Cycling in Bali

While cycling in Bali you’ll be treated to a parade of constantly changing backdrops as you pedal through peaceful rural areas, from volcanoes to orange and coffee plantations, and from thick forest to vast canvases of rice terraces.

These lush green paddy fields, such as those of Tegallalang just north of Ubud, cascade gently down hillsides and their simplicity shrouds the fascinating irrigation process, subak, on which they and, by extension the Balinese economy, depend.

Just as learning to ride a bike involves a bit of physics and a measure of faith, so too does the system of Balinese rice growing. The complex business of keeping rice paddies sufficiently watered is managed by farmers and priests cooperating together, with water temples at the center of organisation, and ritual blessings ladled out alongside practical techniques to ensure the rice harvest is successful.

Exploring Bali by bike in the company of a local guide is an immensely pleasant way to discover life and traditions such as subak in rural communities that feel a world apart from Bali’s tourist beaches and urban cacophony.

Your guide will explain the importance of water to Bali’s rice farmers – drought is a growing problem and exacerbated by tourism, which is estimated to use 65 percent of the island’s water supply. Our partners use environmentally aware hotels that encourage their guests to save water wherever possible.

Traveling on two wheels is a convenient and fun way to reach corners of Bali that see little in the way of tourism, putting you in the heart of small communities, where getting insight into the culture can be as simple as pausing for an Indonesian lunch at a roadside warung (café) or stocking up with fruit at local markets.

It can also mean visiting a Bali Aga village with its own unique way of dealing with the departed – not by cremating them, but by leaving them to decompose beneath the Taru Menyan tree, whose fragrance is said to mask the odour.

What is cycling in Bali like?

Is it safe to ride bicycles in Bali?

Cycling in Bali is very safe. “While guided cycling vacations here might be a relatively new thing, cyclists have been visiting and riding around Bali for decades, says Faye Wilkinson of our partner Intrepid Travel. “Indeed my colleague Frank first rode his bike around Bali over 20 years ago!” In towns and cities, however, the traffic can get heavy and, at times, chaotic, which makes it unsafe for cycling, so you’ll hop into the support van for these sections.

Daily distances & terrain

You can expect to cover 30-60km each day, but the pace is more meander than marathon. That said, you do need to be fit enough to cope with a few uphills each day – Bali is a mountainous island. And any time you feel as though you need a rest you can always hop into the support van. The terrain is mostly asphalt, with a few dirt or gravel roads and the occasional bit of volcanic rock. Some roads see quite heavy traffic but you don’t spend long on them.

Support vehicles

Small group cycling vacations will be accompanied by a support vehicle most of the time, carrying luggage, water, snacks and spare parts. You’ll usually hop in when approaching urban areas, and any time you fancy a rest for a bit there’s a seat available. Our partners choose their support vehicles carefully to ensure they’re no larger than they need to be, so they’re more fuel-efficient and take up less space on the road.

Bike-friendly accommodations

One of the great pleasures of small group cycling vacations is that, because there are no more than 16 of you, you can stay in a succession of independent 2-3* hotels and guest houses, often family-run and with a traditional Balinese ambience. There’s no need to worry about reception staff looking askance as you walk in wearing the clothes you’ve been riding in all day, and hearty appetites encouraged. Don’t expect luxury, but do expect to be perfectly comfortable.

When to go cycling

Trips run from May to December, but the best time for cycling in Bali tends to be May to September when the weather is most likely to be dry and cool, and the humidity is lower. August in Bali gets busy, but much of the time you’ll be cycling in rural areas away from the crowded coastal resorts.

Small group cycling

Group sizes range from 12 to 16 cyclists, so it doesn’t take long to get to know everyone, as well as your guide, which makes for a very sociable and motivational atmosphere. Our partners aim to use local Balinese support staff throughout, from guides to bike mechanics to drivers, spreading the economic benefits of tourism while ensuring you can learn plenty about Balinese culture as you travel.

Combining cycling in Bali with Java

Longer cycling vacations can combine Bali with the neighbouring island of Java, which is just a 45-minute ferry crossing away. Cycling is a wonderful way to see a different side to the world’s most densely populated island, taking you away from mega cities like Jakarta towards sleepy countryside villages and secluded beaches.
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Bali or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: Imacim] [Intro: Imacim] [Is it safe to ride bicycles in Bali?: Imacim] [When to go cycling: Imacim]