We talked a big game, three cross country biker girls from Alaska, as we looked at the pamphlet advertising for Mountain Biking in Chiang Mai. “Most companies that target tourists lie about the difficulty level.” I said, “When I was a tour guide in Alaska I would tell people all the time to prepare for the worst, so they were always pleasantly surprised. We can definitely do the medium/hard track, it’s probably a piece of cake.” Everyone agreed with me and we booked our trip for the next day with Mountain Biking Chiang Mai. Somewhere in the middle of the next day you would find me slowly peddling up a hill in the mountainous forest looming over the city, secretly hoping a snake would come out and bike me for an easy way out. Thankfully our guide was right there with us the whole time encouraging us every peddle. “Just a little more and you have a nice big downhill single track,” he would say and I would peddle harder. Even through the harder parts at the end of the day I had a blast seeing sights of Thailand I wouldn’t have been able to before. I also felt so accomplished and just down right bad ass.
MBCM (Mountain Biking Chiang Mai) had a scheduled pick up from our hostel, Hostel no. 11, early in the morning. So, all we had to do was show up out front around 9:00 am ready to go. Here’s a run down of the basics you need to know before the trek.
Length of Time: 6-8 hour day. About 3-4 hours of riding (more or less depending on the trek) and 2 hours of transportation back and forth, with a late lunch included by the lake.
Skill Level: 40HP for easy, 60HP intermediate and 80HP for advanced.
Options and Cost:
This company offers SO many options! From beginner 1/2 day rides, to hike/bike combos, to multi day treks. The prices range from $33 USD to $150. For more details, please see their Schedule. The full day route we chose, with lunch set us back about $40 USD.
- Good active shoes tennis shoes with some support. I don’t believe they offered clip in peddles, but they may upon request.
- Comfortable and breathable athletic clothing. Yoga pants, shorts and an athletic tank or tee. Padded bike shorts, if you have them! Check the weather if you’re going during the rainy season and this trail would get VERY muddy and wet.
- A smaller backpack or CamelBack for water and energy snacks. They state they provide water and they do, but it wasn’t enough for me in the intense heat.
All safety gear and major equipment is provided by the company.
Our pick up stopped at a few other hostel locations around Chiang Mai on the way to the main office. Once at the office we were split into our groups based on skill level and trek purchased. We ended up choosing a medium route titled, “The Old Smugglers Route” so, we were given pink stickers. At the office we had to sign some liability wavers and the company provided each of us with some water and safety equipment. After a basic run down of what to expect the large group loaded into 3 trucks with open air seating in the back and bikes sitting on top. The drive is almost all up hill toward the top of Doi Pui summit. The drive is stunning with switch back turns and panorama views of the city below. At the top of the summit we were all are fitted with a bike and the rest of our gear. There were about 4 or 5 guides available to help with adjustments and questions. There was a small language barrier, but nothing to hinder the experience. We were all asked to test drive the bikes over some sticks and dips and practice braking to ensure everyone’s bike was safe and we were comfortable. The staff was very knowledgeable and all looked like they were in amazing shape
I think the first part of the trek is to assess everyone’s skill level. Despite what we signed up for, the guides were keeping an eye on everyone and they definitely made some switches to the groups we originally assigned to. The first part was the mostly easy, so if you’re struggling in the beginning, let a guide know! With the first part mostly downhill we reached our first destination rather quickly, an exclusive Arabica coffee plantation. Here we were able to get refreshments and enjoy coffee with stellar views of the plantation below.
After leaving the plantation, we split into the groups and set off on our own, each group with 1-2 guides. It ended up just being us three girls and one guide after some switching of groups. Our guide was great! He was a far superior rider compared to us, but he kept pace, motivated and even bandaged us up after some slip ups. The MBCM seems to have the philosophy that riding is what were here for and riding is what we will do. So, if you’re looking for a guide to hang back and chat with you that isn’t what they’re about.
As I mentioned we choose the medium level trek containing cross-country and exhilarating single track for downhill. The ride started out with rolling hills. We left any area where cars might be, but the the path remained wide. The sides schlepped off over a cliff during some of the downhill parts, riding fast was tempting, but be cautions of the sides. About an hour into our ride was when the bulk of the killer uphill started. The part where I was secretly hoping to get bit by a snake… yea…that part. It wasn’t too steep, but it was a long climb in the thick of the forest. With no breeze to cool me off I was convinced I would die of heat exhaustion or my legs would just stop working. Our guide circled back several times with a huge smile on his face, almost mockingly, since we talked a big game to him in the beginning. I swear he lapped me like 6 times on that climb, but I made it! As we crested the peak we got a view into the valley below and there in the distance, at the bottom of the valley was the lake. The lake where our final destination and lunch awaited.
But, now for the best part. Downhill single track in the freaking Chiang Mai forest. Heck yes! My friend and I raced down the single track. This was the first time I had ever done downhill single track (normally I do flat single.) Adrenaline took over as I was bouncing off tree roots and tightly turning my handle, left, right, left, right. I came out on the other end with a huge smile and our guide waiting for me, laughing. One of my friends, was more hesitant from the start to do this adventure and was a little nervous to go downhill and as we began the huge descent down she was a little shaky and fell. Thankfully when we got to our second resting place in a little village our guide had a first aid kit and patched her up.
After our second major break and with all boo boos patched we continued downhill. I kept riding the single track, but my friend who was a little shaken from her fall stuck to the main trail. It should be noted that single track is barely wide enough for a tire and in the root filled forest it can be very dangerous if not handled properly. Don’t be scared to try it, but you can’t really go slow, so it’s all or nothing.
The road plateaued at the bottom of the valley and we rode through scenic rice fields until we reached the lake. Here you could swim, if you wanted to, but we just sat down in the shade and ordered a beer. The lunch that came with could be custom ordered from the restaurant which was enjoyable. We sat there relaxing until everyone from the original group had finished their routes. It seems most one day trips end at the lake. From there we rode back down to the office and were dropped off back at the hostel.
Overall this trip was not for the faint of heart. Definitely put in on your list if you’re a downhill adrenaline junkie. It was a challenging experience, but at the end, even with some scratches, I was proud of myself. It worth the time and money we spent. We really enjoyed our day!
For more details about this excursion please contact Mountain Biking Chiang Mai Website. This tour runs year round, rain or shine, so always check the weather and be prepared.