Since traveling to Indonesia on a surfing trip with my girlfriend a few winters ago I have wanted to make it back there with my bike. As luck would have it last year I signed with a bike company based in Indonesia and I knew that I would get the chance to go back with my bike. On my first trip to Indonesia, I saw the rolling grass covered hills flowing into the horizon and the terrain built by volcanic eruptions and added these places to my must hit list.
In January, Polygon invited me to visit their HQ and factory. With winter in full swing, it was perfect timing to make a riding trip happen as well. After visiting their offices, touring their factories and meeting the awesome people behind the company and the production of the bikes it was time to pack up and head to Mt. Bromo. I had seen photos and footage of this volcano years before and it looked like a perfect freeride zone. With limited time and Mt. Bromo being relatively close to the Polygon factories in Surabaya it was an easy decision to head there. After talking with Polygon about my plans to head to Bromo they informed me that with the recent eruptions Mt. Bromo was shut down to tourists.
After hearing the news that Mt Bromo was erupting I had thought “how bad could it really be? Doesn’t sound like a crisis or anything. Let's go there anyway”. So arrangements were made to head to Mt. Bromo and we were on our way.
Climbing at elevation for hours, out of the city into the jungle and up through the thick vegetation onto the side of volcanoes. Winding through steep roads up onto the top of the crater of ancient land forming volcanoes. Farms terraced out all along the side of the steep hillsides with perfect, moist rich soil.
We made it to our home stay in a village high in the mountains where we weren’t sure if we were in a fog, clouds or the cauldrons thick, dark exhaust… We pedaled as high up as we could that night to get a view and try to get our bearings of this huge area of steep spines rising into the sky. With no view of Bromo that day, it was on our sights to get there the next morning and see what this eruption was all about.
The next morning after having a traditional Indonesian breakfast of fruit, rice, eggs, and local coffee we loaded up and made the drive 20 minutes away through more winding mountain side roads to our first glimpse of Bromo. It looked like the biggest pallet fire I had ever seen! There was thick black smoke billowing in the air, I could hardly believe my eyes. What was also shocking was the noise coming from the crater. Its roar sounded like an airport with all the jets revving their engines. Another incredible thing was how shreddable it looked!
After seeing Bromo it was clear we were looking out from the top ridge of an outer super volcano and Mt. Bromo and 2 other smaller volcanoes formed inside the ancient super volcano that was probably a major eruption to form the entire island of Java.
We insisted we wanted to go to Bromo as it looked so close yet it was so far away. We were shown a trail that would lead to a good camping spot and a possible way to Bromo. We started thick in the fog and the trail just kept going. Weaving and rolling up and down through brush hanging overhead. As we popped out of the fog and into an opening there was Mt Bromo still roaring and pumping ash into the air. We had been riding the outer ridge of the super volcano and ended up at a point with a great view of Mt. Bromo and the entire valley below called the Sea of Sand and a small farming village on the inside of a volcano's crater. We set up camp and watched the sun fall behind the large peaks of where we wanted to ride and tried to come up with an idea of how to get down there.
Below our camp was a steep knife ridge that flowed down towards the small town near the bottom of the valley. It had been an old trail at some point but was very grown in. We used small local farming tools to tuned up the old trail so that we could ride it for sunrise the next day hoping we could continue down into the valley below. After having a fire and camping out in an amazing spot with an active volcano roaring in the background we got up at first light and took first tracks down the spine below. With dew drenching the ground from the night the trail was perfectly moist. The spine was so steep off of both sides that it would be near death falling off at any point. And with the ridge ending quite abruptly into unrideable terrain, we decided to turn back and find another way down.
We tried to find a road down into the cauldron below but there was no way down unless you drove all the way back down the volcano and around to the other side. With only a day left we didn’t want to spend it in the car so we took to google earth and some photos and footage we had taken from some of the lookouts. We spotted a trail that led down into a village below so we decided the next day we will take that trail down and see if it will lead us to our destination, Mt Bromo. We sent a vehicle around the long way and told them to meet us in the village and hopefully we will make it there.
The trail dropped off straight down from the outer ridge of the crater down into the valley below. It was a lot rockier and rougher than our recent ride and we were descending quickly. That trail was borderline ridable at times with grass grown in head high but also gave us a great view of the eruption at times that continued to spew into the atmosphere. Luckily at this time, the wind was blowing in our opposite direction but it was very obvious that the land we were on surrounding the active volcano had been covered in ash before. With our trail popping out at the top of the town we cruised through to a little market where locals were hanging around and doing chores. We communicated as best we could and tried to get info on how we could ride Mt. Bromo. Instantly shut down and told that we were not allowed to go within 2 and a half kilometers of the volcano. Apparently when the volcano, which seems to be every 4-6 years lately erupts, that the locals gods are mad at them and they have to pray and sacrifices have to be given to volcano. We said thanks for the info and left after making new friends.
Our search had continued and we were determined to ride that volcano. We had seen from above another trail leading from the town down into the bottom of the Sea of Sand where then by crossing the flat sands you could get to the base of Mt. Bromo. This trail was harder to find than expected but after pedaling through a few farms we found the jackpot. This was an ancient trail use by locals trench out and winding down to the valley bottom. It was the best trail we had found so far with natural features and soft dirt. The trail flowed back and fourth down into the bottom of the super crater and we finally set tires on the Sea of Sand that led to Mt Bromo. Only to be stopped by local officials. We had come so close to riding what we came for. But as we stood there watching the natural phenomenon and knowing what it took to get here and discovering so many old amazing trails it felt like a once in a lifetime experience and a success. We did not come to disrespect any ones gods even though it would have been pretty rad to ride down an erupting volcano! We knew what was possible and the potential this area and all volcanic areas have to offer and it just meant we would have to come back and keep exploring.