The Secret’s Out: Go Mountain Bike Hong Kong

Until recently, “Hong Kong” had been synonymous in our minds with busy streets, bustling markets, steaming bowls of noodles, and endless cups of tea. Of all the places we’ve ever dreamt of riding mountain bikes, Hong Kong never made the list… until now.

Inspired by a jaw-dropping photo showing a ribbon of ridgeline singletrack running straight toward the ocean, we decided to add the densely-populated city to our list. Conveniently, while researching flights to New Zealand for a 9-day guided mountain bike tour we were scheduled to lead, we discovered that flying through Hong Kong a week early would be cheaper than flying directly to Auckland. Before we knew it, we were boarding our flights on a small Chinese airline that we’d never heard of before. Destination: Hong Kong.

Our five-day visit to the city resulted in three solid days of riding. Bookend days were spent packing and unpacking bikes, adjusting to the time change, and eating our way through the city streets. Riding days were spent weaving through traffic on downtown city streets, navigating rock gardens hidden in the hills surrounding downtown, bombing fast, technical descents, refueling with sodas sold out of an inconspicuous shack on the side of the trail, and taking in the ocean views that greeted us on each ride.

Meet your Hong Kong tour guides, Richard and Hannah from Ninja MTB.

After a whirlwind visit, we can now officially recommend adding Hong Kong to your riding bucket list. But don’t just take our word for it right away–let us try to convince you.

Mountain Bike Trails in Hong Kong

The riding in Hong Kong far exceeded our expectations. Like, it was really good… that is, if you like technical descents, punchy climbs, riding through non-operational prisons, ocean views, and climbing or descending at least one staircase every two miles.

We opted to measure our Honk Kong riding by the hour rather than by the mile. The technical riding gave our legs a serious run for their money. Combined with regular stops to snap photos, coordinate GoGoVan pickups (more on that later), and navigate roadside snack options, even a short 10-mile ride turned into an all-day adventure.

Okay, on to the good stuff. Here’s what we rode:

Tai Mo Shan

As part of our pre-travel planning, we watched a few YouTube videos highlighting the riding on Tai Mo Shan and felt reassured we would find exactly what we were hoping for in this trail network. And we did.

Hannah found her happy place in the technical rock gardens.

A 30-minute GoGoVan shuttle from our hotel room dropped us off at the trailhead near the top of the 957-meter mountain Tai Mo Shan. We immediately spotted a line of well-equipped full suspension rigs and riders gearing up to hit the trails. This seemed promising! With the help of good trail signage and apps like Strava, we managed to complete an 18-mile ride with over 3,000ft of fun, technical descending. This trail had everything from flow to tech to breathtaking views.

Richard riding the descent on Tai Mo Shan

The ride was mostly downhill, starting on Hong Kong’s highest mountain and working its way down through the forest to the Tai Lam Reservoir and eventually, to the ocean. The terrain for the first half of the ride was a mix of steep, technical rocks, fast, flowy bermed corners, and natural, rugged terrain including multiple rocky switchbacks with a few water crossings thrown in for good measure. A mountain biker’s paradise!

The second half of the ride alongside the Tai Lam Reservoir was more of a beginner/intermediate trail with a good bit of pedaling and an occasional hike-a-bike over large, unrideable rocks. To finish out the ride, we navigated city streets to the Gold Coast, a beach resort with a selection of dining options.

Overall, these trails connected together for a spectacular day of riding: the perfect ride for an intermediate to advanced rider looking for a mix of terrain. Regardless of skill level, any rider should expect to be challenged on this ride as it has a truly has a little bit of everything.

This ride alone made the trip halfway around the world worthwhile!

Views of the Tai Lam Reservoir
Gold Coast oceanside ending

Dragon’s Back

The Dragon’s Back trail was touted online as a “must ride” in Hong Kong. We attempted to ride the trail but unfortunately, thanks to the hundreds of people who were out hiking the trail that day, we ended up carrying our bikes up and over would-be-fun terrain. We aren’t sure if the trail is always ridiculously busy, or if it was just an extra busy weekend, but there were literally hundreds of people out on foot.

Making friends at the lookout point on Dragon’s Back.

So, unless you can ride this trail when it’s not busy (we’re not sure exactly when that is, but definitely avoid the weekends), we recommend checking out Dragon’s Back by foot, as a sightseeing hike. Ditch your bikes in the hotel room, throw some water and a camera in your backpack, and go for a stroll along with a few hundred other people to take in the breathtaking views.

Okay, back to more awe-inspiring singletrack…

Chi Ma Wan, Lantau Island

For our last day of riding, we set off to Lantau Island, eight miles off the shore of Hong Kong Island and a pleasant one-hour ferry ride away. We opted to leave early and skip the GoGoVan this morning, finding our way to the ferry pier via bicycle. It should be noted that riding bikes in the city of Hong Kong is not really a thing. The sidewalks are littered with pedestrians with no room for riding and the streets aren’t any roomier, with no bike lanes, lots of cars, and public tramway tracks. Surprisingly, the drivers of Hong Kong seemed perfectly okay with our self-powered wheels rolling through traffic with them, using universal hand signals to indicate turns and stops. Drivers allowed us to merge, left plenty of room for us, and even the double-decker bus drivers waved us in front of them.

With ample time to spare, we made it to the ferry terminal, purchased our tickets, and found more coffee and second breakfast.

Quick note: We were required to take the slower “cargo” ferry with our bikes, rather than the express boat. Yup, bikes are considered cargo.

Loading up on the ferry over to Lantau Island

When we arrived on Lantau Island we were greeted by a sea of bikes — clearly the island’s popular method for commuting to the ferry terminal to get to work in the city. Our tour guide for the day was 17-year-old Joe, a local shredder who didn’t say much all day, but showed us a great route.

Bike parking at the ferry terminal
Thumbs up from our trusty guide, Joe.

To get to the start of the main Chi Ma Wan trail, Joe led us along the Coastal Trail which included a mix of paved bike path, stairs, and the occasional dirt section. At one point we took a slight detour so we could ride through an old non-operational prison, the Chi Ma Wan Correctional Institute. We snapped a few photos and quickly kept riding; Chinese prisons were not high on our list of places to visit, closed or not.

Hannah makes her prison escape.

Just over three miles later we made it to the start of the Chi Ma Wan trail. This loop wound around Lantau Island and offered a solid mix of steep, technical climbs and descents. The trail brought an array of technical challenges including a rather large rock drop, winding rock gardens with rocks the size of microwaves, very fast bermed descents, and stunning ocean and mountain views. The end of this trail was a super-fast, purpose-built mountain bike track with small hip jumps landing you perfectly into bermed corners–insanely fun and the perfect bit of flow after a day of punchy, techy pedaling.

Guide Joe sending it down a rocky descent.

On the pedal back to ferry along the same Coastal Trail we used earlier in the day, Joe encouraged us to stop at a random house on the side of the bike path. Inside was one women, a single couch, and a fridge full of soda and beer for sale. Bottoms up!

This inconspicuous house on the side of the trails offers a fridge full of soda and beer for sale.

Bonus: Chi Ma Wan Extension

We rode the Chi Ma Wan trail clockwise and opted to add on what is known as the Extension Trail. This three-mile add-on, despite being the biggest technical challenge of the day, was well-worth it for the views alone. Parts of this route were very challenging and impassable on the first try. But after some sessioning, we were able to clear a decent portion of the route. There were lots of big step ups and step downs with tight rock traverses. Having a solid track stand, ratchet, and powerful pedal stroke was a must for getting us through this trail. This was one of the best parts of the day — we’d recommend including it in your Hong Kong riding plans.

Getting Around

We initially planned on using public transportation to get around town but based on a local tip, we discovered the wonderful world of GoGoVan. Think Uber but with small cargo vans with ample room for bikes (front wheel off) and suitcases. It’s like your own personal shuttle driver right at your fingertips. Download the app prior to arrival and make sure you have an international data plan setup. The app even allows you to pay a little bit extra for an English-speaking driver. We rolled the dice, skipped the English-speaking upgrade, and never had any (major) issues communicating with drivers.

Notably, we ended up using GoGoVan multiple times per day and we never had to wait more than 15 minutes for a van to whisk us (and our bikes) away. The rates were affordable–usually just a few dollars more than trying to navigate the public transportation.

If you feel like riding DH laps all day, it is possible to get a private van to provide a shuttle service to Tai Mo Shan Country Park. Make friends with a local rider to get the details on setting this up.

Oh, and don’t forget to stay to the left in Hong Kong. Ride left, pass left, walk left, drive left. You get the idea.

A typical GoGoVan setup. Party in the front, bikes in the back.

What are you waiting for?

So there you have it: a hopefully inspiring guide to mountain biking Hong Kong. For even more trail beta, head to the Hong Kong Mountain Bike Association website. Next time you are looking for an excuse to go somewhere new or your boss asks you to go to a conference in China, just say “yes” and pack your bike!

Richard La China and Hannah Levine are both mountain bike skills instructors for Ninja Mountain Bike Performance. Richard is a former pro endurance racer and has been teaching skills and coaching racers for 10+ years. Hannah is a former cubicle-dwelling professional turned VanLifer and self-proclaimed mountain bike bum. Ninja Mountain Bike Performance runs skills clinics, camps, and tours all over the US and at a few select international destinations.