Sabah, Borneo, #42
Roads are treacherously narrow and traffic, including Palm Oil related trucking, is often very heavy. Equatorial heat is oppressive and the rains come often all year long. The scenery is often redundant through Pam Oil Plantations. Less traveled roads don’t connect and reliable information is difficult to get. Not recommended for biking.
How We Rate This Trip
Narrow and seldom with shoulder
Surprisingly heavy Palm Oil and logging trucks.
We like it hot but wow! Hot and humid and lots of rain.
Generally light but unpredictable.
Disappointing due primarily to the wide spread palm oil plantations.
Nobody bikes here so routes are hard to determine.
Road Safety: 2
They travel fast so you have to be ready to bail out.
General Safety: 7
Only in Kota Kinabalu were we warned to take care.
Compared to SE asia, everything costs more for less.
Everything is generally available.
Good choice of Malay and Chinese.
Often a little ratty and dirty but OK. There are many four star resorts along the coast for diving which is very popular here.
Very friendly and the different cultures blend easily.
Disappearing at an alarming rate.
Generally there is little left. Either colonial or indigenous.
TOTAL SCORE 61
Route Descriptions & Maps
Kota Kinabalu (KK) to Kota Belud 67Ks
Out along coast, south, 4-lanes with a wide shoulder. Past the Mosque then past the university. At 14Ks, junction, Hwy.#606 right toward Tuaran (there is a sign). **Best to go left toward port. This road has a shoulder. Follow around back to Hwy.#1 after 15Ks plus/minus. We did not take this, found out about it later.** At 16Ks, junction Hwy.#1, left. 4-lanes, no shoulder. Heavy traffic, bad riding! Tail wind, SE. At 29Ks, junction Hwy.#503, bear left. Too much traffic (including trucks) for a narrow 2-lane road. A few minor hills. At 49Ks, moderate four stage climb to 55Ks. Nice views. Again easy rolling. At 67Ks, turn turn into town, at 67Ks, Kota Belud.
Kota Belud to Kudat 116Ks
Out to Hwy.#1. At 6Ks, 2-lanes, narrow. Great views of Mount Kinabalu. Moderate, fast traffic. Mostly flat to 25Ks then rolling moderate/steep hills up to 38Ks then rolling down to 43Ks. on to a plain. Junction at 46Ks. Left. (right to Kota Marudu, 10Ks) Lighter, fast traffic. A grass shoulder that you can escape to. Rolling easy hills. Dull (Palm Oil Plantation) scenery. At 71Ks, start 10Ks of steeper, longer hills. At 76Ks, turn for Rungus Long Houses. (A hilly 2Ks in to left). At 81Ks, flattens out. Variable winds. At 101Ks, turn for tip of Borneo. Now more longer moderate hills. Narrow road. Too much traffic all the way. Finish into a strong head wind. At 112Ks, view to the sea and down to Kudat. Really bad going in , narrow and busy. (At 114Ks better to bear left into 4-lane road into town).
Kudat to Tip of Borneo, round trip 64Ks
Finally, quite roads. Out along coast past the airpot. Follow signs to “Tip of Borneo”. At 18Ks, junction. Right (straight is also to the “Tip” but on a rough road). At 24Ks, turn for Suang Pai Beach, straight. At 27Ks, right (straight to continue on loop back to Kudat on rough road that starts after 800 meters). Choppy hills to sea then to “Tip” at 32Ks. **On the return from the “Tip” don’t miss the left turn at 25Ks. At 30Ks, bear left on 4-lane road into town.
Kota Kinabalu to Tambuan 81Ks
Out south and follow the signs to Penampang (Hwy,#503). Past Queen Elizabeth Hospital at 3Ks. 6-lanes, busy, urban road with stop lights. At 10Ks, circle left on Hwy #500. Road becomes 2-lanes, no shoulder but traffic becomes light. Rolling hills. Tail winds. Generally up. Mostly moderate grades. At 27Ks, start climb. Mostly moderate but occasionally steep, short sections. After 45Ks, easier grades then at 53Ks, the top. Very gradual at the top. Good views. A great moderate descent to 74Ks. Junction A2 (Left to Ranau, 56Ks). Right gradual grades for 7Ks to Tambuan at 81Ks.
Tambunan to Ranau 63Ks
Back to Junction at 7Ks then gradual/moderate climb to 16Ks. quiet road. Some down hills buy generally up. Moderate up to 23Ks, then down, often steep to 29Ks then up again. At 31Ks, road construction to 41Ks mostly down. End of construction at 51Ks then down to 55Ks then up again to Ranau at 63Ks.
Ranau to Kinabalu Park 40Ks round trip
Moderate climb 4Ks.Some trucks, traffic comes in clumps. Great views. 2-lane moderate up to Park at 20Ks.
Ranau to Telupit 97Ks
Rolling up to junction for Poring Hot Springs at 6Ks. Narrow and busy then at junction far less traffic (still too much) and rolling down to 19Ks through lesser mountains. Nice scenery. Then up to 28Ks then down to river at 31Ks. Mellow rolling to bridge at 52Ks, then mostly climb to 64Ks. Then rolling to 67Ks then a mostly gradual downhill to 85Ks then up and down hills to Telupid at 97Ks.
Telupid to Sandakan 130Ks (Don’t ride this!)
Rolling hills become gentle. At 35Ks, the turn for Pitas, straight Easy rolling. Palm Oil and trucks. Terrible, (avoid this), Construction from 55Ks to 60Ks. Junction for Lahad Datu at 65Ks. It gets worse. At 95Ks, junction to Sepilok. At 105Ks, Palm Oil trucks turn off. Now 4-lanes with a shoulder. At 130Ks, Sandakan. **Don’t ride this route. It’s just awful. IMAGE
Tambuan to Keningau 50Ks (60Ks by back road)
Busier, trucks, the good riding is over. Continue down gradually to 13Ks, then some seriously steep hills, Then down at 23Ks to 31Ks. At 31Ks, road to left is a nice quiet back road. At 56Ks, T-junction. Right on very busy road, over bridge at 59Ks, right on main highway into Keningau at 60Ks . Staying on the main road gets you there in 50Ks. Both roads are generally flat.
Keningau to Sook 32Ks (direction of Tawau)
Well engineered. Moderate grades built for Logging Trucks. Passing lanes on hills. At 8Ks, huge lumber mill. This road becomes a rough lumber road eventually. ery good road past Sook at 32Ks.
Keningau to Papar 70Ks (toward the coast)
From center take Jalan Masak out of town gradually climbing to 4Ks. T-junction. Right. Moderate climb to 7Ks then mostly steep to 16Ks. Then down. Great views back. Light to moderate traffic. Often up hill passing lanes. 2Ks down then up to 24Ks. Now a lot of step down. Sometimes moderate, even a couple ups to 39Ks then mostly gradually down a valley to 52Ks. Junction. Right to Papar. Easy rolling then flat. Older road. Light traffic. Hwy.#1 at 66Ks, then Papar.
Keningau to Tenom 42Ks
Rolling Hills up to 14Ks then rolling down to 23Ks. Quieter road. Narrow. OK scenery. Gradually descend. At 28Ks, along river. Almost flat to Tenom at 42Ks.
Tenom to Sipitang 79Ks (toward the coast)
Down valley. A few hills to junction at 16ks. Right. Gradual climb to 19Ks then steep 3K climb to22Ks. Good views down 1 K then up steep to 26Ks. Then steep stair step down to 37Ks. Gradually rolling to 45Ks then moderate hills to 51Ks. 3Ks moderate climb to 54Ks. Moderate rolling hills generally down. Easier as you go. At 70Ks, circle, right toward Sipitang on busy, narrow highway. Sipitang at 79Ks.