Poaching MTB Trails on Lantau Island, Hong Kong

I often travel to Hong Kong for work. In the past, I’ve schlepped my Stumpjumper with me, but it’s kind of a hassle hauling it back and forth between Hong Kong and mainland China where I work during the week.

This time I got in touch with expat mountain biker Steve Coward, who also runs a mountain bike school and guide company called Crosscountry HK on Lantau and other areas.  He is also involved in the HK Mountain Bike Association, another great source for local trail info.

I wasn’t really looking for a guided tour, so Steve kindly shared some of his personal Lantau routes and pointed me towards Friendly Bike Shop, conveniently located just a few hundred meters from the Mui Wo ferry pier on Lantau Island.

I perused some nearby Strava tracks, as I often do, and noticed some fast riders like Pierre Arnaud Le Magnan and Cosmo Richards. It turns out that they both ride for the Chiru Endurance Bikes, a high end carbon only MTB frame company based in Hong Kong and manufactured in Guangzhou, nearby in mainland China. The company was started by Pierre himself, who is also an industrial designer specialising in carbon fibre products.

Getting there from HK

The ferry from Central to Mui Wo runs about every 30 minutes, is less than one hour and only costs about $25 HKD (just over £2). It’s an easy day trip and a great escape from where I normally stay in Mong Kok, one of the most densely populated areas in the world.

I was greeted at Friendly by the owner, Jacky, who showed me his bike collection. I turned down the Giant Anthem in favour of a Commencal All-Mountain. Compared with my Stumpjumper, this was a bit of a tank, but I was grateful for the higher volume Fox RP23 and longer travel RL fork were much more forgiving on the very bumpy descents.

About the trails

The trails around Lantau are quite varied. There are some dedicated mountain bike tracks which are pretty flat and not very technical. But the more interesting trails are the walking trails with the ‘no cycling’ signs (ahem!). I am not sure how illegal it is to cycle on these trails, but I did see other bike tread and none of the trail walkers scolded me for riding there. Maybe I got lucky. On the flip side, because these other trails are intended for walking, there tends to be a fair bit of hike-a-bike, particularly due to the large stone steps. A lot of them are rideable, but there are a few sections where I had to dismount, particularly on the west side of the island on the peninsula between Shek Pik Reservoir and Tai O. My favourite sections where on the Chi Wa Man peninsula, though it must be said that I missed quite a few of the sections that Steve recommended to me. Next time I plan to check out the Old Lantau and Shek Pik Country Trail among others.

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The Rockshox Reverb dropper seat post I something I never thought I would need, but now having used one, I think am converted. It’s perfect for the terrain on Lantau, with the frequent and stark transitions between steep climbing and descending. The hydraulic seat post action allows you to transition from seated climbing to ‘ass on wheel’ descending at the flick of a switch.

When to go

I did this ride in early March, which means basically 20 degrees when overcast. It’s very comfortable riding weather, though the clouds and haze kind of ruin the views. It would be a very sweaty ride in the summer, when the humidity soars. The best time might be early winter if you can find a clear sunny day.

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Jacky (left), the owner of Friendly Bike Shop, swapping the flats for SPDs so I can clip in.

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This fun drop on the Chi Ma Wan is known as ‘The Fridge’ by the locals.

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West side of Chi Ma Wan peninsula (Southeast Lantau). I must get back to this spot on a clear day. This trail is phenomenal.

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There’s a handy map at the Chi Ma Wan trail head. Just follow the red zig zags until your legs don’t work anymore.

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Brand new, spotless his and hers Canyon Nerves just chillin’ on the ferry to Mui Wo. I was envious of this couple as they pedalled straight off the boat towards the trails.

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Up until the 1970s, the water buffalos on Lantau plowed the rice fields and fertilised the soil with their dung. Now they just wait at the bus stops looking for treats… and making enormous piles of shit. Still, they are benevolent creatures that add to the native character of the island.

Meanwhile back in Hong Kong…

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Apple zealot zombies queuing in the Hong Kong Apple Store to purchase their new iPhone 6 whilst they Face-stalk on their iPhone 5s… And yes, this photo was taken with an iPhone…

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Low spec fat bikes now available for the masses

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Sometimes you just need a box of pig logs to make everything better.

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Box of fresh clam dongs at the Fa Yuen market in Mongkok.

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I was surprised to see thousands of women having picnics on the street on Sunday in Mongkok. I was startled to learn that these are displaced domestic workers, many Filipinos, who have nowhere to go on their day off (Sunday). They live with their employer during the week, but are forced to the streets on their day off. Some of them even had their suitcases with them!

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