For a few years now I have been thinking about buying a bicycle. I used to ride them a lot when I was a kid but I have hardly done any riding since I have been in Thailand. In many ways, the area where I live in Samut Prakan is ideal for cycling as it is flat, much like the rest of Central Thailand. However, I guess what was putting me off the most was the danger involved in cycling. Most fatal road accidents involve motorcycles and as bicycles are lower down on the pecking order then it makes sense that bicycles are even more dangerous. Couple this with the heat and pollution, then that is enough to put anyone off from buying a bicycle here in Thailand.
My secondary problem was where to buy a bicycle that had a large frame that was strong enough for a big foreigner to sit on. Hypermarkets like Big C and Tesco Lotus certainly have a variety of bikes at good prices, however, with those you get what you pay for. They won’t last very long. When I first started thinking about it, there were only a few bicycle shops around that specialised in imported bicycles. However, they were all very expensive. I have never had any ambitions on being a serious cyclist so I didn’t really want to spend that much. It wasn’t until a friend bought a mountain bike for himself that I started to think again about buying a bicycle. By this time prices had gone down a lot.
In the past, if you could find a bicycle shop, then the chances are that they would only be selling cheap frames. But, times have changed as new shops are springing up everywhere with good quality bicycles. I eventually bought my bicycle at a shop neat BTS Udom Suk. There are about 3 or so in a row there so it was easy to compare models. This was back in May and since then a bicycle shop has opened here in Paknam around the corner from my house. A bicycle at say Big C would be about 3-5,000 Baht. A good mountain bike starts at from 10,000 Baht and can go up quite high. As I wasn’t sure at the time how much I would use it, I went for one that had a list price of 12,000 Baht and was reduced to 10,000 Baht. I haven’t regretted that decision.
To be honest, I wasn’t really sure how much I would be using my bicycle. I had a vague idea that I might sometimes ride it into town if I needed to buy something (it is normally a 15 minute walk). I was also thinking that I might take it in my car when I went off on a day trip. Realistically I thought I might use it maybe once a week. But, during the first two months I went for a ride every day after work. Having a bicycle opened up a whole new world for me. I live at the top of a lane that connects to Sukhumwit Road. There was never any reason for me to venture down this lane. But, with my bicycle I have discovered so much more. I have since explored other areas of my town that I have never been to in the 17 years that I have lived here. I’m still going out exploring now, but not every night as it has been raining a lot recently.
I love mapping, so I use an iPhone app called RunKeeper. This plots my random routes on a map so that when I get back I can take a look at satellite images to see if there are any alternatives routes I could explore or anything nearby that looks worth checking out. At the IT Mall at Fortune Tower I bought a holder for my iPhone that fixes onto the handlebars. I can tilt it up so that I can also take pictures like you can see on this blog. Other accessories that I have bought include a helmet (which actually came free with the bike), a pump, front and rear lights, a bicycle rack, and my latest purchase, a bag to fit on the rack. I bought it online here. This has been useful for taking my camera or when I go shopping. Now that I have my bike, I have been using my car less for local trips and have been saving money at the same time.
I haven’t done any big trips yet. Like I said, I am not a serious cyclist and I won’t be buying the skin tight clothes. I am sure everyone will be glad to hear that. But, I am a keen cyclist who goes out for pleasure and to explore. I have joined both of the recent Bangkok Car Free Day events. Cycling in Bangkok was much more enjoyable than I thought it would be. You can even take your bicycle on the sky train for free. We are in the middle of the rainy season at the moment, but I think come November I will consider doing a longer trip somewhere. Maybe even an overnighter. But, I am not exactly the fittest of people so I probably shouldn’t over do it! Anyway, over the coming months, I will post some of my experiences of cycling in Thailand here at thai-blogs.com.