A Bicycle Traveller's Guide to Kuching

There are many unique experiences in the beautiful Land of the Hornbills, but one that few people think of or are even aware of is a cycling adventure through spectacular heritage sites, quaint, rural villages alongside dense jungles, mighty rivers and mountains often wrapped in a gentle mist. Not only will you witness Sarawak’s unique wildlife, nature and culture, you will also be able to experience a variety of delicious local treats along the way.

Sarawak, in particular Kuching, offers a selection of cycling routes and tours. And the good news is that you can explore scenic routes at your own pace or in a group led by an experienced guide. And if you are feeling a little apprehensive at the thought of riding a bike in a Malaysian city, fret not because Sarawakians are the most considerate drivers in Malaysia! There’s a list below of tour operators offering a range of guided tours – just select a package that suits your travelling needs. Regardless of your choice, you will certainly have an experience of a lifetime.

Depending on the routes or tours you choose, cycling in Sarawak is fun, flexible and unique because not only are you cycling, you also have the chance to carry bicycles up cliffs and mountainsides, along jungle trails and sail down rivers on sampans– all while capturing the beautiful sights and sounds of Sarawak!

Just you and your bike travelling down river on a sampan in Sarawak!

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Listed here are some cycling resources and routes shared by fellow cyclists. As you can see the cycling ecosystem is fairly sophisticated in Sarawak. There are many options, depending on your skill, capability and preference so whether you want a flat route, uphill or downhill challenge, long or quick ride, this list has something for everyone:

  • Bikemap
    Bikemap is an online platform where cyclists from all around the world share their cycling routes. This makes it easier to select appropriate routes. Currently there are more than 60 routes in Kuching with another 17 in places like Miri and Sibu.
  • 7 Routes to Ride on Western Sarawak’s Back Roads and Beaches
    In this article, Jay Blakeney, a Retired Canadian Forest Engineer and avid outdoors-man, shares 7 unique routes on Sarawak’s back roads and beaches. You might want to try them all!
  • Ah Pek Biker – Old Dog Rides Again
    Check out this blog to read about his exciting cycling adventures around the world, including Kuching. It also has a lot of useful information about taking bikes on planes (which airlines charge and which ones don’t) and tips such as tools not to be carried in hand luggage. A must read for any bike fan.

If you prefer going on guided cycling tours in Sarawak, there are a variety of packages on offer. Listed below are some of the tours offered by two local operators. These tours include day rides to a particular destination/attraction and also multi-day tours.

  • Paradesa Borneo
    Address: No1. Wayang Street, 93000 Kuching, SarawakPhone: 082-23880
    Paradesa Borneo offers various local cycling day tours as well as multi-day tours, which can be between 3 to 15 days. Some of their packages are as follows:
  • Local Cycling Discovery Day Tours, which include:
    • Heritage Tour
    • Kampong Tour
    • Best of Kuching: Heritage & Kampong Bike Tour
    • Sunset Kampong Tour with Hawker Food
    • A Bite of Borneo by Bike
    • Kuching Bike & Cook

Cycling time varies between 3 to 6.5 hours with an average distance of 15km.

  • Adventure Cycling Day Tours, which include:
    • Mountain Biking Gold Mine & Cave Discovery
    • Mountain Biking, Jungle & River Adventure
    • Ultimate Borneo: Off-Road Bike, Kayak & Cave Adventure
    • Borneo Outdoor Discovery: Orangutan, Off-Road Biking & Caves

Cycling time varies between 5 to 9 hours.

  • Cycling Holiday: Multi-Day Tours, which include:
    • 3-Day/8-Day Sarawak Rainforest Discovery
    • 4-Day/9-Day Ultimate Borneo Wildlife Bike Safari
    • 4-Day Borneo Coastal & Island Ride
    • 7-Day Head Hunters Heartland by Bike
    • 5-Day/8-Day Trek, Pedal & Paddle the Sarawak Rainforest
    • 15-Day Trans-Borneo Road Bike - Two countries, eight international crossings, and just over 1,300 km of great road riding spread over fifteen invigorating days in the saddle. This is the pioneering road cycling trip across Borneo. Conquer this epic challenge and enjoy all that Borneo has to offer. We cycle on flat terrain through mangroves and paddy fields as we hug the coast for the first few days. On day 6 we encounter some rolling hills as we head towards Similajau National Park, and this continues as we change direction and start heading inland.

All tours arranged by Paradesa Borneo come with local, expert guides. Bikes and helmets are included (back-up support is also included for multi-day tours).

Cyclists passing by the Old State Mosque during their tour of Kuching.

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  • Semadang Adventure
    Address: DD209, 1st Floor, Batu Kawah New Township, Jalan Batu Kawah, 93250 Kuching, Sarawak
    Phone: 010-63096899; 013-8042118
    In addition to mountain biking, Semadang Adventure also features kayaking, caving and bamboo rafting adventures while also offering mixed packages such as the Semadang Kayaking & Mountain Biking expedition where you get to explore the beautiful countryside on a bike. The day ends with an awesome river kayaking experience and a cooling swim at the end.

If you decide to go on a self-guided cycling route but have no idea where to start, don’t worry because there are plenty of bike route maps in Kuching, ideal for planning your own route/tour. Listed below are several bike destinations shared by regular bikers in Kuching. These routes are approximately 30 to 35km per trip, depending on your starting point:

  • Astana Kuching
  • Brooke Memorial (along Jalan Gambier, by the Waterfront)
  • Cat Column (at the corner of Jalan Padungan and Jalan Chan Chin Ann)
  • Darul Hana Bridge
  • Dewan Bandaraya Kuching Utara (Jalan Semariang, Petra Jaya)
  • Fort Margherita
  • Jalan Padungan
  • Padang Merdeka (Jalan Tun Abang Haji Openg)
  • Pandelela Rinong Aquatic Centre (Petra Jaya)
  • Sarawak State Library (Petra Jaya)
  • Satok Suspension Bridge (Petra Jaya)

A challenging yet picturesque route not on this list but worth a mention is the one from Kuching to Damai. It’s a fairly flat route on main roads with majestic Mount Santubong moving ever closer as you burn off the miles.

Towards the end of the journey, you will pass the Mausoleum of Sultan Tengah, at the junction of Jalan Damai and Jalan Kampung Santubong, at the base of Mount Santubong. It is interesting to note that Sultan Tengah was the son of the third Sultan of Brunei who became the first and only Sultan of Sarawak.

A special mention to these unique opportunities; ‘The best of Kuching’s Bike Tour’ or, if a mountain biking cave tour is more your thing, then try this. You even have the option of an off-road jungle adventure or an on-road country ride through traditional villages! Click here to get more information on their available packages.

Bear in mind that some of the cycling routes – during your guided or unguided tours, especially Sarawak’s mountain trails, are rigorous, and you need to be in good shape before attempting them! In addition to some physical training, you need to be mentally prepared to face tough routes.

Cyclists experiencing an off-road cycling adventure in Sarawak.

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Avid cyclists agree that a substantial amount of research is important especially for unguided cycling routes. This might seem obvious but always check the weather conditions and forecasts because tropical storms and rain can be violent though short lived. It is not recommended to ride during the hours of mid day to 4pm as it gets very hot.

It’s always a good idea to keep a waterproof poncho handy when bike riding in Sarawak!

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Depending on the kind of route or tour you take, its length, its approximate duration, the terrain and expected weather conditions during the trip, you’ll need some essential items. If you insist on carrying a heavy load, make sure your bike can support all the weight (and of course, make sure you are fit enough to carry the load)!

  • Cash and important documents

  • Clothing, cycling gear and other accessories (cycling clothing & shoes, gloves, sunglasses, helmet, rain poncho and others)

  • Repair items
    (for example spare tubes, tires, brakes, brake pads, and the necessary tools and accessories)

  • Water (in water bottle and/or hydration packs) and nutrition (for example energy bars)

  • Others (for example personal care items, basic first aid kit, torchlight, camera)

Despite all the preparation and safety measures, there is always that risk of puncture or break down, and the risks are greater for off road cycling. Hence the importance of a handy tool and repair kit. We recommend you double up on spare inner tubes!

There is always that risk of a puncture or a mechanical breakdown during a cycling expedition in Sarawak.

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If for some reason you forget accessories, you need to find a local shop that sells bike accessories, parts and gears, here are some recommended ones. Some of them offer repairs and services too (given the current pandemic situation, do call ahead to verify hours, and remember to practice social distancing):

  • Kuching Cycle Hub
    Address: Ground Floor, Lot 10147, Jalan Kwong Lee Bank, Pending, 93450 Kuching, Sarawak
    Phone: 082-331933
    Opening hours: 10.30am – 6.00pm (closed on Sunday)

Some of the biking equipment on sale at the Kuching Cycle Hub.

Photo credit: Kuching Cycle Hub Facebook page.

  • Thong Sen Cycle
    Address: 5871B, Kuching Garden, Tun Razak Road, 93300 Sarawak
    Phone: 016-8082288
    Opening hours: 10.30am – 8.00pm (closed on Sunday)
  • W.G. Cycle
    Address: 36-36 A, Nam Meng Building, Ban Hock Road, 93100 Kuching Sarawak
    Phone: 082-238239
    Opening hours: 11.30am – 6.00pm (closed on Sunday)

Whether you choose your own cycling routes or follow guided cycling tours, a bike ride allows you to experience Sarawak in a unique way. There might be a glitch, or you might feel exhausted and worn out after your journey, or things might not even turn out like you expected – but isn’t that what an adventure is all about?

Speaking of an adventure, have you heard of the ‘Sia Sitok Sarawak’ Intrastate Tour Packages? The campaign is a collaboration between the Sarawak Tourism Board and the Sarawak Tourism Federation.
Participate in the campaign to get discounts of up to 50% comprising of over 30 travel attractions in Kuching, Sibu, Mukah, Bintulu, Miri and Mulu. The campaign’s booking period ends on 31 December 2020, for travels from 1 August 2020 to 31 March 2021.

Have you had a memorable cycling experience in Sarawak or would you like to recommend a new cycling route? Tell us your story on STB’s social media, and don’t forget to share some pictures too!

Effective 4 October 2020, Malaysians and foreign citizens need to apply for permission to enter Sarawak and submit an e-health declaration form at least 12 hours before entry. 14-days at a quarantine centre is mandatory and Covid-19 tests will be done on the 2nd and 10th day (all costs are self-borne). Different rules apply for Sarawakians returning home. Click here for further updates.