Scooters are perfect for exploring Bali and Lombok. Popular with locals who can’t afford a car, these mini motors are great for visitors seeking to shun the beaten track. Take to the coastal roads where the cool breeze provides a break from the tropical heat, or head inland for a thrilling ride that takes in stunning lakes and still-active volcanic peaks.
COASTAL BALI: TANAH LOT TEMPLE TO SEMINYAK (HALF DAY: 30KM)
This is an easy, meandering ride for a day when you feel like dropping in at a beach bar or two, doing a bit of shopping and enjoying cafe life. You’ll skirt shimmering paddy fields and coconut plantations, and zip past several temples. The route starts at Tanah Lot, an important place of worship spectacularly situated on an islet—morning is the best time to stop by as sunset brings the tourists out. Next, head to Echo Beach with its surfer hangouts, followed by a loop to the sweeping bay of Batu Bolong where there’s an expanse of golden sand enjoyed by a good mix of visitors and locals.
Head inland via the village of Canggu, then south to Warung Sulawesi for an inexpensive lunch of sweet and spicy Balinese food—try the nasi kuning (yellow rice) with curried vegetables and tempeh (a patty made from cooked and slightly fermented soy beans). You could follow up with an ice cream at nearby Gusto Gelato—it’s the best on the island. Try a scoop of ginger or white mango and take the opportunity to relax in the delightful garden that’s a shady retreat from the tropical heat. Then it’s a scooter shimmy back to the coast at Batu Belig Beach and a short detour via the impressive temple of Pura Petitenget. It dates back to the 16th century, and many Hindu ceremonies are performed here.
Cruise the art galleries and stores along Jl Kayu Jati—Bali Boat Shed is great for beachwear and accessories—and hit the coast again at Seminyak, taking in a sundowner at the near-legendary bar Ku De Ta. Here DJs spin atmospheric tunes while spotlights focused on the breakers illuminate the haze of sea spray to magical effect.
INLAND BALI: VOLCANOES, LAKES AND VISTAS (FULL DAY: 137KM)
This route journeys from the spiritual center of the island, Ubud, into its volcanic heart. Thanks to Eat, Pray, Love hype, the serenity that Ubud is known for is often sadly compromised by diesel-pumping tour buses from the coastal resorts. But saddle up and head north and you’ll be rewarded with views of impossibly lush, cascading rice terraces and tropical forest. After 15km you’ll pass the Pura Tirta Empul, a temple compound dedicated to the Hindu god Visnu and built around a holy spring, which the devout visit for purification ceremonies.
The steep road ascends via incredibly fecund vegetable fields to the outer rim of the giant Gunung Batur caldera. From the village of Penelokan you’re rewarded with jaw-dropping views over Danau Batur lake, the often-smoldering volcanic cone of Batur and the looming peak of Gunung Abang, Bali’s third highest mountain. The majesty of this viewpoint has not been overlooked, and an ugly sprawl of restaurants clusters together along the edge of the bowl. Once you’ve sated your smartphone’s appetite for snaps, continue along the crater road to the village of Penulisan; from here, a lonely side road plunges down a river valley past the villages of Catur and Pelaga, as well as coffee and cinnamon plantations. Gaggles of children greet you as you buzz down this lovely trail. Just after Sandakan village, turn right and head north up a steep road north towards Temantanda.
Pause for a drink and a bite in Cafe Teras Lempuna in Candikuning and take in the 17th-century temple Pura Ulun Danu Bratan. For more stunning scenery, head east to lakes Tamblingan and Buyan where you’ll find roadside vendors selling strawberries. Return to Ubud (55km) and, if you have time, stop off at the Bali Botanical Garden to view its impressive orchid collection. The road south is in good condition, passing through Pacung and Petang.
WESTERN LOMBOK (FULL DAY: 155KM)
Begin in the old port of Ampenan, home to a cluster of faded buildings that date from the Dutch colonial era, as well as the fascinating Chinese temple of Po Hwa Kong. Take the inland route through the evergreen hills of the Pusuk Pass, where you’ll encounter troops of long-tailed macaque monkeys hanging around close to the road. As you descend to the shore there are spellbinding views of the three Gilis, tiny offshore islands fringed by coral reefs. The road passes the scruffy port of Bangsal, then clings tight to the coastline for 48 kilometers, passing a succession of fishing villages and roadside stalls of dried fish until you reach the small town of Anyar.
Though around 90 percent of Lombok’s population is Muslim, the north is home to large numbers of Wetu Telu, a unique, indigenous sect of Islam which fuses Hindu and animist beliefs. As you pass through the Wetu Telu village of Bayan, you’ll see a bamboo building with a thatch and bark roof: this is an ancient mosque—the oldest in the island.
From Bayan, return via the same coastal road to the small peninsula of Sire and stop to enjoy its stunning white sand beaches. I love to rest up and swim here. South of Sire, the road to Senggigi is one of the most spectacular in the island, slaloming around hairpin after hairpin, passing a succession of remote, empty bays. It’s an exhilarating ride, and perfect for two-wheel travel. Eventually the coastal road eases into Senggigi itself, Lombok’s main tourist resort, where I like to roll into Nooq Lounge Bar at Qunci Villas just in time for happy hour.
WHEN YOU’RE SCOOTERING…
In Bali and Lombok it seems anyone and everyone will rent you a scooter including shops, hotels and rental places. Rates are very reasonable indeed, from US$6 per day. Rental places will usually make you sign a contract so you’re responsible for any damage, and often ask you leave a deposit (your passport). A helmet should be provided and must be worn while riding. Police rarely stop foreigners but be aware that you should officially have an International Driving Permit. If you’re running low on fuel and there’s no gas station in sight, look out for someone selling gas in one of the villages—it’s usually for sale in 1L bottles in a stack by the roadside.
Got some two-wheel tales to tell? Tweet with #momentumtravel along with any tips, hacks or recommendations for other brilliant bike trips.
Photos: Alamy, Torbenbrinker and Getty