Monday, January 21, 2013

Motorcycles in Malaysia

Malaysia from the Plane

Being so close to the equator, Malaysia is warm year round and really only has two seasons: wet and dry. It’s always hot 80s-90s F. My wife and I enjoyed a couple weeks in Malaysia recently do to a death in the family. While it was a sad time, the hot weather and wonderful time with family made it enjoyable. The photo above is our first glimpse of the Malaysian coast from our plane.

Motorcycle and Palm Trees

When we left Minnesota, it was 28F and when we arrived in Kuala Lumpur it was 28C. A nice improvement. I caught my first glimpse of the thousands of motorcycles I would see during our trip on the taxi ride from the airport into the city (above). He’s enjoying one of the motorcycle-only lanes on the freeway.

Parked Motorcycles Malaysia

Downtown Kuala Lumpur is filled with motorcycles as is the rest of the country. While I was there, I estimated that at least 40% of the vehicles on the road had to be motorcycles. It was a pretty close guess. This study says 50%+.

Street Scene

Like everywhere else in the world (except 49 US states sadly) filtering, splitting, and lane sharing are all perfectly legal and used extensively. The heavy traffic and poor roads means motorcycles are the only sensible way to get through the mess. The hot humid weather is encouraging those who can afford it to use cars though.

Street Scene

The public transit system in Malaysia isn’t very good. They are working on combing the systems, so it is getting better.

Most of the motorcycles were from the big four Japanese names you’d recognize: Yamaha, Honda, Suzuki, and Kawasaki with dozens of other names I had never heard of before. Yamaha and Honda seemed the most common to me.

Most of the motorcycles are less than 135cc. The small size makes them very easy to maneuver in heavy traffic weaving in and out of the trapped cars. It also makes them very easy to park. Occasionally, there would be a larger motorcycle. I saw a few 650s, but they were rare.

Parked Motorcycles Malaysia

I was always impressed how close together they could park their bikes. Barely enough room to walk between. I like the Repsol-Honda inspired motorcycles in the shot below. With the Sepang Circuit, there are a large number of MotoGP fans in Malaysia.

Parked Motorcycles Malaysia 

Helmet use is required by law and I saw most people wearing helmets. I only saw a half dozen people wearing any other protective gear such as a motorcycle coat or boots. Normal gear is an open face helmet (usually fastened), thin coat on backwards, and flip-flops for the feet. The heat and high humidity would have made it uncomfortable to wear much else, but would probably increase the longevity of the riders.

Parked Motorcycles Malaysia

It was common to see motorcyclists ignoring traffic rules (the other vehicles did too) like ignoring signal lights and directions of travel. I’m guessing that contributes to their over 50% of traffic fatalities in Malaysia involve motorcycles. It was interesting to observe a completely different traffic dynamic to the US were motorcycles are only 1% vs. the 50% in Malaysia.

Parked Motorcycles Malaysia

Four stroke and two stroke motorcycles were both found in full representation with the four stroke being the most common. 

Parked Motorcycles Malaysia

Despite the plums of smoke and loud exhaust that all the two-stroke seemed to be equipped with, I enjoyed seeing them.

Parked Motorcycles Malaysia

Motorcycles parked in the sidewalk adjacent to the train platform above.

Motorcycle Repair Shop with Old Triumph

Motorcycle shops were very common because of the high number of motorcycles around. Many were simply large garages filled with moto-related stuff. Similar to some of the enthusiast garages I’ve seen in MN. I liked the old triumph in the photo above.

Motorcycle Mechanic on Sidewalk

The mechanics above were tearing down an engine on the sidewalk in front of their shop.

Father and Son Motorcycling

While enjoying some tea, I caught the scene above of a father picking his son up from school. He’s just helping him get his helmet on. Starting him young!

A have a few more Malaysia related posts coming, so stay tuned.

 

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26 comments:

  1. Chris:

    Funny you should mention jackets worn backwards. We noticed this when we went to China a few years ago and thought it was unusual. Bikes were all jammed together and just leaning against each other. No kick stands required. Did you also notice a lot of Honking ?

    Sorry for your loss

    bob
    Riding the Wet Coast

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    1. I saw the backwards jackets in China last time i was there as well. it was to keep the pollution off of the clothes in china. Malaysia is also quite polluted, so guessing they do it for the same reason: keep their clothes clean.

      not an excessive amount of honking, but more than the US. they appeared to be using honking to say "I'm here" or "get out of the way" in the US we seem only capable of using it to say "get out of the way @#$*)!"

      thanks

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  2. Thanks for sharing your motorcycle experience, reminds me when I live in Brazil for a couple of years :)

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  3. I like the blue Yamaha. Maybe we don't allow lane splitting because we all like big bikes or maybe because of the loud noise some people like

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    1. that yamaha would be fun here. I think people in the US are scared of lane sharing thinking it's dangerous when it's actually safer for the motorcyclist vs sitting in traffic waiting to get rear-ended. it's also allows more efficient use of the road realestate to move people, but with motorcycles maybe at 1% of the US road users... we're a moto-recreation culture not a moto-transportation one.

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    2. its the RXZ, the most famous and notorious bike. they carry great resale value.

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  4. Wow! 50% of all of the vehicles. And motorcycle only lanes on the freeway. What a concept.

    Looking forward to more pictures and impressions.

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    1. yes, it was amazing to behold. a completely different dynamic.

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  5. Glad you're back. Liked the post and really liked your comment in response to George, "...we're a moto-recreation culture not a moto-transportation culture." What an obvious difference that makes.
    ~Keith

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it Keith. Yes, a difference indeed!

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  6. sounds quite chaotic Chris....any sidecar rigs spotted?

    dom

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    1. I don't mind chaos. Next post just went up all about sidecars :)

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  7. Great pictures Chris! Seems like you had eye candy everywhere you went. Site is looking great BTW. More posts!

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    1. Yes, lots of awesome stuff to look at. I could have easily stayed a couple more weeks.

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  8. Nice report, Chris. It's -9F here this morning.

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    1. Thanks! yea.. 100 degree difference in less than a week. depressing.

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  9. Wow, I knew motorcycles were popular in Malaysia but I didn't realize how popular.

    I couldn't imagine riding in full gear in that heat and humidity. Thanks for sharing all of those pictures. I am looking forward to your next post.

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    1. I've ridden in that heat and humidity. It's not to hot to ride, but it most certainly too hot to stop! :)

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  10. My girlfriend and I just got back from a cruise where we visited Belize, Honduras and Mexico. What impressed me was the number of scooters and motorcycles I saw that were driven by both sexes and by all ages. Much to my girlfriend's chagrin there were a lot of small kids, including several toddlers, on bikes. I was amazed that all these little kids were so well behaved on the bikes. I would be afraid they fidget and go off the damn thing.

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    1. I saw small kids on motorcycles in Malaysia as well. Most of them even had little helmets.

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  11. Fascinating pictures. It must be interesting to live round so many motorcycles. And I am sure I would love the weather since is probably same tropical weather as it is in Puerto Rico.

    Riding My Own Biography
    NINJA ZX-14 MotoVlog

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    1. thank you! It was interesting to see so many bikes so often; it was quite the change from the US. I haven't made it to PR yet, but I'm guessing all equatorial climates are similar just as climates on the same latitude further north are.

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    2. Hi Chris. I am from the UK. Now retired to Malaysia so I can ride my Cruiser every day. Very Scary at first. But once acclimatized soon get use to it.
      Malaysians love their motorcycles and for lots is their only mode of transport.
      Moving to Malaysia is the best thing I ever done.
      Thanks for sharing with us all.
      Regards John

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    3. thanks for taking the time to comment John. Malaysia is a fun place. Looking forward to the next trip there.

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  12. Hey there, Malaysian here, was actually looking for some motorcycle helmet laws in my country and stumbled across your post.

    I'm not a motorcyclist myself, but I'm considering on getting a bike just because of the worsening traffic conditions in my country. Sometimes the road conditions and traffic planning is just a bit daft and the dramatic increase in cars have lead to loads of traffic jams.

    Besides that, you might've realized that roads in Asia are much narrower and pack compared to the US, so we've had to make do with learning to squeeze around and have bikes and cars together on a single lane. That's probably also why Asians get the reputation of being crazy drivers and sticking so close to other cars.

    You're also right that the humidity and heat here deters many motorcyclist from wearing thick, fully covered protective clothing. As much as they look badass and are safer to wear, 15 minutes in a leather jacket and in slow traffic would probably get you all soaked inside.

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