To the inexperienced, it’s one thing to be able to manage cycling off-road on dirt tracks and another thing altogether to be negotiating hill climbs and zipping downhill on narrow tracks with rock gardens and gnarly roots for obstacles. Throw in a couple of sharp corners and the riding can get tricky.
To get into your cycling groove and enjoy the thrills of mountain biking, Mandai’s Track 15 (also commonly referred to as Gangsa) is a great beginners’ trail for building confidence in one’s technical ability to handle obstacles build up endurance and physical ability to enjoy the ride and the nature on offer.
On The Wild Side
While there are other entrances leading to Gangsa Hill, the most convenient way to access the trail is via the Central Catchment Park Connector entrance, between Mandai Road and Mandai Lake Road. The former leads directly to the Singapore Zoo, River Safari and Night Safari, so simply look out for the signs pointing to the zoo, the entrance is right there. Parking though, will take you further up along Mandai Lake Road, where you’d have to find a spot that’s legal.
Alternatively, park at the zoo itself and ride out. While it’s a gentle slope down, it’ll mean cycling up a gradient after.
For riders looking to just plug and play, packing your bike in the boot of your car, as we’ve demonstrated in the previous article, Track 15 is the sort of location for you to do just that, especially if you’ve got a ride as family friendly and spacious as Volkswagen’s new Sportsvan. For a car just a wee longer than the standard Golf hatchback, it’s got ample space for two bikes, essential gear like your helmets, gloves, water bottles and snacks, and drives with a level of engagement that’s not unlike a smooth flowing trail to get you in your rhythm.
The Trail Appeal
A great introductory trail, riding Track 15 presents just the right amount of challenge that will leave you satisfied, yet have you thinking a little bit more about how could improve your ride a little bit more.
Running parallel to the BKE, Track 15 is a straightforward 12km return route that’s marked by gentle rolling climbs and similarly easy downhill sections. Where the park connector ends, the offroad military training area in and around Gangsa Hill begins. However, the signs will point you in the right direction and cyclists and hikers are tolerated.
The trail itself is nice and wide, which comes in handy when you need to give way to oncoming riders (unlike Bukit Timah, Track 15 isn’t a one-way loop. Once you reach the end at the Gangsa Hill area, you’d want to turn back). While there aren’t any sharp corners to put your handling to the test, or sudden drop offs or major rock garden, the easy riding experience will help build confidence with as you pedal through a mixture of track and trail through forests and open clearings with varying gradients. The riding could be at a smooth flat plain one moment and lead to a slight incline the next.
The idea here is to understand your personal riding skills on a very forgiving trail. Any mistakes won’t leave you in a heap, which is great because the track still offers fun with minimal risk. This lets you think about how you can handle the mild obstacles, at speed, and take your pick from the variety of possible lines that can help hone decision-making for the picking out the smoothest, cleanest or most ideal line to suit your ride.
While there are an equal number of uphill climbs that are quickly following by downhill runs, they’re very manageable and will help provide a benchmark for your fitness level. What may look like a lung-buster could turn out more manageable as you attack them. More often than not, you’d find yourself overcoming over the worst of the climb uphill just as your thighs begin to burn and you start huffing and puffing. At this point, the smooth downhill run will convince you that the effort up was entirely worth it.
Trail Bashing Potential
While the main trail is direct with numerous signs guiding you along, there’s even a possibility of heading off towards the other trails around the Central Catchment area near Chestnut, or at Bukit Panjang. And depending on your appetite for adventure, you might even discover an old route that leads to now-closed trail like the Butterfly trail that snakes along the banks of the Upper Seletar Reservoir and was famous for the muddy pools and gnarly roots that featured.