Tour de Malaysia - Road Cycling UK

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Tour de Malaysia

Malaysia

I hear from friends that they command a high price at market, but it’s little consolation when swerving at 60 kph to avoid a stray water buffalo on a blind descent; all you tend to think about for that nano-second is being impaled by those huge great sword like horns. But, touchwood, the close shave wasn’t close enough to cause a chin rash, and it’s all part of the enamour when riding a bike through the wilds of Malaysia.

The concept of pulling together a grand bike tour around Malaysia had been simmering away on the back burner for many years; but you know how it is, things just tend to simmer away until they eventually dry up. So many times I’d plotted and planned routes and logistics, and pinned together short sections, and eventually I managed to knit them all together to form a great circuit around the finest gems of the north peninsular, cutting out the traffic heavy and laborious sections with the aid of a back up vehicle.
We’d just rounded a blind corner on a Langkawi kampung road, and there they were, horns wider than my handlebars, and as docile as could be. In true Malaysian style we were riding on roads that didn’t actually exist as far as the cartographers were concerned, which are by far the best kind of roads in terms of biking adventures, and this was just day three of our two week epic circumnavigation.

Malaysia

Things had kicked off with a round island tour of Penang, fun but traffic laden, and following a rain soaked padi field meander northwards we were now blasting through the ultra narrow maze of traffic free lanes that make Langkawi such a haven for cyclists.
I’d cherry picked the best riding of the north west coast, and we were now headed for the flat respite of the east coast, by means of the legendary East-West Highway. I’d travelled this road once before, by car, but travelling it by bike is truly one of the most demanding and rewarding cycling experiences in the country. Starting from Grik meant that we avoided the traffic and made our way up hill for almost 40 km to Banding Lake Resort for an overnight stop before skirting the dramatic highway alongside the Thai border, destination Jeli, which we reached in a blinding monsoonal downpour, one local delight best avoided by bike.

This road is a meandering high mountain snake of a thing. with dramatic and often cloud shrouded vistas across the tiger and elephant inhabited forests of the north. It’s rare to see cyclists on this road, which means that just about every passing car toots and waves in amazement, which adds to the whole experience.
The east coast is highly revered amongst cycle tourists, but to be true it’s flat and windswept roads can be something of a drag after any more than a day, so it’s no great hardship to leave things behind, which we duly did by detouring inland for a while and then taking a transfer day from Kuantan to Bentong, which lies at the foot of the mighty Fraser’s Hill road, a long and drawn out jungle clad climb that must rank as one of the most bike happy roads in the whole country. I’d ridden it the opposite way around several times in the past, but from the east it’s definitely more of an epic, especially when you consider that it ends with a 50 kilometre downhill, a great way to end any bike ride. For us daylight time was running short, so we avoided the extra blast up to the hill station it’s self, a great ride, but meant for a special day with strong reserves.

Malaysia

We were bound for the chilling heights of Cameron Highlands, one of the few places in Malaysia where you can actually feel a slight chill when riding a bike. Sure enough the old road from Tapah is amazing; but its narrow and blind twists don’t make it the best option for. We’d chosen to transfer along the old road, and then to spend a day riding around the steep and deserted roads leading to the local tea plantations, which is truly stunning and great on two wheels.

Malaysia

There are some great mountain bike rides around the Highlands and tea
plantations, but on skinny road bike tyres it’s a none option, plus our tour was drawing to a close, and a grand finale was called for! This happy ending was found in the shape of the new Cameron Highlands Highway, a real high rolling gem of a road into the interior, and yet another road that doesn’t yet adorn the pages of the map books.

From Tanah Rata the road climbs steeply through Brinchang and on to the Blue Valley, which previously marked the end of the surfaced roads. From here the superb and remote new highway winds it’s way down through the jungle to meet the main KL highway to the south of Ipoh. The road is wide and well surfaced, with practically nothing in the way of traffic, a cyclists dream ride, and a superb ending to a wild and varied tour of Malaysia.

Saddle Skedaddle run road tours in Malaysia, check out www.skedaddle.co.uk.

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