Whether it is to ride through the city or to travel from one city to the next, cycling has become a preferred means of transportation in Thailand among locals and tourist alike.
by Jimmy Jacquet
The Tour de France celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2013, and its continued popularity as sporting event that captures the public imagination goes far beyond the world of elite cycling.
Cycling is becoming increasingly popular in a world where people are increasingly environmentally friendly and health-conscious. According to the National Cycling Charity, while in countries like the U.K. the mileage cycled went up 20 percent in 15 years, from 4 billion kilometers in 1998 to 5 billion kilometers in 2012, Fausto Izquiel, director at Bangkok’s Bike Zone (●www.bikezone.co.th)—a shop that sells top bicycle brands such as Cervélo, Marin, and CEEPO and provides professional bike fitting—assures us this global trend took off Thailand three years ago.
Rent-A-Bike in Bangkok
With the intention of encouraging the use of bicycles instead of cars, in 2012 Bangkok proudly released the Pun Pun (●www.punpunbikeshare.com) program. Whether bikes are used for short distances or to run quick errands, this alternative method of transportation offers daily bicycle rental at a reasonable rates: the first 15 minutes are free of charge, while one to three hours cost around THB 10, although overnight use is not permitted and comes with a THB 550 fine per day. Initially, there were only two Pun Pun stations, but now more than 50 stations across town offer more than 400 bikes to eco-friendly commuters. To use the service, you should register on the website and collect your smart card, which you will be able to top up, and check your balance, at each station.
Competitions in Thailand
Another cycling milestone in Thailand took place in September 2013, when Bangkok hosted the biggest cycling get-together to date. On the occasion, around 20,000 participants dressed in white, red, and blue to create a large living flag in the streets of Bangkok.
More recently, on December 7 and 8, the coastal district of Hua Hin hosted the 7th edition of one of the most important events of the year: the King’s Cup MTB race and the Queen’s Cup road tour race, which involved a road cycling race and a mountain bike race.
And, this February 16, Chiang Mai will be hosting the most exciting and challenging bike race of 2014 with the 7th Annual Conquer Doi Inthanon Ride and the ascension of Thailand’s highest peak (2,565 meters). The range of distances to cover goes from 16 to 50 kilometers, and the race is open to several categories according male/female, age groups, and bicycle type (and tire size).
Other upcoming cycling events in Thailand:
March 16: Amarin Outdoor Unlimited International Triathlon 2014, Phetchaburi
March 21–23: Thanyapura 500 Cycle Tour, Phuket
March 27–30: The Circle Summer Bike Fest, Bangkok
May 31: The Singha River Kwai Trophy 2014 Adventure Race, Kanchanaburi
Cycling with the Family
If you are a cycling fan and are looking for a fun family experience or a weekend getaway from Bangkok, you might want to stay at the Phuket Bike Resort (●108 Moo 4, Tambol Thepkasattri, Bangtao Beach, Phuket). Besides providing free bikes for guests to use—and enough space to park your own—the resort offers luxurious and stylish suites inspired by cycling, such as the Bike Studio and the Bike Duplex, fully equipped for short- and long-stay holidays.
See Thailand by Land … on Your Bike
Travelling on two human-powered wheels will give you an exclusive opportunity to go off the beaten track and meet local people while witnessing sights that most tourists never experience. When you get tired, however, keep in mind it always is very easy to put your bike on a bus or train and cover some stretches while resting for a while.
Thailand is safe for traveling by road, but the heat and humidity can be tough for some people to handle, it’s true. Remember to drink water on a frequent basis, and to take a nap in the hot midday hours. Mosquitoes can also turn your cycling vacation into a nightmare, so use insect repellent. Also, do remember that in the middle of the wilderness, you may not come across an ATM, so withdraw sufficient money for the way. Make sure to have a good quality map because away from the tourist trail, signs tend to be written only in Thai. For this same reason, learning a few expressions in the local language could make your trip much easier.
These are a few recommended routes:
● Chiang Khong to Chiang Mai: Cruise from Laos’s border to Thailand’s former capital
● Chiang Mai to Mae Sot: Get close to the Burmese border riding through Chiang Mai province
● Mae Sot to Kanchanaburi: A route of historic temples toward the bridge on the River Kwai
● Pratchuap Kiri Khan to Ao Nang Beach: Ride through beaches and palm trees from the eastern to the western coasts.
Whether you are looking for a challenging ride or a friendly family-oriented trip, many travel agencies offer custom made bike tours. Some companies that sell and rents bikes, and offer accessories, tours, and cycling information in Thailand are:
Active Thailand (●www.activethailand.com/cycling)
Amazing Bike Tours (●www.amazingbiketoursthailand.asia)
Bicycle Thailand (●www.bicyclethailand.com)
Bike Zone (●www.bikezone.co.th)
Boom Bike Tours (●www.boombikerides.com)
Cycling Thailand (●www.cyclingthailand.com)
Red Spokes (●www.redspokes.co.uk)
Siam Bike Tours (●http://siambiketours.com/en)
Spice Roads (●www.spiceroads.com)
Thailand Cycling Club (●www.facebook.com/thaicycling)
X Biking Chiang Mai (●www.x-bikingchiangmai.com)
Enjoy your time cycling in Thailand, and always remember to wear a helmet, as you never know when an elephant could come out of nowhere!
For official updates about bicycle races and events throughout the Thailand, register at the Thai Cycling Association (●www.thaicycling.or.th)