Here come the mountain bikes

It’s taken a decade but Lantau's mountain bike trails are getting their long-promised upgrade.                                  The CEDD has just issued a HK$7.1m contract to build a training track at Lai Chi Yuen village above Mui Wo - the second phase of a HK$42m project to improve local mountain bike trails. The first phase, due to complete at the end of 2016, involves maintaining the existing Chi Ma Wan trail and the Pui O-Shek Pik and Shek Pik-Kau Ling Chung catchwater paths. The works reflect an apparent enthusiasm for cycling on the part of Development Bureau Secretary Paul Chan, who is also pushing ahead with the 82-km east-west NT bike track.

The Hong Kong Mountain Bike Association (HKMBA), which has been consulting with the CEDD during the process, welcomes the two phases, but points out they are for beginner and intermediate riders.

“We are still talking, still advocating. We are only focusing on Chi Ma Wan and Mui Wo at the moment,” said Nick Dover, director of trail development.

Notably, the biggest part of the trail, the catchwater path, is not a mountain bike trail at all. By definition a mountain bike track is organic, with natural features and curves and nothing man-made.

The projects have taken a long time to come to fruition. The original consultancy was carried out by engineering firm Scott Wilson on behalf of CEDD, from 2004-09. Those findings were shelved until, with Lantau development on the agenda, Paul Chan took them up.

Safety railings

For phase 1, design and planning are complete and Bristol-based Architrail will begin maintenance work on the existing Chi Ma Wan trail next month. The catchwater paths also need some upgrade, in particular the installation of safety railings all the way along. That will certainly be welcomed by Lantau cattle-lovers and dog owners.

The phase 2 works just announced provide for construction of a training track in an old quarry at Lai Chi Yuen with two connecting paths to the Chi Ma Wan trail. It is set for completion in mid-2019.

Dover acknowledged the HKMBA was slightly anxious about working with the CEDD on these projects. The association had worked closely with AFCD on the Tai Mo Shan trails and enjoyed a good relationship with the department. The CEDD, which ordinarily deals with large public works, is more bureaucratic and commercially-minded, Dover said.

“We’re still a bit hesitant about how this will work out,” he said. “At the same time there might be a lot of different departments who might object to these things.”

He said it was difficult to predict how many riders would come to Lantau to use the trails. Right now about 100-200 people a day visit Tai Mo Shan on weekend.

But for bike riders Lantau is an impressive destination, combining mountain paths and stunning ocean views not far from the city or the airport.

“We believe Lantau has all the ingredients for a sustainable mountain bike destination. It’s fantastic – people are so surprised when they get out to Hong Kong and into the country parks.”

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