Routes: Route 55 (The Gap Road)
Nearest Towns: Kuala Kubu Bharu, Fraser Hill, Raub
This is the big one. Jalan Kuala Kubu Bahru – Raub via Fraser Hill, a.k.a Route 55 is, to me, nothing short of a national treasure for drivers. It cuts through the heart of the Titiwangsa mountain range and is pretty much traffic free, it’s been a firm favourite with the Old-school, pre-Sepang / LDP petrolheads.
Plus I’ve recently purchased a new car (A 2014 Peugeot 208 GTi, as seen in the previous episode of Route Hunters – this was written in 2015) and had just finished the run in period and was aching to see what she could actually do if unleashed on this road. Not only that, this route is something that I grew up with as a kid, as my hometown was Raub.
Its these sort of roads that inspired me to start the Route Hunters operation. I firmly believe that these are the kind of roads that Malaysian petrolheads need to target, both to learn driving and to set their car up. This is our Isle of Mann, our Col de Turini, our Nordschleife. Its little wonder why (almost, haha!) all of the participants gathered at the rendezvous point at 6.30am sharp.
I’ve been plotting this drive since last year but it wasn’t until the 3rd of January 2015 that the planets aligned and we managed to gulp a total of 280 plus KM in one single morning. Ladies and gentlemen, strap in, this is a good one.
What to expect?
Expect this route to be demanding. It’s no 3 or 2 lane highway, clearly sighted corners, or seamless cambers on this course. It’s the closest sensation I could get to fantasize of being in a tarmac rally. This the kind of roads that truly separate the men from the boys.
Low riding, needlessly stiffly sprung, semi slicked tuner cars who are more track focused I suggest do not trot on these routes. These roads are totally unforgiving to ill tuned cars. You best have a really good set up to aid you out here. Suspension system should have good travel and good damping, so that you can use the contours and curves to your advantage, and not feel like you ride is going to get flung over the side of the mountain at every turn.
High powered tuner cars or totally non linear powerband will also find this route to be overwhelming. The route is tight and twisty with relentless turns back to back. You’d be stuck in 2nd, 3rd, and maybe 4th in most cars.
Episode IV’s route revisits half of Episode II before reaching the quaint town of Kuala Kubu Bharu (KKB). Our start point was Batu Caves, from which we headed out towards the village Ulu Yam via the back road from Bandar Baru Selayang. From Ulu Yam you face two options. The easiest is to follow the sign Ipoh and head over to KKB. The ‘RouteHunters’ approved way is to turn right into the Jalan Empangan Pecah just after Kampung Bukit Rasa. Free of traffic, this scenic route is much more relaxing route to trek on rather than the congested Route 1 that links Ulu Yam to KKB.
The highlight of this drive is Route 55, the road that links KKB to Raub via Fraser Hill, is nothing short of tarmac perfection. Its a continuous set of left-right successions around mostly blind corners right after the arc bridge at the entrance to the Chilling Waterfalls. Its a full on hill climb but the route is so narrow and tight that to a point it cancels out power advantages. Only a really sorted chassis and a talented driver can hold his / her own here. Which is why the RouteHunter team on this run really enjoyed it. Since its really narrow and steep it’s not a favourite for commercial vehicles or heavy vehicles, which is good!
However the road from Teras to Bentong via Sang Lee is different to Route 55. Its got open sighted corners, sweeping and still with lovely elevations that’s more Batu Tiga and Pasir Gudang than Sepang. Also since there’s a new trunk road running from Raub to Bentong, people have kinda forgotten about this stretch. Do you feel the horns growing on your heads yet?
Watch out for sudden one sided dips on the tarmac that could cause your suspension to bottom out or even worst scrape your bumbers, or throw you out of your line. The route from Fraser to Raub is so scarcely used that there’s quite a bit of dirt at the edge of the tarmac (leaves, grass, moss) that wont be too kind on the tyres. On the Raub to Bentong route though just be easy when going over crests as it could be a turn waiting over the crests.
Most of the route between KKB and Raub via Fraser is smooth, only towards the top of the mountain the ripples can get a little choppy, and some minor portholes, and towards almost Teras (maybe 5% of the route). The Raub to Bentong via Sang Lee road is almost perfect bar two places where water running across from one side of the road to the other has formed portholes.
You have no idea what’s around the turn in the path up towards Fraser, or if the corner has double apexes or if it tightens mid corner.
We do reach an altitude of 1000 meters above the sea level at about 8am in the morning, plenty of time for fog. Visibility can drop really low so do practice caution, sound your horn at the turns.
Monkeys and Wild Boars. They are fun to snap pictures at, not so fun when to play chicken with, even if they loose. It is their turf, we are merely passing through so make sure plenty of awareness is there for the wildlife.
Fallen Trees, Landslides
This region receives heavy rainfall and not much in the way of maintenance, so watch out for low lying brances, fallen trees or leaves on the sides of the roads. But do not worry it’s very scarce.
The other nasty parting gift from the marriage of hard weather and non-existent maintenance is portholes. Towards the entrance road of Fraser the portholes can be rather frequent, and two places on the Raub – Bentong road. Otherwise its a clean and clear route!