Cycling is a popular recreational activity on the Island of Penang amongst both visitors and locals. You don’t need to buy a bicycle to join in as you can rent one in popular areas of the island such as George Town and Batu Ferringhi. There are a range of different types of bike you can hire and a range of prices can be charged for the same type of bike.
Private Bike Rental in Penang
There are lots of places to rent bikes in Penang, particularly in heritage zone of George Town. Walk down Armenian Street or Chulia Street and you find lots of shops where they will rent you a bike. The standard one gear city bike is the most common type of bike for rent in Penang. The cost per day for this type of bicycle is between 10 and 20 MYR a day. The price difference is more about where you rent the bike from rather than what you receive in return for your money. The Leaf Bicycle Rental shop at 24, Weld Quay (which is the seafront road) has a deal where you pick up a bike in the morning and return it in the evening for 10 MYR. Just up the road at 7 Weld Quay, Metro Bike Center charges 20 MYR for what looks like exactly the same bike. Whatever price you pay make sure that when you rent a bike that they give you bike lock and a helmet.
A one gear bike is fine is your cycling aspirations go no further than a leisurely cycle round the sights of George Town or along the sea front in Batu Ferringi. However, if you plan more ambitious trips around the island or into the hilly interior then you need to rent something with gears which can handle from off-road routes. The ideal bike for long distance cycling in Penang is a mountain bike, for which you can expect to pay about 50% more than for a one gear city bike. The Leaf Bicycle Rental Shop will rent you a mountain bike which you need to return on the same day for 15 MYR, which is about as cheap a price as you find on the Island of Penang.
Link Bike Rental in Penang
If you are planning to cycle around George Town then a much cheaper option is to use the city’s bike bike sharing scheme called Link Bike. It works in much the same way as the bike rental schemes in London and other major European and North American cities: you take a bike from a docking station, ride it around, and then return it to any other docking station when you have finished using it.
Link Bikes are not fantastic bikes, they have one gear and the maintenance is a bit hit and miss, however, they normally work fairly well and they are very cheap, which is the reason why they are so popular. The first 30 minutes on a Link Bike is free and you are charged 1 MYR per hour thereafter. You can also buy passes which are great value: a 1 day pass is 2 MYR, 2 days is 3 MYR and a week is 7 MYR.
With such cheap prices you might be surprised that the Link Bike scheme hasn’t put all the shop renting similar bikes for 5 to 10 times the cost out of business. The reason for this fairly simple: you have to follow some steps to join the scheme and get credit to spend on your account before you can use the bikes, and most visitors to the city either can’t be bothered to do it or they don’t know how to do it.
The steps to getting enrolled in the Link Bike Scheme and unlocking a bike are in fact really simple, and you can get everything set up before you even arrive in Penang. The steps are as follows:
- Step 1: Sign up to the Link Bike scheme by either downloading the app (from Google Play or the App Store) onto your smart phone, or by visiting the sign up page on the Link Bike website.
- Step 2: Purchase some credit via the app or the website to use on your account for when you are in Penang.
- Step 3: Use the website or app to locate your nearest Link Bike docking station.
- Step 4: When you reach the docking station you can unlock a bike by either scanning the QR code using the app on your smart phone or by scanning your Link Bike card (instructions on how to get a card are given when you sign in on the website).
- Step 5: When you are finished cycling for the day (before 17:30) return your bike to any Link Bike docking station. You need to place the bike into any slot and wait for acknowledgement that dock registers that you have returned the bike.
Free Bike Rental at Penang Hotels
The following hotels offer free use of bicycles on a first come first served basis. Ask at the hotel’s reception for more information:
Cycling Routes in Penang
The majority of visitors to Penang go no further than the heritage zone in George Town, either on foot or by bike. This is a shame because there are lots of other places on Penang Island that really are worth visiting, and you can visit everywhere on the island by bicycle if you are moderately fit and hire a gear bike. Penang is in the process of building a system of dedicated cycle paths around the island. So far they managed a 12 km stretch which runs from the Komtar Tower in George Town to Queensbury Mall on the coast and another stretch on the sea front in Tanjung Bungah. This means that if plan to do a round island trip using the coastal road, which is route of 82 km, then you need to take the open road. For a more peaceful ride, albeit it a hilly one on rougher tracks, head to wards the interior of the island. There are are around 100 different routes you can take. Bring a map and lots of water.