You may think the jungle and biking are unlikely bed-fellows, but UK-and-Borneo-based adventure travel and training company Fieldskills has been involved with the growing jungle biking scene over a decade, both running commercial trips to Borneo and social riding in every spare minute.
Surprisingly, for such a hot and humid place, the hills are frequently alive with the sounds of crunching gears, especially after rain when the trails are a little slick, and bottomless puddles lie like malevolent oceans to swallow you up if you attempt to ride through them at speed. But much of the scene is road biking, and it’s a love of mountain biking which has really allowed Fieldskills to get out and find so many new routes.
Director Simon Amos is a keen mountain biker and, building up a local team of guides and enthusiasts, he has been at the forefront of seeking out new mountain biking routes. “You can use Google Earth and Maps to get some ideas, but the only way to find out is get on your bike and go: some jungle trails become impenetrable; others reveal a true single-track jungle gem!”
One of the most significant features about riding in Borneo, says Fieldskills, is the friendliness of everyone you meet. “Jungle villages are the most welcoming places you could ever imagine and even when you are flying down a single track between villages and make a local leap out of their skin they will laugh and joke with you like you are their long-lost son,” says Amos.
Hearing that it had been done once before but having no great detail about the previous route, in 2005 Fieldskills set off to attempt a circumnavigation of Mount Kinabalu. They made the trip in five days, experiencing tiny jungle trails, ferocious rivers and isolated villages as well as rural market towns and deserted beaches.
In November 2010 they took it a step further and made the ride unsupported in four days, carrying all food and camping gear and discovering a new section to the route through primary rainforest and saving many hours on gravel roads – again the ride was a great success.
Now, Fieldskills is looking for a small team of keen bikers to join them on another attempt at this great journey. What’s made previous attempts successful where so many others have failed is a mixture of luck (weather), experience, equipment and preparation. There will always be the threat of a catastrophic mechanical failure, an injury or illness or terrible weather just like there is on any expedition, nothing good was ever easily got.
Other trips for 2011 include a Borneo 3 Peaks trekking adventure, a desert expedition where you can learn the skills of desert expedition travel with local Bedouin guides. The company is also running a couple of Lake District expedition weekends.