Tai Lam, Hong Kong

The ultimate feat of joyless jetsetting is the 24hrs+ you spend in the air between Europe and NZ. It’s always tempting to pause your voyage halfway in Hong Kong for delicious dim sum, a ride on the Star Ferry and a cable car cruise up to the hilltop Tien Tan Buddha.

There are inviting hills lurking beyond the island skyscrapers, and after reading about the technical riding out on Lantau Island, I was excited to sample some of their singletrack. I got in touch with Steve at MTB HK, who suggested Tai Lam Country Park for a pootle as it was closest to my Airbnb cupboard in Kowloon City.

A few days before Christmas, I hopped off the train at Tsing Yi to meet a pickup truck happily laden with bikes. Fifteen minutes drive up into the trees, the frantic streets of the city seemed very distant.

As we winched up into the bamboo forest, we chatted about the tricky business of trail access. Hiking is massively popular over there and two-wheeled interlopers are not welcome on a number of HK hillsides. Other complications are landslides, Japanese fox holes dotted around from WW2, and the occasional black cobra lurking menacingly in the undergrowth.

Nonetheless some great trails have sprung up, and I really enjoyed the bermy flow of Tin Man/Black Diamond with its smatterings of techy rocks. When the murky morning mist finally lifted, epic views across the city unfolded.

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December was a great time to sample HK riding, with daytime temperatures hovering around 15oC, and roots and rocks offering a bit of extra entertainment in the damp. Whatever time of year you drop by, I heartily recommended escaping the bright lights of the city for a while and hitting the hills. I’m excited about sampling Lantau’s Chi Ma Wan on my next Hong Kong pitstop.

Trail snack: Jelly snakes (thankfully the only species I spotted).

Trail nose: Trailforks has a handful of trails mapped for the Tai Mo Shan area. Handing the trail sniffing duties over to a local guide is definitely worthwhile if you’re on a stopover and have less time to explore.

Tony Boone’s blog post about trail building in HK is a good read.

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