Mountain biking is a sport increasing in popularity in Thailand, both among Thais and young international tourists. It is an ideal means of touring Thailand's spectacular natural environment; safe, cheap and fun, and environmentally green. Mountain biking in Thailand is a blend of high-grade exercise and natural, cultural and historical discovery.
MAE HONG SON: The centre for mountain biking adventure is Pai District, where several bike shops rent out bikes and gear to tourists. Bike tours explore nearby and remote hilltribe villages, waterfalls and hot springs. The best time is November-May. Experienced guides are ready to lead biking parties through breathtaking back-country trails for up to a week. There are natural cycle paths through the forest, first trod by animals, then beaten by man. They range from as narrow as a single person's stride or as wide as an elephant or ox cart.
The hilly North of Thailand is most suitable for mountain biking. The best time to visit is November to February, when the weather is cooler. A number of companies offer well-organised biking tours, most include guides and, on certain tours, back-up vehicles carrying food and overnight equipment. Bikes are also widely available in major tourist destinations, where they can be rented at extremely reasonable rates on a daily basis.
CHIANG MAI: The centre of biking activity, the most scenic route is from Doi Inthanon to Ob Luang George via Mae Chaem. The first leg, a route of about 20 kilometres, is strictly for experienced mountain bikers while the second section, 30-kilometre long, is less demanding and suitable for bikers of intermediate skills and higher.
PHETCHABUN: Nature bike rides in Thung Salaeng Luang has been designed to promote a better understanding of nature and conservation. Guides are well trained and accompany participants on bicycle trips offering information of interests and safety tips. Contact Camping Bike Co, tel: 0 2873 0087.
SUKHOTHAI, AYUTTHAYA: At the ancient Siamese capital of Sukhothai, there are dedicated cycle paths to take you round the majestic ruins, temples and palaces. Further south, a bike is the ideal way to see the sprawling remains of the kingdom's once great capital Ayutthaya.
NAKHON NAYOK: Just north of Bangkok, Nakhon Nayok has designated off-road biking trails through the foothills of Khao Yai National Park. Khao Yai itself, with its 13 marked trails, is another magnificent mountain biking site.
Other fine biking routes are in the parks of Khao Sam Roi Yot in Prachuab Khiri Khan, Khao Kichakut in Chanthaburi, Chalerm Rattanakosin and Saiyok in Kanchanaburi, and Kaeng Krachan in Phetchaburi.