Blog on Samui Cycling by Steven Christopher
23 September 2017
5 reasons to cycle on Samui
- Great new road surfaces
- Mostly flat with optional hills if you want a tougher workout
- Not too hot and not too busy if you go early in the morning
- Several bike shops now available with the right kit
- Some wonderful loops with ideal distances (30-70km)
Samui has arrived as a destination for cycling fans.
I have been coming to Samui for years. I rarely miss the chance to get on my bike at the weekend in Europe but I wouldn't even throw my cycle shorts into the packing for Thailand: "too hot, bad roads, crazy traffic, wild dogs, no bikes", I told myself.
But how things have changed.
Claire, my partner, is a keen cyclist, and she discovered cycling on Samui last year. She has been evangelical and finally persuaded me to join her on our last stay.
I set out around 6.30am for my first round-the-island ride. All my assumptions and concerns were quickly replaced with the surprise (and pleasure) of a fantastic few hours of fitness, fun and site-seeing.
Since the island gained status as a separate province a few years ago (and gained control of its own infrastructure), the most visible change is the new, velvet smooth, ring-road which skirts the island. Many of the lesser roads which meander off the ring road have also been upgraded.
Cycling is an increasingly popular sport in Thailand at the moment; there are plans to build a 20km cycle track near Bangkok, most shopping malls have make-shift stalls selling kit and, out on the roads, you will be greeted with camaraderie and lots of "sawadee kap"s from local riders enjoying their new sport.
The round-the-island routes are great distances
We did 4 rides over our 8 days at the View in Samui: 3 of the routes took us around the island. With distances of 55km, 63km and 68km, the main route is along the ring-road and then we picked different corners and coasts to poke into for detours. On our final excursion, we carved a route of 40km around the South West of the island, exploring the coastal area below the View.
The high point for us was the Sunday of our stay. Sunday is a good day to cycle on Samui (the traffic is always light for the first few hours if you set off at 6.00am to 6.30 but it seems particularly light on a Sunday).
There will be more and more race events for all levels of ability
On our Sunday, the locals were running a "trial" cycling event. The island will soon be staging races on the professional circuit and they wanted the local cycle clubs to help the police prepare with a live test.
What a morning ! We didn't know about the event and accidentally set off along the same route 30 minutes before their start time. It felt as if the main artery of Samui traffic had been turned into a one-way road (going our way) for own personal enjoyment.
We felt like royalty; people lined the road and were cheering us and handing out water bottles.
A race car glided past at 45 minutes and then, shortly after, the lead peleton pulled alongside us. That was exciting enough but then the race leader greeted me personally with a "Hello Khun Steven" ! We knew that Khun Krit (the landscape architect at the Headland) was a keen cyclist but we didn't know he was that good!
Thing took another twist when I then lost Claire into the race for a while. She is a stronger cyclist than me and she joined the lead peleton for the next few kilometers until we finally turned off for the side road down to Taling Ngam and the View.
We won't get the traffic running as smoothly as that on every ride but it was a great experience and the police were very supportive of the cyclists. I would love to return and race properly in either a bike race or the annual triathlon.
It is worth trying
If you enjoy cycling, I would strongly recommend bringing your shorts to Samui and having a go.
The villa can arrange rental bikes for you and there are routes to suit all levels (from just poddling around the fishing villages around the villa to a 60km round the island ride). The villa has pumps, tools and some helmets, gloves etc but this can easily be rented if we don't have your size.
Top tips for cycling in Samui:
- Start early - it makes all the difference to go out when the sun is low, the traffic is light and the island is waking up
- Go round the island clockwise. Anticlockwise is fine for a change but watch out for the storm water grates on the road in Bo Phut, where there is a run of 3 or 4 grates which run the same way as the road and could catch your tyres if you are not paying attention.
Stopping off along the way
There is no shortage of places to stop for coffee or water along the way (even with an early start) and plenty of opportunities to stop for drop dead views. We stopped at "Merit" health spa on the way out of Chaweng (see photo). This is a new yoga and health retreat which offered fantastic coffee and juices though its pricing was a little more Kensington than Samui
Starting the day with a chunky bike ride is a great way to feel part of the island and to soak up the local activiity as you glide through the villages all waking up. And once you're back at the villa for breakfast by 9, you have no urge (or reason) to leave the villa for the rest of the day!
Suggestions for bike rental and equipment on Samui:
- Samui Bicycle Tours
- The Cycling Samui Facebook page
- Mr.Gaaw Bike shop Nathorn tel.081-187-1414
- And if you are staying at the View, we have some equipment available for guests
Blog on Ninja Warrior by Steven Christopher
29 August 2017
Full disclosure: we have now seen the Ninja Warrior centre on Samui but have not tackled the actual obstacle course yet. Reason ? It looks way to tough !
Claire and I spotted this while cycling recently.
The obstacle course and activity centre is set up the hillside next to where the lovely 9 hole golf course has nestled into the hills for as long as I can remember.
This looks like a challenge very much aiming for fit young men in a holiday group and it pulls no punches at all.
Our young teenagers watch the televised bouts of Ninja Warrior and confirm that the course on Samui looks every bit the same size and toughness as the official competition course.
Certainly up close it looks very daunting.
This looks like a perfect challenge for our older son (17 years old and an avid rugby player) and tailor made to give him and his friends a talking point on their next trip to Samui.
I am sad to say that, the only challenging activity on that hillside which I am likely to be taking on are the nine holds of the golf course, I will leave the Ninja Warrioring and Zorbing to the younger crew.
I will report as soon as I've seen anyone take the callenge and would love to hear from anyone else who's seen it in action.