Cycling in Borneo travel guide

It’s hard not to keep pronouncing Kuching as ‘kerrching’, especially when you choose to go to Sarawak on your Borneo cycling vacation. These trips not only let you explore this stunning capital from a saddle, but also national parks, mountain trails and waterfront villages. Because no matter where you cycle in Sarawak, you definitely get your money’s worth, with adventure, culture, nature and a lot of fun tied into one pretty parcel.
JC Chua, from our leading Sarawak cycling vacations specialist Paradesa Borneo, says:
“Cycling is very popular with local people in Sarawak now, a bit like in the UK where so many people took it up after the London Olympics. So, you see people cycling after work, at the weekends and so on. We also have many cycling clubs here now doing cycling trips, and so the infrastructure for cycling is good. This also means we have leader guides who are also really great cyclists, as well as speaking good English of course.”
The Malaysian state of Sarawak, on the island of Borneo, has always welcomed visitors who have an adventurous streak, keen to explore the splendid array of national parks, or seek out the island’s most famous resident, the orangutan. But up until recently, cycling opportunities have been few and far between. Thankfully this is now changing, not only as a result of the growing demand for cycling vacations worldwide, but also due to the fact that cycling is a hugely popular leisure pursuit among local people in Sarawak and Malaysia generally. Consequently, the facilities and infrastructure are excellent for cyclists, with eight cycling shops in Kuching alone.

Types of cycling vacations

Cycling vacations in Sarawak are designed for everyday tourists who like to hop on a bike. Those who enjoy that feeling of not just taking a longboat down the River Sarawak, but cycling to the river’s edge, putting their bike in the boat, and sailing downriver to another point where they can get back in the saddle again. Because cycling vacations, even if they are guided and in a small group, which they tend to be in Sarawak, will still give you that independent wind-in-your-hair feeling.

JC Chua, from our cycling specialists Paradesa Borneo, says:
“Our cycling vacations cater for regular tourists, not extreme racers. So we cover no more than 60km a day with plenty of rest and drinking stops in the shade.”

Cycling the national parks

Imagine trying to organise an itinerary whereby you experience seven national parks in nine days. On a bike. That is exactly what you get when you take a cycling vacation through Sarawak’s national parks – a trip that is particularly inspiring for the wildlife and wheelie loving combo. Cycle 32km from Kuching to Bako National Park, for example, and into another world of proboscis monkeys, flying lemurs, bearded pigs and long-tailed macaques. Or follow the mangrove rich coast, with Mount Serapi as your backdrop, en-route to Kubah National Park. This is just one of the great limestone peaks that await you in Kubah where, as with many of the jungle-filled parks, you will need to set your bike aside and explore on foot.

But that’s always the best way to find the secret waterfalls or mountain streams to bathe in. After a cycle to Gunung Gading National Park, for example, you will be rewarded with a guided trek to find the park’s prolific Rafflesia, the largest flower in the world. Which, for many people, beats a yellow jersey hands down.

Cycling is just the beginning

There are some places in which it is just not possible to cycle in Sarawak, so there are now vacations where cycling is the main activity, but other outdoor adventures are thrown into the outdoorsy odyssey. So, you could be cycling along a ridge in the Penrissen Mountains one day but then kayaking down the Sarawak River the next, paddling into small coves with hidden waterfalls along the way. Or have one day cycling along a palm-fringed coast, and then spend time simply chilling at the beach, such as in Sematan overlooking the South China Sea. These cycling trips that combine different experiences are perfect for family vacations in Sarawak.
JC Chua, from our Borneo cycling vacations expert Paradesa Borneo, says:
“I think cycling here is the perfect way for families with older children to see Sarawak. We have had many families tour with us, and it is an especially good way for families to spend time close together. When you are cycling together you can’t use your iPhone or anything like that. We also have extra activities that we add into one of our cycling trips, such as kayaking, wildlife watching or hiking together, which are great for families.”
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Borneo cycling or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.

Sweating it out

You don’t need to sign up to every spinning class going in order to prepare for a cycling vacation in Borneo. If anything, you need to learn to slow down. You will, however, be cycling through tropical heat and sweating lots, but this is something that local cycling vacation experts are well aware of. They advise all their cycling enthusiasts to start early in the day when temperatures are cooler, to drink lots, wear sunscreen and to just take it easy. Something they say a lot of European cyclists aren’t very good at, once they get in the saddle. But Sarawak is all about going slow. Cycling vacations have support vehicles to transport your luggage but also so that you can take a rest if you want to. It doesn’t matter if you don’t want to do all the cycling and just fancy hopping in the vehicle with one of your guides. You’re on vacation after all. That’s something you definitely don’t need to sweat about in Sarawak.
JC Chua says: “What we find is that the European mentality is very different to the Asian one. The Asian people don’t like it too hot, whereas the Europeans are always wanting more sun! And can’t get enough of it sometimes. But they definitely need to be careful too. We provide plenty of water, isotonic drinks and tropical fruits such as melons and bananas in the support vehicle. We stop every 10km and then people can freshen up, drink cold drinks and eat fruit.”
Written by Catherine Mack
Photo credits: [All images by: Paradesa Borneo]