I often wonder what people think when they see me dump my bike bag on the ground at a train station, assemble my bike in front of them and take off into the distance of a city I've never been to before. There's nothing more exciting than jumping on my bike and exploring a place I've never experienced, the different flow of traffic, the general vibe or feeling you get from other road users and the amazing changes in scenery all make each city so unique when riding and especially when riding Fixedgear. Anticipating road changes when you have no idea how people react is always challenging and sometimes dangerous but if you keep your eyes on the road and watch how other road users react it doesn't take long to start to get the picture.
This year I decided I to bring my track bike over to Thailand to use as a tool to explore a few of Thailand's most beautiful and vibrant city's and really take in more of what they have to offer. You're wondering how hard it is to get a fixedgear bike over to Thailand? well fortunately it's actually one of the best bikes to travel with! With only a few things that can go wrong and incredibly simple to setup, all you need is a few tools; a bike bag and medium backpack and a of course a nice bike. Prices for check on luggage vary from airline to airline but most of the time I've been able to check it on as regular oversize luggage at the same coast as 15kg's check on. Some Airline's will insist on it being considered sporting goods, but that is very easily established when booking the flight.
The ability to bring your simple bike with anywhere, a boat, plane, tuk-tuk or even a scooter makes Thailand one of the best places to travel. In thailand they will do anything to accommodate for your precious steed. I've had hostels and back packers go out of there way to keep my bike safe and the local bike shops will always go the extra mile to help you out.
If you're wondering there is a massive scene for cycling in city's like Chang Mai and Bangkok, and it wouldn't take long to connect with some of the amazing locals that most of the time are keen to show you around.
Traveling light is the key to keeping things simple and an easier way to travel, the more weight you have the more hassle, less distance you can go via bike and the less versatile you can be with getting in and out of trains or buses.
The roads are some of the hardest and thrilling I've ridden, always keeping you on your toes no matter where you go. Motorists are used to the hoards of scooters and motorcycles wizing past and after a while you realize how much everyone takes responsibility for their own vehicles on the road. As long as your clear and decisive about your action's people are mostly aware of you but never take a chance and make a move without looking first! That was my mistake, I managed to take out a scooter and lose a few spokes in the transaction. Don't let the busy streets turn you off how convenient it is to ride to and from your destination. Tuk-tuks and taxi scooters are just as dangerous and the cost of getting a taxi everywhere definitely start to add up.
The local bike shops sometimes don't cater for the fixedgear cyclist, but if you find the right shop they are always so keen to help out. In Hua Hin I really needed 2 new spokes for my front wheel and although most bike shops in this area only cater for Downhill Mountain biking, I was still able to find a shop that was willing to cut some spokes down to size and true up my wheels for about 450 baht or $17 AUD. One of the best aspects of taking such a simple bike is barely anything can go wrong, most shops stock a selection of tires and tubes but any specific parts are best left for the more major bike shops found in some of the larger cities like Bangkok or Chang Mai.
Thailand has some of the most beautiful and exciting roads to ride, the diversity in landscapes really take your breath away. You really never know what you're going to see next and if you're after a challenge there are always plenty of insane hill climbs to tackle, but be careful of the descents as they can get super hairy with loose surfaces and 90 degree blind turns.
Don't be shy to hit up some Thai locals for some tips on where to ride, they are always more than happy to help. I had the pleasure of meeting and riding with a local rider out in Chang Mai, he showed me the local velodrome and we jumped on 70km group ride with some of the other locals.
After traveling in the north I decided to head to some of the tropical islands in the south to meet my friend Jonas who I met in Bangkok only a few weeks earlier, I was expecting more of a chilled location with a lack of decent roads to ride, but when I set foot on Koh Samui I was met with some of the most challenging and unnervingly fast rolling roads with lots of room to play. The locals had a fearless and confident way of driving, Jonas and I decided to ride one afternoon, Koh Samui being one of the largest islands has some great roads to be conquered and has a loop of about 65km that looked like it could possibly be covered on a trackbike. After the first 15km we had already started to get a feel for topology of the island, basically a giant rock with a maximum elevation of over 600m the road made for a very challenging ride with 15% short climbs into 15% descents.
You may hear all the horror stories about insane traffic, dangerous road's and reckless drivers, but this is far from what I might have imagined. Yes the road's can be dangerous but people seem to be more careful when it comes to driving in busy traffic because for many Thai locals their vehicle is there business and livelihood so the last thing they want to do is make a mistake on the road.
If you do end up going and want to get involved with the local scene, consider booking your trip around the Bangkok Night Criterium they hold this 2-3 times a year. The event boasts some serious riders and is incredibly well organised, this year was one of the biggest attracting some professional riders from Team Cinelli Chrome, Polo & Bike and heaps more! You can access more infomation about these events at www.bangkokcriterium.com or find them on facebook.
Wherever you go in your travels, alone or with others, consider bringing your own bike along for the trip, it made a huge impact on the travels I've had and I highly recommend this style of adventure to anyone. If you need advice on how to build up a bike for the job or wan't any information about traveling fixedgear, don't hesitate to contact me!
Written by Derek Holland for Spoke Culture
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