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Motorcycle Paradise

Singapore to Malaysia motorcycle ride


Malaysia was a terrific ride. It kept surprising me in many nice ways. The people, food and of course the roads were great. But let's rewind. (Update – sorry this post is quite old now. I am unable to fix the text positioning issues, Blogger just ignores what I do. Read my 2nd ride in Malaysia starting from Kuala Lumpur HERE)

I had previously planned a ride in Malaysia but cancelled it for a couple of reasons. I was traveling in Asia and decided to return to Australia via KL and rent a motorcycle for a couple of days however this was in the tail of the rainy season and I had no wet weather gear with me so decided to cancel which was wise as it poured that weekend there.

On more recent travel I had a few days layover in Singapore and noticed a company that organised motorcycle tours to Malaysia also rented motorcycles. It seemed to fit my timeline so I booked a bike and started to work on the details.

Big Loud Rides are in Orchard Road, Singapore and have some very nice Harleys for rent (or as part of a organised tour) as well as a BMW R1100S. It seems odd going to a shopping mall to rent a bike, but that's Singapore. I chose the BMW however given more time I would probably take a Harley and reduce my daily mileage. The R1100S is an old bike but proved itself capable and comfortable enough despite the slightly sporty ergonomics.



Singapore is a great place but big cities are never fun to ride thus I woke up early and rode out at the break of dawn to avoid the heavy traffic and heat. My GPS managed to get confused when following my plotted route and wanted to take me to the airport so after trying to navigate myself out of town I gave up and stopped and cleared my route asked it to find best way to border and this then worked perfectly.

Lost in Singapore? No just GPS glitch



I have noticed a few times that routes you plot from Google maps simply do not translate to a route a GPS can understand so it is best then to pick points along the way you want to go and get there then have the device follow the rest of your chosen scenic/twisty route.


 

Above the Toll cards needed and my rental helmet which had poor venting in the heat.

Riding in Singapore you need a toll card (and toll card device mounted to bike) I used the Tuas checkpoint to enter Malaysia which sounded the less busy option. The border crossing procedure is simple, you must stay to the left and use the designated lane for motorcycles, which I was pleased to find also meant skipping a huge queues of cars. No paperwork leaving and after the bridge from Singapore island to the mainland you will find a toll plaza with a motorcycle lane to the far left where you pay the bridge toll. The whole process took very little time and soon I was in Malaysia and so I decided to stop and have breakfast.

Below border leaving Singapore, half way across bridge in no mans land and some nice breakfast in Malaysia.

 

 

 

Motorcycle riders get good treatment in Malaysia. You pay zero tolls which never ceased to bring a smile to my face at every toll plaza. Make sure you slow in advance and get to the far left where there is a small motorcycle lane that goes around the outside of the toll plaza complex. Often these motorcycle lanes have a small rest area with shelter or a toilet for riders to use. This is not the only special treatment riders get in Malaysia, under most overpasses there is a special area off the highway created for riders to stop when it is raining to rest of put on rain gear. This is not an impromptu thing but officially signposted with exit and entry lane from the highway. Of course towns present heavy traffic but the shoulder lane is the domain of motorcycles and cars generally make room for you there or to lane split if no side lane. I also noticed plenty of designated motorcycle parking areas, this is found in most of Asia, but all up a nice package of things for a rider and as always a pleasant experience coming from motorcycle hating Australia.

 

Above dedicated motorcycle lane for motorcycle to by pass the toll gates – very nice

Riding from Singapore to Genting Highlands I jumped off the motorway early but to be honest the rural roads while not boring in the Segamat district were not much fun and the towns had heavy traffic. Not until I reached route 9 from the Negeri Sembilan district that the road got interesting and indeed the road then is quite curvy to Bentong.

Just before lunch I stopped in a town to check my route and found myself in front on a KFC. Now as a rule I try not to eat fast food when I travel but it was hot and the lure of air con took me in to cool down. This turned into a interesting dining experience as I ordered the local meal box which as you can see comes with rice, soup, spicy sauce and had a unique taste as far as anything I have ever had from KFC.



From Karack to Genting there is a long multilane highway but with long superb curves, a wonderful bit of road that I found hard to photograph as seemingly gentle radius curves became enjoyable at highway speeds and I noticed many sports bikes doing probably double my speed but that was really not necessary to have a nice ride on this road.

 
 


The climb to Genting Highlands is very steep and tight but one way road up and down and mostly multi lanes so still fun. At the top you have a theme park and many hotels. It would seem a very popular place for couples to come for an escape from the heat of nearby KL but worked ok for me to kick back as well. I was enjoying the place until I went to get my passport and could not find it. After searching everything at least 1/2 a dozen times I contacted the hotel staff if it had been found and went through a worrying time for an hour or so thinking if it is lost the nightmare it will trigger until finally it turned up and I was so relieved. Very very careless of me and something I have never done before. I was just so exhausted when I arrived I did not pay close attention to what I was doing. I wont do that again.

Below up high at Genting highlands and monkeys

 
 


The next day I rode to the Cameron Highlands. The route I took was via the Raub district and then onto the C156 road which I am going to name as (drum roll please) the best motorcycle road I have ever ridden. This road was low on my list to ride, the 59 and C181 that climb from the west to the highlands being the most talked about however the C156 is the most perfect collection of long sweeping corners where you seem to be leaning the motorcycle over forever in corners that never stop turning. Smooth, grippy and almost no cars mmm ... sorry I was just day dreaming a little thinking of the 156 again.

 
 

Above great roads in Malaysia and I like their curvy road sign too!

More common variety tight curve surveying can be found on route 59 west and north from Ringlet but these roads were also busy with cars. I did not get to see my final target, road C181. I was always going to have to monitor how the day went time wise and by lunch I realised I would not be able to do everything I wanted so quickly decided to cut this and backtracked to enjoy a simple lunch at one of the tea plantations with an wonderful cup of their masala tea and a tranquil view of the tea plantation on the mountains.

 

The 59


Everywhere I went people wanted to talk to me. At the tea plantation I had conversations with three people just in the car park asking where I was from and if I was enjoying Malaysia. I was the only westerner everywhere I went and people were friendly and genuinely interested in talking to me. I rode back down the awesome 156 with some guys on 125 scooters who were streamlining themselves to do 100k using the gentle downhill gradients and then pulling some serious lean into the tighter sweepers. Great stuff! After awhile on the low lands I pulled in for a rest as the mid 30's degree heat was incredible after the cool mountain air and a bunch of guys pulled in to have a drink and right away invited me to join them and shouted a drink as well and we chatted 15 minutes while I cooled down.

 
 
Above route 156
 
I liked that people were interested but not sure the context yet. In Singapore like Australia nobody blinks an eye at anyone because of their race as both are so multicultural. Thailand is the most touristy country in Asia, almost everywhere you will be one of many westerners and the locals have embraced tourism. In Philippines there is less tourism and people are often curious and pleased you are visiting their country but there is also real poverty, some lawlessness and you are literally a multi-millionaire to them so occasionally it is a little edgy. In Japan it's the opposite. I always am made to feel I am the threat. People will cross the street to not have to pass close by to me. Nobody will ever sit next to me on the train, even if its the only seat left, and hotels tell me they cannot let me stay the night if I don't speak Japanese. So by comparison (so far) I like the feel of Malaysia. Nobody was feeling threatened, including myself, and nobody seemed to be looking down at me nor despising me.


Looping back I stayed the next night at Frazer Hill. This area, like Genting Highlands is on top of a mountain and I think a weekend escape area for people from KL however it looks like it has fallen on quiet times of late. Compared to Genting there was very few people and the hotels all looked a little past their glory days - but I liked it. It was very quiet and relaxing and my hotel had character and was interesting. The road to there from the east is very tight and twisty and then the last 8 km is a one way road in and another 9km one way out of very tight curves. The BMW fuel light came on as I arrived at Frazer hill with just 170km on the trip meter. I had read this model had a woeful range and had been refueling before 150km but this still caught me by surprise as I had been riding very modest throttle since last fueling and so this probably represented almost the best range of the bike. Disappointing and it was a worrying 50km to the nearest fuel.



I got up for a early departure and the hotel manager who had met and chatted at length to me yesterday came to wish me all the best and assured me it was down hill all the way to fuel so I would be fine. The road to the west is superb curves, beautiful tarmac, I rode it gentle to conserve fuel but it was a road that was wonderfully surveyed and I would love to visit again.

West of Frazer Hill


After this I changed my plan and decided to skip my route via more regional roads and ride back via Kuala Lumpur. It was going to be a scorching hot day and I was not feeling up to a lot of aggressive lane splitting or being stuck in the traffic of the small towns. I was also thinking it would be good to avoid arriving Singapore too late so I shifted to cruising back on the motorways to bring my ETA forward and make for a more relaxing ride home. Navigating KL I had read was difficult but really it turned out not hard at all. There are motorways that take you right the way past and only twice did the multi lane spaghetti type highway junctions get difficult when the GPS struggled to keep up. First time I guessed it right, second time I guessed wrong and ended up off the motorway for a couple of heavy km of city traffic before the GPS caught up and worked out how to resume my journey.

South of the city I noted exits for Putrajaya. This is where the motorcycle rental shop in KL is that I had previously intended to rent with. In the future I would consider riding from there though KL to the north as an option to save riding from Singapore however on the other hand Singapore is worth a visit just for the food as far as I am concerned. So perhaps either option is good depending on the time available and style of bike you would prefer or which is easier to fly to.

I just cruised back down the motorway towards the border, I could have covered this very fast if I wanted as speeding does not seem to be policed but the BMW engine felt rough much above 120kph and the rental helmet then started to put too much pressure on my forehead from the wind so I made my way down at more or less this which is what the fast lane was flowing at. Finding fuel is never too difficult, and any country with lots of scooters usually has ample fueling points due to their reduced range. On the motorways there is the same huge service centres found all over the world which there have good options for eating as well, I mean non fast food. Lastly fuel itself is cheap, about 1/2 Australian prices at 80 something cents a litre for premium at my calculation. You have to pay before you fill up (only country outside North America I have encountered this) I used mostly Petronas petrol stations where I was able to use the pay at the pump via credit card facilities. This is way easier than going inside and getting a pre authorisation on your card.

Tasty lunch from a highway service centre cafe


Almost back to the border and I can see it is about to rain so I pull into one of those kindly provided motorcycle parks under an overpass and moments later a mild thunderstorm bursts and I am joined by a bunch of locals who assure me no need to don my wet weather gear, just wait 15-20 minutes. Sure enough the rain passes and the road soon clears of that mist stage from vehicles and I navigated my way back very easy and arrived just as a second storm was breaking so got just a touch wet but it was a relief from the heat more than an annoyance.

Well to state the obvious I really enjoyed riding Malaysia and I will certainly be back in the future. I probably will try go further north to ride a loop via Gerik and Jeli but could easy enjoy a couple of days revisiting the highlands which were superb.

15 comments

  1. Oh, your trip sounds wonderful. I can only imagine the site and the curves you felt on the trip. I think you discribed your travels quite well. I would love to be able to ride in another country someday, but there is so many areas in the United States that are still on our bucket list. Thanks for sharing a great experience and look forward to reading more about your trips.

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  2. Hello!

    Felt great reading about your trip! I'll be traveling to Malaysia next week and will be biking from KL to Cameron Highlands for 2 days (about 450 km in all). I was wondering if you know any shops in KL who give GPS on a rental basis. The place where I'm renting the bike from does not offer this service and I'll be in a real pickle if I don't have a proper GPS system :-) So if you can help me with this, it would be great. Thanks!

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  3. I suggest you obtain your own GPS as new ones are not very capable. An older Garmin is best as they offer multi-point destination routing. The 760 series would be my pick.

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  4. sound goods travelling.... i suggest you start from singapore to perlis(malaysia)...sure will be great adventure..

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  5. Was wondering if you know of any place where I can rent bikes around Kuala Lumpur? Been searching for quite sometime but in vain!

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  6. I have added an update to this article linking my 2nd ride in Malaysia which has details on rental shop in Kuala Lumpur.

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  7. Amazing read! Inspiring for a Malaysian me to plan where to visit on my 1st motorcycle road trip. Excited and I can't wait.

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  8. Hi,

    Can anybody possibly recommend any rental shops in KL? Can not find anything useful online. :( Thank you!

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  9. There is another one. Called 'Malaysian Motorcycle Getaways'.
    www.ridemalaysia.com.my. This company provide bike tour & rental.

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    Replies
    1. Yes their rental rates are bit expensive but good option for someone wanting a packaged holiday. More affordable rentals are available from The Big Bike Shop or Krez rentals in KL.

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  10. Hey man, glad to hear you liked it here. You know, the people here, they think highly of westerners. That's probably why they were so nice to you.. I go to an international school in KL, and all the 'popular kids' are all the white kids. It's just how it is.
    Anyway, this was a pretty good read. I'm checking out your other stuff!

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  11. Hi, I cant find route C156 in google maps.

    Im about to embark on a similar journey myself and im just looking at roads and options. Loved reading about your trip but would appreciate assistance in C156 :)

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    1. Ah I just checked and the route number in Google is 102 (my GPS map must have been different) look for 102 running to the east joining to route 59 which continues on to the Cameron Highlands where it joins the excellent C181. (which google also jointly calls the 185)

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