Riding On The Edge

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Jack Taylor gets revved about hitting the dirt trails around Bali on enduro bikes. Photos: Woody Gooch.

Boys and girls, young and old – everyone rides them. Throw in the heaps of remote countryside and natural beauty blessed upon this tropical archipelago and you have the ingredients for some of the world’s best off-road motorcycling.

Trails have been explored, tracks dug out, terrain sized up and limits of endurance tested. Every weekend groups of enduro riders across the country are out riding to see how far they can push themselves and their bikes.

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Surprisingly few visitors to Bali realise the possibilities for enduro riding, with most taking home a motorcycle experience confined to the traffic-clogged highways and the confusing web of alleyways in Kuta and Seminyak. Unlike surfing, which attracts swarms of wave riders from across the globe, enduro riding seems to have kept itself under wraps for now but things are changing fast.

Organised enduro rides in Bali can see more than 3,000 bikers turn up to take on the challenge side by side. Groups ride together as teams, helping each other out if something breaks on one of their bikes or they have to haul it over a near-vertical ridge. It is a social event, attracting nearby residents to watch, sell food and drinks and help the riders out when exhaustion sets in.

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A new enduro park in Jakarta could even be in the running to hold a round of the World Enduro Championships.

Buying a decent off-road motorcycle in Indonesia is getting easier but still has its hurdles, especially the more powerful bikes. Buying a bike over 250cc inflicts a 60 per cent ‘luxury’ tax, which rises to 75 per cent for bikes over 500cc. Chuck on top an import tax of 60 per cent for machines manufactured outside of Indonesia and things start to get really expensive.

It was not so long ago that for locals wanting to ride enduro custom motorcycles were the order of the day, and to some extent still are. The original dirt bike, the Yamaha DT-100, still picks up a decent price on the second-hand market, but nowadays the latest enduro bikes are getting easier to come by.

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Kawasaki Indonesia is reaping the rewards of introducing the KLX 150, its entry-level dirt bike that has quickly become a best seller in the off-road motorcycle market. Some of the biggest European off-road motorcycle manufacturers have also seen the potential and opened up shop here in recent years, with specialised enduro bikes available from Husqvarna, KTM, Gas Gas and Sherco, if you can afford them.

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This is where the ingenuity of the local riders comes in, because they are way ahead of the game when it comes to getting their hands on an enduro-ready bike. Not waiting for the motorcycle companies to catch up with the scene in Indonesia, instead they just went right ahead and built their own rides. Street scooters and motorcycles stripped down to the frame and rebuilt piece by piece to create unique off-road dirt bikes. Known as an odong odong, these bikes may cost around $500 to build but they somehow manage to get their riders through the same swampy mud pits and steep gravel tracks as a guy on a $15,000 Husqvarna straight off the showroom floor.

What makes enduro riding in Indonesia different to much of the rest of Asia is the volcanic land that makes up the archipelago. You could be tearing it up along remote empty beaches in the morning, dodging through narrow jungle mud tracks after lunch and then scrambling up the slopes of an active volcano before sunset. The riding here is world class – as technical as any professional rider could dream for.

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Even though the terrain of Bali, and Indonesia as a whole, lends itself to creating some of the most challenging enduro rides on the planet, to experience epic off-road riding does not necessarily have to be such a grueling test of endurance. Recreational adventure rides are perfect for newcomers to the sport. Trails can be picked accordingly to ability and there is more emphasis on enjoyment, exploration and seeing parts of the country that roads can’t take you to.

Spots in Besakih, Kintamani and Bedugul all offer different riding experiences and give you a chance to check out the stunning scenery in Bali. So now you know, why not give it a go.

Want to ride but need a bike and guide? Speak to Nathan Barker. Check out balimotorcycletour.blogspot.com and drop an email to [email protected]