borneo ride

  • Day Four of the (KTM Malaysia Owners Group) KMOG Borneo Ride 2017 consisted of the longest route.

  • We rode through everything from hot weather to heavy rain, flat land to the mountains, good roads to “no-roads,” from slow corners to fast flowing ones.

  • Not a single KTM broke down despite the trashing.

4th November 2017, Sandakan, Sabah – Anticipation, excitement, fear, doubt, sleepiness was on the faces and in the smiles of the KMOG Borneo Ride 2017 participants as we gathered for breakfast at 5am.

As mentioned in the earlier parts of our coverage, this was possibly going to the most epic day of this epic ride. We were to cover more than 640km today, first from Sandakan to Tawau past Lahad Datu, and finally to Keningau through Kalabakan.

While 640km is an easy target for seasoned Malaysia-Thailand riders, it’s not about the distance that scared us. Instead, it was because of the road conditions we have encountered thus far, in an unfamiliar territory.

Indeed, Ong Soo Yong had briefed us during the welcoming dinner that this would be the toughest leg of the KMOG Borneo Ride 2017.

For the first time, we left the hotel when it was still inky black. But the sun came out soon enough and we were seared by the sunlight by 9am. A few riders were concerned about having to ride under such weather for the remainder of the route. The road was thankfully smooth between the two towns.

We reached Tawau at 11.30am, well ahead of time, which took the restaurant owner by surprise. The staff scrambled to ready the tables and chairs, while the cooks jumped into overdrive. They didn’t even have water or Chinese tea in the beginning.

The sun had come out in its earnest by then, hitting 41 degrees Celcius, and no one could stand out in the open for more than five minutes. We charged into the restaurant like a swarm of angry bees.

One of the bikes had picked up a puncture, which sent the owner and Chris O’Connell out on a hunt for a tyre shop. So, all we could do was wait until they returned.

When we left the restaurant and out of Tawau, the sky ahead had turned ominously black and we hit a heavy rainstorm about 10km from the town. We stopped at a petrol station further up the road while taking shelter at the same time.

With every bike filled to the brim, a few of us donned our rain gear, while a few didn’t because they didn’t bring theirs. We pushed on anyway, all the while being lashed by the relentless rain.

The rain stopped after a few kilometres but dark clouds still dominated the horizon, so I kept the rainsuit on despite getting hotter and hotter underneath.

We were led by the marshals through a small village and ended up at an old Petronas station in Kalabakan.

It looked as if it had been built when Petronas first started business and has never been refreshed. The two 990 Adventures had to top off their tanks, unless they run out of fuel just outside Keningau and this was the last petrol station.

It started to drizzle again as we left the station. We rode through an oil palm plantation and it was offroad. The route was pockmarked with so many holes it looked alien.

We rode along at a brisk pace. I noticed the scenery and vegetation had started changing from flat farmlands to high hillsides.

Soon after I noticed an orange coloured sign that said, “AWAS. KAWASAN TANAH RUNTUH,” (CAUTION. LANDSLIDE AREA.) followed by another sign of the same colour with just the exclamation mark. The lead marshal started pumping his left arm up and down furiously, and it soon became apparent that the road had become “no road.”

An entire section was nothing but gravel and mud, as if the tar seal had been scraped off. Through MX training, my instinct kicked in and stood up. The 1290 Super Duke GT’s semi-active suspension was still set to “STREET” and I feared it may be too bumpy.

Instead, the bike which was meant to be a road-only sport-tourer took it all in its stride. I took it painfully slow in the beginning but it soon showed itself as being more capable than that as it allowed me to swerve past water filled potholes. It rolled over the loose gravel and mud as without drama. (It also helped that I stood up, of course, so do that when you have to ride over poor surfaces. Check out our tips for adventure riding here.)

It was tarmac again after that, followed by another no-road section, and another, and another. And it started to pour down again. This route is often used by logging trucks, hence the level of damage we encountered.

The rain came on and off as we slogged through one section after another until I lost count.

I started to experiment with the GT as we rode along. I had switched the WPs to “COMFORT” to let it soak up the bumps better and RIDE MODE to “RAIN,” for a smoother torque output. In the tougher no road sections, I left the transmission in third gear, let go of the clutch and regulated the throttle.

However, as a fast as I went in the offroad section, this was where the KTM adventure models truly stood out. There was a good mix consisting of the 990 Adventure, 1050 Adventure, 1190 Adventure, 1290 Adventure T, and both the new 1290 Adventure S and 1290 Adventure R. All of them, for want of a better word, flew through those sections.

Let’s also not forget that KMOG had organized training classes called Defensive Riding Program (DRP) to prepare their members for this type of adventure. (We covered a DRP session a few months back. Click here for DRP Vol. 2 Day One and here for DRP Vol. 2 Day Two.)

In the meantime, the rain had gone constant by now. It’s nearly 5pm and light’s starting to fade. I’ve stopped to record a video as a few bikes passing through a rough section and I was now left alone (although the last man was well behind).

I came up to an area where it appeared to be a small stop for the logging trucks. A dog wanted to cross the road from left to right, but it stopped when it saw me, so I swerved to the right to give it some room. But it suddenly bolted into the middle of the road and into my path. I grabbed the front brakes and the bike slowed so hard I felt like I was doing a push-up with 200 kg on my back. Even then, the brakes didn’t lock and trigger the ABS, plus there was still much room left for braking. Amazing!

Believe me, I was tempted to stop. My Dainese Rainsun jacket has two thick layers and the rainsuit over it but it was still cold. I could only imagine what those without rainsuits were going through.  And for the first time in Malaysia, I switched on the handlebar grip warmer to HIGH. However, I pushed on as I didn’t want to be riding out here in total darkness.

I soon saw a bike ahead and made it out to be the 1290 Adventure T ridden by Captain Nanda. We buddied up. There’s a certain relief to ride together with someone else, sometimes even with complete strangers when the going gets tough.

We finally made it to Keningau’s city limit. We stopped and waited for the rest to catch up.

The final leg into Keningau was awesome, featuring cambered sweeping turns. All of us cut loose. The Super Adventure S in front of me kept throwing sparks from its panniers through the corners!

We stopped for dinner at the beautiful Mee Woo Resort & Spa’s restaurant, but the service sucked. Yes, you read that correctly. First, they directed us to park at the entrance, then chased us away to park elsewhere after we’ve sat down to eat. Apart from one sweet usher, none of the crew ever smiled or greeted us. But never mind, because we were dirty, hungry and tired. The mood became increasingly jovial as hot food and drinks entered our systems. Everyone was relieved that toughest part of the journey was over.

From there it was a short three-minute to the hotel.

We did a final tally. Not a single bike had broken down despite all that trashing. Apart from a minor crash due to distraction (rider okay), no one had gotten hurt and that was the most important news.

Then all of us crashed into our beds.

Click here for KMOG Borneo Ride (Day One).

Click here for KMOG Borneo Ride (Day Two).

Click here for KMOG Borneo Ride (Day Three).

















Artikel oleh: Wahid Ooi Abdullah


  • KMOG Borneo Ride 2017 memulakan Hari Ketiga.
  • Kami menunggang dari Kundasang, melalui Ranau, ke Sepilok sebelum berhenti di Sandakan.
  • Tempat-tempat menarik yang telah dilawati adalah seperti ladang Sabah Tea dan Pusat Pemulihan Orangutan.


  • The KMOG Borneo Ride 2017 entered entered Day Three.

  • We rode from Kundasang, through Ranau, to Sepilok before stopping at Sandakan.

  • Highlights included the Sabah Tea plantation and Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre.

Kundasang, 3rd November 2017 – Day Three of the KMOG Borneo Ride 2017 started from the Mount Kinabalu Heritage Resort & Spa in Kundasang, for Sandakan. Today’s ride reminded us the meaning of “adventure riding.”

Click here for Day One of the KTM Malaysia Owners Group’s (KMOG) Borneo Ride 2017. Click here for Day Two of KMOG Borneo Ride 2017.

As usual, we got early for a simple yet hearty breakfast at the hotel. The exception though, was the crisp and chilly mountain air, which accompanied us. Almost everyone went outside afterwards to draw lungfuls of it.

As we arrived after dark last night, we couldn’t see what was beside the roads. Well, Kundasang didn’t surprise at the break of day. The hotel was situated on a hilltop tall and was surrounded by tall pine trees looked. Looking around below, were lush valleys, interspersed with little houses.

However, there was a pathway which led to a viewing platform just outside the restaurant, and there, we stared at Mount Kinabalu’s crown.

Ranau, the site of the devastating 2015 Sabah earthquake, was just 20km away. Looking up the side of the mountain, there were massive patches of light-coloured rocks, evidence of landslides due to the quake. Still, the mountain was beautiful and I could only wished we had scaled it to the top during this trip.

The KMOG Borneo Ride 2017 convoy pushed off at exactly 8.30am, the efficient marshals made sure of that.

It took just a few kilometres out of Kundasang for us to realize that the road was very narrow, much like the old Gombak-Genting Sempah road, without the landslides (and cyclists).

Traffic was wonderfully light, except for a number of big trucks we encountered.

However, the road’s condition increasingly deteriorated the further we rode. Many sections were uneven with plenty of potholes and patches thrown in. Legacy of the earthquake?

KTM Malaysia had graciously loaned the 1290 Super Duke GT to me for this ride. There was another GT ridden by Mr. Kan and we pulled away from the middle pack to enjoy the corners. I rounded a corner and came face-to-face with section which resembled a motocross double jump! I clamped down on the brakes hard and triggered the ABS but I was too close, so I the brakes go and yanked on the throttle, because I didn’t want the rear to kick up hard and endo me into road.

The bike flew but the “landing zone” was badly rutted. I caught a rut and it drove me to the road’s shoulder. I gave the bike some gas and the bike recovered itself smartly.

I had set the riding mode to STREET and the damping for the electronically-controlled semi-active WP suspension to COMFORT. However, the road surface was so bad it caused the bike to wallow in midcorner. Switching to STREET helped somewhat, it was too harsh in the rough sections. Going faster than 120 km/h, helped though.

I watched with jealously as the 1290 Adventure Duke T and the 1290 Super Adventure S’s suspension (also electronic) soaked up the bumps as if they weren’t there. A few riders could even relax one arm while riding.

We rode past the town of Ranau, but there wasn’t time to check out the view as we concentrated on the road and traffic.

We reached the Sabah Tea Resort Restaurant 36km away without incident. We got the real taste of freshly brewed Sabah tea.

It was lovely. Good aroma with a full body and just the right amount of acidity. Slightly sweet, slightly sour, but not bitter. With a great view to boot!

We rode back down the hill, whose road was a no-road. It was an unpaved gravel road with some big rocks. The GT did well, never threatening to throw away a tyre despite being more of a sport-tourer, with the emphasis on sport.

It was a straight shot to Sepilok from there.

We reached the Banana Cafe just in time for lunch.

The food was simple yet tasty, and enjoyed the great hospitality. The restaurant’s owner had even treated us to the “UFO tart,” unique to Sandakan.

From there, it was a quick jaunt to the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre.

The facility is located at the fringe of the Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve, and as apparent from its name, it rescues orphaned orangutans and rehabilitate them for life in the wild.

It opens at certain hours to the public called, during feeding time. The orangutans are fed twice daily.

The facility features a boardwalk raised above the swampy land below. It leads to the main viewing area, where the orangutans get together for their meal time.

That done, we got back on our bikes and made our way to the hotel in Sandakan.

We were given a couple of hours to freshen up before we headed out to dinner at the famous Tai Lau steamboat restaurant.

“Dinner” was the inappropriate word for it. It was a 10-dish feast as KMOG had ordered a multi-meal course consisting of steamed fish, squid, mussels (lala), braised vegetables, kung pow chicken, stir-fried green vege, prawn platter, crabs fried with salted egg and fruits for dessert!

With our tummies full, it was time to fill up the bikes ahead of tomorrow’s long leg. The final stop is Keningau, but instead of riding back through the route we had come in on, we are going to ride south to Tawau, before turning west, over the Crocker Range. It promises to be the most epic part of the KMOG Borneo Ride 2017.




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