Ipoh – Cameron Highlands

Malaysia has some wonderful mountain ranges to cycle. Kuala Lumpur is a staple for a lot of Singaporeans but I’ve ridden KL quite a few times so I looked further north, and decided to checkout Ipoh for a change.

Where is Ipoh?

The town of Ipoh sits at the base of the Cameron Highlands, around 550 kilometres north of Singapore. It’s a 1 hour and 30 minute flight on FireFly. Super convenient and the airport is a mere 5.5 kilometres from the centre of town.

Ipoh is in a valley between 2 ranges. On the east side the Cameron Highlands and on the west side I have no idea. The three routes, which I rode over three days, totalled 366 kilometres and 3,985 metres vertical.

Cameron Highlands

Riding up to Cameron Highlands from Ipoh is a solid undertaking. An easy 15 kilometre roll, southbound, out of town will lead you to the turn off to Cameron Highlands. From the signposted turnoff you will ride more or less uphill for the next 50 kilometres.

The road surface is very good on both the climb and the descent. Being Malaysia there are sections of road which are rain forest bitten and pitted so it’s best to stay alert on the descent. The traffic along the road was minimal on Friday and on Sunday was only slightly heavier. Neither day would warrant a warning about cars, trucks or busses. All traffic which passed was courteous and only passed when there was ample room.

As for the climb itself there are a couple of rollers on the incline, and a number of flat sections which make this climb less of a pure climb and more of a long, challenging battle with a mountain. Fear not, you are rewarded as it is picturesque the whole way up! The gradient varies with the terrain. As you twist and turn through the climb you can see the tea terracing along the mountainside.

Cycling Malaysia - Tea Terrace

The climb is mostly stable around 3-4% with some steeper sections of 6-9%. I don’t recall many sections over 10% but there might be a few. Depending on your climbing ability the climb should take you between 1 hour 45 minutes to 3 hours.

Once you reach the “top” there are a number of strawberry farms and a couple of kilometres down the road you will find a petrol station on the right side, just before the turn off towards the town of Cameron Highlands. I didn’t venture over to Cameron Highlands but hear it’s lovely. Anyone want to send me a photo?

A quick refuel and water fill at the petrol station followed by a fast descent and straight back into town means this out and back ride totals 135 kilometres and a solid 1,800 metres of vertical goodness. A must ride if you are in Ipoh. Check it out on Strava.

Kuala Kangsar

Looking east over the mountain, which is more of a hill in comparrison to Cameron Highlands, you will find the Perak River and the town of Kuala Kangsar.

You could ride this loop clockwise or anticlockwise. I chose to ride clockwise as there is a climb which I wanted to tackle before riding the loop and I wanted to ride the climb with ‘fresher’ legs.

Cycling Malaysia - Cameron Highlands

Bukit Kledang Climb

The climb is Bukit Kledang. A mere 6.4 kilometres in length, however an elevation gain of 694 metres makes the average gradient of this climb 11%. You will find the entrance to the climb at the back of the car park off Jalan Kledang.

This climb has, by far, the worst surface I have ever ridden and looks more like a single track than a road. The road is surrounded by trees and rain forest, which means the surface was wet, slightly slippery and pitted. There are storm water grates every kilometre or so which add to the varied surface. I strongly recommend riding this on aluminium rims.

Don’t take carbon wheels up here as they will most likely overheat, buckle or something more painful might happen on the way down. All the local riders are climbing this on mountain bikes, and for good reason. Adding to the difficulty of this climb there were hundreds of people walking the hill in both directions, enjoying the lookout, or simply sitting on the road.

I would like to recommend this climb, but I didn’t enjoy one minute of it. Garmin auto pause kicked, it’s tough going.

The first 3 kilometres are just that. 3 kilometres. Turn left to continue the climb a the T junction. Look for spray painted kilometre markers on the road surface from the 4 kilometre mar, I can’t comment on their accuracy as I didn’t take a note at the base of the climb.

The climb felt never ending, the last 500 metres probably took as long as the previous kilometre. Once you reach the top there is a water tank and a mobile phone tower. I didn’t stop for a photo at the very top however you might like to as the view was quite rewarding.

The Loop

After the tricky descent and rejoining the number 5 highway it is advised to stop for a fluid refill. A scattering of petrol stations means it’s a buyers market. Choose your favourite and top up fluids and fuel.

Continuing southbound, the smooth road surface is a welcome change and the road either had a slight negative split or a tailwind.

Turning right towards Parit at the southern end of the mountain range will take you through the palm plantations. You will ride along an exposed road much like a Kulai loop but with less undulations.

Turn right once you reach Parit, and the Parek River. From here it’s northbound and the road starts to undulate, similar to Batam 6 Bridges route. There are many signs warning of 10% gradients however most pinches were in the 7-9% range according to my Garmin.

This stretch has both sheltered, shady sections and exposed sunny sections. Having enough fluids along here is paramount. There are not a lot of options to refill along the roadside.

Kuala Kangsar is 45 kilometres from Parit and by my riding was a good place to stop for the obligatory Espresso Magnum and a fluid refill.

From Kuala Kangsar back to Ipoh there’s not much to report. The road is fast, highway like and the surface is both good and bad. There are 2 options to get back to town. One follows the highway and the other ventures a further 15 kilometres and more or less follows parallel to the highway, weaving in and out of Sungai Siput.

In total this is a 145 kilometre loop with 1,400 metres of climbing with the option to extended out to 160 kilometres. Check it out on Strava.

Kampar return

Plain in comparison to Cameron Highlands or Kuala Kangsar, this route heads south out of town and more or less you ride until you’ve had enough. Turn around and head back home.

I decided to head back up towards Cameron Highlands for a bit before heading south. Nothing really memorable or to note. Check it out on Strava.

 

If you know of any other interesting routes or climbs in and around Ipoh, drop me a comment below. I would love to go check them out.

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