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Thailand Gravel Roads

1000 kilometres on the road less travelled - a multi surface adventure tour

Gravel bikes, All Road bikes, Adventure bikes - whatever you wish to call them these bikes are fantastic, and, allowing a brisk pace on road whilst still being supremely capable off road they open up a wonderful array of possibilities for the adventure seeking to explore the path less travelled. 

A little know secret of Thailand is its astonishing network of unsealed roads. Gravel, grit, dust, and dirt trails spread out across the entire nation like vines, but generally remain unknown and untraveled by all but the local farmer.

Slowly these roads are being sealed, meaning that quiet rural blacktop byways and concrete lanes link these unsealed gems and provide those with time to explore the opportunity to enjoy a unique adventure and see a Thailand a world away from the tourist land that 99% of tourists experience.

Drawing on a long held passion for exploring the roads, tracks, and trails less travelled, we have woven a route from Chiang Rai in the country’s far north, to Ayuthaya, the ancient capital less that one hundred kilometres north of the nation’s present capital, Bangkok. 

If you enjoy adventure cycling, gravel roads, byways light of traffic, and seeing the side of a country seldom experienced by the vast majority of visitors then this really could be just your sort of tour.

 

At a Glance


Total Days: 13

Cycling Days: 10

Difficulty: 6/10

Daily Average: 105km

Off-Road: ~50%

Max. Alt.: 670m


2019: 03 Feb - 15 Feb: $2500.00


Overview

This is a tour conceived from a personal passion for travelling through Thailand on the road less travelled, and often unsealed, on a fat tyre bicycle with dropped handlebars and real world gearing. With the rapidly increasing interest in this sort of bike and this style of riding PaintedRoads realised that the time had come to introduce our fellow cyclists to the world of Asian adventure cycling, and the road less travelled.

Please Be Aware

The very nature of this tour is one of flux. As time goes by dirt roads become gravel, gravel roads become surfaced, old trails are dug over to plant rice, new tracks appear, and in the unlikely event of rain some unsealed sections can quickly become too muddy to ride. For these reasons all distances given are approximate, some days may be shorter, some longer, some may have more unsealed roads, some may have less, and the route may at times need to be altered to take present conditions into account. The tour has been designed with approximately 50% of the riding time on unsealed byways, but this is to be seen as a guide, not an accurate scientific measurement. 

Highlights

Our journey begins in Chiang Rai, and visits two previouse national capitals, our rest day town Sukhothai, and our ultimate destination Ayuthaya. These are all considered highlights by regular travels, and are indeed well worth visiting, but for us the real highlight of this tour is exploring the unseen Thailand. It's a Thailand where few foreigners venture, and the ever friendly locals are delighted to meet real travelers with a genuine interest in their land far beyond the beaches and bars of the tourist hotspots.

 

Included in this tour

All accommodation, local guide, meals on cycling days, snacks during cycling days, and drinking water whilst cycling. We will be supported by a service vehicle that will carry our luggage. Unlike other tours the nature of this tour's route prevents the vehicle following us for a lot of the time. We will meet up with the vehicle throughout the day and at such times we will have access to our luggage, and anyone in need of a transfer will be able to hop in.

As with all PaintedRoads tour this ride will be accompanied by David. 

 

Accommodation

All cccommodation has air-conditioned rooms and en-suit bathrooms in guest-houses and hotels picked with location, comfort, and character in mind.

 

Joining instructions

The tour begins in the city of Chiang Rai (airport code CEI). You will be met at the airport on arrival and taken to our joining hotel where you will be met by your tour leader.

The tour ends in Ayuthaya, 80 kilometres north of Bangkok. On the final day of the tour we will arrange a group transfer for those wishing to travel on to Bangkok, either to a hotel or airport. We are happy to help with booking extra nights in either Bangkok or Ayuthaya.

Airlines worth considering for this tour include:

Thai Airways. 

Etihad

Emirates

Qatar

All of whom have services to Chiang Rai via Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport.

 

Difficulty

It's a ride with reasonably long days in the saddle and an average daily distance in excess of 100 kilometres. The early days have a few notable climbs, and day six presents a few gradients rearing up on occasion to nearly 30%! Day six also has a unavoidable ten kilometres of busy highway, although it does thankfully have a good wide shoulder, and for those wishing to avoid this we have a support vehicle. Otherwise the cycling is on quiet byways and unsealed trails, and once past the rest day the going is generally flat. The cycling time is split approximately 50/50 between sealed and unsealed roads. The emphasis is on unsealed roads, not mountain biking routes, and technical mountain bike skills are not required. However it is necessary to have a degree of experience and competence riding on loose and uneven surfaces. 

The tour will run from north to south to hopefully take advantage of the predominantly northeasterly winds at this time of year. Please do keep in mind that 100kms of gravel roads takes noticeably more toll on one that 100kms of bitumen. 

 

Bicycle Advice

At PaintedRoads we hold firmly to the opinion that using your own bike, the bike on which you feel at home and comfortable, is the finest way to enjoy a cycling adventure. PaintedRoads tours have always been explored on, and designed around, what are now known as adventure and gravel bikes, and such bikes are absolutely ideal for this tour. Cross country mountain bikes and touring bikes are also suitable, but with so much riding on unsealed roads we do not recommend tyres any less than 35mm on 700c wheels, 45mm on 650b wheels, and 2" on 26" wheels. Please also be aware that Thai hills can be short and steep. Gearing for high speeds on the flat is not necessary, gearing from getting up a steep or long gradient is. Ideal gravel/adventure gearing is a 30/46 crankset and an 11-36 or even 11-40 cassette. If using a 10-42 1X setup we recomend a 38 or 36 tooth chainring.

Due to the nature of the route our support vehicle will often not be able to follow us. It will meet us from time to time during the day, but you will need to be able to carry anything you may need whilst riding, such as water, snacks, camera, spare tube, etc. A small backpack, a frame bag, saddle bag, or handlebar bag will all suffice.

ESSENTIAL! Please be sure that your bicycle is in perfect condition before you leave home. Please be sure to bring bike specific spares such as a few spokes, a couple of inner tubes, a spare tyre, brake pads, rear derailleur hanger. If in any doubt please consult your local bike shop. 

 

Rental Bicycles

Rental Bikes: If you wish to hire a bicycle we can arrange for the hire of good quality cycles from our in-country agent. Typically these bikes are mountain bikes, often Trek 3 series or similar. 

Rental Bicycle Recommendation. Although our hire bikes come equipped with a saddle if you have a saddle you use and are happy with it is strongly recommended that you use it on tour. If you use SPD type shoes please bring your own matching pedals. We are happy to fit these for you. You may also like to bring bar ends if you use them at home.

Print Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival

Arriving at Chiang Rai international airport you will be met by a driver and transferred to our centrally located poolside hotel.

0kms. 

Unsealed road time - NA

Meals:

Day 2: Leave Chiang Rai

We will leave Chiang Rai via a circuitous route of mixed surfaces with more than half of the time spent on the wonderful unsealed trails of the area. Tonight we stay in a roadside motel very typical of the places used by cyclists on long journeys here

75kms. 

Unsealed road time - more than 50%

Meals: B, L, D

Day 3: To Phayao.

Again a day where more than half of our time will be spent exploring the network of unsealed roads, track and trails en-route to the pleasant town of Phayao which sits on the shore of a large lake, an ideal spot to relax with a post ride beer and watch the sunset.

105kms. 

Unsealed road time - more than 50%

Meals: B, L, D

Day 4: Phayao to Chiang Muan. 

Twenty minutes of main road lead us from Phayao lake to a splendid mixture of byways and gravel roads winding and undulating gently through ever hillier scenery. At around the halfway point we join a well surfaces main road, light of traffic, that leads us through a winding section of gentle hills to the fitting crescendo of a lovely twisty winding seven kilometre descent to lunch. The final ten kilometres of the day is a back country gravel road, winding through open hills and woodland to the sleepy, friendly little town of Chiang Muan. 

85kms. 

Unsealed road time - 50%

Meals: B, L, D

Day 5: Chiang Muan to Phrae. 

One of the largest towns of the tour, our destination for today is the provincial capital of Phrae. A well sealed but quiet main road begins our day via two notable climbs (and of course descents) through beautiful mountain scenery. Before we reach our lunch stop though we will once more be navigating a cross country route on dusty trails and deserted bitumen as we wend our way towards the city. 

120kms. 

Unsealed road time - less than 50%

Meals: B, L, D

Day 6: Phrae to Na Ton Chan. 

Another long day is ahead of us as we leave our hotel this morning, with a coupe of climbs likely to leave even the strongest climbers with wobbly legs and heaving lungs.

The majority of today’s ride is on sealed roads, although we begin the day with some fun fast dusty gravel, and a tad of single track thrown into the mix. 

After 40 such kilometres we come to an unavoidable section of busy highway where we gain 150 metres in altitude over a gentle ten kilometres of climbing. Fortunately the road here has a wide shoulder which makes the riding a lot more pleasant than may otherwise have been the case. 

Leaving the biggest road of the tour behind us the rest of the day’s ride is though beautiful scenery and agricultural land. We have several stretches of unsealed trails, the longest of which is around 10 kilometres, however most of the ride is on quiet bitumen and concrete rural lanes, and it is here that we experience the most extreme Thai style gradients of the entire tour, one of which gains 250 metres in just two kilometres. But what goes up must come down, and we finish with a beautiful 26 kilometres of predominantly down hill rural riding that leads us to the level pool side guest house of Heinz, where we can relax with a well deserved chilled beer.

120kms. 

Unsealed road time - less than 50% 

Meals: B, L, D

Day 7: Na Ton Chan to Sukhothai. 

In contrast to yesterday’s hills today’s ride is predominantly flat with half of our time being spend on unsealed tracks and trails, joined together by rural roads light of traffic.

Our destination is Sukhothai, a town popular with tourists visiting the historical ruins of the Sukhothai Kingdom of the 13th and 14th centuries. Sukhothai literally translates to Dawn of Happiness.

90kms. 

Unsealed road time - 50%

Meals: B, L, D

Day 8: Sukhothai: Rest Day.

Twelve kilometres from Sukhothai is the remains of an ancient city that for 120 years was the first capital of Siam. Nearly 800 years later the Sukhothai Historical Park is now a UNESCO site and is the main reason for the new town’s popularity with tourists. Those interested in architectural remains may like to take their bikes and visit the park, though after seven days of riding you may prefer to spend your rest day simply relaxing in the grounds of our hotel, or visiting one or two of the nearby restaurants and cafés that cater for the Western palette, including an open air restaurant serving a rather fine pizza.

0kms. 

Unsealed road time - NA

Meals: B

Day 9: Sukhothai to Khlong Khulung.

Hopefully well rested and raring to go following a day off rest and relaxation we leave early, with 125 kilometres of predominantly unsealed tracks and trails ahead of us. The day's ride is flat, and the surfaces range from red gravel lanes, to hard packed single track, to concrete lanes, and of course stretches of well sealed byways all leading us to the little riverside town of Khlong Khlung.

125kms. 

Unsealed road time - more than 50% 

Meals: B, L, D

Day 10: Khlong Khulung to Nong Ben. 

Another great day with as much as 70% of our time spent on gravel and unsealed roads . Following rivers and streams, passing rice fields where birds wade and buffalo wallow, we will be in our out of town resort this afternoon with plenty of time before dinner to relax on our bungalow’s veranda and reflect on a great day of adventure cycling.

85kms. 

Unsealed road time - more than 50%

Meals: B, L, D

Day 11: Nong Ben to Sankaburi. 

Our final day of predominantly gravel biking consists of around 70% of our time on white dust, hard packed mud, red gravel, and some concrete roads, as pass though a pastoral scene of rice fields, tapioca and sweet potato. 

130kms. 

Unsealed road time - more than 50%

Meals: B, L, D

Day 12: Sankaburi to Ayuthaya. 

Our final day on the bikes is mostly on small sealed roads as we follow the banks of little River Noi south.  Observing country life and riverside communities as we ride we eventually meet the mighty Chao Phraya river which leads us to our final destination, the town of Ayuthaya, the second capital of Siam following Sukhothai. Like Sukhothai there is much ancient architecture to visit, although here it is all within the island that forms the main part of town and easily visited by bicycle.

115kms. 

Unsealed road time - less than 50%

Meals: B, L, D

Day 13: Tour Ends.

The tour ends today after breakfast. 

Ayuthaya is a pleasant little town with many ancient ruins spread amongst the trees and grass areas all within easy reach of our resort and for some may be worth a day or two of exploration.

For those wishing to spend a day or two here we can arrange extra nights at our resort. 

For those wishing to head to Bangkok we will provide a group transfer taking you to either of the city’s airports, or to a hotel in town. We can also assist with where to stay in Bangkok. 

For those staying on in Ayuthaya and making their own way to Bangkok later there is a very convenient train station in Ayuthaya with regular trains that stop at Don Muang Airport en route to the central located Hua Lamphong, Bangkok’s main train station.

Don Muang airport home to such convenient and well priced airlines such as Air Asia and Nok Air. These airlines offer quick, regular and well priced flights to many great Asian destinations, including Thailand’s famed beach. 

 

Key

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    Our prices are all in US dollars but we can offer you the option of paying in GBP (£) based on the exchange rate at the time of booking. You can choose on the booking form, adjusted prices will be shown there.

    Dates Price Availability

    2019: 03 Feb - 15 Feb

    $2500.00
    *Single Suppl.: $350.00

    Spaces

    Book This Date

    Register Interest

    Bicycle Hire

    If you wish to hire a bicycle we can arrange for the hire of good quality cycles from our in-country agent. Typically these bikes are mountain bikes, often Trek 3 series or similar. 
    Rental fee is US$200

    *Single Supplement.

    The prices quoted above are for a twin room share basis. If you are travelling alone you will be paired up with another lone traveler of the same gender to share with. Single room occupancy can be arranged, the single supplement rate shown is per person.

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