The worst bicycle roads in Malaysia
What are the worst bicycle roads in Malaysia? Just as it is hard to mention the best road, it is equally difficult to tell you the worst. So I have been digging in my memory and tell you about my personal worst roads I cycled in Malaysia and explain why they were such a nightmare.
Kuala Lumpur International Airport - Kuala Lumpur city center
The easy winner in this contest is of course the country's capital Kuala Lumpur. There are no pleasant bicycle roads in Kuala Lumpur, at least I wasn't able to find them. If you consider riding your bike in the city, it's a genuine request for suicide.
There is a considerable amount of cyclists in the city but most will take their bike on the car to the surrounding hills and cycle there on MTB paths and go deep into the wilderness.
That however is not an option if you arrive by flight in Malaysia. In that case you have two options: 1. take the bus to Kuala Lumpur (the Star Shuttles will take your bike if it is in a box) or cycling the just over 50 km. And here the nightmare starts!
The journey into the city starts with leaving the airport on a highway. You will have to use it to Putrajaya and further to Kuala Lumpur. It's all highways, 6-10 lanes wide. Trust me, it ain't fun to cycle on a road with traffic racing next to you with 120km/h (or more). There are no bike lanes. There are viaducts where it can be seriously dangerous with racing cars wanting to leave or joining the highway and you're in between.
Are there no alternatives? Well, technically you may be able to find some "shortcuts" through the suburb satellite cities but don't expect they're easy to find, nor they're safer. The best thing I can say about the route from KLIA to KL city center is that you will make it alive. And that is probably the best of the journey. There are no great sceneries, nor exiting climbs, no interesting towns on the road nor excellent restaurants (buy enough water and food because you won't find any before you are in the city center.
My advice, If you have to go into Kuala Lumpur from KLIA, take the bus!
Cycling in the George Town city center
George Town is nowhere as dangerous as Kuala Lumpur. It is still not a fun place to cycle. The city is crowded, buses, cars and motorbikes make the city very unfriendly for cyclists. Yet cycling is getting very popular in Penang.
Tourist rent nowadays bicycles in and around Chulia street and explore the city center. Personally I don't think it's the best idea. I think you better explore George Town on foot and take the bus to go outside the city center to for example Gurney Drive, Batu Ferringhi or Teluk Bahang.
But it is possible to cycle George Town despite its lack of bicycle infrastructure and lack of respect for cyclists, especially from motorcyclists. Many roads, but not all in George Town are one way but this doesn't stop motorcyclists and rickshaw drivers to go against the traffic.
The great thing about Penang is that you can do some great cycling on the west, central and south side of the island. If you take the time to cycle the 20 km to Teluk Bahang, you can do a great continuing ride to Balik Pulau, another 18km on almost empty roads swindling through the hills. And to cycle back, follow the direction to Air Itam, see this page for directions.
Or you can cycle through the busy city to Air Itam and cycle up to the Air Itam Dam and further to Ngoh Han Hill temple you will not only see sights only hikers and cyclists can reach but you will be as far from civilization as you can be on a small island as Penang.
So Penang is not all bad, but the city center makes an easy second place after Kuala Lumpur.
Klang - Teluk Intan
The number 3 in the top 3 worst roads to cycle in Malaysia is easily the Klang - Teluk Intan road. It starts in Klang with an unpleasant ride outside the city. I have to admit, going out of Klang southwards is not as unpleasant as going out north. However, once you are outside the city, the real unpleasant part only starts.
The 4 lane road passes Selangor where you might want to spend a night to see the fireflies. These days however it seems there's more mosquitoes than fireflies.
The continuing road to Teluk Intan is especially unpleasant because of the racing traffic next to you. Of course there are no bicycle lanes so you best stay as left as you can. There are no great sceneries, it's all flat lands.
There are however several towns and villages on the road for refreshments which make the journey doable. However, once in Teluk Intan you will get your rewards in the form of plenty of beautiful preserved heritage shop houses and the pride and joy of the city: the Leaning Tower.
Is cycling in Malaysia really bad?
it's a logic question but the answer is that Malaysia is a great country for cycling. Once you're away from the cities and ongoing roads, the country starts showing a complete different view. The villages become smaller, the people friendlier and the sights get more interesting. Do not believe the Malaysian west coast is only interesting in Kuala Lumpur, Langkawi, Penang and Pangkor, there is a whole lot more!.
But yes, cycling in and out of KL is not fun (euphemism), some parts in Penang are pretty horrible and cycling out of Johor Bahru is certainly difficult (it would easily score the 4th place in the list, had it been a top 4).
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Best bicycle routes in Malaysia
If there are "worst routes to cycle" in Malaysia, there are also some awesome roads to explore. My favorite 3 routes can be found here with an explanation why they are so great.
Cycling up to the Air Itam Dam
This is a great bike ride in Penang. It starts at the Kek Lok Si temple and from there the road (mostly in good condition) swindles up to the dam. After the dam, you can continue to Ngoh Han Hill Temple and Balik Pulau. Highly recommended!
The roads in Perak
The Perak state has quite a lot to offer for cyclists. There's a lot of heritage left in the cities (Ipoh, Taiping, Teluk Intan) and few travelers ever visit these places. It's quite easy to spend a good quality week with high quality cycling in the former tin mine state.