The main highways in Malaysia are often filled with motorbikes, cars with barely-there lanes for bicycles. Heat is a mainstay in Malaysians lives - we spend all our time in cool places such as shopping malls, and rarely can imagine working up a sweat to cycle in the Malaysian unforgiving heat - the eternal struggle of every local over here.
But let me tell you that cycling in Malaysia is possible - the parks don’t count as it is not as fun as climbing pure stretches of asphalt and stopping every now and then to cool with a sweet cup of ‘Teh Tarik’ and a plate of Nasi Lemak and Roti Canai. I have not even covered all the places in Malaysia, and as someone who is fairly new to bicycle touring and cycling (2 years in), I will continue updating this list as we go along.
But for now, let me walk you through the uphill and downhill pursuits of cycling in a tropical country like Malaysia.
Cool cycling routes from Kuala Lumpur, the city centre
#1 Bukit Tunku
Amidst the concrete jungle in Malaysia, there are places to cycle in Kuala Lumpur even if that involves cycling in a posh neighbourhood, with large sprawling estates and green foliage in the backyard.
Bukit Tunku, also known as “The Beverly Hills of Kuala Lumpur” is a quick favourite for many urbanites in Malaysia and weekend cyclists to come together. We are used to the city heat and it comes as a blessing to be able to find green breaks in Kuala Lumpur. The ride to Bukit Tunku is not steep (average 3% gradient) and it gives you a taste of cycling in Malaysia.
This ascend gradually connects to Jalan Duta, Mont Kiara and Segambut as well as Dataran Merdeka, Bank Negara, Mont Kiara and Chow Kit. Start your climb at Sekolah Indonesia in Bukit Tunku and make your way to the familiar routes of Bukit Tunku.
On your way down, stop at the neighbourhood’s favourite cafe called Kenny Hills Bakers. They’re known for their warm baked goods and cafe lattes.
#2 Lake Gardens / Perdana Botanical Gardens & Tugu Negara
It is one of my go-to places to cycle around in Klang Valley. You have got the Lake Gardens, the hibiscus garden and rounds near the Islamic Arts Museum as well as the National Mosque of Malaysia. It is scenic and easily a bike ride away from KL sentral. You could start from the Muzium Negara MRT (Gate B) exit and there’s an entrance to the park, from there on make your way towards Tun Abdul Razak memorial and complete a loop and head out further into Taman Tugu Negara.
There are plenty of gentle slopes, monkeys after 6.00pm and wonderful gazebos to idly lay around and do nothing, but just ride.
#3 Cycling in Lorong Travers - Bangsar - Federal Hill/ Lorong Travers - Galeria Sri Perdana
Behind the busy Jalan Travers is Lorong Travers and Jalan Bukit Travers, which are lined with old bungalows and lush greenery all the way up to Federal Hill there is plenty of time to enjoy the cool breeze in a hidden spot in KL. During the colonial times, this street was named after a doctor who restored hope and dignity to leprosy patients, and now these lush settings are home to the elite few of KL. Years ago, the Star newspaper even had a small office here.
The road is only a short stretch linking Jalan Bangsar, Jalan Damansara and Jalan Tun Sambanthan and you can cycle all the way to Jalan Jelutong, make a loop at Dunia Melayu and return to Federal Hill with a short detour to Galeria Sri Perdana. You can even venture and see our ex-Prime Minister’s house Tun Mahathir Mohamed at the Galeria Sri Perdana overlooking KL. It was during his time where he served his term from 1983 to 1999. To cut into Bangsar, there’s a a staircase just below Federal Hill that will take you to Jalan Maarof.
#4 Jalan Kerayong / Seputeh - Kampung Attap - Petaling Street
This is probably a scenic and creepy route for many since it passes through the Kwong Tong in Cemetery in Bukit Seputeh. However, riding and exploring through this route provides a ride through memory lane. There are several unmarked graves that traces back to the racial riots in 1969.
Once you exit the graveyard, you’ll see some old Chinese temples and even come across Taman Dusun Bandar, an abandoned park that no one knows about. It is strange to see all these new places that have not been promoted much. The famous Ikan Bakar at Jalan Bellamy at the exit of the park may be a nice place to stop for some Otak-Otak. As you venture further out, you will also see the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and it is almost parallel to Istana Negara which is now a museum.
Going ahead, will take you to Puspataka before you come in at Jalan Maharajalela and it is time to cross the road with your bikes over the pedestrian pass. The best thing about coming to Petaling Street is pausing to take a break and enjoy a nice kopitiam break at Ali, Muthu and Ah Hock cafe.
#5 Batu 18 Hulu Langat
You can live all your life in Kuala Lumpur and not know about the hideaway trails nestled far away from Kuala Lumpur’s hustle and bustle. It was only through cycling that I discovered these trails and it has quickly become a known trail for cyclists to convene and start their weekend rides in Hulu Langat.
A 40 minute drive from Kuala Lumpur will take you to Batu 18 Hulu Langat, just 30km from the city centre. You can park your car around Batu 18 police station and you’ll see a lot of cyclists in these areas. It is the perfect slow and gentle ride to visit the Kampung life in Hulu Langat. Riding past clucking chickens, the morning breeze and the nippy mountain air will transport you to the innocence of the countryside.
After your 9km gentle ride, you’ll arive at a T-junction where you can choose to ride uphill to Genting Peres on the left which takes you to the border between Selangor and Negeri Sembilan or opt for a gentle ride to Semenyih Lake on the right and onwards towards Sungai Tekala, a recreational picnic site. It is particularly exciting to roll down the hills on your way down from Genting Peres after a hard climb. It can be pretty hot by the time you reach the dam, so my only suggestion is for you to start earlier as it can easily take half a day to complete your ride.
On your way down, other than drinking copious amount of water from your bike water bottle, indulge in some local kuih at the infamous Bahulu Clasiq cafe - their nasi lemak, local teh tarik and kuih is the perfect kind of delectable after a sweaty day out.
#6 Genting Sempah
If visiting the cool Genting Highlands of Malaysia is somewhere down on your list, the journey to Genting Sempah might be a better activity as you get to reach the foothills of the highlands on a two-wheeler, pause and see KL from a different viewpoint.
A famous route among cyclists, Genting Sempah is known as the ultimate training ride before attempting any other challenging terrains in Klang Valley. The entire stretch is 17km long and starts from Hospital Orang Asli Gombak, Jalan Gombak right up to R&R Genting Sempah, the mountain pass on the border of Pahang and Selangor state in Malaysia.
It is often used as an alternative route to get to Janda Baik, Bentong and Bukit Tinggi. The entire path is shaded and you won’t feel the heat as much as cycling on the open roads, but you’ll be sharing the road with other cars and trucks but it is often not busy in the morning. The gradients starts at 3% but there are few short stretches where it reaches up to 10% and 12%.
#7 Fraser Hill
Situated in Pahang and once a colonial hill station by the former British colonial forces, Fraser Hill remains a highland resort for many Malaysians who want a taste of scones and British tea surrounded by greenary. It was discovered in the 1890s by the British who loved these lowlands and how it provided a welcome respite from the heat.
The cherry on the cake is the road that they built and turned it into a haven for cyclists. I visited Fraser Hill recently and went here on my birthday ride - it was one of the best rides that I had done. You can drive from Kuala Lumpur and park your car at KKB Curry House.
Starting off, you pass by Kuala Khubu dam and slowly ascent to a gradual 40km climb which snakes through Malaysia’s rainforest. The theory of slow travel is best applied here where you feel unhurried and take time to notice the critters, and monkeys climbing from one tree to another.
There’s no traffic on the roads and the path leading to Fraser Hill is a one-way road. The long arduous climb ends at The Gap before you take on another crazy grueling climb where the last 8km gradient is atleast 12%. I didn’t make it to the top but with enough breaks, it is absolutely doable to persevere and reach your final destination.
#8 Cycling from KL to Klang on Federal Highway motorcycle lane
We all know about the famous Klang river, but we do not know much about the history about Klang and how it is known for its civil wars, tin mines and royal heritage. It was the former capital of Selangor city afterall. To cycle here, leave from KL Gateway-Universiti LRT station and head onto the motorcycle lane that will take you through Klang’s town directly. Due to speeding motorbikes, this route is best taken on the weekend or public holidays since the motorcycle lane is just 3-4mm wide.
Once you reach the mural, take a left onto the Kota Bridge that will take you directly to the oldtown and Klang railway station as well as pre-war shophouses. Some of the best things to do over here is take a walk down memory lane and see how the faded world of yesteryear comes alive. The town has recently started a Klang Walking / Heritage tour and even cycling lanes taking you to some of these hidden gems. Get your kopitiam fix at Family Kopitiam or Chong Kok and sample some of the best pandan layer cake at the Pandan Cake Shop.
If you’re too tired to cycle back, hop on the KTM train and you’ll be back in KL in just one hour for RM2. The government is trying to encourage more people to cycle in Klang and it is great that they have made it possible for people to bring their bikes on!
#9 Cycling in Parit to Bota and Manong Bridge
In a small town of roughly 2,000 people, Parit holds some of the most interesting architecture of Malaysia’s Rumah Kutai houses that are over 100 years old. It used to be once a convenient stop-over for Malaysians but due to increased urbanisation, small towns like Parit and Bota are often forgotten and people are seen thronging Ipoh and Penang instead.
Starting from Lanai Casuarina in Parit, we headed towards Bota Kanan and made a return journey to cycle towards Bota Kiri and Manong, Kuala Kangsar the next day. The entire ride takes you into the heart of the rural heartland where you’ll see artistically carved houses in vibrant pastel colours further displaying the rich heritage of our country. With the principles and culture of Malay heritage houses on the verge of dissappearance, it was nice for time to stand still and for us to reassess our version of nostalgia post lockdown. We stopped at Kedai Kopi Hailam Sin Moh Seng for the best Mee Hailam and Appam Balik cake.
#10 Cycling in Kuala Khubu Baru
Kuala Kubu Baru, or KKB as it is fondly known, is often thought of by travelers as a sleepy town in Selangor, but a deeper look into its origins reveals a history that is both enriching and charming. It is located approximately 70 km from the capital city of Kuala Lumpur through Route 1 and is the main gateway for people heading to one of Malaysia's favourite hill stations, Fraser's Hill, which is a 45-minute drive away from KKB.
The easiest part of travelling in this town is the ability to hop on the KTM train with your bikes! You can opt to stop at Kuala Khubu Baru and use it as a base to explore the town the old-style and double-storied buildings. The scenic town of Kuala Khubu Baru carries a lot of nostalgia with old colonial-style buildings dating back to some 80 years ago. Start your breakfast at Il Mio Cafe, a place that serves local favourites with antique clocks and finds with a bakery opposite that serves the best kaya puffs! You can add another layer of adventure to your trip and cycle further up for 12km to cozy stays like The Sticks — even if you’re not up for staying, you can access the grounds from 9am to 6pm on a day trip and enjoy the relaxing surroundings.
#11 Cycling in Balik Pulau Penang & Taking The Ferry to Langkawi
There’s the beaches, the George town heritage trail, the awesome food and the multi-cultural part of Penang that makes this the perfect place to cycle in Malaysia. Currently in the works are the government’s masterplan to create a cycling lane along Penang’s coastal fringes - but while that’s in the process, other cyclists have found ways to incorporate various routes to explore this island on a two-wheeler. Most of the routes begin from Penang esplanade and there are countless routes that will take you past the city’s colonial past.
One favourite route among cyclist is visiting Balik Pulau on a bicycle, the southwestern part of Penang. You’ll see a different side of Penang and charming old shophouses. There’s even a really cute Saanen Dairy Goat Farm and old fishing villages, fruit orchards and mangroves. You can even stay in Titi Teras Village, a local style house surrounded by local village by Malay, Chinese and Indian communities.
What makes Penang great is its connectivity, and you could hop onto a ferry and cycle onwards to Langkawi by bike. The crossing operates up to 3 times each week with sailing durations from around 2 hours 45 minutes and costs approximately RM75 one way.
#12 Cycling in Perak (Taiping and Ipoh)
Much has been said about Ipoh’s white coffee and about Taiping’s century old rain-trees, but not many have cycled past Perak’s charming old tin-mining towns. The best rides are the city rides; probably best done in the morning or evening to avoid the insane heat.
In Ipoh, traverse down Ipoh’s concubine lane and the Kinta riverside where you’ll see the stark contrast between the old and new Ipoh.
And in Taiping, grab your bicycle and visit Taiping’s iconic Lake Gardens filled with glorious 100-year-old raintrees. It is also known as as one of the top three sustainable destinations in the world. You could begin cycling from Teluk Intan, towards Lumut and then to Taiping.
Where to rent/buy bicycles in Malaysia?
There are couple of places where you can rent your bicycles from in Kuala Lumpur as your starting point - but if you’re here for a long period of time, I suggest purchasing it from bicyclebuysell and selling it off at a later point. If you’re in need of a car rental service so you can drive independently to all these places, have a look at Socar.my; rates are at about RM8 (approx USD2) per hour.
The Basikal, Bangsar: Probably a decent place to rent a bicycle for a quick ride out in the city or for a few days / weeks.
Foresttrek Cycle Centre: A bit far from the city but you have the full range of bicycle services over here.
2Escape / USJ cycles: If you already have bicycles, and need some fixing or bike repairs - these shops have the widest variety of gears, accessories and services.
Pedal Malaya: The owner of Pedal Malaya offers good advice for any routes you’re looking at related to touring or even purchasing a customised bike.
The advice that I would give to fellow adventure-seekers: just do it. I know it might sound crazy, and the heat might be off-putting but these cool places to cycle in Malaysia can be quite an eye-opening experience. You’ll pass by forgotten towns, see things that is not possible to see in a fast-moving vehicle and embrace the tropical surroundings.
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