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Biking over the border for fun. What you need to know
Sooner or later every motorcyclist feels the need for a journey though the countryside. When Sungei Buloh is no longer enough, here are a few suggestions for a great Malaysian road trip.
Getting there: While there are two choices to cross the border, the Second Link at Tuas has always been my preferred choice – even when travelling up the east coast. Not only do the formalities seem to go quicker, but on the other side you’re straight into rural greenery, and the temperature seems to drop five degrees as you leave the concrete behind.
Across the border, opportunities abound.
The day trip: Plenty of Singapore bikers follow the ‘live to ride, ride to eat’ motto, and the southern tip of the peninsula doesn’t disappoint. The breakfast ride is a popular choice, with Kluang, Kukup, Muar and Mersing among the favoured destinations.
A personal favourite day trip is straight up the E2 Expressway to Yong Peng for breakfast, take the lovely winding road to Paloh, and then either backtracking (for a total from the Second Link of just under 300km) or taking the longer way home by crossing through Kluang to Mersing and back down the east coast for a round-trip just over 400km.
2D1N: Staying overnight opens up all of peninsular Malaysia for riders with the fortitude and a butt that can cope with long periods in the saddle.
I like the laid-back east coast route, and have ridden as far as Terengganu and back in two days (approximately 1,200km total). The road winds past forest areas, deserted beaches, a few larger towns, and charming kampongs, though they are two-lane for the most part and you can encounter traffic.
A nice route that combines hills and the east coast is a loop up to Kuantan for a comfortable overnighter, across half the peninsular to Karak and back towards the E2 through the back roads with a total distance of around 1,000km.
For cooler mountain air and wonderful winding roads, the Cameron Highlands is also an excellent destination for a one-night trip, with a total round-trip distance of 1,100-1,200km, depending on the route chosen.
For beach lovers (and a particular favourite of Singaporean foodies), Penang is a possibility, and has a range of hotel options. While it is a 1,400km round trip, it is expressway almost all the way, so pretty easily done.
3D2N: A three-day loop is the more realistic plan for a full circumnavigation of peninsular Malaysia, taking in Highway 4 along the Thai border, a road that seems legendary amongst motorcyclists here. Personally, I don’t think it is much more exciting than some other Malaysian roads, and it can be quite busy, though caution signs about wild elephants are a unique feature.
A full loop may see you overnight in Gerik, cutting across the peninsula and heading back down the coast to Kuantan for another night, and then back home for an easy 1,600km loop.
If, like me, you really like the quieter country roads you could choose to cut back through the middle of the peninsula, for a similar distance, if slightly slower overall pace.
What to watch for: In short, everything.
- Be especially careful in towns, particularly kampongs, where you’re likely to encounter slow moving vehicles, livestock, and children on the roads.
- On the open-road you are also likely to see livestock, as well as wild animals including pigs, or even possibly tigers and elephants.
- On two-lane roads people overtake into oncoming traffic, if you happen to be that oncoming traffic, you’re expected to ride on the shoulder to avoid the head-on collision.
- On expressways, motorcyclists are exempt from tolls – just look for the marked motorcycle lane on the left that takes you around the toll plaza. Be aware that the lanes are very narrow, particularly for larger bikes.
- Some expressways near Kuala Lumpur have special motorcycle lanes that can even include their own underpasses. Again, they’re narrow, and can be disorienting for first-timers.
- Be aware that you are more likely to encounter dirt on the roads than in Singapore, or even stretches of dirt roads where there is construction, and it will offer less grip.
- Fuel stops can be far apart – plan ahead.
- A little Malay comprehension can be useful, particularly some basics for road signs: awas means caution; ikut kiri means keep left; berhenti means stop; and pusat bandar means centre of town.
- A little Malay comprehension can also make the journey more amusing – I did have a chuckle riding through Kampung Cinta Manis.
- You’ll need your passport, NETS Cashcard for the Singapore toll at Woodlands or Tuas, and a Touch’n Go smartcard for the Malaysian toll.
- Make sure your bike has been recently serviced, and the tyres are in good shape and properly inflated.
- Carry chain lube and apply it daily.
- Wear appropriate protective gear, preferably waterproof.
- Make sure your insurance coverage covers you for all eventualities.
Meanwhile, if you do bike over the border you may want to consider a couple of optional extras for your motorcycle insurance. At Budget Direct Insurance you can add on:
Overseas Emergency Allowance
This will get you home in the event of an accident in either Malaysia or Thailand. It will pay towards your towing costs and emergency phonecalls.
24 Hours Roadside Assistance
If you don't want to be stranded by a breakdown, flat tyre, flat battery or anything else, 24 Hours Roadside Assistance will be there for you. You will be covered up to the limits for tows in Singapore and Malaysia or Thailand.
By Tony Tan.
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