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The bikes can fly! Flying my motorcycle from Malaysia to Australia.

Getting ready and shipping my motorcycle by air from Kuala Lumpur to Australia for the ultimate part of my journey!

Bike being cleaned before the journey

“You know there is like.. A bit of water between Asia and Australia, right?”. If I got a penny every time I told people about my plans to ride my motorcycle from Europe to Australia and got that comment in response - this alone would fund my trip. Unfortunately I didn’t get paid for those comments hence I had to find a way to get my bike from Malaysia to Australia without breaking the bank. 

Initially I was contemplating the idea of getting from Malaysia to Indonesia, riding all the way across Indonesia to a small country of East Timor and putting the bike on a ship to Darwin in Australia. However, that option had its own challenges. The maritime connections between Malaysia and Indonesia, despite being so close to each other, leave a lot to be desired. The famous “Onion boat” that used to take bikes across the Malacca strait was no longer running - it either has sunk or was confiscated, I’m not sure. Finally, shipping East Timor to Darwin is also a very uncertain affair with long waiting times reported. This coupled with the rainy season in Indonesia made an option of flying the motorcycle directly from Kuala Lumpur to Australia very appealing. In hindsight it was a good decision for another reason which I couldn’t have known at the time - it was February 2020 and had I stayed a little longer in Malaysia or Indonesia I’d be properly stuck there due to Covid pandemic.

On the other hand, the Kuala Lumpur airport was just right there and there were numerous reports on how easy it is to ship from there, so I started my research…

Sir, my bike would like a window seat please!

Thanks to numerous reports in the specialised groups I got the contact details of MASKargo - the cargo branch of Malaysian Airlines - and gave them a call a few weeks ahead of the planned shipment date. The person I spoke to seemed very knowledgeable. He informed me that flying the bike to Perth is the cheapest option - great, that’s where I was planning to go anyway - and just to call me a week or so before the flight. A huge upside of Malaysian AIrlines as compared to many other companies is that they are really easy when it comes to transporting motorcycles. The bike doesn’t need to be crated, the fluids don’t have to be drained or purged - they even didn’t make me disconnect the battery! It was pretty similar to going on a ferry - roll on, roll off! Except it was going to fly…

As the bike was destined for Australia there was another issue to take care of and a very important one! Australia along with New Zealand are very strict when it comes to biosecurity. As such, they require everything that comes into the country to be sparkling clean. Reportedly, motorcycles have to be cleaner than new! If they don’t the Austalian Quarantine service will clean them for you - at a very very hefty price. 

Because of that I have brought my bike to Ady3X bike wash in Kuala Lumpur explaining how thorough the cleaning needs to be. Ady has cleaned bikes of some other overlanders before but still his team (of 3 people) had to do 3 or 4 rounds of cleaning. Under every round I would take a torch and crawl all around and under the motorbike looking for any traces of dirt, insects, grime etc. Then we would start all over again… In the end the bike was indeed cleaner than new - I doubt it was that sparkling when it left the factory in Japan! It was still the tail end of the rainy season in Malaysia and I was hoping I won’t get caught in the downpour on the way back to my apartment which would kind of make the whole cleaning exercise useless. I was lucky - I got back to my apartment as the roads were still dry - and 30 minutes later a massive thunderstorm rolled into Kuala Lumpur.

Ady (the Bike wash owner) and me giving thumbs-up to the job well done!

It’s boarding time!

The next morning as the sun was rising over the skyscrapers of Kuala Lumpur I set off to the airport on my moto. I left early to beat some road closures - they were running some sort of bicycle “green” event hence the roads around where I lived were expected to be completely blocked). As I had much time to spare I stopped by another roadside eatery for a breakfast of Nasi Lemak - fried chicken with rice - which I enjoyed in the company of local Malay people. 

Kuala Lumpur international airport is quite a distance from the city so by the time I reached the area I thought it’d be a good idea to give the bike yet another clean. For that I dropped by the local car wash and asked the guy to clean the bike - he was genuinely surprised. “But sir… It’s clean!” - and I pointed to a few patches of dust on the underside of the engine. He must’ve thought I’m really weird.

Getting into the KL airport cargo area is not a very straightforward process. One has to obtain a security pass, for which one has to deposit the passport, then deposit that pass for some other pass, which needs to be signed somewhere else etc etc… Thankfully there were reports from other travellers on the steps to follow - and the local people working in the airport were helpful enough. After some running around I finally got into the cargo area and to the MASKargo office. I was met by an incredibly helpful and friendly agent there who processed the paperwork in no time and explained the rest of the process. We quickly weighed the bike and calculated the totals which came to around $800 including most of the charges but excluding the handling fees on the Australian side. Still, given that it’s a big bike flying high in the air - the price was more than reasonable.

It was a weekend and the customs office was under-staffed so it took a while for someone who knew how to fill in customs documents to turn up. Eventually we were able to locate someone to do all the right stamps. The bike was ready to go - after I rolled it onto the platform I gave it another wipe down with a cloth that I took with me specifically for this purpose. And then I just left it there, sitting in the corner of the warehouse. The MASKargo staff will then wrap it in a film and load on the plane - and hopefully I’ll see it in a few days!

The incredibly friendly gentleman from the office gave me a ride out of the cargo area on his scooter. The cargo area was very far from the airport terminal building and there was no transport around. But there was a hotel with a shuttle bus service. With my best Shrek cats’ eyes I walked to the reception and asked whether there is any chance I can catch a ride on their shuttle even though I’m not actually staying here. The lady at the reception evidentially couldn’t say no.

2 days later I checked in for my own flight to Perth. Me and my bike were on different flights just an hour apart so I was walking around the terminal building trying to get a glance at it being loaded on the plane - no joy, perhaps it was in another area of the terminal. An hour later I finally left Malaysia ending a huge chapter in my journey - heading into Australia…

The bike is ready to go - just look how clean it is!

G’day mate!

My own arrival was uneventful - the only thing the customs were mildly interested in was the sheepskin I’ve used as a seat cover on the bike. But they must’ve thought I bought it from a souvenir shop or something, not carried it on the bike across the whole Asia.

The first morning in Australia was a true culture shock. After spending months travelling across crowded, chaotic Asia it was surreal to be in an orderly city. Not much traffic and - most importantly - the quietness. That certainly wasn’t India. It came with a price tag though - the price tag for the first breakfast I had left me with teary eyes. Bottled water was more expensive than petrol.

At 10am sharp I was in the Perth airport ready to start the bureaucracy. Which turned out not to be bureaucratic at all. The very helpful lady from the local shipping office explained to me step by step how to get to the Customs office - where my documents were promptly stamped - and how to book a quarantine inspection. I managed to book it for later in the afternoon - except I’ve got a sudden call asking whether I’d be okay to do it like.. Now?..

Back running to the shipping agent’s warehouse I was met by a very pleasant gentleman who turned out to be the Quarantine inspector. Biker himself we had a nice chat about my journey. He did drop in a question about how I cleaned my bike in KL and also how did I get to the airport there. I proudly told him about my half a day 4-rounds 3-people cleaning at the bike wash and one final one in the airport. He seemed pleased with that.

As we walked into the warehouse one of the staff rolled in the bike all wrapped up in transparent film. As the inspector was doing his paperwork I unwrapped the bike, frantically looking for any sight of dirt or dust - but no, the bike was sparkling clean. The inspector then looked carefully around the bike, using a torch looking under the mudguards and fairings. He then asked me to open just one of the side bags - and as I headed to the left one, he suddenly said - “No, the other one please!”. He later explained it was kind of a test - had I hesitated he would’ve known that in one of those I might have something I shouldn’t have. Frankly speaking, I didn’t even remember what I packed in the left one and what in the right one.

10 minutes later and the inspection was done. While thorough enough I have to say it was much less intense than I expected and people reported. It felt to me that once he could see that the bike “looks” clean and I made an effort - he was more likely to just let it pass.

After a few more minutes of paperwork and credit card swiping ($200 for local fees) I started up my bike and got onto the orderly Australian roads riding carefully to avoid any fines - here they certainly would be more than a few dollars like in Asia. It felt surreal to be riding my own bike on a new continent, almost on the exactly opposite side of the world from where I’ve started my trip. But now I know for sure from my own experience - Motorcycles Can Fly!


The founder of Andalus Moto Rentals, Alex is an avid motorcycle traveler. He started with short classic trips around Europe, explored some of Asian countries on rental motorbikes. He eventually embarked on a solo motorcycle journey from Europe to Australia passing through Europe, Middle East, South and South East Asia.

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An excellent All Rounder Touring Motorcycle! Comfortable and relaxed posture, easy and controlled cornering make it fun to ride for short and long trips! Equipped with ample luggage capacity!


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