Chiang Mai offers road cycling on a variety of terrains, from pancake-flat river rides to lung-bursting climbs in the surrounding mountains and everything in between.
Road surfaces are generally good to excellent which may be surprising given Chiang Mai has a tropical wet and dry climate but the Thais seem to be investing time and money on their road infrastructure. Certainly the quality of the average Thai country road compares very favourably to the bone janglers I used to suffer in the UK. That said, if you are determined to find a pot hole, they are there to be found.
Thailand’s second city, Chiang Mai is a thriving bustling metropolis. Additionally, car ownership in Thailand has increased dramatically in recent years. If, as many visitors do, you stay in or near to the city centre, you will encounter traffic. There is just no getting away from that. Indeed some of the regular rides we do have become noticeably busier over the last couple of years. That said, it’s no worse than any other city I’ve lived in (considerably better than many). It is also possible to avoid the worst of it by basing yourself near to the start points for the rides you would like to do or conceivably hiring a car and driving out of the city. Best of all, once you are way from the city, there are plenty of beautiful, virtually traffic free roads to explore. I’ve never had the pleasure of riding on closed roads but some of the roads we regularly cycle on are surely the next best thing.
Group rides are a great way of getting to know new people and finding new and interesting routes. The Road Rider Yahoo and Facebook pages are excellent resources for finding group rides although used almost exclusively by farangs. Rides are posted throughout the year although the number and choice of rides as well as participants will be much higher during the winter months when a large number of cyclists decamp to Chiang Mai to escape the cold back home. There is a large amount of crossover between the two groups but occasionally a ride, a reply or an update will only be posted on one so it is worth keeping an eye on both. Rides tend to be steady (30 – 34 kph) but can be quicker (occasionally much quicker) during the winter months.
If you’re a super strong climber you might want to give the regular ride up to Mon Cham a go. Most Mondays a small group leave from the Convention Centre at 08:00 am and ride north to tackle one of the local climbs. It’s a relatively short ride of about 75 kilometres but, be warned, the climb is tough in places and these boys tend to be very fast.
From the sublime to the ridiculous. The Chiang Mai Sunday Cycling club meets every Sunday morning at 08:00 am at Tha Pae Gate. Although suitable for road bikes, any kind of bike is welcomed and rides tend to be short and slow and are usually followed by some form of cultural activity. I’ve never participated as it doesn’t really sound like my thing but the club does a lot of good things for the cycling community in Chiang Mai, involving itself in road safety campaigns and organising the annual ride up to Doi Suthep for the King’s birthday.
By far the biggest and most active cycling club in Chiang Mai is SoiTan Hansaa. They run regular super fast rides Tuesday and Thursday and Thursday evenings, starting out from Tommo’s Bike shop as well as more regular (although often fast) rides most Sundays and which are advertised on their Facebook page for those able to read Thai. The club is almost exclusively Thai but they are very friendly and welcoming and are a great bunch to ride with.
For those interested in something a little different, Chiang Mai does have an outdoor velodrome and even a track cycling club run by Chiang Mai stalwart Ian Franklin.