environment and emphasis is placed on style, originality and technique, so it requires more skill than regular cycling.

Alan Ip Ho-lun is the founder of downhill mountain biking group Jetspeeder. 'Speed is what we go after. If you have all the necessary protection, mountain biking is as safe as any sport.'

However, this is the most dangerous of the three categories, so there is still the risk of injury.

Mr Ip's worst experience was when he fell and broke both legs. 'But that was an exceptional

case. I was too ambitious and hadn't learnt how to fall properly.

'Nowadays, we teach people how to fall before we teach them other riding techniques,' he said.

'Mountain biking is an art. When you learn difficult techniques or have a really good jump, the satisfaction is beyond any other experience. And even if you are riding on the same track, you will always think there is a better way to do it.'

Richard Smith, founder and honorary chairman of the Hong Kong Mountainbike Association, said: 'Through mountain biking you learn how to deal with pain and accidents. You have to have good mental focus because the bike is going so fast.'

He said getting away from the buzz of the city and into the countryside was a great way to discover the natural beauty of Hong Kong.

'We see feral pigs wandering around all the time. And on the mountain bike you can get really near them.'

Gillis Heller, chairman of the Hong Kong Mountainbike Association, said mountain biking also had a lot of health benefits. Mountain bikers are fit and have strong leg muscles.

The association estimated that there were 2,000 to 3,000 mountain bikers in Hong Kong and the number was increasing.

'Hong Kong is a very good place for mountain biking. The weather allows it all year round. We have lots of mountains and a good variety of tracks. There are good tracks which villagers built long ago,' Mr Heller said.

There are 10 areas in country parks open for mountain biking which are managed by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department. A permit is required to ride in these areas. Go to http://www.afcd.gov.hk for details.

Start up costs:

Mountain bike HK$1,500-HK$40,000

Helmet HK$600-HK$3,000

Gloves HK$150-HK$500

Arm and leg protection HK$200-HK$500

Other body protection HK$600-HK$3,000

Shoes HK$200-HK$600

Useful contacts:

Hong Kong Mountainbike Association

E-mail: info@hkmba.org

Website: http://www.hkmba.org/

Asia Pacific Adventure

Tel: 2792 7128

Group classes: HK$580 per lesson for a group of six to 12 people for up to seven hours

Website: http://www.asiapacificadventure.com/


One-on-one classes: HK$200 per lesson for a four-hour session

Group classes: HK$500 per month for a group of 10 people for six hours

Website: http://www.jetspeeder.org/

Safety precautions:

Wear a safety helmet and proper shoes.

Wear gloves and full body protection for downhill mountain biking.

Wear colourful tops so that hikers and other country park visitors can see you clearly.

Mountain bikes should have a horn or bell.

Tyres should be at least 4.5cm wide.

Avoid riding mountain bikes if the weather is too hot.

Do not ride mountain bike trails in the dark.

Only start mountain biking under supervision.

Always ride in groups.

Give way to hikers on narrow and steep trails.

Respect the countryside.