Polygon Bikes Crew Riding Volcanos
When people think of mountain biking in Indonesia, it’s Bali that is front of mind. But volcanos pepper the east of Java too like barnacles, and Mt Bromo is one of the grandest, notable not just for its size but for the fact it’s still very, very active. So active in fact that approaching the crater was banned as recently as November, just two months prior. But despite the occasional tectonic ejections, the slopes of Bromo are clustered with villages and farms. And amongst them run hundreds of walking trails and access tracks that are the economic capillaries of these rural communities. Today these walking tracks would be our trails, on our epic 36km journey from the peak of Bromo, a ride as unique as any we’ve ever attempted.
The Polygon lads know these trails well now, but working out a continuous, rideable route from top to bottom of Bromo was like escaping the Labyrinth, a labour of love that took many months; dozens of weekends of wrong turns, dead ends, back-tracking up goat paths that had fruitlessly ended in a cabbage patch. The volcano now plays a big role in the local riding scene, as the site of club races and group rides, and it’s also become the default testing ground for new Polygon products too. Like mountain bike product designers the world over, the team behind Polygon bikes are in their jobs because they’re riders. On just about any weekend, they’ll be out there, either descending from the crater’s edge, or shuttling the lower slopes.
Amazingly, right at the foot of the inner caldera, there’s a temple. While it’s only used once a year or so, for rituals that involve throwing offerings into the mouth of the volcano, it’s right in the firing line, and if Bromo were to blow, it’s game over for the worshippers. The temples occupants have nothing but their faith to protect them, and it’s time for me to do the same, as I put my trust in the line choices of Syamsu and try to follow his wheel as we begin our descent.
We’re flying along the ridge lines, picking up crazy speed with that kind of tremendous inertia you only get on really long descents, when you’re out of gears and off the brakes. Up ahead, I’m trying to read Syamsu’s body language as he skips over ruts that have been gouged by the spinning wheels of motorbikes hauling cabbage and broccoli from the farms lining the trail. The further we descend, the more the trail surface changes; at first sandy and full of grippy volcanic pumice, it gradually turns to red clay. The ruts begin to develop a wheel sucking magnetism that you’ve got to fight – so much as glance at a rut then that’s where you’re heading!
I feel like I’ve done a full day of downhill runs, and my poor bike – a Polygon Collosus N9 which had been brand new at the start of the day – has been given the ultimate baptism of fire, it’s original colour barely distinguishable. I’m sure I look equally haggard too. Bromo has taught me a lesson or two (as has Syamsu, who always seemed to be pulling away from me, no matter how hard I went) about descending Indo style, and given me one of the most memorable days on the bike I’ve ever experienced. It’s a ride I’ll always talk about, but for the Polygon crew, it’s just another Bromo session, another day at the office, riding volcanos.