chiang mai :: downhill mountain biking.

{Photos & Story brought to you by Danny Bockting! Round of applause for our guest blogger.}

Two weeks into our trip I was pheening for some more extreme adventures. After learning about Chiang Mai being the mountain biking capital of Southeast Asia, I researched and inquired about “real” mountain biking shops that would allow me the opportunity to sink some rubber knobs into the beautiful terrain of Chiang Mai’s national preserve, Doi Suthep-Pui National Park.

X-mountain Biking (www.x-mountainbiking.com), run by a couple of tough Austrians, was my ticket into the backcountry.  The gang picked me up bright and early from our guesthouse (after our late night “Date Night” (seen here). The bikes were loaded up on a trailer, the equipment stored in baskets and strapped to the top of the truck, and a Frenchman was already loaded in the rear of the pickup truck. The Austrian greeted me and his only question for me was, “what’s your level of experience?”  Upon his satisfaction with my response he tells me to hop in and that we’re going to have an awesome day. We sped off making a couple of additional pick-ups that included a few dudes from Portugal and one from China. Our group consisted of me, a Frenchman, three Portuguese, one Chinese, one Austrian, a native Thai who now lives in Australia but comes back often for the biking, and two other native Thais.

mountain biking chiang mai, thailand
(some of the gang)

Once our bike gang was compiled, we steered the truck north and went up. Way up. Into Doi Suthep-Pui National Park. As we climbed elevation it got cold. And being in the back of an open-air pick-up truck only compounds the intensity of the early morning shivers. Traffic was a bear this particular morning as it was a Saturday and two of the most popular tourist spots are on the way up the mountain – Wat Phra and the King and Queen’s Summer Home and Gardens. Eventually we make our way past the traffic and tourist spots and continue to climb to the summit.

The gang unloads, we get fitted for our downhill weapon of choice (for me, a Pivot Phoenix with 8” of suspension travel in the front and rear – a proper downhill bike that’s going to absorb the impact of any large drop, big root/stump, or boulder), grab a full-face motocross helmet, arm pads, leg pads, gloves, and a chest protector. I knew this wasn’t going to be your mom’s “photo-opp scenic ride,” but I also wasn’t fully mentally prepared for this. My adrenaline is now pumping. I’m pretty familiar with fast single-track riding, but I was about to embark on some of the most challenging and technical downhill trails in Southeast Asia. I lean over to my Thai/Aussie mate and ask if we’re going to ease into the ride. He tells me that we’re doing three downhill rides today and we’re going to start with the most difficult.

Shit. Here we go.

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(bike for the day)

We hop onto the pavement leading us to the trailhead. We all get quickly acquainted with our battlefield weapons, and then we drop into the first trail.

Godspeed.

We spent the day riding amazing and challenging trails and terrain. The beauty of the landscape, the mental focus necessary for this level of technical riding, the comrodary of a mixed gang of different nationalities and languages, the muscle cramps and bruises from hard falls, and the adrenaline pumping through your veins as you make your way through a rock garden or take on a 4’ drop, was the perfect recipe for a blood pumping, ego boosting, “Dude Day.”

Doi Suthep may have sent me home with bruised ribs, scrapes and bruises, but I took from it an experience and memories of a lifetime.

 mountain biking chiang mai, thailand
(load ‘em up)

chiang mai mountain biking, downhill biking, mtb, thailand mountain biking
(it’s always the no-tubes that seem to fail)

mountain biking chiang mai, thailand
(two trails down, one to go.  but first we go to lunch.)

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(view from trail – we’re way up there)

mountain biking chiang mai, thailand
(day’s end – sharing some stories, beers, and battle bruises)

mountain biking chiang mai, thailand
(me and my bike alive and well at day’s end)

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