Cycling Malaysia: Hulu Langat

As cyclists living near the heart of Kuala Lumpur, Eka and I are often on the search for new locations for long rides. Once we levelled up from our original Birdy folding bikes to our Reach bikes, and subsequently the Change Bikes, we became more capable of stretching out our regular distances. With the full sized bikes we were able to combine the capability of riding like normal cyclists on 700c wheels, while retaining the ability to transport and store the bikes easily thanks to their compact fold. It was a win-win solution, as they say. 

We do have a regular mid-week ride, the byproduct of my new position as a full time member of the Cycling Plus Malaysia editorial team. In getting hired, I pretty much joined my colleague Adam's regular group of ride buddies, who often cycle into the heart of the city or explore an alternative hilly route within the confines of the Klang Valley. We usually ride on Thursday evenings so that we have a day to recover without affecting our weekends, while feeling like zombies at work for just one day. The ride is however more social in nature, often with a newbie or two joining the group of ten. 

Because of this, Eka and I frequently need something different to look forward to on weekends. We're a bit fussy to be honest, since we don't fall into the category of traditional road cyclists who take to the highways to get their weekly fix in. We don't particularly want to ride on the GCE, Lekas, or MEX highways, because in addition to actually being illegal, there's not much to look at along these roads, which tend to get pretty hot and uncomfortable past a certain hour. You can sneak a ride in late at night when the temperatures are cooler and the highway authorities are more likely to turn a blind eye to a rogue cyclist or two, but there have been a number of accidents of late due to speeding or careless motorists. 

Leaving The City

In one of our previous posts, we highlighted a local route to Banting, Jugra, Morib and back. That side of the state of Selangor goes through both Malay and Chinese villages and palm oil plantations, but is essentially a coastal area. One of the easier routes for a quick challenge is Genting Sempah, which will pop up on our Instagram accounts now and then. We've done the climbs many times, but we've yet to fully explore the route beyond to Janda Baik and Bentong. Lately however, we've found ourselves increasingly drawn to Hulu Langat, which has long been a favourite haunt for road cyclists looking for a change of scenery.

From our home at Bangsar South (I prefer Pantai Dalam or Kerinchi), Hulu Langat is approximately a 40 minute drive away, so it does involve getting up a bit early to hit the road before it gets too toasty. The normal starting point for many riders is around the Batu 18 area, where there is ample parking to be found and many places to eat and drink once you're done for the day. It does get busy there since it is a well populated area, but the local residents are well used to seeing cyclists ply the roads and it is generally considered quite safe. 

If you're looking at the map, the main area that cyclists concentrate on shows a road circuit roughly the shape of an asymmetrical trapezium. There are a number of points of interest that you can choose to focus on either on the same day if you're up for a challenge, or break it up into different rides like most people do. Choose wisely when planning ahead, because different routes will determine the difficulty level of your ride. 

Where To Start/Finish Riding

Being a kampung area, you can literally park your car anywhere along the road without a problem. However, it's always better to choose a spot in a shady area to start and end your ride, where you can also refuel immediately.

Bahulu Classique - A favourite for many cyclists, particularly those doing the Genting Peras climb or the alternate rolling hills that go past the scenic Semenyih Lake. It's a good spot to end the ride, since it is not too far from the Simpang Peras T junction - approximately 10km away. The food is often too spicy for my sensitive stomach, but their karipap/curry puffs are the bomb. Seriously. Also, there is ample bike parking (for real!) as well as a lot of tables for big groups of cyclists. The toilets also double as showers, if you want to clean up immediately.

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Nam Wah - My personal preference, because the nasi lemak bungkus is pretty good even though it is somewhat simple with none of the fancier additions like fried chicken or rendang. The stall also sells  homemade barley, which if consumed chilled is an awesome thirst quencher. Ample bike parking is also available here. Further down the road are a few Malay restaurants or gerais; I found the lunch selection at Singgah D'Akya to be quite decent. 

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Batu 18 Police Station - There's a fair bit of parking around this area across the main road from Nam Wah, particularly if you turn into the area underneath a pseudo Tudor-look block of apartments/flats called Taman Impian Warisan. Here you'll find a mamak restaurant with a decent toilet, as well as a 99 Speedmart if you need any supplies. On the main road itself there are a number of roadside stalls selling a variety of foods.

Having said that, there's plenty of food to be found at Hulu Langat, including a range of rice based dishes and milo ais kepal, the local version of a snow cone in a bowl, I suppose. 

*Special mention also goes for the cyclist RnR run by a lovely retired couple, who give a spot to their local usrah group to sell some homemade food  it is a good pit stop halfway from Bahulu Classique to Genting Peras. They have ample bike parking on their spacious lawn, a clean toilet and sell some minor cycling essentials. 

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Points of Interest

Genting Peras

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A roughly 9km climb after turning left at the Simpang Peras T-junction, with a slightly less than 500m elevation gain. On a full sized bike this route is actually pleasant, with many parts where the road levels out a bit in between steeper parts. On foldies with smaller wheels this is still manageable. Great views and beautifully smooth tarmac makes this spot a thrilling downhill ride once you reach the infamous signboard that marks the peak and the border between Selangor and Negeri Sembilan. Start at Pekan Batu 18 and you'll get a nice return trip of almost 40km. Beyond the peak there is a tougher ride to Kongkol and the town of Titi, featuring steep rolling hills. Start earlier if doing this much more challenging route, because we were roasting during the last 10km, and were pretty baked by the time we finished our ride well past lunchtime. 

Semenyih Lake

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A scenic photo-op area, with the Semenyih Dam in the distance. At some spots you can leave the road and go straight up to the water's edge, where you'll find some locals indulging in a bit of weekend fishing. From Simpang Peras turn right to enjoy fairly challenging rolling hills over 11km if you go all the way to Sungai Tekala, a favourite spot for family picnics and camping by the river. 

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Bukit Hantu

A gradual but seemingly relentless climb from one side, a short but hard and steep climb on the other.  We made the mistake of doing it the difficult way without realising it (clockwise through the trapezium), taking the right turn at the T-junction after stopping for some pictures at the Semenyih Lake. I ended up pushing my bike up most of the way, but if you are a reasonably strong rider and pace yourself properly, you can make it all the way up. Going down to the other side at the main Pekan Batu 14 area you'll be able to see some heritage buildings leftover from the early 1900s, but this goes through a pretty busy junction where traffic can get fairly heavy, with a lot of lorries in the area too.

Sungai Tekala

Part of the Sungai Lalang Forest Reserve, it gets pretty crowded on weekends with camping, picnicking, BBQs and people splashing about in the river, but is still fairly accessible. There's a paved walking path to the Tekala Waterfalls, but you can also do the Denai Jelutong hike through the jungle as long as you inform the Forest Ranger on duty beforehand. Roadside parking is free but the park does charge for entry and camping.

Sungai Congkak

Also known as Chongkak Park and Resort, and obviously another popular weekend spot for locals. Just like Sungai Tekala, this area also gets pretty full on weekends, which means getting there by bike is probably better than driving. There is a fee for parking for the official spot, but I am not sure what the current rate is and we always park for free under the trees on the roadside anyway. There are chalets available for rent if you're keen to spend the night there, but generally this is not considered a very well managed recreational forest and is in need of some clean up.

Sungai Gabai

Apparently the closest waterfalls to KL city, this area is quite a treat for tired cyclists wanting a nice spot for a dip in the cool river. Also gets pretty crowded on weekends, but is possibly the more impressive cascades of the three riverside spots where locals like to head to for a quick retreat. 

Gunung Nuang

A favourite for hikers, the mountain's peak reaches a height of 1,493 metres. Its peak is situated at the Selangor-Pahang border, and is close to the border tripoint with Negeri Sembilan. I've done this climb myself as part of a field trip when I was still in secondary school, but the hike is definitely not one to take lightly. The mountain has claimed a number of lives over the years, while a lot of people do get lost in the jungle. After each incident the route will be closed until the local authorities deem it safe for use. Pre-registration with the Forest Ranger is obviously mandatory considering it is a fairly strenuous hike to the top and back down. Note: Beware the local leech population, if you're the squeamish type.

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Overall, I can understand why many cyclists have a great love for Hulu Langat, where you can enjoy miles and miles of uninterrupted riding. There, the mornings are cool and misty, the views are lovely, the villagers are friendly and the food is varied and delicious. It's a great training ground amid lush greenery that will teach newbies how to increase their stamina and endurance, and for veterans there are some nice gruelling routes too.