Downhill all the way

Trust me, there is no other group of trail builders in the Kingdom as active as those in Hua Hin. Led by Khun Ae (Thagoon Laokosakul) of Velo Hua Hin bike shop, they have managed to add four new downhill tracks on Khao Hin Lek Fai over the past few months.

Photos by Noom Wachirasettakul and Puwish Lenvaree

So far only one of them has been featured in this column: the Wall Ride trail (formerly called Sen Bon or Upper Trail, but that changed after the addition of the curved wooden wall and more trails further up the hill.)

Today let's take a look at another of the team's recent creations, the Thara Track.

Named after Samnak Song Phutharawat, one of the several wats at the foot of Hin Lek Fai Hill where the trail ends, this new track has sent at least two Hua Hin downhillers to the hospital since it was completed last December. Still, it is the local riders' favourite. Yes, the trail is that good!

Starting on the same peak as the Wall Ride trail but about 50m further up, on the other side of the road from the relay station of TV Channel 7, the Thara Track goes down the northeastern side of hill.

Of all of Hua Hin's DH trails, this one has the toughest starting point. As soon as your wheels begin to roll, you'll run into a steep descent with a thick slab of rock blocking the top part.

Unless you walk the bike down, there are two options: just ride over the rock or take the narrow path around it.

The second choice may look a lot safer but if you go too slow and lack a decent momentum, there is a good chance you will get stuck and fall. The first option, on the other hand, may initially seem scary but once you ignore the fear and just go for it, you'll realise it's a lot easier than it appears. Just make sure you don't hit the other projecting rocks as you zoom down the tricky slope.

After that the trail zigzags down the hillside covered with bamboo groves and deciduous forest. Along the way there are several challenging sections and obstacles, including a big gap jump right after a steep descent. To clear this 3m gap, the tip is to leave the brake levers alone as you shoot down the hill. The resulting speed will be more than enough to carry you all the way to the landing on the other side.

Well, that's what I was told by the local riders who tried in vain to encourage me to jump. But there is a chicken run around the scary obstacle and I felt no shame using it. Yes, this is the point where two riders flew into a boulder and were badly injured. One of them now has a shoulder that looks obviously out of shape because a tendon snapped.

Another highlight is the 30m-long rock face which dares you to descend at maximum speed and two jumps near the end of the trail within the grounds of the temple which the track is named after.

I asked the local riders whether the activity disturbs the monks and the answer was: "The abbot loves it. Often when he heard us coming through, he would come out to watch."

Khun Ae added with a laugh that sometimes the head monk even gave the riders advice. He would shout: "Approach the jump faster and pull the front a bit!"

No doubt the Hua Hin downhillers got approval from the abbot to ride though the temple grounds. They also got permission from the chief of the Forest Department's local fire protection unit to build trails on Khao Hin Lek Fai.

But there are more parties concerned. Last Wednesday, the riders went up the hill only to find that workers from the TV relay station were renovating the crumbling metal gate and were told that after it is finished the road will be closed and the peak will be off-limits to all outsiders, the riders included.

The final section of the road behind that gate leads to three DH trails, namely the Wall Ride, Thara and the Pineapple, which is the latest and the longest. It's a pity if they become forbidden.

Let's hope that there will be good news soon.

Well, see you here again next Thursday. Until then, if you have questions, news or biking insights you wish to share, please feel free to send an email to pongpetm@bangkokpost.co.th or go to "Freewheel Bangkok" community page on Facebook.

Pongpet Mekloy is the Bangkok Post's travel editor and a mountain bike freak.

THARA TRACK

GPS coordinates: N 12 33.550 E 99 56.080
Trail condition: Technical DH track.
Distance: No exact figure available but it’s definitely longer than the Wall Ride track which is 1.2km.
Getting there: From downtown Hua Hin follow Hua Hin Soi 88. At the big intersection right after the railway track, turn right and follow the road until you see the side road to Khao Hin Lek Fai’s lookout points. At a four-way intersection on the hill next to an open-air sepak takraw court, go left. The trail heads, and the gate, are further up that steep road.
Parking: At the trail there is just enough space for no more than two pickup trucks.
Food & drinks: There is no shop on the peak. Bring your own water, plenty of it.
What your family can enjoy while waiting: Leave them at the beach.
Accommodation: Hua Hin is one of the Kingdom’s top beach resorts. And there all kinds of hotels and resorts to choose from.
Local contact: Khun Ae, tel 089-201-7782.

About the author

columnist
Writer: Pongpet Mekloy
Position: Travel Editor