We only have the opportunity to get up to the Thailand / Myanmar boarder a couple times a year. When we do we buy the stuff we need. Of course it’s not “real” – but I’d rather lose a dozen fake sunglasses at $1.50 each than the other option…
Watch the sizes. I wear XXL chamois stateside but here it was XXXXXL!
With a little bit of an extension at the end the Mae On Loop is a relatively flat metric century that heads out east of Chiang Mai past San Khampeng. Once past the crowds it’s open land and the ride follows the valley north past the Hot Springs and around the hills. This ride covers a variety of Chiang Mai roads and scenery while staying out of the high density parts of the city itself. A nice “do something different” ride that will not disappoint.
Riding thru the Hmong Village on the way up the mountain is a great way to see rural Thailand life. This ride has great views back towards Chiang Mai and every kilometer is interesting. The only reason this ride is at number 9 is that during the rainy season it gets muddy in the valley. But, the rainy season is when the fields are green and the jungle is at its finest.
The Mae Khan Valley Loop is a very pleasant ride down the Canal Road south of Chiang Mai. The Canal Road is a fast, wide-shouldered road that starts most of the south-going rides. At about the 16KM mark take a right turn into the Mae Khan Valley. There are several Wats along the ride, the most significant being Wat Doi Sapphanyu. It’s worth the climb up the entry road for both the view of the valley and the view of the four giant Buddhist images. Here is a great video on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mWJcfoXailI&feature=youtu.be
Wow! The Samoeng Loop is a ride to remember. Multiple big hills. Amazing views. Thailand village life. The Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden, Mae Sa Elephant Camp, The Seven Spirals of Doom. Everything! It’s just under a metric century but you have to earn every single meter. There are many places to refuel on the way but be sure to have plenty of water and gels for this one.
This is a cool weather metric century with no hills, open air, and lots of room. The last part is on Highway 11’s wide shoulders so you have the opportunity to really go fast with the wind at your back. I often ride this loop alone feeling totally safe. There is a big 7/11 at the half way point with bathrooms and snacks. This is one of those rides where you can’t get lost as it starts going south on the Canal Road and curves around without making any turns or decisions. Without those distractions of figuring out where to turn next it allows for concentration on technique, interval training, and those deep thoughts that only come after working hard for a while. I really like this ride.
The South River Loop is a flat ride that can be done any time with hardly any preparation and yet it’s a secret that hardly anyone knows about. It starts out heading south on the Canal Road, as all south rides do, then cuts east to the Ping River. The ride continues north along the Ping River to the Middle Ring Road, then back south on the Canal Road to complete the loop. This ride has everything from the fast flats to the newly resurfaced winding road along the river. Just past the halfway point is a dam and walkway over the river. There is always someone fishing, picnicking, or strolling there and I feel part of the community when I stop to watch. The river road is well shaded making this a 60KM all-season ride that can be done in less than two hours.
Every rider coming to Chiang Mai must ride up to Wat Doi Suthep. This is one of the major Buddhist temples in Chiang Mai and the destination for many, many Thais and tourists. People from all walks of life are ascending to the temple and sometimes it is very humbling to see the effort being put in for this merit-making activity. The ride’s climbing profile looks like a drawing from high school math class; flat until the mountain starts, constant grade until the top, and then return – a perfect triangle. At Wat Doi Suthep it’s traditional to have a fruit shake. The vendors love riders and usually give us an extra-large serving. Don’t stop at the first vendor, go down 5 or 6 stalls and make a new friend.
Time for the Top Three!
Someone once said that the best rides are the rides you actually do. These top three rides build on each other heading up the mountain towards Samoeng city. These rides come in small, medium and large.
Kristadoi is a 30KM ride to the top of the first challenge hill heading up the mountain. This ride gets more and more rural as you go, passing coffee shops, workshops, and smaller villages.
The route generally follows the river and midway up the final hill you can hear water falling from behind the wall of jungle green. An alternate route is affectionately called “Five Hills” as it climbs up to Wat Phra That Doi Kham, descends, climbs and descends the hill behind the Wat, then joins the normal route climbing Kristadoi and returning the same way. That’s five good climbs compressed into one nice ride. For the brave at heart the Kristadoi descent is the fastest I have ever ridden on a bike…
In many ways the Antenna is the “money ride” here in Chiang Mai. This 40KM all-season ride builds on Kristadoi and continues up to the cell phone antenna on the top of the second challenge hill. More rural life, Wats, markets, a couple great coffee shops, waterfalls, and elephants. Almost every ride I see elephants coming down the mountain walking from home going to work at the elephant farm. I get excited every time I see these magnificent animals. Sometimes I just have to get off the bike and interact with them. There are not enough good things to say about this ride and I’ve done it often.
The Finish Line is the best ride in Chiang Mai building on all the good things in the Kristadoi and the Antenna climbs. The summit is only 3KM further but the altitude gain is significant so everyone should find a challenge here. The views open a bit as the valleys drop away on the sides of the road. There is hardly any traffic on the top as it takes effort to get there. At the top there is a small sala, or sitting area, to catch your breath and listen to the jungle insects and watch the birds. The Finish Line must have been the end of some riding event in the past as it is clearly marked on the road, thus the name. It’s a great feeling to reach the top and know that not many people have accomplished this. It’s nice to be out of the high density city breathing the cool, cool air.
Those are Chiang Mai’s 10 Best Road Bike Rides.
I hope that gives you some ideas of where to ride when you come out to Thailand to visit. If this was helpful, or if you have a great ride of your own let me know about it in the comment section below, I promise to check it out.
This is Ken from OldManRider. If you like this video give it a good thumbs up, share it with your friends, and be sure to subscribe.
This was a hard video to make. Rain, bugs, and the learning curve claimed my first two attempts and forced me indoors for a third. I learned about the changing sound frequencies of jungle cicadas, that it’s hard to make a video in the rain at the top of a mountain when you get their by bike, and that you should always switch to airplane mode when you shoot with an iPhone.