Bikers brave the rough stuff
Mountain bikers gather at one of Thailandâ€™s most scenic dams for a series of races and fun activities.
Bumping over rough trails is not everyoneâ€™s idea of having fun, but medical science appears to support the idea that riding your mountain bike over a boulder-strewn course is actually good for building bone density.
If you need an excuse to join the sixth Bhumibol Dam International Mountain Bike Championship, 29 to 30 August, that might be it. But it is more likely to be that the venue, for this fun event, is the scenic Bhumibol Dam, surrounded by forest-covered hills, in Sam Ngao district, Tak province.
This weekend of fun rides and serious competition is a firm fixture in Thailandâ€™s annual sports events calendar. It is remarkably popular because it focuses on mountain bikes as opposed to the majority of cycle-related events that are either a triathlon with competitors using triathlon or time-trial bikes, or the tradition road races that favour super light road bikes.
Most leisure cyclists own a mountain bike so here is an opportunity to take the family on an interesting trip to Tak province, a destination that has a reputation for serving up superb soft-adventure options as well as a famous dam where you can relax and enjoy nature.
Backing the event are the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand, Tourism Authority of Thailand and the Sports Authority of Thailand. Created to promote an interest in outdoor sports and also encourage ecotourism at both national and international levels, the races underscore the beauty of a province that is not on the main tourist trail.
For many mountain bikers and their families this is the highlight of the year, a reunion of friends from both Thailand and overseas, who share a passion for mountain bikes.Â Participants of all ages gather at the starting line on the crest of the spectacular Bhumibol Dam for two days of fun activities and serious races.
This very scenic location provides a variety of race routes that will both challenge the semi-pro mountain bike racers and also please recreational riders.
It is really up the participants as to how far they wish to push their bikes and bodies. If they want the thrill of descending steep slopes through jungle terrain, or the steady pace of a trail over rolling hills that border the reservoir, the organisers have a choice of categories to deliver the right experience.
There are six categories to choose from :
- Long distance 60 km;
- family 16 km
- tour biking 10 km
- cyclo-cross on the dam’s crest, five km.
- international race 39 km.
- amateur 24 km.Just to ensure all the hard physical activity is balanced with lots of fun, the organisers encourage visitors and participants to display vintage two wheelers in an â€œancient bike contestâ€. The line up is impressive with some participants showing off bikes that have serious historical value, while others are more exotic, possibly bordering on weird.Â Â On the sidelines, folk music bands entertain to create a family atmosphere, while there are even handicraft stalls supplied by shops under the One Tambon, One Product project, a national initiative to support village handicrafts.To round off the fun, bike shops attend to sell equipment at discount prices.Â All this is part of a healthy experience for biking enthusiasts, who usually discover that they need to make just one more purchase to round off the beauty, or technical excellence, of their prized bikes.
Bhumibol Dam is located in Tak province, 426 km north of Bangkok, just off Highway 1.
The race site, at the crest of the dam, is 60 km north of Tak provincial town, where most of the hotel accommodation is located.