If you find yourself in northern Thailand, you really should ride a bike up Doi Inthanon, Thailand’s Everest. Why? Like Everest, because it is there. The view isn’t great, there isn’t a 3 star restaurant at the summit and you’re not even allowed to ride back down it, but the sense of achievement from conquering one of the three hardest climbs on the planet is surely worth every pedal stroke. At least I assume it is.
Chiang Mai in Thailand’s north is exactly where a group of riding mates and I found ourselves over the New Year break, in search of Kao Soi, local beverages and some world class bike riding. Climbing Doi Inthanon was a key feature of that final point. We’d spent weeks and months training hard, physically and mentally preparing the unrelenting gradients, motivated by the fear of this ride. Unfortunately all the long rides and hill repeats can’t prepare you for the form sapping, gut punching effects of the gastro that comes all too often with eating adventurously, or recklessly as it may have been. Or the equally devastating effects of having the back half of your bike eaten by a reckless driver in my case.
And so it was that two us were to experience Doi Inthanon from the van, well placed to witness our mates go to hell and back in the saddle. Capturing the ebbs and flows, the highs and lows of the day, immortalised forever in photograph and napkin sketch between us. The hardest day on the bike I never rode.