Java. The name alone sounds exotic. This week in Australia, the news will be all about Indonesia’s other island, Bali, where bad things happened ten years ago on the 12th of October.
But this brief post isn’t about that. It’s about riding in the world’s most crowded island and its crazy capital, Jakarta, where cycling is a booming sport for the middle class and rich.
Jakarta’s traffic suffers a daily cardiac arrest. Hundreds of new cars squeeze onto roads already full. The thousands of new scooters and motorbikes flowing into this jam means there’s barely space for a person to walk through a main street at peak time.
To flush the roads clean, there’s been a weekly ‘car free day’ for a few years now, that’s led to a spectacular take up of cycling. Starved of open space, Jakartans have used the day to buy bikes and ride the main roads with thousands of their closest friends.
And from this rare break of open space, some serious bunches have emerged. It’s not unusual to see $10,000 Looks and S-Works in the bunch, tearing along at 45km/h later in the morning once the recreational amblers have gone.
Me and a few other Aussie expats have sat in with these bunches and found a few other places to go not far from this city of 10 million people. There’s a new housing development not far from Jakarta that cyclists take over each Saturday. A 15k loop doesn’t sound like much but the open space is literally a breath of fresh(er) air.
Okay, so it’s not the staggeringly beautiful Haute Route but when you can ride a paceline without the risk of getting crushed by a bus every minute, it’s bliss. Then there are real hills thanks to the volcanoes that have formed Java. Despite having 21 or so active fire mountains people still live and work on their slopes. Rice paddies and towns rise up along roads that thread their way through Java – many doable on a road bike.
So this week, when Australia’s press goes overboard with yarns about “our other backyard” in Bali, remember there’s another island next door to it, part of the 17,000 that make up this incredible archipelago that’s Indonesia. Plenty of good riding here.