Best Roads in Asia to Ride

As a cyclist living in Asia, I have tried finding places that are great for biking and at the same time allows me to explore new places. As we start 2016, I’m super keen to explore the best cycling locations in Asia. Luckily, many of the events on the calendar take in some of the most gorgeous and challenging the region has to offer

In way, I’m lucky, I’ve travelled to almost all the countries of Asia and gotten a taste of the cities, culture, people and food. I’ve lived in India, Cambodia and now Singapore. While spending huge amounts of time in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. My re-connection with my love for cycling means I have an entirely new lense to view the world through.

I wanted to build a list of the best roads, and/or locations to go riding. It would be easy to evaluate a location purely through my desire to do epic climbs, to long twisting roads on the road bike. But instead I’ve chosen to try and include a broad array of experiences. Like the time Natasha (now my wife) and I rode from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai on Mountain Bikes, stay in local villages and witnessing rural life.

So he is my attempt at a list, of course of you have anything you want to include, be sure to add them in the comments at the bottom:

1. Cambodia

To see the real Cambodia, it is encouraged that cyclists take back and off roads to experience the country side. One of the most popular places is by the Mekong river. The best time to cycle is in January and February when temperatures are ideal.

kirirom20national20park
Kirirom Hillside Climb. Source: Tourism Cambodia

While there are places you can rent bikes, it is better to bring your own equipment since some safety gears and other cycling equipment may be hard to find. When I lived their we spent most of our time on dirt bikes, powering through jungle trails and rice fields. But some of my favourite rides include riding from Phnom Penh up to the top of Kirirom in the country’s west.

2. Vietnam

A lot of more hardcore cyclists have been taking up the challenge of biking from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh city. Since Vietnam has a biking culture, it’s easy to find bicycles for sale in major cities and rural villages alike. Street bikes are cheaper and you can get a good deal as long as you know how to bargain.

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Photo from Vietnam Coracle

Many admit the roads can be harsh, but everyone agrees that the view by Ho Chi Minh city’s highway is breathtaking is a highlight of their trip. A trip made famous by the the team at Top Gear, when they rode the route in 2012 on motor bikes. With Sapa in the countries’ North West providing some epic trails to explore.

3. Thailand

A cycling trip in Thailand is the best way to explore this country. There are different popular routes like Bangkok to Phuket, or riding by the coastal lines. But the mostly rode through by cyclists is by Northern Thailand. This mountainside area lets you enjoy the jungle, see different peaceful villages, and experience a different culture with the locals.

The northern region is also well known for is four day cycling event, the Chiang Mai Masters. An event on my list of ‘to dos’ for later this year. The island of Phuket is also scattered with amazing routes that feature in bike races and triathlons.

master_tour_of_chiang_mai_2-1024x576
Masters of Chiang Mai, photo by Cyclismo Master

4. Laos

While Laos has hilly terrains and long remote routes, there isn’t much traffic or crowd that you might experience in Thailand or Vietnam. The road from Vientiane to Luang Prabang has been on my bucket list since visiting the country in 2008.

Laos is lost in time, kind of like what Cambodia and Vietnam would have been back in the 1970’s. The simplicity of the landscape and lifestyle, captivates backpackers from all over the world.

vietnam-indochina-adventure-ural-and-mountain-road-xl
Photo by MotoQuest

5. Japan

A must see and must ride route in Japan is the circuit of Japan’s highest and most sacred mountain, Mt. Fuji. Aside from the perfect cone-like view of the mountain, you can see lakes and pass by shrines within the area that will add up to your experience. While I’ve been to Japan many times with the desire to ride, I haven’t gotten much further that Yokohama from Tokyo.

I’d love to hear people’s recommendations for epic rides in Japan.

Mt._Fuji,_enhanced
Photo by DoctorJoeE

6. South Korea

Any cyclist that has been to South Korea will tell you that the island of Jeju is a must for biking. With its smooth tracks that run for 182 kilometers, it also makes you relax and appreciate the experience with nature all around you. These gorgeous country remains beyond my radar for now, but keeps my curiosity.

Hallasan_2

7. India

If you’re up to the challenge of long, hilly and enduring roads, India is for you. A good cycle trip would be Goa, taking up from beach to beach. It’s a leisurely lifestyle route that is more about the stunning culture, food and beaches, than about the cycling.

Colvá_beach
Photo by Portugal Editor Exploration

 

8. Taiwan

“Kaohsiung is the most bike-friendly city in Taiwan.” That’s been one of the city government’s favorite lines for the past two years and it might actually true. It is, by area, the largest city in Taiwan, and lot of people visit the city not just for cycling, but also for tourist attractions such as different historical sites, museums, and even the abundant coral reefs along the city’s harbour.

Not only is the city ideal for getting around on a bike. But the country also plays hosts to some of the most epic events of the region. At the top of the wish list is Taiwan’s KOM (king of Mountain) event. This epic climb is reached by heading down the No# 8 Highway, linking to the 14A highway through to the peaceful coastal city of Hualien. From there the road snakes up through the beautiful Taroko Gorge to the peak of HeHuan, taking the cyclist from 0 meters, right by the Pacific Ocean, up to 3,275 meters.

Taiwan KOM Challenge from the beach to the thin-air altitude of Mt. Hehuan, 3275 metres above sea level
Image from CyclingTips

10. China

Beijing, considered Asia’s first city of cycling, may be filled with lots of cars now, but is still one of the best cycling city in Asia.Bike lanes are everywhere, and even small bike shops that offer service and repair can be easily found.

Beyond the city, I haven’t had much chance to explore. Would love to hear recommendations.

Changan_Avenue_(4011960012)
Photo by Kentaro Iemoto

You can start exploring the city at the hutongs (ancient alley) near Yonghegong. These hutongs are surrounded by residences, letting history and culture sink in you while you ride.

How about you? Which places in Asia do you think are most conducive and enjoyable to ride at? Share it to me down below!

References:

http://www.cambodiacycling.com/Cycling-Tour.html

http://travel.cnn.com/explorations/play/asias-most-bike-friendly-cities-982373/

http://travelwireasia.com/2012/03/asia-cycling-destinations/

https://displayer.wordpress.com/2013/04/05/south-korea-the-best-cycling-destination-in-asia/

http://www.ampersandtravel.com/blog/2015/10-of-the-best-cycling-holiday-routes-in-asia/

http://www.wanderlust.co.uk/planatrip/inspire-me/lists/14-of-the-best-cycling-trips?page=all

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