Thailand is pedalling along with a global shift towards cycling as a preferred method of alternative transportation. More foreign cyclists and local Thai riders can now be seen traversing tourist havens like Koh Samui and Phuket, with expat and local residents also taking to the pedals as cross-country or off road biking gains in popularity.
The 2011 “Bangkok Car-Free Sunday” event held in the centre of the Thai capital's main business district seemed to presage what has since become a real trend. Organised by the Green World Foundation along with Bangkok Big Trees and the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration’s (BMA) Bangkok Bicycle Campaign, the event was held to raise environmental awareness and promote slow travel, which reduces carbon footprint.
More recently, a Facebook based Bangkok Bicycle Campaign page has been launched where biking enthusiasts talk about their experiences and show off their bikes and other new developments on the “be-spoke” scene include Bangkok’s first cycling map, which was recently published by Bicycles United Magazine.
The publication has met with approval from cyclists all over Thailand and indeed the world, as it discusses cycling and features bicycle producers worldwide, promoting rides all over the country and highlighting various biking products and events.
Bike racing events are also becoming increasingly popular in Thailand with free or for-rent bicycles gradually appearing at more hotels. Even in traffic-choked Bangkok more cyclists are taking to the streets and more may follow thanks to a new scheme to rent out bicycles for short-term use.
Upcoming cycling events in Thailand include The Best of Bike Show and Bangkok Life Cycling 2013 at The Emporium in Bangkok. Then later in March on Phuket there's the 14th Annual Thalang MTB Crown Prince Cup. In April, the Bangkok, Nonthaburi and Saraburi Tour of Friendship R1 2013 is an international 5-stage road race across three separate provinces of Thailand.
More and more people are discovering the joys of cycling the back roads of Thailand. Places like Phuket, Krabi and Phang Nga and Koh Samui offer cyclists the chance to experience local culture and food first hand while enjoying the stunning natural scenery around them.
As in any country, safety precautions and equipment are advisable when cycling as accidents do occur. However, the risks are dramatically lower than those faced by the thousands of tourists that rent scooters in areas where bad roads and bad driving can turn a little holiday fun into a regrettable mis-adventure.
By Jubel Shaw