Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Cycling in the dark in Barcelona (winter rides!)

Cycling in Barcelona at night might be an issue if you don't know the right places to ride.

Here we make some suggestions, in order you can cycle safely in the dark hours.

1) The best place to ride at night is the Formula 1 track in Montmeló town. Not away from the city, you can get it by train. The Formula 1 track is open just tuesdays and thursdays from 18,30 to 21,00. The track is not fully lighted, so you will need to have a good light. The length of the track is 5 km so you can make some loops and test yourself. The loop includes an couple of nice climbs.
A ticket for 1 day costs 5 euros. You have to bring your own bike.
More information here:

2) There is a bike lane along river Besos (from Sant Adrià del Besos to Montcada i Reixach) 7 km long which is lighted, also very safe, as there are no cars, just walkers, hikers, some skates and dogs (watch out with unleashed dogs). It is a very good and safe place to cycle in the dark in Barcelona.

3) There is a very nice road to cycle at night which we call "Dummidrome" (Tontódromo). It is the road between Cerdanyola del Vallès and Sant Cugat del Valles. Very easy to get from Barcelona. Wide road with 2 lanes every direction, fully lighted which is also a safe place to cycle at night around Barcelona. The route can be longer including the road to the University (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona). This road is used in the very popular Cerdanyola Duathlon, late march.

4) Since the new airport Terminal (T1) was opened, there is a large road from Barcelona to the airport which is also very good for cycling. 2-3 lanes each direction, totally safe. Open traffic but very scarce. To get that part, the best way is to go through the industrial area of Zona Franca.

These are my personal suggestions to cycle at night in and around Barcelona. Probably there are many other options, but these are the ones I would recommend.

Enjoy and keep safe!

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Thailand, a different world

Cycling in the Golden Triangle
Thailand has it all: good weather, cheap prices, ancient history, archeological runes, working and friendly people. It's not just about sun and beaches. We already have those in Spain. Thailand is a country plenty of mountains in the North, near Chiang Mai, with amazing climbs that every european cycloclimber would love.

I read in some australian magazine that Chiang Mai will become the asiatic Girona. Good weather guaranteed all year long, tough routes here and there, good roads, amazing landscapes. An ideal location for pro riders, specially in european winter when cold is at its most.

To reach Thailand we have 18 hours trip, including a quick stop in Moscow. Plus 6 hours time difference, you get 24 hours, 1 whole day and we got to Bangkok, Thailand capital.

I left Spain under cold January. Pure winter. When I got Bangkok it is 30 degrees. Back to summer. This is the best time to travel to Thailand, winter, dry season. From april to July this is summer, with hotter temperatures, and from August to November it is rainy season, when they get water for the whole year. Once in Bangkok, another flight to the north to get Chiang Mai, the second most crowded city in Thailand, after Bangkok with over 12 milions inhabitatnts.

Communications in Thailand are.. different. Motorbikes with 3 people, no helmet, the famous tuk-tuk.... Renting a car there is complicated because of the language (unintelligible road signals!) and permanent traffic jam. Traffic in Bangkok is absolutely chaotic, but in the north it is much better. The roads I rode were perfectly asphalted. Just be aware of riding on your left...

In Thailand, food is always present. There are countless street restaurants where you can eat by derisory prices a dish of rice vermicelli or bean noodles, with balls of meat or seafood, or the typical rice, basis of Thai cuisine. Even in the smallest towns there are places to eat, stalls where to buy fruit, chicken or pork kebabs, shops where you can buy bottled water (not even locals drink tap water). The only caution with food is that thai food is very hot and spicy!

Cycling in Thailand with Montefusco Cycling
I don't understand a word...
Buddah and the King are the most important things in Thailand. Buddism is the main religion in 95% of population and its motto is “Sanuk, Sabai y Saduak” meaning” Be happy, stay calm, be thankful for what life is offering you”. Driving in thai roads mean passing by huge Buddah statues and temples (wat) dedicated to. Entering a wat, which is always open to people, means remove your shoes and pray anytime of the day, no need to be sunday. Buddhist monks, dressed with skinheads and their skimpy dresses saffron coloured, are part of the urban and rural landscape across the country. As for the monarchy, the King of Thailand (Rama IX, Bhumibol Adulyadej) is revered by his people. He was proclaimed King in 1946, and today, with 82 years, and with a delicate health remains the great reference of a country honouring the monarchy and which does not allow the slightest disrespect to their King. Unfortunately, his son the Prince does not enjoy the same reputation as the King.

Thailand is a friendly country filled with smiling people. You don't feel threatened or unsafe never. It is a country that knows that depends on tourism and understands how to treat their visitors. You do not perceive an extreme poverty, perceive humble people, but with a good education. All children are uniformed, you see children from schools doing activities, visiting temples...

Everything I expected of a trip like this falls short against what I lived. I fell in love with the country and people. This time the bike was not the main purpose of the trip, it was just a way to know places that otherwise would have not been able to discover. Thanks to the bike I have reached hidden and remote places. There is no better way to know a country that upon a bicycle.

10 thai cycling climbs not to be missed

Doi Inthanon: The highest mountain in Thailand at 2565 mts. The king climb you must do when you travel to Northern Thailand. There is a yearly cyclosportive climbing up there in February. The steepest parts are at the end, it means that the 40 km climbing from Chom Tong become a real challenge, with 2250 elevation! A must for cycloclimbers. What are you waiting for?

Doi Suthep. A very famous climb beside Chiang Mai. In 11 kilometers you will reach 1535 mts height. If you hear about Doi Pui, this is a twin climb in the same mountain, very close one to the other.

Cycling in Thailand with Montefusco Cycling
Samoeng Forent
Doi Samoeng. This is a climb you can include in a spectacular 90 km loop from Chiang Mai. Absolutely recommendable. Solitaire roads, well surfaced, and amazing landscapes. Top is at 1,146 meters.
Roadcycling in Thailand
Doi Tung, great climb!
Doi Tung. 1389 mts height. The mountain of Doi Tung is an outcrop of impressive limestone rock that dominates the plains flooded by river Mekong, near Mae Sai. Doi Tung means “Flag summit”. 12,9 km to gain 552 mts, what means 4% average. Doi Tung is the summer residence of the King.

Cycling in Thailand with Montefusco Cycling
Phi Chi Fa: The finger pointing the sky
Phu Chi Fa. Literally, the finger pointing to the sky. A beautiful, very special place with a panoramic view you will not forget. Last kilometres are really tough, to get to the border with Laos. At the top you can see a tremendous drop on the neighboring country. 1442 mts height.
Doi Mae Salong. Very tough. A real challenge to get to the top. Highlight of this climb are 3'3 km at 12% average gradient! Former opium fields that dominated the area have become vast fields where tea is cultivated now. The city of Mae salong was founded by the Chinese army in 1962 and became the base of the exiled Chinese soldiers. Currently there is a temple at the top of the mountain.
Doi Chaang: Meaning Elephant mountain, because of the shape, looking like an elephant's head. This mountain is known for coffee plantations (Said to be the best coffee in the world? In Thailand?). For cycling, this is a climb 14,4 km long, average gradient 5%, total elevation 780 metros. The summit is at 1.288 mts.
Tha Ton. An impressive huge white Buddah dominates Tha Ton mountain. 3 km at 10% bring to the the top, where temple Wat Tha Ton is, with panoramic views over Chiang Rai and the surrounding areas. 
Mon Cham. Another interesting climb around Chiang Mai with 14 km at 6% average.
Doi Ang Khan. In the border with Burma, this is a climb in Chiang Mai province, 22 km long to reach 1928 mts height.