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 http://www.motorcycletoursthailand.com/email.html we can run it just like that, or customise slightly to suit Bike Tours UK customers.