Monday, April 02, 2007

Chonburi - Tam Pratoon Enduro Trail

... short and very very sweet ...

If there ever was a trail that you could consider plain ole meat and potatoes, then this would have to be it. The complete circuit measures just 4.0 kilometers and there are no frills to it. No long windup to get there, no boring flat sections, no nothing - just one long stretch of uphill climb and one long stretch of brisk downhill.

Location: Khao Mai Gaew Reservoir, Banglamung, Chonburi

Trail Length: 4.0 kilometers

Jump-off Point:
Small trail opening beside the parking lot. The entry point for the Enduro trail is the same place as the exit point of the mtb trail. Huh?! Yup. You have to backtrack a bit to get to a fork which leads to the motocross playground.

The Trail:
First of all, this is an Enduro motocross trail and is not an mtb singletrack. We are just sneaking out to play in this playground, so watch out when the boys with the big bikes are coming to play.

Although there is really no choice in this, it is best to give way and to stay on the sides when the motorbikes are coming. Leave your Ipods behind as the only way you can tell they are coming at you is via the high revving sounds from their rides. If you are plugged in to your favorite music, you may not hear them coming. With the thick grasses and underbrush, they may not see you soon enough and this could spell trouble.

Also, if on the day you come, there are many enduro riders, then I suggest you choose the usual mtb trails until the trail is once more empty.

As soon as you cross the tree line, you will immediately feel the uphill slant. You need to backtrack a little on the normal route for about 50 meters and you will see a fork. Try to watch out for yellow triangles tacked to trees giving clear direction. The arrow signs clearly say "Enduro Trail", but its all written in Thai though.

Its just climbing from hereon. Consider it a paradise for gritty XC riders who love to climb. The trail twists and turns, but continually ascends. The pain goes on for a little more than a kilometer.

Great looking rock formations litter the trail. These are just perfect for taking pictures. For some of us unfit creatures -- nice flat places to rest weary butts.

You will know it when you summit.

Big tree with a big white sign "Khao Mai Khaew Enduro Trail" is right there at the top and you will see (ugh!) big rocks spray painted all over. Not condoning this, I was thinking that these Enduro riders with their big bikes still feel a need to announce to others that they had been there. Wow. Their bikes are loud enough as it is. Anyway.

I just gave it a few seconds and licked my lips. Reaching the summit mean only one thing, time to go down -- slurp. Time for the downhill boys to have fun.

And lots of fun I did have. The downhill sections are steep, twisty and fast. The trail is clean and clear of obstacles so you could really let it rip.

The trail is a bit more difficult compared to an mtb trail in that there are deep ruts filled with loose topsoil. This is clearly a result of those powerful enduro motorbikes with wide heavy lugged tires which really dig deep into the dirt. The trail is filled with dust and loose soil. I would hate riding on this trail during the rainy season. Think lots and lots of mud pits.

With narrower tires and smaller tread patterns, mountain bikes have a harder time moving through the trail. The loose soil makes steering on corners very very tricky. I found that I had to make the use of berms on corners to help me get quickly through the curves. Therefore, take note, bring fat offroad tires.

Of course you know that high speeds and loose corners always equals bike crash. So be careful, always control your descent and keep low.

I did find myself skidding down at a number of times. Even slight feather-like touches on the rear brakes did not prevent the rear tire from skidding. And pressing the front brakes is definitely out of the question. The section is steep enough that I was always on the brink of going over the bars. I had to totally let the front wheels go free. All I could do was balance the bike while allowing the rear brake to skid and check my momentum.

Still it was a lot of fun!

Fitness Level:
The only hard work in this trail is to rise to the summit. After that, its all downhill. Leg strength is important as there are some really steep climbs.

For those guys who want a challenge, you will love this trail. Both the uphill and downhill sections are technically challenging.

Climbs are really steep and seem never ending. Stay poised and focused for the constant grind. I was happy that my granny gear had 34 teeth and helped me a lot. My buddy FullOption had a smaller granny and he had to hammer through. He has more powerful legs though and one of the rare few who relishes climbing.

The downhill part is as steep and as tough. Technically difficult as there are many deep ruts and loose soil. Those who love descending should have no complaints. Enough challenges here to please everyone.

Fat chunky tires are the order of the day, especially tread patterns for dry, loose conditions. Semi-slick tires will not cut it.

A good all-around bike will be best for this trail, as it is equal parts climb and descent. My bike had 130mm front fork which was good on the downhill parts, but was a bit tool long for the climb sections. My front wheels kept on leaving the ground especially when I hammer it out. I had to stay relaxed and maintain a steady pace.

How to Get There:
If you are coming from Bangkok, take the Motorway (Rd.7) and follow this until you reach Kratinglai Junction, which is the huge cloverleaf splitting the road heading to Pattaya and to Rayong. Take the left turn to Rayong (Rd.36) and begin to slow down. About 1.5km from the junction, turn left Rd.3240. Road markers to watch out for, a Caltex gas station and a shell gas station. If you see these points, then you are just a few seconds away from Rd.3240.

Travel about 6km into Rd.3240, and you will arrive at a small country road with a big colorful sign beside it. The sign has pictures of sports activities like jogging, biking, ... (If you arrive at a 4-way intersection with traffic lights, you'd have missed it and need to backtrack now. Dont lose your cool now, just make a U-turn on the PTT gas station. Its 900 meters from the intersection, but now its on your right side).

Turn left into the country road and about 500 meters, you will arrive at a big garden and a parking lot beside a medium sized reservoir. Make a sigh of relief and get ready to have fun!

If you think you've seen these directions before, maybe you have. I just copied and pasted the whole text from my previous blog on TPT. [link]


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