Beyond a form of exercise and an efficient way of commuting, biking is becoming a popular way to see more of the country. Here’s how to get a piece of the action.
Join a Club
There are many cycling clubs in Bangkok nowadays, where bikers of all levels get together to enjoy the simple thrill of riding. Most of these are more like meet ups, meaning that you don’t even have to pay for membership. The main advantage of joining a club is that you can learn from experienced bikers who know the routes well, making for a safer journey. Also, you can expect to meet like-minded people and make new friends. Joining a club has become a popular choice for keen bikers in Bangkok. First of all, though, you should know your cycling strength: beginners, for example, shouldn’t attempt trips longer than 30km. For the more adventurous, many groups offer night rides which tend to go from about 6pm to midnight, with organizers usually guiding members to famous local restaurants to enjoy food together. A few popular destinations for night trips include Asiatique, Chinatown, Chocolate Ville and Sanam Luang. Popular weekend destinations, meanwhile, include Ayutthaya, Amphawa, Bangkrachao, Rattanakosin Island, Sapan Phut, and the historic Bangrak fire station.
Get in touch with popular bike clubs:
BKK Wheels at www.facebook.com/BKKWheels
Bangkok Bicycle Campaign at www.facebook.com/BangkokBicycle
Thailand Folding Bicycle Club at www.facebook.com/pages/ชมรมจักรยานพับได้ประเทศไทย
Thai Cycling for Health Association at www.thaicycling.com
Save our Cyclists at www.facebook.com/savecyclists
Bianchi Club at www.facebook.com/bianchiclub
If you have some experience and feel confident in your ability, going independent can be even more fulfilling, allowing you to stop off where you like and travel at your own speed. However, you are advised to do some research about the routes you plan to take, make sure your bikes are in good condition, and familiarize yourself with local traffic regulations. Thankfully, there are many organizations and publications to help you stay up-to-date, such as the Thai Cycling for Health Association (www.thaicycling.com), Thailand Cycling Alliance (www.tcabike.com), Cycling Plus Thailand Magazine, Bicycles United Magazine, Mountain Bike Tours Thailand (www.mountainbiketoursthailand.com). Another popular website with good local information is Thai Mountain Bike (www.thaimtb.com). Recommended routes include Benjakitti Park to Khao San Road (12km), Bangkok to Ayutthaya (76km) and around Bang Kachao or Phrapradaeng (3km trail). Other cycling hotspots include Muang Boran or the Ancient City (www.ancientcity.com), Khao-Eto in Prachinburi province, Ampawa floating market and Wachirabenchatat Park (Suan Rot Fai).
If you don’t have your own set of wheels, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) offers bike rental services at low rates available from 17 rental stations in the city center. Rental is free for for the first 15 minutes and just B100 for an eight-hour period. However, you do have to become a member beforehand. The application fee is B320 which also includes insurance. For details, visit www.punpunbikeshare.com or call 087-029-8888.
Use Guided Tour Agencies
This is perhaps the safest and most convenient option if you’re new to cycling. You don’t need to bring anything, just yourself, some money, and perhaps a camera. Most tour companies will present you with a long list of available programs, ranging from a half-day tour in Bangkok to a week in a neighboring country. You can choose a tour that best suits your interests and level of strength. The fees usually cover bicycle and helmet rental, accident insurance and an English-speaking Thai tour guide. Some of the best-known agencies are Spice Roads (www.SpiceRoads.com), Grasshopper Tours (www.GrasshopperAdventures.com), Co van Kessel Tours (www.CoVanKessel.com), Follow Me (www.FollowMeBikeTour.com) and Recreational Thailand Biking (www.bangkokbiking.com).
Spice Roads, for example, offers a half-day tour to Bang Kachao at B1,150, a day-trip to Ayutthaya at B2,950, and a four-day, three-night trip through central Thailand covering Samut Songkram, Kanchanaburi, Ayutthaya, Bang Pa-in and Bangkok at B17,500 per person. The company also provides a mini-van that follows the group so that you can grab a rest whenever you need it. Though most of these packages are more appealing to tourists, you may want to consider using guided tour services when you plan a trip to upcountry destinations you are unfamiliar with.
Upcoming bike events to set your wheels in motion.
LEARN TO RIDE #2
Date: Sunday, Jan 26
Location: Faculty of Sports Science, Chulalongkorn University
Organized by the Thai Cycling for Health Association (www.thaicycling.com), this event is highly recommended for beginners since it gives instructions on how to ride a bike properly, how to choose the right bike for you and suggests safety measures to deal with Bangkok’s roads and traffic. Free.
100KM WITH BIANCHI CLUB THAILAND
Date: Sunday, Jan 26
Route: From Nakorn Nayok to Prachinburi
The Thailand Cycling Alliance (www.tcabike.com) and Bianchi Club Thailand will hold a friendly bike tour from Bangkok to Nakorn Nayok and Prachinburi. Though the journey is 100km long, beginners are welcome as the maximum speed allowed will be 40km/hour. Setting off from Bangkok at exactly 9am, participants will head for Ingtharn resort in Nakorn Nayok to take a rest and have lunch. There will be a party and lucky draws for membersฃ in the afternoon. Entry fee is B200 for newbies, which also covers club membership for two years.
TOUR DE KHAO YAI
Date: Jan 25
Location: Bonanza International
Speedway, Khao Yai Bonanza International Speedway, the international standard race circuit for cars, will for the first time hold bicycle races on its tracks. There will also bea fair with bike shops and accessories together with stalls selling food and drinks. If you are interested in joining the races, call 085-669-3000 or 085- 669-4000. Entry fees are B400-B500 and B700 at the event.
THAILAND BIKE & VEHICLE 2014
Date: Mar 6-9, 10.30am-8pm
Location: Impact Muangthong Thani, Hall 2-4
If you are looking for a new bike or bike accessories, don’t miss this event. The fair is a one-stop shopping spot for bikers, featuring about 150 booths selling bicycles, spare parts, cycling outfits, helmets and all kinds of bike accessories. For more information, visit www.thaibikeshow.com. Free entry. Learn to Ride #1 Spice