Cranking up Bukit Kokol, Sabah 2017

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What started out in Malaysia during the 90’s on raw natural trails and the transition into the millennium with now known riding locations like at Mont Kiara – in the heart of the capital city Kuala Lumpur ; Gunung Jerai and the trails in Penang island – up north the Peninsular state to the crafted Putrajaya Challenge Park to name a few; these were the efforts done in meeting the growing demands of the extreme side of mountain biking. Separated uniquely by the South China Sea, the twelfth and thirteen states of Malaysia are located on the island of Borneo. They are the states of Sarawak and Sabah. Focus Sabah, geographically with a hilly and mountainous landscape, nicknamed “The land below the wind” has its fair share of mountain biking enthusiasts similar to the scene back in the Peninsular states. What had begun with the discovery of two local “Sabahan’s” lads being selected from the general population of cross country riders, they were trained and introduced to the extreme side of mountain biking – “Downhill”. Today, the population had well bloomed and attracted a healthy ride of almost a hundred participants at events held within the state. A growing statistic year on year!
Relocated to Sabah for almost six months since had given me the opportunity to meet a few of the riders who identify their alliance as the “Kota Kinabalu Down Hill’ers” (KKDH). Often meeting up at trails that had been created and built by passionate riders from within the community. Many of the trails are built and maintained from self effort. Over the months here, I have visited a couple of these riding trails. Bukit Kusai, Tamparuli and at Beach View, Kinarut. Examples of trails that were built by riders for riders. Some insights on these single trails begining with the Bukit Kusai trails consisting of two lines with a short length of 1.1km and 1.2km with the 1.1km trail being the older. Recently, with the re-opening of the older trail, the length of the trail will be extended to 2km in the months to come with a purpose of adding on more features and flow and with the intention of attracting more riders from the cross country community as well as attracting interests from the citizens of Sabah thus a learning ground and venue to test riding skills. A mini enduro race is planned at Bukit Kusai in mid January, 2017.

Charlie”Iron Horse” Sinsua at the “Widow Maker”

Jali Lukas, one of the two pioneer extreme riders discovered in the year 2002 leading the pack on the flowy Bukit Kusai trail

The Beach View, Kinarut trail located up the hills above the “Outbound” school is about 1km in length. The namesake of the location speaks for itself. A view of the coast of Kinarut on the right and the hills on the left as one descends from the peak.

The state of Sabah had also hosted the “ASEAN MTB Series” previously and the new “ASIA MTB Series, 2016”. Sabah known as the destination for extreme sports in Malaysia; plans are well underway to make Sabah the mountain biking destination for the country in the year 2017. A great update for the community! In realizing Sabah as a mountain biking destination, a bunch of guys from the KKDH community took a bold step forward, collaborating and forming a team known as the “Borneo Trail Builders”. They are currently working on the hills of Bukit Kokol, Menggatal. Bukit Kokol, is located about 35km from the Kota Kinabalu international airport is situated at about 900meters above sea level sits at the edge of the “Crocker Ridge” that connects from Mount Kinabalu. The ridge seperates the east from west coast of the state with mild weather. Plans are to build five trails with all mountain/enduro in mind and a downhill line with completion expected before the end of the year 2017. Currently, two lines had been identified and are named as the “Lawamandau Trail” and the “Payau Trail”.

View from the Borneo Trail Builders base camp during sunrise.

The “Lawamandau Trail” currently in a raw natural state sits on an elevation of about 730meters above sea level and ends at a distance of almost 6km at 210meters above sea level. Works had begun to further widen the trail and added natural features also increase the trail length. Located in a secondary forest, old rubber trees makes up about 70% of the terrain.

View of the bay of Kota Kinabalu at the starting point of the Lawamandau Trail.

Widening works being carried out at the Lawamandau Trail.

Riding through fields of mountainous paddy

The “Payau Trail” recently walked, begins on an elevation of about 740meters which share the same ending point as the “Lawamandau Trail”. Upon completion, both trails are expected to be stretched to approximately 10km or more. In general both trails have a ratio of 80% descending and 20% ascending.

“Branjoez” a member from the Borneo Trail Builders taking a much needed quench from the ever flowing gravity water

The ending point for the trails. Picturesquely located at Natai Tolungan

Upon completed, the Borneo Trail Builders hope to make Bukit Kokol an important mountain biking destination for Malaysia and around Asia. A string of events are already in the pipeline with a soft launch due next year with the inclusion and introduction of the “Lawamandau Trail” as a venue in the local downhill series. Seeking investors, the Borneo Trail Builders are also planning to make Bukit Kokol a stop over for the “Asia Enduro Series” (AES) by August, 2018. As the curtain for the year 2016 is slowly being raised down, I am all excited and looking forward to the year 2017 with hopes to be able to see the sport of mountain biking grow with new riding destinations around Malaysia; in particular, Sabah.

Burning skies after sunset at Bukit Kokol

View of Bukit Kokol from the Kota Kinabalu International Airport

Words/Photos: Damian Gerard

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