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Thailand - November 2010

click here to enlarge is an ADVENTUROUS trip using Enduro-type bikes to ride a circular route through the mountains of North-West Thailand. It's ideal for riders with some previous off-road experience, or more adventurous novices. We make up a small group who will ride 1000 to 1400 kilometres around the Mae Hong Son province which borders Myanmar (formerly known as Burma). It works well as a 10 day trip for 5 to 8 riders, anytime between the Winter months of November and March.   It's even better when we get a pre-existing groups of friends wanting to do the tour.  We'll custom make the tour just for you if that's the case.

NOVEMBER 2010 is one such tour - most of the group comprises some of the guys who've been out to Iceland with me (another 40th birthday), plus some existing Thai tour veterans who want to go back.

I lead this trip in person, so if you want to know more about it, ring me and I can describe the tours in detail for you.  I go with you from Heathrow Airport in London, unless you're flying in from outside the UK, in which case I meet you in Chiang Mai.   I personally ride these trails twice per year and know them pretty well now.

We now have a registered office in Thailand, with my colleague Jim, now resident in the country for half the year.  Therefore we can now offer you a dirt bike tour, or a road tour, any time over the Winter months from November through to March.

I take a UK group out there once or twice a year, and we follow the usual Mae Hong Son circuit, partly on twisty surfaced roads, but also taking some detours and dirt tracks.

I usually return after 1.5 weeks in Thailand, but guests sometimes choose to stay on, to make the trip a full 14 days or more. 

50% of the riding is usually off-road, on dirt tracks through the mountains. Although not too technically demanding, some prior off-road experience helps, just to be able to tackle mile after mile, hour after hour of deserted trails.

A lifetime of UK road riding experience counts for little here; it's a totally different game off-road.

You don't need to be an expert (nearly all of us fall off from time to time), and it goes without saying that guides (me & Dtoon) will ride with you, and try to help if anyone is struggling.

Some people find this trip hard.  So, if you are unsure, please try and get a day's off-road practice before you sign up for this, to find out whether you like it or not.  A steep dusty trail, half way up a remote mountain in Thailand, is perhaps not the best time and place to decide you don't like trail riding.

IMHO it's best run as a 50/50 road & off-road trip, but it is possible to ride virtually every little bit of it purely on the tarmac if you prefer to do this.  This is an escape plan for anyone who discovers that dirt riding is not for them.  To a certain extent, we can vary the road / off-road ratio depending on group wishes.  By not doing the off-road bits however, you're missing out on quite a lot.

click here to enlarge

We use a 4x4 to carry our luggage, and apart from the start and end of the tour, we use local style accommodation. Some of the time the rooms may be higher on charm & flavour than modern conveniences - read "basic".

Price - 790 per person (plus flights). This includes all accommodation, guiding, bike hire and 4x4 support where needed. Flights are in normally the region of 500 to 650 per head (including all taxes and transfers from Bangkok to Chiang Mai), depending on when you book and with which airline.   The flights for Jan 2008 were 750 GBP  Ouch!

If you like the idea of a trip like this, but have never ridden a dirt bike before, don't let that put you off too much. There's time to learn and get some practice in before the trip. As I said - you don't have to be good - just reasonably competent. But the main thing is a sense of adventure and average fitness because it's hot and tiring out there.  It's often the heat that will wear a man down as much as the riding.

Am I good enough for this?

Regarding riding ability, this is a really tricky one. 

There are a handful of people offering these trail trips.  We all cover broadly the same routes and same trails.  After all, these trails are simply unsurfaced roads, used by local people to get from village to village. Some suggest these trips are perfect for novices and a great place to learn for a first-timer.

Yes it can be ideal, but it can also be a nightmare for someone who doesn't have a clue what they are getting into.   I've seen people reduced to tears on these trails if they've never tried off-road riding before. 

The vast majority of the off-road stuff we do is not too difficult. The trails are generally much easier than typical English Green lanes. We're actually using proper roads, it's just that they are unsurfaced and loose. As soon as you leave the actual MHS loop tarmacced road, any side road becomes dirty and more difficult. Most roads up to hill tribe villages or to waterfalls / springs etc. are unsurfaced, and these are fairly typical of what we're on most of the trail time.

Although loose surface, outside Monsoon times, these trails are not normally too badly rutted or muddy compared to England's Green Lanes, and on a scale of 1 to 5 of UK Trail Riding, they'd be a 2 to 3 (where 5 was the hardest thing going - deep peat bogs in Yorkshire).

The most we ride in one day is 160km (over half of this off road). For the most experienced riders (Dec 2006) we did a 100km back route, where a solid 85km was great, constant dirt riding.

These longer trails run through remote hill country, and, just from a stamina point of view, this can become tiring, both physically and mentally.

It's very much a mental thing. If you think you can do it, then you can. If you doubt your ability to succeed, then you become more likely to fail.

We've had some competitive Enduro riders who complained that these trails were too easy, but then we've had others who have struggled.

The trip suits middle-of-the-road, competent trail riders.  It's not a race (bear in mind that others use these roads as well!), but it isn't a stroll in the park either.

Off-road riding speed is generally 10-40mph, with a lot of it at the lower end of the range. First, second and third gear stuff mainly. The thing is, if we get a competent group, or even relative novices who've all learned quickly together, then the pace tends to creep up a bit and we can keep up a good average speed. This is when a true novice would begin to feel out of their depth. A "good average speed" doesn't mean fast.  It simply means not stopping every 500m to pick up fallen riders :)

What I do now though, is invite people up to Nottingham (FREE OF CHARGE) and do some trail riding with me on the Viking Way. If you can ride this steady trail, you can ride off-road in Thailand. It's a free try out, and will ease your mind if you're worried at all.

Every trip is different - and this applies to my road trips as well. The mix of people makes or breaks the trip. Most people love it, despite sometimes struggling on the very the first occasion we leave the paved road near Doi Suthep.  A few hours later, and they're in the groove.

This is NOT a full-on Enduro.  Compared to Morocco, where I've just been to, it's an absolute doddle.  Read about Morocco in my new trail section, click here

Other ways of getting some advance practice include...

Contacting your local TRF group (Trail Riders Federation) and see what they suggest.
Book a try-out day or weekend with a company in Wiltshire, or Geraint Jones, or OTT, or CCM, or Tough Buzzard, or Welsh Trail Bike Tours or many others to see if you have an aptitude for it.

Feel free to phone and discuss if you have any questions. Read all the stuff in the margins as well.

Mid-late November into December '08  and Jan 2009.

Thailand Enduro-type tour again.   Have names.  Need to confirm details.


November 2008 - anyone up for it?


January 2009 - dates set, 12th to 21st January 2009.  Again, working alongside my friend Jim Spence.   He's resident in Thailand and fuly TAT registered. More detail here  we can run it just like that, or customise slightly to suit Bike Tours UK customers.

  Why Thailand?


  How adventurous?

  Self Rescue


  The Bikes

  What to see

  Doi Inthanon

  Support driver sometimes needed

  More stuff

  Tip 1, Riding Kit

  Tip 2, Helmets

  Tip 3, drinking

  Tip 4, eating

  Checklist of things to take

  Mozzie nets & sleeping bags

  Changes from Nov 2004

  Mr. Early's site

  Jim's Photo Gallery

  Thai Guide & 2006 trips

  Being Silly 1

  Being Silly 2

  Being Silly 3

  Being Silly 4

  Being Silly 5

  Being Silly 6

  Being Silly 7

  Being Silly 8

  phone for more info

  Volunteer Teaching in Thailand

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