I designed this route as a recovery ride, ideal following a longer ride the previous day but it’s also great as an easy ride in its own right, particularly at this time of year when we are looking to be done and dusted before temperatures start to become difficult in the afternoon.The general lack of traffic, decent road surfaces, great scenery and gently rolling terrain on the short sixteen kilometre section in the middle of the ride serves as a nice, bite-sized sampler for the excellent riding to be had on slightly longer rides in the Southern Hills. We did it on Saturday in the clockwise direction so I’ll describe it that way but it is equally pleasant the other way round. The only difference is that there is a very short steep section going clockwise whereas, going the other way, the climbing, such as it is, is very gradual.
We meet under the bridge that takes the 121 over the river. We immediately cross the river using the small bridge that is almost underneath the larger one. We initially follow the eastern bank south but soon turn away from the river onto some very pleasant lanes that emerge at the village of Baan Tha Ma O. Here we pick up one of two roads that run either side of an irrigation canal. The road to the west is in Chiang Mai district, the road to the east is in Lamphun. We usually choose the Chiang Mai side because the road surface is better.
We’re on an older, more direct route from Chiang Mai to Lamphun and the traffic is mild and the scenery an interesting mix of suburban and rural. We cross the main road at a set of traffic lights courtesy of a fiendishly well hidden alley and pick up one of the roads that run alongside the railway line. We’re in the outskirts of Lamphun now and we cross highway 114 and pass through a small built-up area with a bustling food market. We wiggle through a village and all of a sudden we are in full-on countryside.
The road starts to become a little more rolling now. Either side of us is agriculture or forest. Traffic is negligible. There is one very short, hard rise (half a kilometer at 8 per cent, exceeding double digits for a short spell) to get the blood pumping with a super view from the top, looking back the way we came. Catch your breath and then we are predominantly rolling downhill. Even on the gentlest of recovery rides the pace will pick up slightly at this point. There is something about the roads that demands it.
All good things must come to an end and we emerge onto Rural Road 1033 near the village of Baan Seng. We generally make a refreshment stop here, depending on the requirements of the group, either at the delightful but cheap Share Coffee or my favourite Mom and Pop store which may not have as big a selection of snacks as the new 7-Eleven next door but, as well as a friendly greeting, does provide plastic chairs, an electric fan and free ice, all of which are very welcome on a hot day.
The 1033 is the gateway to some epic and glorious rides in the Southern Hills but on this ride we head north and work our way back to the river. With Thailand presently suffering a drought, the once mighty Ping is looking more like a muddy field in places but we can still enjoy the views of riverside life along the imperceptibly rising road as it follows the river up-stream and back to our starting point.
Facts at a glance
Distance: 80 kilometres
Elevation Gain: 241 metres
Terrain: Mainly flat. Some rolling.
Road surface: Very good