Broken Derailleur’s, Broken Spokes, Burst Tyres, the Joys of MTB in Thailand
We had been planning our next bike ride at Nong Yai for a few weeks, this hilly area in Chonburi province is fast becoming my favourite cycling area near Bangkok and so setting off at 6.30am for the 2 hour drive I was looking forward to another great day out.
I initially went to Nong Yai after looking on Google Earth for anything that resembled a mountain/forest that could be explored near Bangkok and found a slither of green not too far away from Khao Kheow which despite looking relatively small on Google is actually quite a large area with numerous hills, farmland mixed with forest, quiet paved roads and stunning scenery. I have been back 5 times since looking for trails and through trial and error have found some amazing sections of fast sweeping single track, as well of course as some sections of awful terrain!
For today’s trip we thought we would do a familiar loop and from the car park cycled 1km up a relatively steep but open trail to the top of a ridge surrounding by long grass with trees dotted around. This is one of the best sections of the trail, after reaching the top, there is a couple of km of fast downhill on double track, on one side is a steep cliff to the valley below, on the other are sweeping panoramic views of another valley and beyond. The ridge descends into forest, hugging the side of the hill where you can pick up some good speed around the winding trails.
From here there was a technical drop straight down the hill into the valley, no doubt more talented riders could handle this section with ease, I on the other had had to push some sections, unfortunately this is the only way off the ridge that I have found so far so in the future we plan to look for a better way down the ridge. Once in the valley we were surrounded by rubber plantations, lychee trees and a maze of dirt trails to navigate through. It was here that the first of our problems started with one of the derailleur’s getting caught by a tree branch and shearing clean off. 45 minutes later we managed to fix the bike by shortening the chain, fixing it in 6th gear and we bravely decided to continue despite being only 5km into the 25km ride.
The next section was relatively easy going, as we descended down another wide dirt trail and through the valley farm trails we hit the paved road which was a short 2km stretch to a turn off that lead back into a separate valley and onto another ridge. On the way we stopped for a break and chatted to a family taking care of their farm. It is a consistent theme seeing bemused locals in complete awe why people would be biking in 30+ degrees but everyone we come across is incredibly friendly and eager to talk to westerners, many of which recognize us from previous trips and enthusiastically greet us when we cross paths.
Cycling up the valley through more nice scenery we reached the treeline above the farms and had to hike through the long grass which seems to grow 1-2ft on each expedition to the area. It has come to the point of being impossible to ride and even walk through so future trips will likely avoid this section which is a shame because the views are amazing from the top. It was when we reached the top that we found out the derailleur repair job had now failed and so we had to have a 2nd attempt of fixing. This involved strapping a piece of wood to the stay, to stop the chain slipping down the cassette teeth and falling off. Not exactly precision engineering but it worked for another few km.
From here, things went from bad to worse, we followed a familiar trail to a crossroads and knowing we had to turn left, we thought we would check out the new trail to the right and after 500m, somehow 2 spokes broke on one of the bikes and the tubeless tyre blew. Another 30 minutes were spent sitting in the jungle making another fix but we were soon on our way. The trail became narrower and narrower until we could barely see the trail and it was here derailleur number 2 decided to break, disintegrating before our eyes, and so again, another 30 minutes went by as we took it apart to bend back into shape to fit back on. Our fix seemed to work though and we continued slowly making up the trail as we went until the jungle was impossibly dense and our progress ground to a halt.
We took the difficult decision to turn back and fight our way back to the crossroads and go the more familiar route. By now, water was low, we were exhausted and 2 of the bikes needing some TLC but with little choice we trudged back. Once back on the ridge there was some more hiking required through 6ft long grass back to a trail which eventually looped back to the farms after the first ridge. This was another great downhill so with a lot of trail maintenance this could be another great MTB trail.
As we continued to descend down the trail we thought we were on the home stretch, however it was not the end of our troubles as the 2nd derailleur decided to completely snap off and a 2nd puncture finished the ride. Not only that, but the first derailleur fix failed again and so 2 bikes were unridable with 2-3km to go to get to the cars. Luckily though the locals came to our rescue and gave the 2 guys a lift to the cars, leaving myself and my fellow rider with a working bike to cycle uphill to finish the ride. By the end we were absolutely exhausted but it was another fantastic albeit challenging ride.