Spiderman Bikes and Other Thailand Adventures
Sitting on planes for 15 hours is akin to watching water drop from a faucet for hours. It’s sort of interesting at first, but then it’s the most aggravating activity to take part in. The seats are uncomfortable, the air is too dry and much too hot, and the noise is like standing next to a highway. Needless to say, our flight was a long and arduous waiting game.
At least the scenery we flew over was somewhat interesting. And by somewhat interesting I mean it was breathtaking. We flew very close to the Arctic Circle through Alaska and Russia before heading south through China and skirting the western border of North Korea. Frozen seas, rivers and mountains made for quite a bit of smooshed face on window syndrome.
As with any great adventure involving planes, we narrowly made our connection flight in Incheon, Korea due to my inability to go through any airport security (let alone international customs) without having my bags hand checked. This time we had only 15 minutes until the flight left, and apparently my 8mm allen wrench is a deadly weapon. After confiscation of the wrench in question, we found another late traveler and together we terrorized the international jetway with our loud American running. We made the plane with plenty of time to spare (~2 mins).
We landed in Chiang Mai at about 23:00 local time, and pleasantly found that due to a miscommunication we could not get into our room we had booked. We stood around for about an hour unsure of where to go, so we just battled mosquitoes and watched feral cats.
Eventually we got bored of our war with bugs and moseyed down the road to another hotel with a room for the night. The best part….western style shower.
We’re staying in the north-west corner of the Old City, which is the part of the city that is: 1) old. 2) a square. 3) surrounded by a moat.
We got into our room on our first morning in Chiang Mai. It’s about 200 sq/ft, about a quarter of which is taken up by the bed and dresser. When we built our bikes, the room became a obstacle course of bike parts and paraphernalia.
Our trusty steeds assembled, we set off into the concrete jungle to explore. Riding a bike in Chiang Mai traffic is like riding in more organized US city traffic where traffic jams aren’t much of a thing, drivers actually know how to drive, and everyone is basically insane. That’s about all there is to say on the subject, traffic flows really well, it’s just a madhouse all the time.
We didn’t bring a floor pump with us on the trip, and using my little hand pump was just not going to be plausible for our sanity. This in mind we found our way to a little bike shop just south of the Old City. Unfortunately, nobody there spoke very much english, and we don’t speak very much Thai (at all) but charades prevails and we got ourselves a pump.
Day 3 and 4
I’ll preface this day with this, I will be amazed if we get through this trip without breaking our bikes.
In the morning we met up some local riders who run a shuttle company on the local mountain west of town. The trails are in Doi Suthep-Pui National Park, which is also a very popular location for tourists as the park is home to many temples and Bhuping Palace. The road to the top of the mountain is about as long and steep as Everest (not really), which gives us mountain bikers a lot of elevation to play with. Apparently it also attracts road bikes like a beagle to fresh feces (think Romeo and Juliet and horribly tragic attraction).
Going back to the mountain biking (the saner species of cyclist obviously), the Chiang Mai trails are outstanding….ly bumpy. It’s the dry season here, so the dirt is basically concrete, and where it’s not dirt there’s roots, rocks and the occasional small boulder.
The first trail we rode is called Bamboo, which is a long, smooth (by Chiang Mai standards) decent that winds through the woods and tall grasses before ending in a grass forest of bamboo. The trail is about twenty minutes long, even though you probably average 10 to 15 miles per hour on most sections. With how long and how bumpy it is, your hands take quite a beating but the trail is so fun it’s mentally conflicting to actually stop and rest. As a reward for your endeavors, there’s an excellent coffee shop at the bottom of the trail were we rest and rehydrate which the shuttle rig makes it’s way to come pick us up.
The other trails in the area are a mix of high speed fireroad/jeep trail bombing and super steep and/or ridiculously rocky single track. Some of the trails are overgrown and your speed is limited by both sight distance and how hard you want to get hit in the face with grass (goggles are a must). Other trails beg to be taken wide open, loose and with full knowledge that you might break a spoke or two. In short, the trails are a mix of Pacific North West steepness and tech mixed with the literally rock hard, high speed gnar of the Southwest desert.
Speaking of breaking bikes, Victor and I have already managed to break a spoke nipple, cut two tires (hooray for Stans Race Sealant), and blow a Charger Damper. The trails here are just not meant for little bikes, and if the condition of the locals DH bikes is any indication, are unforgiving to any bike.
One of my favorite trails that we’ve done so far is ATV. Especially, it’s a continuous rock garden and/or giant rain rut all the way down. Steep, loose, and high speed.
Probably the most unique trail we rode was Crazy Dust. Contrary to it’s name (although as dry season continues that may change), Crazy Dust is a crazily overgrown while also being insanely steep. Visibility is about 10–20 feet usually, and the trail never goes in a straight line. When it does open up a bit its only because there’s a giant rock garden that is kept vegetation free from all the skidding.
To end our first week in Chiang Mai, Victor blew out his Charger damper in his Pike. In his words, “The thing is just trying to escape!” That would be your rebound circuit failing…
Luckily the damper blew on the last run of the day, and with the remaining daylight we set out on an quest to find somewhere to service the fork. Unfortunately, the first shop we stopped at didn’t have any oil. It was looking like Victor would have to spend some time with a bronco of a fork.
Our next shop was Mojo Bikes, at which, unbeknownst to us, Mei works at. Mojo doesn’t do any service, but Mei did have one Pike which happened to be the exact spec that we needed. Buying a new fork instead of fixing a simple blown damper isn’t ideal, but losing a week or two of riding after flying half way around the world is less ideal.
On that note, it’s time to go find some dinner (about $1–$3) and maybe a smoothie.