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A 'beast' for Bangkok bikers

Fat-tyred cyclists face their first serious challenge -- a purpose-built trail in Bang Khen



Bangkok's mountain bike enthusiasts who've been sitting behind the wheel for hours every weekend driving up to Khao Yai and back to indulge in their hobby, can now spend more time on the track and less on the road.

All they need do is head to the Club 11 Bike Club at the 11th Infantry Regiment in Bang Khen, which offers a mountain bike track with mounds, berms and slopes, even a fallen log or two.

"I'm hugely impressed by this course," says MR Thiratej Rajani, former creative director of advertising agency TBWA, who's been riding his Specialized S-works full-suspension mountain bike for more 15 years. "I've never found a single track in Bangkok until now.

"The first section of this course is a trail where I can really speed up, while the second section has plenty of banked curves."

MR Thiratej, who's now retired, comes here a few times a week, while Zeudthavee Kanchanapakapong of cable TV's "Bikefinder", uses the track to work out a few times a month.

"I like the difficulty level and excitement of this track. I've not come across any man-made track with as many mounds as Club 11. In essence, it consists of two tracks. The first is about using basic skills. When you reach the second track, technique comes into play. You need to know how to balance and brake because it's quite a dangerous zone with lots of mounds and a steep slope," says Zeudthavee.

"It is a course for the trail bike, a sort of mountain bike which has a good balance between efficiency and control. It's made for on-road and recreational off-road riding," says Attapon "Kate" Mokmon, who's in charge of the club. A former motocross enthusiast, he switched to a mountain bike four years ago. "But I couldn't find any mountain biking courses in Bangkok," he explains

The 3.4-kilometre bike trail at Club 11 was originally created for ATV (all-terrain vehicle) and off-roading events including motocross but failed to draw the anticipated crowds. Attapon spent two days surveying the overgrown zone before deciding it had the potential for a bike track. He cut some trees, mowed the grass and dug out the area. It is, he stresses, a semi-enduro course, not cross-country (XC).

"I remember the first time a group of mountain bikers used this track and persuaded me to try it too. It was an exciting experience and quite similar to motocross," says the 47-year-old landscape contractor. "Even today, there are times I'm amazed that a long-time motorcyclist and motocross fanatic like me was able to make the switch to riding a bike. But I am seeing many older motorcyclists turning to bikes too, so I guess I'm not the only one."

Skilled bikers use the track to work on their speed and prepare for competition events.

"A master sergeant first class in the Infantry Regiment covered the course in 7 minutes, 15 seconds during the last time-trial race, but he was beaten by a policeman who clocked 6 minutes. The average time here is 20 minutes because there are a lot of narrow bends."

The Club 11 bike trail is also pinning its hopes on another first: charging a fee. The cost, though, is reasonable, with an annual fee of Bt300 for membership and a trail cost of Bt50 for members and Bt100 for non-members. Club 11 currently has between 300 and 400 members ranging from teenagers to retirees.

"Before they apply, I do advise people to try it out. If they don't like it, they don't have to take membership. So far, most bikers have said they love the challenge of the banked curves, the mounds and the berms, which let them get airborne," says Attapon.

Many more people are becoming interested in biking, he notes, though the current trend is for fixed-gear bicycles.

"It's only a fashion and I don't think it will last. My idea is to encourage young fixed-gear bikers to try mountain bikes by cooperating with the Thai Health Promotion Foundation and bike dealers. Those youngsters could come here on their fixed-gear bikes and change to mountain bikes to ride on the track. It's good for their health, for the dealers' business and for the foundation to steer kids away from drugs," he says.

Attapon will not be renting out mountain bikes in the near future, though, explaining that their cost - more than Bt10,000 - makes such a business proposition prohibitive. He is, however, offering two advanced biking courses. They are divided into two phases and run over two days each. Both are priced at Bt2,000. The first phase covers six subjects including balancing and braking, while the second phase teaches the bunny hop and pickup. Thailand's two-time BMX champion in 2007 and 2008, Thasaporn Khaowsuwan, is responsible for outlining the courses.

Attapon is also preparing to produce his biking programme, "Suea Nong To", on True Visions 73 early next year in which he'll introduce a selection of the biking routes around the country.

"It will be different from other travel programmes. 'Suea Nong To' will offer advice on bike routes around Thailand together with instruction. There are a lot of bike routes city people don't know like Khao E-to in Prachin Buri," says Attapon, who also designed the track for the Hillside Hotel in Prachin Buri and is anticipating doing the same for Bonanza Khao Yai Hotel.

GEAR UP

<< The 11th Infantry Regiment is on Phaholyothin Road, between the Lak Si roundabout and Klong Bang Bua. Parking is available.

<< Call (02) 972 8857, (089) 452 3445 or visit Facebook/Club11BikeClub.

>> Discover more with The Nation's video at www.NationMultimedia.com and on the "Sunday Leisure The Nation" Facebook page.


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