Koh Chang by Bicycle
Everyone seems to be at it. The worldwide growth in cycling is a huge phenomenon driven by a combination of environmental concerns and recognition of the health benefits of riding a bike. Oh, and remember that it’s great fun too.
The number of cyclists on Koh Chang’s roads increases year by year and consists of both residents and visitors.
There is an ever-growing pedal-pushing community amongst Koh Chang’s resident population. Some of these are early birds who hit the roads just after dawn to appreciate the empty roads and (comparatively) cool air of the Koh Chang morning. Then there are the maverick mid-day marauders who show no fear of the sun and even dare to tackle the fiercest hills of Koh Chang in punishing noon temperatures. Unsurprisingly there are no Thai cyclists in this group. And finally there is a sunset club who hit the roads as both the sun and the temperature drop.
Add to these the growing number of visitors who hire a bike for a day or longer recognising that it is a great way to exploring the island. And then finally there are the hard core of travellers who are touring Thailand or even Southeast Asia by bicycle. These guys are easily identified by the ingenious panniers, packs and even trailers that adorn their steeds and also by their extreme fitness and sun-darkened, absurdly muscled legs.
So what does Koh Chang have to offer the cyclist? Well, hills, that’s for sure. A description of cycling conditions on Koh Chang is best divided between the East and West coasts.
On the West Coast of the island there are ferocious hills between White Sand Beach and Klong Son, between Kai Bae and Lonely Beach and between Bailan Beach and Bang Bao. These sharp winding climbs can be brutal on unseasoned legs. They are achievable on the generous gearing of a mountain bike but present a real challenge to the road bike rider. Then again you can always push. And the descents are a great mixture of scary and exciting. In between these hills the roads that pass through the island’s main tourist centres are largely flat.
The East Coast presents rather less challenging cycling conditions. The road is far less busy and all the way from the ferry ports in the Northeast to Salak Phet in the far Southeast the road rolls for 35km over a series of gentle hills that offer an extremely pleasant ride.
Wouldn’t it be marvellous if someone saw fit to connect the east and west coast roads in the south of Koh Chang and then people could cycle the full circuit of the island? Of course it would but don’t hold your breath. It is discussed from time to time but seems to still be a long way from happening.
There are a growing number of places that rent decent cycles on Koh Chang. These are fine for casual rides but serious cyclists might want to think about bringing their own bikes.
And of course – like everywhere – there are hazards and dangers on the roads of Koh Chang that cyclists should be aware of.
In the high season the roads can get very busy – especially on the West Coast. Beware of motorbikes which are often driven by people with very little experience of driving motorbikes. Oncoming vehicles will sometimes overtake in the expectation that you’ll get out of their way onto the hard shoulder at the side of the road. Do so. Might is right on the roads of Thailand so be sure to cycle defensively and safely. Remember to drink plenty of water, or even better isotonic drinks will keep you hydrated. And remember that the sun is just waiting to toast you to a crisp. Be sure to cover up and/or use a high factor sun cream.
But most of all enjoy your experience of viewing the delights of the island and cycle Koh Chang in your own time and under your own power from the seat of a bicycle.