Posts in Thailand


A Gravel Road Tour In The Offing.

17 February 17

A Thailand gravel tour has long been on my mind. Slowly, for longer than a decade I have been dipping a metaphorical toe into what I thought was a meandering stream of unsealed tracks dotted around this nation that offers so much to the adventurous cyclist, but as time goes by it has become apparent that the babbling brook is in fact teaming torrent. 

Finding routes here has long been a somewhat hit and miss affair. The paper maps available have always been, and I am searching deeply but with little success for a kind way to say this, absolute tat. They showed what any half wit could easily imagine, major roads between towns. So whilst finding a route suitable for a tour was a satisfying activity that left one with a glowing feeling of success, it was nevertheless a trifle trying. And then came Google. In the early days Google Maps were not all that great for exploring, and having to drag a MacBook out of a pannier was far from convenient, but by golly have we not come a long way since then? 
Now the world is mapped, and mapped so bloody well that it leaves me wondering, and worrying a little, about how it's done. Algorithms I am sure the I.T. Savvy are crying out, but what does that mean? Orwell plonked a huge imposing TV screen in the corner of every home to watch our every activity, I expect that the concept of the spy being carried freely in our pockets, and voluntarily, even with enthusiasm, sending all manner of info regarding our every movement and ponder back to Big Brother was even beyond the vision of even the great visionary back in 1948 - but I digress, more than a tad. 

So Google and Garmin (which niggles me greatly but seems to have no viable completion), have come together to make route finding for the gravel loving bicycle itinerant a joy to behold. 

My plan for the past week was not to create a tour suitable to add to the PaintedRoads website this year, rather to give me an insight, knowledge, and confidence necessary to ensure that my long hoped for for Gravel Tour of Thailand could soon be a reality. And in this respect it has been an outstandingly productive week, as well as a lot of fun. 

A Thailand gravel tour has long been on my mind. Slowly, for longer than a decade I have been dipping a metaphorical toe into what I thought was a meandering stream of unsealed tracks dotted around this nation that offers so much to the adventurous cyclist, but as time goes by it has become apparent that the babbling brook is in fact teaming torrent. 

Finding routes here has long been a somewhat hit and miss affair. The paper maps available have always been, and I am searching deeply but with little success for a kind way to say this, absolute tat. They showed what any half wit could easily imagine, major roads between towns. So whilst finding a route suitable for a tour was a satisfying activity that left one with a glowing feeling of success, it was nevertheless a trifle trying. And then came Google. In the early days Google Maps were not all that great for exploring, and having to drag a MacBook out of a pannier was far from convenient, but by golly have we not come a long way since then? 
Now the world is mapped, and mapped so bloody well that it leaves me wondering, and worrying a little, about how it's done. Algorithms I am sure the I.T. Savvy are crying out, but what does that mean? Orwell plonked a huge imposing TV screen in the corner of every home to watch our every activity, I expect that the concept of the spy being carried freely in our pockets, and voluntarily, even with enthusiasm, sending all manner of info regarding our every movement and ponder back to Big Brother was even beyond the vision of even the great visionary back in 1948 - but I digress, more than a tad. 

So Google and Garmin (which niggles me greatly but seems to have no viable completion), have come together to make route finding for the gravel loving bicycle itinerant a joy to behold. 

My plan for the past week was not to create a tour suitable to add to the PaintedRoads website this year, rather to give me an insight, knowledge, and confidence necessary to ensure that my long hoped for for Gravel Tour of Thailand could soon be a reality. And in this respect it has been an outstandingly productive week, as well as a lot of fun. 

I would venture to say with some confidence that I now have 50% of a brilliant route ready for a group to ride. Even better than that I have the knowledge and understanding of the lay of the land, and the working of the necessary apparatus, to finalise a tour with just another two weeks on the road. 

And be assured that this will be a most beautiful tour. I have traversed mountain paths, riverside trails, cattle tracks and rice paddy gravel roads, and byways free of traffic enough to be able to create a wonderful and varied route. 

More than ten years ago I cycled the length of Thailand for the first time and saw the country afresh, a land not awash with backpacker's and tourist, but the real Thailand, a land I quickly developed a great passions for. And now, all these years later I have cycled half the length of the land on roads most will never know exist, and my love for this country is refreshed anew. 
Should a gravel adventure through Thailand tickle yer fancy then please either sign up for the PaintedRoads news letter, "like" PaintedRoads on Facebook, or better still drop me a line and I will keep our up to speed. 

Oh, and one last thing, fancy an adventure in Mongolia this summer? If so, please email me, I have a little something brewing.. 

 

The Kinesis ATR shod with Clement MSO tubeless tyres is the perfect machine for this sort of riding. Averaging 150KMS on day with a mix of gravel, dirt tracks and sealed roads the mantra Fast Far, as coined by the ATR's designer Dom Mason is most apt. Having converted to tubeless tyres last summer I feel that  the 30 to 35 psi pressure I was able to run without fear of punctures was ideal both on and off road. Way to go dude, as I believe the young say these days.

 

 

Gravel riding in North Thailand's Wonderful Winter Weather

25 January 17

 Winter weather in north Thailand is as close to perfect as one can hope for. Think of a perfect summers day in the UK and you’ve got it, warm days and cool evening that may, or may not, require a light jacket over a tee-shirt - oh, and it’s 95% certain to be dry each and every day. 

And for the cyclist it just gets better with a wonderful web of secluded byways weaving through the rice fields, across mountains and along the wide fertile valleys of the region. And as if all of this is not enough, if you happen to have a bit of a passion for gravel bikes the unsealed roads tracks and trails that spread like groping tentacles through the hills and valleys that are home to the north’s hill tribe people are a gravel bike utopia. 

With our Chinese tour partners Lee and Cathy visiting, Lee and I have been making the most of things and having a blast, shredding out in them there hills.

Gravel roads abound in Northern Thailand...

and unsealed jeep tracks...

a few river crossing

this image fails to tell the full story, this hill is just shy of 30% gradient.

Jungle trails...

and tea plantations.

The bike Lee was riding in the photos is my old Salsa Vaya with a twist, a 27.5" x 2.1 wheel and tyre combo I happend to have kicking around on an old bike - Lee's verdict? Fantastic. More of this later.

 

 

Sunday Inspiration - escape the winter with a sunny seaside cycling tour this February

08 January 17

Six weeks from today I, and a group of PaintedRoads regulars, will be setting of on PaintedRoads’ annual Winter Escape tour as we cycle beachside from Bangkok to Phuket. 

Also dubbed the PaintedRoads triathlon - Bike Beach Beer, this two week trip is arguably the perfect antidote to the seemingly endless ravages of the northern winter.

If cycling in the sunshine next month appeals to you please get in touch, the hardest decision you will have to make on this tour is whether to have your post ride dip in the ocean, or the resort’s beachside pool.

Heading for Thung Wua Laen

Morning coffee sunrise outside the room at Hat Lam Sai

Quiet rural cycling

One of my favourite South Thailand photos taken along a long deserted beach after Ban Krut

After lunch

This beautiful temple is just before the little seaside town of Ban Krut where we overnight early on in the tour

A beautiful bicycle for a beautiful tour

The view from our private longtail boat as we head for Yao Noi Island

Despite Andy's polka dot jersey this is a fairly flat tour

Morning sunrise outside the room on the little island of Kho Yao Noi

Beautiful temples such as this abound - at this one we take a lunch break

Visiting the Buddha caves - Day 8

Meeting the monkeys at Pretchuap Khiri Khan airbase

Sunset at Nai Yang Beach on Phuket

We have plenty of beaches to rest on along the way on this tour

A little exploration of country trails early on in the tour

 

 

 

A quick Christmas spin through the hills

24 December 16

A habit I must return to is taking my camera along when I pop into the hills for a spin. And so it was with this in mind my Olympus, my Kinesis and I have spend a lovely pre-Xmas morning exploring more of the seemingly endless labyrinth of trails in Northern Thailand.

Now to relax and rehydrate.

Merry Yuletide all!!

Ten minutes from home is beautiful playground of dirt trails riding through rubber plantations and skirting lovely little lakes

A seemingly endless ribbon of dirt roads winds through the hills and valleys and past villages of hill tribe people

Gravel roads abound in a most agreeable hue of red

The hills can be of cheeky gradients, 25% was the max this morning, a climb that causes brought about unsightly wheezing and dribbling - note to self, try to remain more composed

Endless hills and valleys to play in

And some cultivation in the form of an aromatic tea plantation

 

Tri Nations Tour Review

09 November 16

The idea of a tour through Vietnam, Lao, and Thailand has been on my mind for years, and so I am delighted that the inaugural Tri-Nations tour was such a great success - so good infact that Arthur, a veteran of no fewer than twelve Asian cycling tours, declared it his best tour to date, quite an accolade.

Make no mistake, the tour was no walk in the park. With an average daily distance of nigh on one hundred kilometres, days with over 2000 metres of climbing, and, in Thailand, gradients of up to 18% this was far from down hill all the way. But then again Paul is in his 60s, Arthur is in his 70s, and Caroline, although still youthful, is a relative new comer to cycling and has never tackled anything quite like this before, and they all found it a most rewarding and enjoyable ride.

The group was boosted tremendously by the late (very) joining of Roman. We had transferred from Hanoi to the old French hill station of Sapa on a beautiful sunny day. As we prepared our bicycles for the journey ahead Roman wandered past by chance, and, after observing our antics for a wee while enquired as to what we were up to. We explained we were beginning our journey in the morning and riding from here to Chiang Rai in Thailand, via Lao. Roman could hardly believe his luck as it was just the tour he had been looking for. He joined us for dinner, we had a bike sent up from Hanoi overnight, and Roman became a valuable contributor to the fun of our Indo China adventure.

My long held desire to run this tour comes not just from the beautiful cycling, but from the desire to show people the amazing contrast of these three neighbouring lands. All Buddhist, two allegedly communist, one allegedly democratic - but what a contrast, what a difference as we crossed borders. Vietnam with a population of nearly one hundred million people is dynamic and full of energy, it is a country developing so quickly one can see its evolution with the naked eye. Lao, with a mere six million inhabitants is quiet, relaxed, laid back. And Thailand, the most developed of the three nations, is relaxed and charming with a population complexed, quiet and well mannered. 

Which land did people like the most? There was no clear favourite, which I feel sums the tour up, a tour of contrasting lands, all beautiful and fascinating, and all populated by friendly welcoming people. As for me, I can’t wait to do it all again

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