Friday, May 31, 2013

Cycling in Malaysia Part 2: Cameron Highlands

The most extensive hill station in Malaysia, Cameron Highlands offers the cyclist some of the best challenges in the region with climbs up to and beyond 1600m above sea level.

There are 4 approaches that offer different cycling experiences and scenery. The most well-frequented is the road from Tapah - if you're coming from the main Kuala Lumpur to Ipoh road, this is the default route. It's a nice ride, though busy at the weekends with holiday traffic. A 40km rise at a fairly gradual 3-4%, mostly shaded, with a popular waterfall stop in the middle where you can grab some fruit, drinks, or a meal. It'll bring you up to the main Cameron plateau at Ringlet. If you keep going you'll get another nice 12k of climbing at some much meatier gradients up to Tanah Rata.

Another well frequented road is the much faster and smoother - a lot of it dual carriageway - route up from Ipoh on the road that eventually takes you through to Gua Musang in Kelantan if you kept going. You don't. You turn right into the Cameron area and then you have a nice arduous 8km climb, a lot of it between 9-12%, up to Brinchang at 1600m before heading down through the town and on to Tanah Rata - approaching the opposite way from the above route.

Much less frequented - in fact almost desolate at times - is the road from Sungai Koyan. About 100km out from Ringlet this one climbs through some of the most scenic bits - vast, wide lanscapes but without much tree cover so it can be hot if you choose your time wrong.

The last (but not least) one is the monster route from Gua Musang. This route will have you climbing more that 3000m before it spits you out in Brinchang after 120km. The profile is like a saw tooth and a lot of the gradients are an unrelenting 10-12%.

Considered the toughest route in Malaysia, Equipe Nomad have included this in a couple of our ride packages including the 7-day tour through Cameron, but also part of our Extreme Cameron Weekend. It is extreme!

We also do some easier ones of course, and if you're looking for a good-but-not-life-changing challenge, then try our Cameron Weekend Ride that approaches through Tapah for an overnight at Tanah Rata., then next day down westwards through the scenic grandeur of the descent to Sungai Koyan.

Cameron Highlands have a great infrastructure of hotels, shops, restaurants etc. We like to stay at Tanah Rata where they have a lot of good restaurants and you can even get a good massage. Just what you need after long hours grinding up hills! Brinchang is an even bigger commercial centre, but for us a bit too big. Tanah Rata has more of a relaxed, holiday feel.

The temperature and (lack of) humidity are also a draw, and once you're above a certain altitude, everything cools down a little. Never too cold during the day (unless you hit some really bad weather), but at night it can get quite chilly at times. As with everywhere else in this part of the world, you usually won't hit rain if you aim to get your rides done before mid-afternoon - but not always....

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