Jakarta and Bandung are two big cities that are well connected by several transportation methods, including trains, cars, and airplanes. There is even a high-speed train project undergoing construction by the time of the writing.
But somehow there are some people who choose to use the slowest and most painful way of travel; riding a bicycle.
Needless to say, it’s not about getting from point A to B, but rather getting to know the experience and what it takes to travel between two seemingly close regions. Some might see it as a personal achievement not many are willing to go through.
So, with my Path E5 e-bike and a bit of experience of riding frequently Jakarta-Bogor, the journey to Bandung should be more or less the same, or so I thought.
Then I realized how wrong I was.
#1 The common route is Jakarta-Bekasi-Karawang-Purwakarta-Bandung
Depending on where you lived and your exact destination, the route from Jakarta to Bandung ranges between 140 km all the way to 200 km.
No matter where you start and finish the run, the most common route is via Bekasi, Karawang, Purwakarta, before eventually reaching Bandung. There many are other routes and their variations, but they seem a bit too far, too many curves, and subpar road conditions.
Another good thing about this route is that there are quite some food vendors and minimarkets that allow you to stop, buy some drink, and recover a bit.
#2 The road from Jakarta up until Karawang was a breeze
The trip from Jakarta to Karawang is mostly via Jalur Pantura which has a much better road shape albeit not perfect. It took me about 4 hours to reach Karawang and I can consistently maintain a speed above 25km/h.
Stronger riders may go a lot quicker than that, especially if riding in a group. But, just like any long trip, consistency matter more than speed.
Slow down to the speed you are comfortable maintaining for hours, so you would have more energy near the end of the trek because that’s where the hardest part lies.
#3 Awful road conditions between Karawang and Purwakarta
Karawang and nearby cities are crowded with massive factories and infrastructure projects. Therefore, big trucks and heavy vehicles often pass through the main road. This, combined with the lack of maintenance only exacerbates the problem.
My touring bike is unfortunately doesn’t have a suspension fork to soften the impact on my hands. Thankfully, the solution is simple. A pair of gloves ensures my fists stay on the handlebar and reduce the overall discomfort.
If you are using a hardtail bike, you may find it to be quite enjoyable.
#4 The suffering starts from Purwarkarta
The distance from Purwakarta to Bandung is roughly 1/3 of the whole journey. And yet, in my experience, it took me 10 hours to finish.
Yep, you read it right. About 10 hours to cover less than 60 km of distance.
It was mostly credited to stopping and resting at a minimarket. I specifically choose the place because they provide a power outlet I could use to recharge the bike’s battery.
Under normal circumstances, it would need about 2 hours for the battery to recharge from 0% to 80%. But the cold climate makes the process painfully slow. The same amount of time barely gives me 30% of energy.
This situation forces me to utilize the lowest pedal assist power whilst climbing uphill. Surely a hell of work.
Sometimes, the road gradient is just too steep and lasts for a few kilometers. I managed to keep pedaling through the steepest hill (about 14% gradient) although had to stop a lot to alleviate the pain my feet have to endure.
I think this is the part where everyone, no matter the bike and gear level will get punished. I saw many strong riders eventually have to stop frequently to catch their breath.
The whole road was built for engines, not humans. So, expect some gruesome work around here.
#5 Almost forgot, no road lighting!
Another scary thing besides the steep gradient and high elevation from Purwakarta to Bandung is the fact that there is no adequate lighting along the road.
I’m still upset that it took me so long in this part. I have a front light on my bike, but it’s far from being helpful and I pretty much have to rely on other vehicles’ lighting to see the road surface.
When encountering a downhill, I have to be very careful. There is no lighting, so road imperfections are not visible. The pathway is curvy, incoming vehicles can appear out of nowhere.
At one point I walk my bike for about 2 kilometers simply because not many vehicles going around to provide additional lighting.
It’s dark, cold, and surrounded by tropical forests. Who knows what animals lurking around, or muggers trying to rob me. We are not lacking in stories of people getting robbed on an empty road.
It was creepy indeed, but I’m thankful for coming out unharmed.
My key takeaway is simple; try to reach the city before sunset.
#6 Stay at Bandung for at least two days
On my usual bike touring, I only rent a room for a night and then come back home tomorrow. But thank God I booked for two nights which my body really appreciate.
Even with the extra time, I barely have the opportunity to explore the city. Battling in drizzling weather for hours makes my bike start producing squeaky noise — a sign of dried lubrication.
Unlucky for me, I didn’t expect that to happen considering I had cleaned and lubricated the chain the day before.
Of course, I couldn’t leave it like that. Aside from the unpleasant noise, the dried chain would also lower the efficiency and require me to pedal harder.
Thankfully, I purchased my bike from Rodalink.com which makes me eligible for a free service on their network of shops in many cities, including Bandung.
To the bike shop I went and their mechanic checked my bike, lubricate the chain, and made sure everything is working well. The whole process takes about 30 minutes and is supposed to cost me IDR 200.000.
But like I said, I’m eligible for a free service. Hence, I only received an invoice via email but nothing came out of my pocket.
The last few paragraphs are not sponsored even though it sounds like so. I’m just happy with their service and Rodalink’s generous policy to new bikers. Nice!
So basically, stay a bit longer. You probably could use some of that time to check on your bike before it’s ready for another adventure.
#7 The return trip is easier, but stay sharp
The total elevation gain from my place to Bandung is around 2300 meters while the inner city actually sits at 700 meters. That means I dropped 1600 meters before landing at the destination.
Depending on where you start, the route, and the finish line, the number would be different but I’m sure it’s more or less the same. In my scenario, I have to climb for another 1600 meters when going back to Jakarta.
It’s lower than the opposite direction, but actually equivalent from Jakarta to Puncak, Bogor.
Fortunately, the scenery is not disappointing at least until I arrived at Purwakarta-Karawang where I started seeing factories and a depressing atmosphere, which is expected for industrial cities.
Then, the ride from Karawang back to Jakarta went smoothly without a hiccup. Although, I had to stop multiple times to refuel my tummy and ease the strain, particularly on my shoulders.
I left the hotel at 8 a.m. in the morning and arrived home at 6 p.m. just before the sunset. Arriving home, I was greeted by people who plunge into disbelief of my story, traveling to Bandung and back with a bicycle.
And that marks the end of this daring adventure.
There are a lot of other things that didn’t make it into the article. At least, this is the information that hopefully would help anyone trying to follow the path.
Is it worth it? Absolutely. Will I do it again? Perhaps. I’m not sure when, but if you saw someone cycling on the way to Bandung, ring your bell. It could be me 🙂
See you on the way up.