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Issan biking


carlf

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Hello friends in Thailand.  I'm looking for hints and suggestions for biking.  I'll be with 2 other friends, and we're all experienced road bikers, and we usually cover 60-120 kms/day on our road bikes, although with the heat in May, I think we might be closer to 60.  I'm thinking about biking for about 4 days or so from Ayutthaya to Khorat to Phimai.  I'm not at all familiar with this area.  I see route #2 covers most of this route, from Saraburi to Phimai, but I'm afraid that #2 might not be a very good road for biking.  Does anyone have any experience with this route?  Any reasonable alternatives?  We don't mind some extra kilometers if we can have prettier roads as long as they are in reasonable condition for road biking, and we need to pass through a few towns that would have accommodations (even simple, primitive) for 3 tired bikers.  Thanks for any thoughts or suggestions.

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1 hour ago, DJ54 said:

Maybe look at these type of websits..

DJ54, thanks very much for this comment.  The little bit that I see there does indeed look very interesting.  Can you tell me the URL and/or name of that website?  Thanks.

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General comments:

While bicycling around Thailand in areas where you know the roads and traffic patterns can be fun and reasonably safe, in my opinion long distance touring in Thailand is simply too dangerous, even in a group. I think your asking about Hwy 2 reveals extreme naivete about road conditions in Thailand. When you think Hwy 2, think Indy 500 and cars going 100 km/hr using the road shoulder as an extra lane. I have never ever seen a bicycle on Hwy 2. Also, you should know that Isaan has some of the highest driving under the influence rates in Thailand. Every Songkran when provincial tabs on alcohol related accidents are publicized, Isaan is at the top or close to the top of the list. Thai drivers, while many are reasonably considerate, many are flat out inconsiderate -borderline reckless - when it comes to bicycles which oftentimes makes the cycling experience harrowing, stressful, and sometimes deadly.

 

Time of year:

The sugar cane harvest is over which removes all of the huge tractor trailer trucks off the road. These trucks, while very intimidating because of their size, actually in some ways are a bicyclist's friend because they tend to slow traffic down. However, starting in May as the rainy season begins, all manner of farming activity is starting to pick up so rural roads, aside from harvest time, are at their most busiest. Roads truly out in the countryside can be very peaceful and make for enjoyable riding, but the problem is on a long distance tour you will inevitably go through towns with much more congestion, and these areas are typically not very bicycle friendly. Dogs in rural areas can also be a problem.

 

Another thing to keep in mind is that there has been a protracted heat wave. This may have abated in the last few days, but recent overnight temperatures have rarely dipped below 80 degrees F, and that's only for one or two hours. By 10 or 11 it's already 90 degrees and climbing, not my idea of ideal bicycling weather. Rain showers and storms usually come in the late afternoons, which too can potentially narrow the number of hours available for riding. Double up on lights and reflective gear as Thailand does not enforce it's corrective lense / visual acuity standards, and I can tell you for a fact that many drivers with poor eyesight are out on the roads, and if you study accident accounts, poor eyesight is often a contributing cause of the accident. I'm not trying to scare you, but don't let anyone tell you the risks are inconsequential.


My advice would be to scope out a remote area which has a network of roads in every direction which you could take 30-50 km morning day trips (when the weather is coolest) and return to your home base in the afternoons.

 

Hope this helps.

 

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Gecko123,

Thanks so much for all this info and suggestions. 

 

"... I think your asking about Hwy 2 reveals extreme naivete about road conditions in Thailand.."  Well you're right... if I was an expert about those road conditions, I probably wouldn't be posting the questions, right?  I have been biking quite a bit around Bangkok since I arrived 9 months ago, so I have some idea of biking at least in Bangkok, but I haven't had many opportunities outside of Bangkok, and I've never been in the Issan area at all, so I am truly grateful for this "evaluation" of the quality of Route #2.  Clearly I'll want to avoid it.  I do go out regularly these days for 60-90 km/day rides, and the thermometer is hitting 39C, so I know that it's cookin', and I try to get out by 06:00 and get most of my riding in before 10:00 to mitigate (and the road around Bangkok are calmer before 08:00, too).  If you do have any suggestions for (calmer, safer) roads that would sort of parallel Route #2 to go from Ayatthuya to Phimai, I'd certainly be grateful.

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There is a very good chance that you will be hit by a car, truck, van, or motorbike and hurt, maimed or killed. I think you have a 60% chance of not getting injured or killed on thai roads. 

Google foreign bicyclists killed in Thailand for dozens of deaths.

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I did a really nice ride three years ago in January. Started in NongKhai and followed the Mekhong west. Our destination was meant to be Chiang Rai, but the weather turned nasty: less than 10C and steady rain. Someone got sick and we called it quits in Phayao. But that won't happen this time of year.

 

The roads were fine, with a clearly marked shoulder most of the time. Rolling and scenic. There are lots of guesthouses along the way with rates around 600 baht/night. Traffic really wasn't a problem.

 

I agree you want to stay the hell off the big fast roads. The suggestion to use a website to plan your route is a good one. Take a compass; this time of year, you can't tell direction using the sun mid-day because it's straight up.

 

I live in Chiang Mai and ride quiet rural roads year round. You'll be fine and have the time of your life.

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On 5/10/2019 at 4:02 PM, carlf said:

DJ54, thanks very much for this comment.  The little bit that I see there does indeed look very interesting.  Can you tell me the URL and/or name of that website?  Thanks.

The website is routeyou.com

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2 hours ago, soistalker said:

There is a very good chance that you will be hit by a car, truck, van, or motorbike and hurt, maimed or killed. I think you have a 60% chance of not getting injured or killed on thai roads. 

Google foreign bicyclists killed in Thailand for dozens of deaths.

Op, you need to wear this:-body_armor.jpg.e0621f737eac2f93af5de7abf8bc92f8.jpg

but if you cant afford it, try this:-03e7f1a3d4e097c009bfb646eb443953.jpg.e98da511656f156b9e987ca7cc63c45d.jpg

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I have a few suggestions for you.  Be careful, watch traffic, have cat like reflexes out there on your bike, and don’t die because it’s dangerous.  I used to go running around here when I was still in peak physical condition and still had those cat like reflexes but definitely not anymore I’m physically disabled now.  Just be careful and don’t die.  We had a professional round the world biker who was killed not that long ago in traffic right here in Korat.  Personally I would not recommend this unless you stick to the country roads only and avoid the traffic in the cities because people are killed all over this country every day on the road.  Be careful out there I don’t want to be reading a bad story about you later.  Stay safe and maintain situational awareness.  

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If you have a smartphone download Pocket Earth or the Maps.me apps.  They do a great job of picking cycling routes and the maps are downloadable so you don't need the internet.

 

Also, ignore the naysayers.  I've been cycling around Thailand and other SE Asian countries for years now and have never had a problem.

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Hope you find a good route through the interior up to Korat.  Nice country along with way, Pak Chong, Sikhio.  It's a terribly long slog uphill, but check out the man-made reservoir and wind farm on top of a mountain in Sikhio.  Commanding views back over the highway, valley and Lam Tahkong reservoir.  Fun to ride around and take some photos.  Good luck.  😎

image.png.5921254672a40eee004ef7bbf051b13d.pngimage.png.3a410bf6b453529120ab009733bc912f.png

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4 hours ago, soistalker said:

There is a very good chance that you will be hit by a car, truck, van, or motorbike and hurt, maimed or killed. I think you have a 60% chance of not getting injured or killed on thai roads. 

Google foreign bicyclists killed in Thailand for dozens of deaths.

I think you are going a bit too far there, I say that if you are an experienced biker, never go above the speed limit, use genuine common sense at all times, always be aware of what is going on around you.

 

If you can honestly say all that about yourself, then you have a 99% chance of avoiding a serious accident.

 

Your last sentence, what do you expect when you rent a bike, have little or no riding experience, and just jump on and start riding? In amongst Thai motorcyclists, in which the biggest majority of them are morons with very little or no common sense.

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