Cycling Selangor's Forgotten Railway from Klang to Kuala Selangor

Selangor is and always will be one of Malaysia’s most underrated tourist locations. The state has a myriad of terrains to titillate would be cycling explorers, as well as innumerable trunk roads and quiet kampung lanes that snake through the state, providing an endless option of routes to choose from.

This is thanks to a rich Royal history that goes back hundreds of years, as well as the colonial administrative periods. One of the routes that feature historical areas from both time periods is our go-to ‘take your brain off’ gran fondo, something we do when we’re in the need to kick up our mileage a bit, but can do easily since we know the route by heart.

We were first introduced to this ride by our good friend Radzi Jamaluddin. An audax enthusiast at heart, he’s regularly seen doing long rides that span days, often to raise funds for his charitable efforts, of which there are many. Radzi is also a bit of a historian himself, and as a Selangor native born and bred, has many little tidbits that were essential in creating a route that ran through many heritage locations. We’ve done this ride many times since then, and have found some deviations from the original that he guided us through, particularly useful if you’re not one for sharing the busy road with motorised vehicles.

Originally a road route, going through there a number of times allows us to explore a different area every single time, and we’ve found some nice spots to break away from the actual paved tarmac. For cyclists who have a bit more of the explorer gene, the ride to Kuala Selangor takes you through some cool gravel tracks, including coastal areas that are only frequented by locals who know this area well. Being himself a Jeram native, Radzi led us to some of his favourite locations, and we soon continued exploring on our own on subsequent rides even when he was not around.

Kuala Selangor attractions

Translating to estuary of the Selangor River, Kuala Selangor town is actually where the river drains into the Straits of Malacca. This means it is an area that has a concentration of firefly populations, one of the reasons why tourists head to the area, Kampung Kuantan in particular. Their numbers have dropped over the years, but some reports say the population has improved and some say this is a seasonal trend. As the firefly favours the aquatic plant called Berembang as its mating grounds, the delightful insects are dependant on the preservation of their habitat too.

There is also some belief that there are only two places in the world where there are magical fireflies, and this is one of the locations. Whatever their powers may be, I find that the boat ride to view fireflies is a very therapeutic activity. It is also a perfect way to enjoy the evening before a nice seafood dinner at one of the local restaurants. It is a coastal area, after all, and fishing villages there mean there is good food to be had too.

The other main place of interest there is the Kuala Selangor Nature Park, which is part tropical rainforest and part swamp forest. The park is managed by the Malaysian Nature Society, and is a favourite for naturalists, particularly those who enjoy bird watching. Next to the nature reserve is the Freshwater Fish Park, an aquarium that has about 1500 individuals from 60 species of freshwater fish. Meanwhile, the highly instagrammable Sky Mirror sandbank is a new favourite for tourists, which is only accessible for several days every month.

Nearby is also a multitude of historical attractions, since Kuala Selangor town was the capital of the Sultanate of Selangor during its early years in the 18th century. You will also be able to find remnants of Malaya’s colonial era, both of British and Dutch origin. History buffs could spend a whole week there looking for each and every single historical spot, each with its own unique story.

For the wandering cyclist, Bukit Malawati/Melawati is the main focus of the ride, the only climb you will get along this pancake flat gran fondo route. It signals our midway point of the gran fondo, with panoramic views of the coastline as a reward at the former military fort at the top. Meanwhile Pantai Remis has a number of stalls to rehydrate with fresh coconut or shaved milo ice, which you will need on the return trip since Kuala Selangor gets blazing hot around lunchtime. Being on the west coast, it is a great place to watch the sun set too.

Jalan Keretapi Lama

For reference, Kuala Selangor is about 55km from Kuala Lumpur. The town is not currently connected to any rail lines, the closest being the KTM Komuter station in Klang. If you don’t drive for whatever reason, this is a good alternative for the start of our ride at Restoran Yi Qi Chi He, tracing the old railroad that connected Klang to Kuala Selangor during the colonial era. We often give Restoran New Harvest as the main starting point, but in reality it is further down the block.

If you’re hoping to see the physical railway tracks I have to sadly clarify that there will be none to be seen. There are no more signs that they were once there, save the modern-day road markers of Jalan Keretapi Lama. Unfortunately, the tracks were removed in the 1930s once the railroad was not needed after coal shipments ceased. For those who know where to look there are spots where you can still see some other physical remnants of the railroad.

One of these people is our friend Radzi himself, who knows all the secret spots. We have only marked several of the more obvious ones, and I suppose you could go hunting for the rest (not easy, and requires a ton of research) or plot your own ride. I have to admit that there are many other cyclists who know this route, particularly those who are interested in gravel riding. Cyclists can be seen there regularly, either roadies on training rides or those with all road bikes and wider tyres looking for a new challenge.

However, if you opt to ride with Radzi as your Kopi Ride guide you will get to see everything that only a true local historian and guide will know, including getting the chance to stories of the railroad from the days it still serviced the 50km route. This particular stretch of the Federated Malay States Railway was built in stages from 1913 to 1914, and suffered losses up until it was dismantled. While we are careful not to glorify the colonial era as some do, we are still fairly interested in history in general.

Where to eat

Restoran HM, Kapar - One of our favourites, this is a halfway stop to Kuala Selangor if you get hungry en route. if you can find it, the small restaurant has some really good Malay food and a clean toilet before continuing your journey.

Auntie Foo Cafe, Kuala Selangor - A modern cafe with wifi and airconditioning plus a clean toilet. Great place to cool down and eat lunch after the hill climb, before you start the journey back home. Decent nasi lemak.

Auntie Kopitiam, Kuala Selangor - Old school kopitiam style joint where the chicken chop is pretty rad. Tragically not open on Sundays anymore.

Restoran Pantimor, Kuala Selangor - Mixed rice with a variety of dishes to choose from, a favourite with the Malay cyclists who need their daily fix of rice for carbs.

Restoran Rahmaniyah, Kuala Selangor - A decent mamak restaurant with Kerala curries. Very popular with the local residents at all times of the day and night.

Eat & Repeat, Kuala Selangor - Cafe serving boat noodle style small servings that allow you to mix and match different dishes to try everything or simply portion control.

Milo shaved ice, Pantai Jeram - Sweet and rich milo shaved ice against beautiful views of the sea. Fresh coconut and other drinks are also available at this stall.

Fresh coconut stall, Pantai Remis - One of our favourite spots, the halfway checkpoint on the return leg of the gran fondo, at the 75km mark.

DNS Curry House, Klang - Where we have drinks to celebrate the end of the gran fondo, and the fact that I am personally still alive.

This list we have is pretty much where we have eaten along the route, and are concentrated in the general old town centre at the base of Bukit Melawati in Kuala Selangor, in addition to Kapar and Jeram. However, if you’re in Kuala Selangor for longer than the lunch hour you will find much, much more options to choose from. Along the roads through villages there are also some spots for nasi lemak and cendol, but you’ll have to join Radzi’s Kopi Rides for these!

Road vs gravel and practical considerations

As I mentioned earlier, the route that we take often has variations depending on the ride for that particular day, but generally follows the same direction. We will also make changes based on who is riding in the group, because not everyone will have wider tyres, which make riding through some of the gravel section much more enjoyable.

Since the route takes us through some rural areas, villages, oil palm plantations and secondary forest, you will come across families of macaques along the way. Riding in a group is always safer, since some of them can be confrontational if they spot a lone cyclist who is vulnerable, especially if they suspect you have food. There are a number of stray dogs here and there too, though none have attacked so far - the classic bark worse than their bite type. Let’s hope it stays that way! Take all necessary precautions as you need them.

The ride also goes through some industrial areas as well as fairly quiet stretches, so do take care to bring all your tools and repair essentials if you need them. We have not spotted any bike shops along the way, so getting stuck in the middle of nowhere without your emergency kit would not be very smart. Sometimes I do wish that I had a support car for those cop out moments, but a reasonably fit and well prepared cyclist can complete this ride in decent time without a safety net vehicle. I always say, if I can do it, ANYONE can.

However, I will warn you that the Kuala Selangor ride is not one to be taken lightly, since the searing heat of midday is not to be trifled with. Two water bottles are preferable to one, though you will often come across a small home-based sundry shop at several spots in the villages. I find that each break is great for grabbing a cold drink to cool myself down, while my own bidon usually contains plain water that I can either sip regularly or use to douse myself if I am overheating. Ice cubes will also go into the bottle at every stop!

If you’re prone to heat stroke or heat exhaustion, you may want to consider starting earlier, perhaps 6/6.30am or even earlier. Eka and myself have both bonked out due to the heat on the return leg on different occasions, and our logged Strava activity shows that our general pace slows down significantly as the temperatures rise. There are also more stops on the way back to quench our thirst. Keep all these considerations in mind and you should hopefully be able to handle the ride without too much trouble.

If all else fails, you can always radio for help, so to speak. Network coverage is working in these areas that we ride through, even the more quiet villages. It may cost you a fair bit, but you will be able to get some form of help (most likely a taxi or grab) if you really need it. If you’re worried about trying this route on your own, do consider dropping us a line. Radzi, Eka and myself be more than happy to ride with you!