Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Biking Malaysia: The Genting Highlands

The Genting Highlands.

Important point when biking the tropics: Its is either hot, or it pours, and it is always humid. Temperatures range between 25 and 35C, the sun beats down, but what gets you is the humidity. My best Lookwells, just wont cut it here. The moment you stand still you’re drenched. The lining went out ages ago , but they are still hot, hot hot. Sweating like an Icehockey player, and that without your name being Kim Loke, ain’t no fun!

T-shirts and shorts tempt, as do slippers and other things that you know are plain wrong and outright dangerous. Just be ready to meet a guy with and angle grinder, is what my bike instructor told me, more years ago than I care to remember. Great old character. Drove a 1950s HD on his daily commute and had a 1940’s one in his house. In the living that is, and in a billion bits…. But he taught me to ride!

As to biking gear in the tropics, a workable compromise for me consists of boots, leather gloves, a pair of Alpinestars riding trousers and a tropicalised jacket, consisting of mostly webbing and hopes that its strategically placed padding maybe effective.. But hey, keeping Lookwells open “to let some air in” also takes away their rationale. Helmet is one that hinges open all the way, to get more cooling when in town. Backpack with rain jacket and odds and ends rounds it off. Bit of elastic webbing, so that some stuff can be stowed, if picked up on the way.

The Bike: you can go either way in the tropics, small or large, cruiser or sports, tourer or enduro, or a dual purpose, you can’t really go wrong. You name it, it will do the trick. I do most of my riding in Malaysia, where the infrastructure is fantastic, including the B and C roads, so I dropped the off roaders and dual purpose ones, even though I like them. Used to have good fun on a Yamaha TW Off roader. Most locals do their thing on little 125s, great for driving round in the kampong, but can be a bit of a pest on urban roads, and rubbish on the highway. Speed is limited on the highways, however, and I don’t do tracks, so I didn’t see the point of a true superbike here, also because you’ll be hard pressed to find a dealer with the equipment to maintain them, not to speak of parts. There is simply no market for them (yet). Malaysia has plans to become a hub for the production and assembly of motorcycles. Production apparently reached some 400 000 units, in 2004, but its basically all mopeds and what they refer to locally as scooters. All variant of the venerable old Honda 50cc Cub. Kawasaki recently brought in some Completely Knocked Down kits of bigger bikes and started to assemble them here in town, so there is hope!

Even if the rides are limited, there is no shortage of great routes. Many can be done as day trips, or over the weekend. One of the most popular is the ride up the Genting highlands. If you want to stay current as to new bike arrivals in KL, this is the place to go.,as we all love to chase each other up the twisties here and the odd fool car, that thinks it can play along!

Directions: From KLCC get on to the main highway to the east Coast, the E8, follow the direction Kuantan, and take the off ramp on the left label Genting Highlands, just before Kampung Bukit Tinggi. the off ramp is to the left and labeled Genting Highland from KLCC get on to the main highway to the east Coast, the E8, follow the direction Kuantan, and get off at Kampung Bukit Tinggi. The off ramp is to the left and labeled Genting Highland. The sign is too close to the off ramp, so when you are just busy having fun, you are gonna need your front brakes!

The road gets interesting soon after you get through the tollgate, leaving KL. You are on the main road to the East Coast and it is a Highway that could be anywhere in Germany or someplace else where they are proverbially good. Switzerland comes to mind even, because apart from it being in a fabulously good state, the highway soon starts to wind its way through the hills in a manner that begs a bike with great high speed cornering abilities.

And the turns keep on getting tighter! Hence you are going to lean more and more, till you are finally forced to reduce speed. It is such good fun that you’d almost forget to look around, and the views are fantastic, and worth a look or two and a few revs less. At least that is my excuse when a Singapore based Hayabusa comes zooming by on an inside lane.. Whilst he is doing that he is even taking his left hand off his steering togreet me! That is a bit much, I an’t that slow… Hi mate, busy taking in the environment, I communicate whist raising my own hand on salute.

Nope, Bikes don’t pay toll here. Ain’t it a great feeling? You can try, but they will just look at you funny and wave you through. Choose a tollgate for trucks: the boom leaves enough space for anything less wide than a Goldwing to pass through comfortably. Ignore the little signs that compel you to follow the moped trail that the Malaysian ransport department routine builds around its tollbooths. They are meant for the 125s, even though the road sign simply states:” all motorcycles this way”, at times they force you onto what are basically bicycle paths for miles and miles……

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