Over the past two years since the launch of this column, I've been lucky enough to ride, and write about, several bike routes in different parts of the Kingdom. Today I'll tell you about a new purpose-built single track which is now one of my favourites _ the Hin Lek Fai all-mountain trail.
A lot of people probably know already that Hin Lek Fai is the name of the hills that stand right on the west side of Hua Hin, the popular beach town. And if you have been a regular reader of this column you might know too that Hin Lek Fai is home to a number of challenging downhill trails. The new AM track is in the northern part of the hills and it is called so because it is best ridden on AM bikes, full-suspension rigs with 5.5-7 inches of travel front and rear.
Of course, you won't get arrested if you want to ride this trail on a lighter XC bike which makes the climbs a bit easier. But on such a bike, you will miss out big time because it won't allow you to enjoy the gnarly downhill sections to the fullest.
Like the other bike routes on Hin Lek Fai, this new trail was built by the same team of local mountain bikers led by Khun Ae, Thagoon Laokosakul, who runs a bike shop in the town. The major force for this project is Niyom, a French guy with a Thai name and a Thai wife. Niyom or Guillaume Salet lives near the trailhead and whenever he has free time he will head up the hills with a long-handle knife to cut the grass and make the hills rideable.
The first time I rode this new track was about a month ago. Back then it was not yet completed. I returned last Friday to find out both good and bad news. The good news is that the trail is now ready for the bike competition scheduled to take place there this weekend. The bad news was that the event has been cancelled due to lack of funding.
But let's forget about the race. At least we now have a great mountain bike trail that everyone can use. And that's what really matters.
The new track starts from an old rock quarry. The first part is a series of ascents, the last of which was pretty tough. After that you're already up on the hills and the winding trail takes you through different types of terrain from meadows and rock gardens to bamboo groves and shaded woods. There are a variety of natural obstacles to test your riding skills, plus banked turns and small jumps to spice things up. One thing to keep in mind is that most of the trail builders here are downhill riders and they would never miss an opportunity to add DH-like thrills here and there along the new AM course whenever possible.
This new addition on Hin Lek Fai, together with its existing DH trails, is bringing Hua Hin a step closer to becoming a mecca for mountain bikers. If there is strong and sincere support from the authorities I'm sure it won't be long until that becomes true.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or go to "Freewheel Bangkok" community page on Facebook.
Pongpet Mekloy is the Bangkok Post's travel editor and a mountain bike freak.