THE SEARCH FOR NEW TRAILS IN CHIANG MAI BROUGHT US FURTHER INTO DOI INTHANON DISCOVERING FRESH NEW FLOWY TRAILS
We still love the trails at Doi Suthep and Doi Pui. But more than a decade of shredding the trails on these holy mountains had damaged the trails quite badly. While some riding would continue around these 2 mountains, there are also measures to heal the mountain and ensure safety for users of the trails. It will take time for the mountain to heal. It’s time to ride deeper down south-west. Deeper into Doi Inthanon. This is an update on what’s new around Chiang Mai mountain biking.
MOUNTAIN BIKING CHIANG MAI
More than 10 years of shredding the familiar Doi Suthep and Doi Pui, albeit periodic maintenance by the local community, had caused many sections to deteriorate to quite a bad state. Solutions like bypassing eroded and damaged areas to total shutdown of some trails were introduced. In response to the deterioration and eventual closure of these challenging trails, some shorter alternatives and lower hill trails became more frequently visited. Like it or not, these changes to the “riding trails set” for mountain biking visitors quickly affected the overall excitement and gnarl factor which Doi Suthep and Doi Pui were once famous for. While we still love the vibe of the 2 holy mountains, some trails had became too dangerous to be considered “fun” anymore.
After a period of official riding bans for mountain biking on the mountains, a turn for better days happened in August 2023. As things turned out, 3 major trails are now officially legal to ride once again. This opening sounds like a good compromising solution for both mountain biking at Doi Suthep and Doi Pui versus the recovery that the mountain needed from the toils of frequent riding over the years.
Could 3 trails make a good enough itinerary for foreign visitors to come for a riding trip? Maybe not. Especially when one particular technically challenging trail is still off-limits at press time. There is a need for more challenging and enjoyable trails.
NEW MOUNTAIN NEW TRAILS
The search for new mountain biking trails brought us to Chom Thong last year. This year, we ventured deeper into the Doi Inthanon region.
Our uplift truck and van took us across a series of fire roads along rolling hills. The convoy would climb up a hill, descend and then climb up some more. At some point, our phones lost their signals and the convoy pushed on further. Doi Inthanon is a huge mountain. The riding distance could be epic if the riding group chooses so. There would be some climbs, and then descents and then repeat. This could go on till we reach the base of the mountain or end at any of the vehicle base. What determines the time and where to stop would be the riders’ fitness and the time before the trail becomes too dark to ride.
It’s indeed exciting to know we would be riding new grounds.
FIND YOUR OWN LINE
At the trailhead, or what seems like a trailhead to us, we started off with a smooth gentle climb followed by some gentle “warm-up” descents. Then comes the BIG CLIMB – a long steep trek up for about 300-400 m of steep slope with its steepest being 26% gradient. This is the steepest slope we climbed on this ride. At the summit, we see the REAL trailhead. A clearing of dark loamy earth that has a line of very faint trail marking. From here, the riders would need to “find their own lines” down to the next funnel section. The ground is loamy and the trail is flowy. It is easy enough to get into good descent speed and the trail flow let us hold our speed for a good lengthy section. But there’s a catch here. It is easy to stray from the faint trail marking the general direction we should descent onto. Once at the funnel section, it’s a few more cycles of flowy steep descents ending at short climbs. It’s rides like these that made us enjoy psyching ourselves with the mentality that each climb comes with nice a section of rewarding descent, and ice cold beer at the end of the ride!
We eventually reached the lower hills and made time for some rest and photo moments. Chiang Mai was part of the ancient Lanna Kingdom. (Lanna Kingdom means Kingdom with a million padi fields.) Welcome to the kingdom.
E-MOUNTAIN BIKE COUNTRY
With such a vast area to explore, this is definitely e-mountain bike country. For those who has some riding days to explore Chiang Mai, it’s time to think multi-day, enduro-style rides. For e-mountain bike rides, each day’s ride could cover 50-70 km of trail distance with homestays and nice local dinners at the end of the day. Trust us on this, the dinner at the end of the day could be a deserving reward for the day’s hard ride.
With or without e-mountain bikes, the Doi Inthanon region is definitely a riding destination that should not be missed. You guide will adjust the riding route to cater to you group’s needs.
With Doi Suthep / Pui’s main trails joining the list of trails opened to mountain biking and Doi Inthanon’s vast region to explore, there’s a lot going for any 3 to 5 days riding program around the Chiang Mai mountains. While the fun continues, here’s wishing that the damaged trail section at Doi Suthep and Doi Pui get some tender-loving trail works done or at least have detours dug out so that the damaged section could heal itself over time. (Ed: For those kind riders who would love to contribute to the next Doi Suthep and Doi Pui trail maintenance effort, please do so only during official trail maintenance/rebuild drives. Giving money to individual/households may not serve any objectives in the end.)
The riding options at Doi Suthep / Pui and Doi Inthanon are endless. We look forward to more updates soon.
Photos and story by Bikezilla and Rock & Rolla
STRAVA riding map and altitude chart by STRAVA
Ed: We have readers asking us why aren’t we covering more riding destinations? Bikezilla is a small scale magazine. We survive with a mix of sponsorships, advertisers’ invitations / engagements and self-funding. Introducing new riding destination comes with a cost. We welcome advertisers and sponsors to contact us on how we can help to introduce your riding facilities, products and/or services. Ride.
For riding tours at Doi Suthep/Pui and Doi Inthanon, contact X-Biking Chiang Mai