How more world-class trails would make Hong Kong a magnet for adventure tourists
Action Asia’s Michael Maddess says the city can be Asia’s centre for trail sports after the success of its first professionally designed mountain bike course
Organisers of the weekend’s C3fit Action Asia Challenge hailed Hong Kong’s first-ever professionally designed mountain-bike trail at Tai Lam Country Park and called on the government to build more world-class facilities for local and overseas adventure enthusiasts.
The 3.8-kilometre Black Diamond course, built at a cost of HK$6 million and designed by the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA), was used as part of the 29km mountain biking leg of the race’s adventure category that also features trail running, ocean kayaking and abseiling.
“This is a fantastic step in the correct direction for Hong Kong pushing adventure tourism with this Black Diamond mountain bike trail,” said Action Asia Foundation’s Michael Maddess, who is also race director and course designer.
“We are obviously stoked that Action Asia is one of the first to officially use the downhill course for a major international event that is now in its 17th year.”
Maddess said the project took 10 years of lobbying by various biking groups in Hong Kong along with the Hong Kong Mountain Bike Association before being approved by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD).
Hong Kong has about a dozen legal bike trails out of nearly 1,000 and Maddess said the government should consider repeating the Tai Lam project by hiring overseas companies to design courses.
The AFCD said: “[We are] pleased that mountain bikers ... found the trail enjoyable. To make a long-lasting, challenging and fun trail, we included different technical features and adopted sustainable principles into building both the circular and downhill sections.
“With the assistance from mountain bike trail specialists who brought in international standards, we carefully set the gradient and alignment of the trail to reduce soil erosion and wear of the trail, and natural materials were used in the building process to blend it well with the environment.
“Trail building experts were also involved in the construction of the mountain bike training ground at the head of the Ho Pui Section Mountain Bike Trail in Tai Lam Country Park. We will continue to consult professional trail specialists in future improvement works of mountain bike trails in country parks.”
The trail, which opened in December and was designed by an IMBA expert from Singapore, passes Fire Lookout and connects to the MacLehose Trail.
“It’s one of the first professionally designed trails,” said Maddess. “The AFCD was being lobbied to bring in IMBA-qualified staff and they did that and everybody is saying that not only is it one of the best in Hong Kong but in Asia.
“It’s a steep section but done beautifully. They did a fantastic job with the figure-S trail, and it is designed to reduce erosion and has proper water run-offs.
"It’s a great step for the future of mountain biking and trail running in Hong Kong, though it’s taken many years to get to this stage.
“Hong Kong has massive potential to blow the doors off so many Asian countries yet it just takes so long to get big projects done here,” said Maddess.
“Let’s hope the fact that we now have perhaps one of the best short-distance mountain bike downhill’s in Asia we can start working on more longer cross-country mountain bike trails and really put Hong Kong on the map internationally.”
He said the world’s adventure enthusiasts were largely affluent, spending up to HK$60,000 on one bike alone, and they’d be willing to spend money to come to Hong Kong.
“They are crying out to ride trails and they have money to travel,” he said.
Thailand’s Jay Kiangchaipaiphana and Hong Kong resident Ryan Scott Blair, from the North Face team, won the Full Adventure title at the weekend’s race in four hours, one minute and 24 seconds.
The second-placed Chiru-BVsport team, made up of Pierre Arnaud Le Magnan and Kurt Lynn, said the new IMBA part of the course was the most enjoyable section of the race.