Cycling in Bangkok: Not just for the insane
Tell someone that you plan to ride a bicycle in Bangkok and you’ll likely get a horrified gasp and a barrage of questions about your sanity.
Although it would be a stretch to call them safe, most roads in Bangkok -- save for the major ones, of course -- are surprisingly easy to bike on.
But what most surprises people is that there are actually some great areas and fantastic paths that will let you get some exercise while you see Bangkok up close and personal.
If you have that ol’ adventurous spirit, rent a bike and head out on your own to see what you can find.
If you're not keen to just get out onto the streets and pedal, here are several areas that are safe and popular with bicyclists.
Suan Rot Fai
Just five minutes' walk north of Chatuchak Market is the huge Suan Rot Fai -- Train Park -- where you can rent bicycles (most are pink) for 20-40 baht and ride to your heart’s content.
Lots of trees, grass and lakes make this a particularly relaxing place to get away for a few easy hours of pedaling.
This isn’t the perfect place to ride a bike -- there’s only one two-kilometer oval track around a huge pond -- but it’s right in the middle of Bangkok and is really easy to get to.
Bikes cost 40 baht per hour. Lots of kids and families here, so don’t go too fast.
Getting there: Access via Klong Toey pier
Most people who come to Phra Pradaeng the first time can’t believe they’re still in Bangkok.
A huge almost-island on the west side of the Chao Phraya River, it’s 90 percent mangrove swamp and veined with raised cement pathways that are perfect for riding, though can be a bit unnerving for first-timers.
Rent bikes at the pier for 40 baht and explore.
There’s a fighting fish gallery, a large park with paddle boats and a floating market that’s very busy on weekends.
11th Infantry Regiment
Getting there: Phahonyothin Road next to Bang Bua Canal
An army barracks doesn’t seem like a good place to ride your bike, but there’s a three-kilometer offroad track here that’s full of bumps, hills, trees, bridges and dirt pathways.
There is no formal bike hire operation, but there are sometimes a few spare ones sitting around. To be safe, best bring your own. The security guards will charge 30 baht to use the track.
Guided bike tours of Bangkok
If you’re hesitant to ride on your own, try a guided tour. There are plenty of companies in Bangkok that will take you on a trip through the hidden alleys and quiet backwaters of the city.
Leave the planning to them and enjoy the ride.
Amazing Bangkok Cyclist
Pioneers in exploring Bangkok by bike, ABC, as they’re known, has been finding new routes and leading tours since 1989.
Even longtime expats who have joined a ride say they’ve never seen some of the areas that ABC covers.
Founded in 2004, Grasshopper takes great pride in building routes from the ground up and finding new and unexplored corners and tracks in all parts of the city. Grasshopper also runs night rides and special tours for families with kids.
They’re active on the web too, using their website and Facebook page to keep future customers appraised of the often unpredictable situations that crop up in Thailand from time to time.
Follow Me Bike Tours
Started by two expats -- British and Dutch -- Follow Me specializes in bike tours in combination with a food tour group and a boat tour group, to make sure you get the most out of each ride.
They are another company with a blog that is regularly updated with the latest news out of Thailand, very useful these days considering how much is changing on a day-to-day basis.
Thailand Green Ride
This aptly-named company specializes in rides that take you right out of Bangkok and into the lush, green surrounding areas.
Giant Buddhist parks, sprawling rice fields and traditional canal living are all part-and-parcel of the tours, which are led by fun guides who take care of everything.
What do you do if biking in a big city just isn’t your bag? Bike in another part of Thailand, obviously.
All of the companies listed above run cycling tours in other parts of the country (and to Laos, Cambodia and other parts of the region); yet more bike tour companies are based in places like Chiang Mai, Ko Phang Nga and Prachuap Khiri Khan.
One of the better known bike touring companies, these guys offer everything from lazy rides through jungle scenery to epic Bangkok-Ho Chi Minh leg-burning adventures.
X-Biking Chiang Mai
Are you a badass? Do you like biking? Look no further.
X-Biking Chiang Mai offers some crazy downhill courses for mid-level riders to experienced adrenaline junkies. Check out the videos on their website for an idea of what you’d be getting into.
Krabi Eco Cycle
If you’re down in the tourist hot spot of Krabi and are sick of the tuk-tuks, touts and tailor shops, get out of town with these guys.
They can show you the best the area has to offer from short half-day rides to full-day endurance outings.
Tour de Thailand
Now in its ninth year, this annual bike ride is not for the faint of heart, but you won’t find a better cause.
Raising money for children’s charity Operation Smile is the main goal here, and every year participants take 28 days to ride 2,170kms from Chiang Mai to Phuket.