What’s a bike hash? A bike hash is a bike ride that follows a pre-laid trail set by one or more trail-setters, or hares, using flour, chalk and, occasionally, toilet paper. The trail may be a mixture of roads, concrete paths, jeep tracks, single-track trails, stream crossings – whatever the hares have decreed. The ride is punctuated with challenges that riders must solve, known as checks, that serve to keep the pack together. These usually take the form of a choice of possible routes from a junction, with only one of the possibilities being correct. A check is indicated by a chalk or flour circle. The leading riders reaching a check are obliged to choose a route option and explore it. However, the very first rider to reach the check must remain at the check until other riders have solved it, and then must mark the check for any riders that follow by breaking the circle in the correct direction. Checks and other challenges, and the way in which they are marked, are fully explained by the hares before the ride. There may be one or more refreshment stops along the route, which also serve to regroup the pack. There will usually be a long trail and a short trail to choose from, with the shorter trail short-cutting the longer one at some point. The trail markings are always laid on the left-hand side of the trail. If you see markings on the right you’re going the wrong way!
Where? Not everybody owns a bike, so bike hashes start and finish at bike shops that have bikes for hire. To date, suitable shops in Tai Po, Yuen Long and Sai Kung have been identified.
Bike transport. A major problem for bike owners. If you have a car, get a bike rack that fits on the roof or boot of your car. Most bikes will fit in the back seat of most cars when the front wheel is removed. Taxi drivers can be fickle about taking a bike but some will. Hire a van (for our own man with a van, see the Links page). You can also take a bike on the MTR, theoretically, but in practice it’s a major hassle, with most MTR staff ignorant of the rules or wilfully uncooperative. An exception is the East Rail line that runs through Tai Po, Fanling and Sheung Shui. You must remove the front wheel.
If you take your own bike, also take bike tools, pump, puncture repair kit and a spare inner tube – they may save you a long walk if you break down, and will make you very popular among the bike hirers!
Hiring a bike. Make sure to arrive at the bike shop half an hour before the start of the ride. You’ll need to inspect the bikes on offer. Most bike shops have functional, serviceable bikes but no more – and some bikes are in poor condition. Check the brakes and gears and ask the bike shop mechanics to tune them if necessary. Don’t take a spanking new bike that’s just been unwrapped. More than one bike hasher has done this only for the pedal to fall off mid-ride. Make sure you can adjust the saddle to a comfortable height and that your knees aren’t too bent when you pedal. Are you stretching forward too much to reach the handlebars? The bike may be too big for you. Get advice from bike owners. You’re going to have fun and don’t want to suffer unduly.
What to take. You don’t need loads of specialist gear for a bike hash; T-shirt and loose-fitting shorts are adequate if the weather’s fine. However, there are some pieces of kit that can make the ride much more comfortable. Padded cycling gloves and padded cycling shorts can prevent a lot of aching during the ride – and a bit of judiciously applied vaseline around the nether regions can prevent unpleasant sensations later on! You’re strongly advised to wear a helmet. You can easily burn after a couple of hours on a bike so make sure to apply sunscreen, even if it’s overcast. If it looks like rain, pack a lightweight plastic raincoat. And don’t forget some cash for those all-important rehydration stops.
If you would like to be a hare check out Advice for Hares.
Now what are you waiting for? Get bike hashing!