Thailand Gravel: South to North cycling holidays banner image

Thailand Gravel: South to North

1000KMS of adventure, from Bangkok to Chiang Rai

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 Ayuthays, just 80KMS north of Bangkok, to Chiang Rai, the regions of The Golden Triangle in the kindom's far north. 

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: 107km

Off-Road: ~50%

Max. Alt.: 670m


2021: 31 Dec - 12 Jan: $2700.00


POST-COVID REBOOT

The reopening of tourism in Thailand is moving apace. Quarantine-free tourism is opening up to 46 nations from Nov-1

IMPORTANT. Covid regulations are evolving, and change regularly, usually for the better. We are constantly monitoring the situation in Thailand, and will arrange the tour joining instructions with you in accordance with regulations at the time of the tour.

If you wish to join this trip we will not ask for any depoist until we feel confident the tour will go ahead. Please sign up, and we will be in touch with you ASAP. 

 

For those looking forward to a longer adventure, this trip can combine with our South Thailand tour starting Janurary 16.

 

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. 

thoroughly enjoyed the Painted Roads Thailand Gravel ride because of the variety of ever changing riding terrain and scenery. Your body and mind are fully engaged in the constant changes, making every day go by like a breeze.

Wally Dumont on Thailand Gravel: South to North

Highlights

Our journey begins in Bangkok and visits two previous national capitals, Ayuthaya where our cycling begins, and Sukhothai,  our rest day venue. 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 unseen Thailand. It's a Thailand where few foreigners venture, and the ever-friendly locals are delighted to meet real travellers 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 accommodation has air-conditioned rooms and en-suite bathrooms in guest-houses and hotels picked with location, comfort, and character in mind.

Support Vehicle

Due to the nature of the riding a support vehicle following our route at a discrete distance is not only unpractical but beyond the spirit of a route designed to take us on a route light of, and at times free of, motorised traffic. We will, however, have a service vehicle accompanying us for the duration of the tour. The vehicle will carry our luggage, snacks, water, spares, and tools. It will usually be no more than half an hour away, and we will generally meet the vehicle every thirty kilometres or so for breaks. The vehicle is equipped to carry several group members and their bikes at a time and will be able to meet us in an emergency at most points on the tour within a reasonable amount of time. In the very unlikely case that we all need to transfer we will make necessary arrangements at the time.

 

David has managed to put together a tour that combines my love of gravel riding and experiencing the essence of a country through its back roads. The routes were a great mix of fast gravel, hidden trails, scenic valleys and some road sections where the brain could have a break from the concentration you need with gravel riding

Sarah Niven on Thailand Gravel: South to North

 

Difficulty

It's a ride with reasonably long days in the saddle and an average daily distance over 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 an 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 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 recommend 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, saddlebag, 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. 

This gravel trip opened my eyes to an entirely new dimension to bicycling. Not only was it a great time and challenging, I was able to quickly learn some additional techniques unique to gravel cycling that I can use on my own for years to come

Mike Hugentobler: USA on Thailand Gravel: South to North

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

Pre Tour.

For International arrivals Thailand operates the Thai Pass, and Test & Go system for travellers who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19. This system requires all tourists to pre-book a 1-night package in an approved hotel. The package includes a compulsory airport transfer, a Covid PCR test, one night's accommodation (B&B) and a rapid-flow test kit. The visitor is tested for Covid-19 on arrival at the hotel, where they must remain for the first night whilst waiting for the test result. The following morning, with a negative test result, you are free to leave.

PaintedRoads will provide further information on the Thailand Pass system and advise which Test & Go hotel to use.

Cycling: 0kms. 

Unsealed road time - NA

Meals: D

 

Day 1: Ayuthaya

Having received your negative Covid PCR test result, you will be free to leave the Test & Go hotel. Your tour leader and the crew will meet you here; after making our introductions, we will load up our support vehicle and set off on the 80-kilometre drive north to the nations erstwhile capital, Ayuthaya. 

Ayuthaya was the second capital of Siam, and today there remains much ancient architecture, easily explored by bicycle from our characterful little resort. Arriving mid-morning, we will have time to prepare our bikes and enjoy a leisurely lunch before taking a short warm-up ride with our guide around this historic site.

N.B. For guests already in Thailand and not needing the Test & Go first night, we will arrange with you a convenient meeting place.

Cycling: +/-25kms. 

Unsealed road time - NA

Meals: B, L, D, S

 

Day 2: Ayuthaya to In Buri

Our first day on the road is split between gravel and minor byways. The majority of the ride is blissfully bereft of traffic as we cross agricultural land and on leafy lanes follow canals. Palaeontologists will be excited to see the large, dinosaur-like lizards that often cross our paths and bathe in the roadside pools of sun. 

Cycling: 110kms. 

Unsealed road time -  40%

Meals: B, L, D, S

 

Day 3: In Buri to Nakhon Sawan

Leaving our rural resort, we pass through small freshwater fishing communities, where, surprised to encounter foreign cyclists, the friendly fishermen and their kin are quick with a cheery greeting. 

The day's ride is split between sealed byways and unsealed gravel roads, with the hardtop roads being light of traffic. We are now crossing vast areas of agricultural land where rice and sugar cane are the major arable crops, and small farms raise the huge cattle common to the region. 

Cycling: 110kms. 

Unsealed road time - 35%

Meals: B, L, D, S

Day 4: Nakhon Sawan to Khlong Khulung.

We begin the day following the Ping River, along quiet lanes winding through friendly riverside communities. 

Red gravel, white dust, concrete lanes, a few dirt tracks, and a little blacktop make up today's variety of surfaces. More than half of the ride will be on unsealed roads, following rivers and streams and crossing rice fields where birds wade and buffalo wallow. Mango, banana, coconut, and cashew are amongst the various wild flora. 

We overnight in a small town on the banks of the Ping River, in a simple but comfortable little motel with AC bungalows.

Cycling: 95kms. 

Unsealed road time - 35%

Meals: B, L, D, S

Day 5: Khlong Khulung to Sukhothai

For 50% of our ride today's ride we will be on unsealed tracks; mostly smooth and hard-packed but occasionally dusty with a few bumps to add to the fun. Once again, the sealed roads are often concrete, where small motorcycles and tractors outnumber cars. Our destination is a delightful resort in the old town of Sukhothai, where we will spend the next two nights.

Cycling: 120kms. 

Unsealed road time - 50%

Meals: B, L, D, S

Day 6: Sukhothai. Rest Day

Whilst far from the party hotspots of Thailand's beaches, Sukhothai Old Town does offer the little luxuries a gravel rider will by now perhaps be happy to enjoy. Our resort offers a selection of relaxing massages at the spa, whilst the town has several little restaurants and cafes with coffee and cake and steak and chips. For those keen to explore the major attraction, there are the ancient ruins of this former capital of Siam, set amidst a tranquil park of shade trees. And, of course, for those keen to relax in the time-honoured manner of the gravel rider, ice-cold beers by the hotel pool are always available.

Cycling: 0kms. 

Unsealed road time - NA

Meals: B

Day 7: Sukhothai to Na Ton Chan

Hopefully well-rested and refuelled following a day of relaxation, you will by now be eager to stretch your legs.

We cross flat agricultural land, half on gravel roads, half on quiet byways and concrete lanes, with a tranquil riverside ride and a section through a historical park of ancient temples. 

Our destination for the day is a characterful resort with a pool in which to cool down. 

Cycling: 100kms. 

Unsealed road time - 50%

Meals: B, L, D, S

Day 8: Na Ton Chan to Phrae 

We are now leaving the flatlands of central Thailand behind us and heading into the hills of the north as we ride through an idyllic rural landscape. Although we have several stretches of unsealed trail, the majority of the ride is on quiet rural bitumen and concrete byways. Soon, and fortunately, before the sun is at its zenith, we experience the most extreme Thai style gradients of the entire tour, with one climb gaining 250 metres in just 2-kilometres! There follow some lovely winding gravel sections through shaded orchards before a final short steep climb leads us to the busiest road of the tour. Fortunately, there is a wide shoulder, and this 10-kilometre downhill soon leads into a final 40-kilometres of fast fun and dusty gravel. 

Cycling: 120kms. 

Unsealed road time - 20%

Meals: B, L, D, S

Day 9: Phrae to Mountain Lodge

This morning's ride is predominantly off-road, as we follow dusty rural tracks and trails. Following lunch in the only town on the route, we return to the gravel for a while, before emerging onto a quiet undulating sealed road that will lead us to a small village lodge for the night.

Cycling: 100kms.

Unsealed road time - 50%

Meals: B, L, D, S

Day 10: Chiang Muan to Phayao 

We begin our ride on sealed undulations before 10-kilometres of backcountry gravel leads us through open hills and woodland. 
Another 30-kilometres of hilly blacktop is followed by a glorious rural afternoon of gravel riding with beautiful views across hills and valleys. The second half of the day's ride offers much downhill, leading to our hotel at the scenic lakeside town of Phayao.

Cycling: 110kms.

Unsealed road time - 50%

Meals: B, L, D, S

Day 11: Phayao to Huai Sak

More than half of our penultimate day will be on unsealed roads tracks and trails with some beautiful woodland, rolling hills, wide valleys, and an unforgettable stretch of epic red gravel. 

Although we could reach the end of our odyssey today, we will overnight in a middle of nowhere resort to allow us time tomorrow to sample the gravel and unsealed riding of Thailands most northern province.

Cycling: 105KMS. 

Unsealed road time - more than 50%

Meals: B, L, D, S

Day 12: Huai Sak to Chiang Rai

The final day of our adventure is a taster of the countryside of Chiang Rai Province. We follow a meandering route of mixed surfaces, more than half of which unsealed, as we make our way to our poolside hotel in the heart of Chiang Rai town. 

With our adventure now over, we leave our dusty machines leaning against the hedge as poolside we relax with our post-journey beers and enjoy much talk of high jinx and daring-do. This evening we can wander into town and enjoy a final meal together as we reminisce over our epic, two weeks thousand-kilometre adventure.

Cycling: 75kms.

Unsealed road time - more than 50%

Meals: B, L, D, S

Day 13: Finish

The tour ends after breakfast this morning. For those heading home, we will arrange your transfer to Chiang Rai international airport. For those wishing to stay on and enjoy the beauty of Northern Thailand, we will be happy to arrange extra nights for you; or better still, why not make it an epic by joining our South Thailand Tour. 

Meals: B

Key

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    Check trip dates and availablility below. Click the Book This Date button to go ahead and make a booking, alternatively you can make a no-obligation request for us to keep you informed about the status of a trip or changes to a trip by clicking the Register Interest button against a date.

    £ Pound Sterling Payment Option

    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

    2021: 31 Dec - 12 Jan

    $2700.00
    *Single Suppl.: $290.00

    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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