Mountain Biking in Chiang Mai in the Rainy Season
We recently posted a blog about how to prepare for cycling in Thailand during the summer and now with the wet season officially declared in Thailand It’s time to start thinking about preparations for mountain biking in Thailand and for this blog, specifically Chiang Mai in the rain. Come rain or shine there is no reason not to be hitting the Chiang Mai trails year-round so here are tips to ensure you can get your cycling fix this coming wet season.
What Weather Can be Expected?
The rainy season lasts from June to October so between this time the weather in Chiang Mai will be very unpredictable. Expect intermittent short but heavy downpours, even if the sky is blue and the sun is shining in the morning it can change without warning and be overcast and raining within minutes so prepare accordingly for this. The good thing about this is that if you manage to find shelter the rain will normally pass quickly so you can be on your way in no time.
Thunderstorms are frequent during the rainy season and whilst lightening striking people is rare it’s important to take precautions if you’re caught in a thunderstorm. You may think it is safe if you are far away from the storm, but if you can hear thunder, you aren’t safe. Whether you see lightning bolts, hear thunder, or detect an imminent storm, you should head to shelter immediately. Unless it develops extremely quickly, you should be able to head to secure shelter long before the storm arrives. The shelter should be a building structure of some significance, simple sheds or outhouses which do not have any earthing mechanisms will provide no protection. Of course, this is easier said than done, especially in the mountains around Chiang Mai so if there is no shelter then where should you go?
The most likely scenario for mountain biking in Chiang Mai is that you’re in the forest when a thunderstorm approaches so the best option is to retreat to a group of small trees surrounded by taller trees or find a low area like a ravine. Avoid lone trees or tall objects or outcrops. This should be quite easy in mountainous areas like Doi Pui which is covered in young trees surrounded by much older growth trees and there is an abundance of ravines and valleys.
Another scenario is you’re in an open area like a field or scrub area and if you’re in this situation during a thunderstorm then look for a dry, low-lying area such as a valley and try and make yourself as small as possible by crouching for example. Minimize your contact with the ground and do not lie flat on the ground. In either of these situations if you happen to come across a car or a house, this is your best option. In any situation avoid bodies of water.
What Gear Should I Use?
As it rains often during these months the trails will generally be very wet and slippery so its worth changing to a tyre suitable for wet weather mountain biking. Chiang Mai is surprisingly not good when it comes to mountain bike tyre variety but lots of shops sell online. Good options include the Maxxis Minion or High Roller, Schwalbe Magic Mary, Michelin Rock R2 or the E*Thirteen TRS tyre.
Mud guards are a cheap but essential addition to your bike in the wet season. Water and mud will get in your eyes in no time so invest in a front mug guard as well as a rear mudguard if you want to keep your back relatively dry and muck free. They won’t provide total protection from mud or water but it’s not a nice feeling if you’re soaking wet in the first few minutes of mountain biking.
Dress to stay dry or as dry as possible. It may average 25 degrees celcius / 77 degrees Fahrenheit + during the rainy season in Chiang Mai but after a downpour it can drop by several degrees and combined with wind chill and altitude feel particularly cold, especially if you’re on the trails for several hours. Keep your core warm and take a thin waterproof jacket in your bag. Your shirt and shorts should be fast wicking so if you do get wet it won’t weigh you down and will dry off quickly. Don’t forget you sweat rain or shine so wearing breathable gear is important. Thin full finger gloves should suffice and cotton socks, often whilst mountain biking in Chiang Mai you will be crossing streams and rivers so there is not much you can do about keeping your feet dry if you do.
Glasses are often overlooked as an important bit of gear but with lower light conditions consider swapping out your lenses for clear or yellow/orange ones to enhance your vision. UVA and UVB protection is necessary when you spend hours outside. This protects your eyes and eyelids from sun rays, prevents sun damage, and stops early signs of aging. Glasses are really useful for mountain biking in Chiang Mai in the rain as there is a lot of debris kicked up and trails are often overgrown with leaves and branches at head height which become really annoying when they start hitting you in the face.
Finally a waterproof bag to cover your pack is a good idea, not only to keep your bag dry but to make the post-ride clean up less of a chore.
Mountain biking in Chiang Mai in the rainy season can do the trails a lot of damage so there are a few general rules to follow. It is a lot easier and often tempting to pull more skids on a wet slippery surface so try not to do this as it can create potholes and breaking bumps which eventually lead to puddles forming. Once a puddle forms bikers tend to cycle around which then widens the trail and erodes the trail further so try your best to cycle through slowly rather than around a puddle. Remember the trails in Chiang Mai are there for the most part because people have put in the effort to make them and maintain them so do everyone a favour and try not to tear them up.
The thought of rain and mud usually puts most people off from mountain biking in Chiang Mai but there is always fun to be had on the trails of Chiang Mai regardless of weather. If you’re well prepared you can get filthy dirty, soaking wet and still have a blast. The weather makes for some stunning landscapes as well so it is a great time for photography. It is also a relief from the usual high temperatures experienced in Chiang Mai so why not get on your bike this rainy season and let your inner child out.
If you’re looking for a tour company to take you cycling and MTB in Chiang Mai, Active Thailand offers easy access to scenic countryside valleys and mountain trails. In 1995 Active Thailand launched their fully supported mountain biking tours throughout Northern Thailand and remain a leading cycling tour company in the region.