Showing posts with label Mountain Bike. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mountain Bike. Show all posts

A New Mt. Bike Route …

The route I chose ended up being shorter than I guessed it would be but that turned out to be a good thing.  Even at a little less than 46 km, it was still an exhausting day.  The 73 km I did last week, from my wife’s university to home, left me equally drained but that was on paved roads for the most part.  I started out this ride on a familiar route to Sop Pao but instead of making a counterclockwise loop back home through the town of Phaya Mengrai, I continued in a clockwise direction.  This took me through sparsely populated mountains, over the degraded dirt road leading to four hill tribe villages, in the direction of Tat Kwan Reservoir where I stopped to take in the still waters and lush foliage after an extremely dusty ride through very rough and mountainous terrain.

It has been a long, dirty and tiring day, so maybe a few more pictures and a few less words today.  A recent cold spell has caused a change in the foliage along the trail.  The trail may not have been in great shape but the views made it worthwhile all the same.

A Different Kind of Ride ...

Clearly dirt is my preferred surface and I enjoy beginning and ending my ride in the comfortable surrounds of my home.  Yet I thought it time for a different kind of ride, a oneway trip you might call it.  So, I pumped up the Trek tires a bit more than I would in the mountains, to 55 psi, locked out the front suspension, loaded the bike into the Fortuner and hitched a ride to town with my wife as she was going that way, anyway.

Just before reaching town there is a conveniently located ESSO service station where I unloaded the bike and prepared for the 52 kilometer ride home, while my wife continued on the Chiang Rai University, CRU.  Perhaps next time she can drop me off near the annual Chiang Rai Flower Festival, which I believe opens next weekend and is always worth seeing.

I estimated it might be possible to maintain an average pace in the mid-twenties and sure enough the final tally was 24.7 kph.  The ride home took much longer than I expected, however.  A little over halfway home there is a conveniently located roadside shop attended to by the family of a Swedish guy I know.  Not long after filling my water bottle at the shop, a Thai rider showed up coming from the opposite direction.  I was sure I had seen him in town before and remarked upon his distinctive blue wheel hubs and inquired about his riding partners I had noticed on that previous sighting.

“Oh, they will be along shortly,” he said as he put one foot on the road and leaned out looking in the direction he expected them to come from.  He must be quite a bit faster than his friends for they did not make their appearance for another ten minutes or so. 

With well maintained, high-end gear, and weathered appearance it was clear they were regular riders.  I was a little surprised to find the three of them were in their mid to late sixties and ride pretty much everyday, sometimes taking multi-day trips, and having gone as far as 200 km in one day.  On this day they had started near CRU, had ridden to Thoeng and were on their way back home.  That is much further than I am capable of doing, yet, but maybe one day.

The first to arrive remarked he was retired, so what better use of his time than to ride his bike with friends and stay healthy at the same time.  I have to say, I liked his upbeat attitude.  The Swedish gentleman and his wife joined in the conversation and the six of us enjoyed swapping stories, laughing and smiling for much longer than we perhaps should have. 

After the three Thai bikers left we had one other bit of excitement as I pointed out a rather large snake slithering across the road and into a neighbors yard.  The shop owner proceeded to tell tales of snakes they have encountered in their shop as well as various sized scorpions in their bed.  Thankfully scorpions are one creature we don’t seem to have around our house and our snakes remain outdoors, perhaps kept at bay by the dogs.

It was not easy pulling myself away but I needed to get home before my wife, to feed and walk the dogs.  Having stopped for so long I did not feel I had time to indulge in my fried banana fix, and headed directly home with no more stops.  My legs are a little sore today but riding on the road was considerably easier and more predictable than climbing rocky dirt trails so I am sure I can cover even greater distances in the future.  Besides those three older guys were a real inspiration.

Back in the Saddle...

After being ill for several days, I finally got out on my Trek today, for only the second time since I returned.  Just thought I would share a few shots from both rides and show off the latest upgrades on my bike.

I was riding a Trek 4500 frame but yesterday I moved up to a 8500 frame.  The saddle, pedals, shorts and gloves are also new from Hawaii.  At the urging of others I finally got rid of the stand today which removed that annoying noise.  Maybe it is all in my head but the bike felt really great today.  Quiet, responsive, smooth, light and fast.

My bike guy wants me to drop the handlebars too but I think I will see how I do with this new, slightly more aggressive, setup first.  Strange weather we are having this year but so far great for riding.  More later.
The Ing River just a few kilometers form home.

One of my favorite reservoirs in that notch in the mountains.

Man-made waterfalls.

Phaya Mengrai pond.

New Trek 8500 frame.

New Saddle.

New wider pedals.
Sop Pao Reservoir.

Phaya Mengrai reservoir.

Strange weather today as I returned from my ride.

More strange weather form today.

Visiting Rai Boon Rawd in Chiang Rai ...

Having made plans for the day, I took it as a none-too-favorable omen, to find first thing in the morning a flat tire on the truck.  I had little option but to get out the bicycle pump and get to work, hoping the tire would hold air long enough to get to a shop.  The first hundred or so strokes seemed to produce no results but as the number exceeded five hundred I knew I was getting close to being able to drive the twelve kilometers into Phaya Mengrai to a repair shop.  Later in the day I found myself wondering why my neck and shoulders were so sore.

Back on target for a family day out, we picked up her younger sister and found her niece had decided to join us as well.  At the tire shop they found a tiny piece of metal that could only be removed from the inside as it was not even visible from the outside.  Patch in place, we were good to go and heading to town.

Rai Boon Rawd was to be our first stop for lunch and a little sightseeing.  Boon Rawd Brewery, the maker of all things Singha, is known for purchasing large parcels of land around the country with some of its excess cash.  Since it is not on our route to town, we had not made the side trip necessary to get there, previously.  For us it makes more sense to take the main highway out of town to the White Temple, taking that road across to the old Chiang Mai Road where the entrance is easy to find. 

Though open to the public for less than a year, this property of over 8000 rai, has been around since the early 80s.  Aside from the restaurant, the surrounding tea plantation and reservoirs are the most picturesque, but there is also rubber, rice, strawberries, flowers, barley and tomatoes, depending on the season of course.

The four of us had a lovely lunch with a mix of Western and Thai food, which everyone seemed enjoy.  Before heading to our next stop, we decided to take a drive out through the hills and to inspect the tea plantation up close.  The dirt trails were better suited for a mountain bike but we all survived our bumpy ride in the truck and got some great pictures.  A screaming kid does seem to add to the trill ride effect of an off road track.
The view out front in the parking lot.

Front view.

Inside view of the restaurant.

Back view.

Back view.

The far mountain is Doi Chaang of the coffee fame and visible from the restaurant.

Finding our way to our next stop was not as easy as we had hoped.  It took several phone calls and roadside stops before we found our way to a small resort my wife’s friend is developing, on what turns out to be the fringes of Rai Boon Rawd.  We even found there was a dirt trail that led directly back out to where we had been just minutes before.

After showing us around her place, our friend took us back out into the tea plantation to a hilltop view and a reservoir we had missed.  All the while she explained that the area is also being developed for both argo-tourism and mountain biking, with plans to host and international mountain bike race in the not too distant future.  With a little tweaking of the trails I can see it being a very good venue for such an event.

An inside view of the dining area at our friend's place.

Looking back at her place from their pond.

As a special treat our friend took us to where she works, for a tour of the grounds at Pa Sak Tong, a resort which bills itself as a luxury six star villa with breathtaking views and an all inclusive package that ranges north of 40,000 baht per night for two people.  They have yet to open for the winter season so the buildings were not open but the grounds were impressive enough to keep me busy shooting pictures for some time.  For better images and more complete information on what they provide, please visit their website at

In spite of the inauspicious beginning to the day, we ended up having a lovely time and got to explore even more of this beautiful place we live in.

A Tale of Two Rides ...

It was a bright sunny Monday afternoon, when I set out to check on the conditions of my go-to short trail of about 21 km.  It is a good mix of road, dirt, flats and hills but was a muddy mess the last time I rode it.  As you can see in the pictures below the red clay had dried out and the deep ruts had been filled in with rubble.  That made the ride a bit rough in places but no problem I thought.

Midway through the ride my front wheel started making some rather ominous noises.  I stopped a couple of times to see if it were something external but it soon became obvious the bearings in the front wheel set were the problem.  I managed to limp home on my noisy bike but it was clear a trip to Northern Bike, in town, was urgently needed before I would be riding again.

There can be not better excuse for upgrading your wheel set than blown out bearings, so I added to my recent list of pricy upgrades.  I have now spent more on upgrades than the bike cost to begin with.  While the bike was in the shop we met with friends at Central Plaza for lunch, coffee and a little shopping. 

While the wives visited my friend caught me up on the wild stories and malicious gossip spreading about me at group events in town.  Unable to point to their own accomplishments some individuals find it easier to make emotionally charged and disparaging remarks about others.  As stories are told and retold they take on a life of their own, with no resemblance to the truth, having the same effect as the tabloids, influencing the weak minded to become true believers.  People who don’t know me now spin the most lurid of tales as if they were my most trusted confidants.  Guess that is the price one pays in the karmic balance of things.

Eager to tryout my new wheels, Wednesday I hit the trail again on what ended up being a 45 km route.  The high mountain reservoir which has been a mere puddle on my last two visits was once again at its full glory and beautiful to behold.  This time I only had to dismount once on the 2 km uphill slog which is by far the best I have done.  Subjective or real, I felt like the bike was performing much better, but I still had to cope with the hottest conditions I have ridden in for some time.

There was some serious green on the ride yesterday, as you can see form some of the photos.  Finding myself out of the mountains and back on the flats, surrounded by rice fields, I came upon a bit of an accident with a truck on its side in a ditch.  This was conveniently where I often stop under a tree for a drink and a picture or two.  A backhoe was arriving just as I rode up and it struck me that this might make a nice little pictorial to share on the blog.

As cables snapped and early attempts failed to budge the truck, it became clear this was going to take them a very longtime to sort out.  I was rested and had my pictures so said my goodbyes and hit the trail again wondering if they would ever find the angle and leverage needed to salvage the truck.