Wednesday, 1 March 2006

The 10 Best Motorbike loops from Chiang Mai

For you?

Speed, skill and danger. What more could a man want?

Do you thrive on adventure? Do you love to be free? Do you like adrenalin rushes? Yeah? Well, biking around Northern Thailand could be just what the doctor ordered.

This mountainous area is overlaid with high-quality ribbons of tarmac. A million miles from the hellish dirt roads of Laos and Cambodia. Northern Thailand’s roads have been engineered to perfection – both encapsulating the sublime scenery and offering the rider an exhilarating experience.  I often wonder if a biker designed these roads? How else did these smooth asphalt surfaces end up undulating and twisting through remote regions of rainforest as elegantly as they do?

I moved to Chiang Mai in November 2013 and by April 2014 I’d done enough riding to put this article together. There's 13 (not 10) routes and one of them isn’t a loop (but that fact would’ve messed the title up). Anyway, enough preamble, here they are:

Name of loop
107, 1096, 1269, 108
Half day. Detour up Mon Jem.
Doi Saket/Mae Kuang Reservoir
1317, 118
Half day. Doi Saket Hot Springs. Maeung On Cave.
BuaTong waterfall
1001, 118
Take a boat across the Mae Kuang Reservoir.
Mae Wang
108, 1013, 1284, 1009
Full day. A few off road patches.
Doi Inthanon (not a loop)
108, 1009
100km up
100km back
Full day.
118, 1150, 1001
Full day.
118, 1252, 1157, 1039, 11
Full day.
1252 rough in parts
Doi Angkang
107, 1249, 1340, 1178,107
Full day.
Mae Ngat Reservoir detour.
Pai - Kalayaniwattana
107, 1095, 1265, 1349, 1269, 108
Full day.
40km off road.
Mae Hong Son - mini
107, 1095, 1263, 1088, 1192, 1009, 108
1 night. Mae Hong Song.
Mae Hong Son - full
107, 1095, 108
2 nights. Mae Hong Song, Mae Sariang.
Mae Sai
107, 1088, 1234, 1138, 1149, 1290, 1271, 1098, 1020, 1083, 1021, 1, 120, 118
2 nights. Chiang Saen, Chiang Kham.
11, 101, 1162, 1243, 1168, 1225, 1169, 1080, 1170, 1081(south), 1256, 1080, 1097, 1148, 1021, 120, 118
2 nights. Nan, Pong.

These are all fantastic routes but if I had to choose the best stretches: The 1148 going west from Song Khwae. The 120 just west of Phayao. The 1081 south of Pua to Bo Gluea. The 1149 near Mae Sai. The 108 just south of Mae Hong Son. The 1009 north of Chom Thong.  This is not to take anything away from the rest. They’re all good.

What do you need?

A motorbike (duh), petrol, map, helmet, jacket, jeans, trainers, sunglasses and a sense of adventure. That’s it!

What kind of bike?

I like Honda's reliability. I had a Phantom (200cc) for 3 years and went all over Thailand on it. A Phantom provides armchair comfort and is perfect for cruising.

It was quite emotional selling this bike as I'd had many fantastic adventures on it. We saw parts of Thailand few foreigners get to lay their eyes on.

I now ride a CBR250cc. With a top end of a ton (101mph/163kmh), thrilling acceleration from (0-60mph, 0-100kmh), great fuel economy and nimble handling it’s a great choice. There are bigger bikes out there but prices rise exponentially after this and the extra performance utility is marginal given the nature of riding here.

If you’re on holiday with money to burn and you’re going to be renting, then fill your boots. I’d probably go for a Kawasaki Er6n (650cc).

If you get bored of the North you could try this 7,500km trip I did from Phuket to Pattaya in Feb-Apr 2012. 

If you get bored of Thailand you could try this 11,000km trip I did from Bangkok to Chiang Mai in July-Oct 2013.

Wherever you end up going be sure to ride with the utmost care and attention. Despite quality roads, Thailand's driving standards are not what you may be used to.

Be good. Ride Safe.

Update. Bought a CBR500 in March 2018 and rode 7,000km around the edge of Thailand.


  1. Thanks, bud. Great info. Definitely will be doing those once i get around the north one more time.
    You know that south is quite good too. Roads that lead from Surathani, highway 401 to Kao Sok is mesmerising, driving from Phuket to Krabi, with all those karst formation is a must. Also, deep in the jungle, once you leave Naknom Si Thammarat, a few local roads that lead to a few waterfalls and long stretches of untouched wilderness. I've driven it in car, though. Still one can feel the nature, even from the back of the windshields.

  2. The South is good - I agree. I rode it all during three years in Trang and Phuket. Chumpon to Ranong to Phuket is good. Khao Sok is worth a trip. I used to love the 60km from Trang to Phattalung. Surat Thani to Don Sak is quality as well as the Trang to Phang Nga stretch. However, the North is better IMO. Keep striving!!


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