Malaysia is a booming country, well renowned for its economic performance as one of Asia’s best, however deforestation is a major concern as the country is still rapidly developing. Yet, some wonderful areas are still protected and offer a great potential for biking.
Stepping out on an adventure is a team composed of Romana the founder of “Adventure We Like“, whos been traveling extensively across Malaysia on a motorcycle or a mountain bike, Dominic the local guide and filmaker William Klock.
We’ve been planning this trip for months and have designed a 3000 km road across the main island starting from the south.
Our objective is to find some nice enduro singletracks and to meet the local riding community. Downhill is very popular there and there are numerous downhill tracks in the jungle and they are pretty rough: get ready for a tropical ride looted with massive roots and huge rock gardens!
Malacca is our first leg; two hours drive in the south of the capital Kuala Lumpur.
The constrast with the cold French winter is compelling: it is sweltering hot in March!
We are too excited and skip lunch to hit the local trails as soon as we arrive. Later we have a typical meal in a local restaurant before visiting the historic centre of Malacca, formerly colonised by the Portuguese and later on, by the Dutch. We are really impressed with the rich history of Malaysia, with its great diversity of cultures and origins.
Kuantan is our second leg, still in the south of Kuala Lumpur but in the west on the opposite side of the country. There we rode another downhill track, but it is far different from Malacca’s. The jungle is more humid, and great granite rocks can be found in the middle of small mountain by the sea. The lines gets you around or across those blocks, the ride was pretty techy here !
The next day we have to drive back to Kuala Lumpur and seize the opportunity to visit the business centre and the famous twin Petronas Towers. In the city, the contrast between modernity and tradition struck us: while the urban development is really fast, there a few lushy areas still covered with a tropical jungle, religious landmarks are everywhere, traditions and culture are ubiquitous : Malaysia is a multi racial country consisting of Malays, Chinese, Indians and numerous indigenous people.
We are now driving north to the Cameron Highlands, the most extensive hill station, an spreading on an area of 712 square kilometres, apart from its world famous tea plantation, the plateau is also noted for its cool weather, a relief after a few days dealing with the tropical heat. The outstanding lines in the plantations look really promising for tomorrow’s ride! We have no choice but to carry our bike and get as much elevation as possible, while we are climbing we realises how steep the terrain is and how stiff are the branches. The ride down was pretty challenging and scary: each bush is quite treacherous for our pedals … a small mistake and you will crash … but no pain no gain!
Our fifth leg is Gunung (Mount) Jerai up north, a few kilometres only from the Thai border.
Jerai is an impressive mountain that stands in the middle of nowhere, above the ocean. We certainly had our longest ride here: a main track of 7km plus a shorter one of 3km. The conditions were dry and the texture of the soil is very different from what we have encountered in the south, mainly because of the higher altitude, the ride is fairly rooted, steep and sandy. The locals paved us the way and snaked in and out the winding and tricky but natural tracks. Since Jerai is a natural reserve, cutting trees to clear our path was out of the question.
For our last leg, we are heading towards Penang Island, on the West Coast. The island still keeps track of its british past and reflects a huge part of the country’s history. The capital of George Town is a must-see due to its touristic and cultural aspects: from its great architecture to its nice bars, there are plenty of things to discover and experience.
Penang Hill was a real revelation: we had a crush for it! Penang Hill overlooks the city buildings and offers slopes of more than 700 m, which is provide one of the most technical ride. This is the most exciting place to ride in Malaysia but you have to share the trails with the hikers, they are once again full of technical roots, gaps and natural canyons. Double check your brakes before each ride! One of the track has been called “mini Champéry”, an homage to the famous downhill track in Switzerland, it is indeed as steep but in a very different landscape with a scorching temperature and snakes that may jump from trees too trees (that’s what the local says but we did not the chance to meet a single one… probably because of the urban development).
Our trip is coming to an end, those 2 weeks in Malaysia were exhausting, full of excitement, great encounters and discoveries thanks to the local riders. There is plenty to ride in Malaysia and the locals are deeply involved in the development of our favourite sport. They were so welcoming and happy to share their best trails with us, big up to them !