Sunday, October 6, 2013

Winter Mountain Bike Destinations

As fall rolls moves in on us in the Pacific Northwest many start thinking about the snow in the mountains and the upcoming ski and board season.  There are also those that love to ride year round and are preparing for the colder, wet weather.  There is a lot of fun to be had on muddy trails but as much as I love the Pacific Northwest riding in the winter.  I have a destination that offers great single track and warm weather.  Not only is the weather warm but the destination offers the perfect exotic travel that adds up to be a wonderful vacation.

So what where am I talking about?  Thailand. Yep it is a long way from the US and you might even have to take a bit of vacation tie from work.  But it is more than worth the effort to ride amazing single track.  We have created a better way of getting you on the trails.  It is not always easy landing on the other side of the world and get on the best single track mountain biking in the area.  That is where we come in.  Discovery Adventure Tours has all the connection you will need.  Working with local riders we have set up the ability to offer various packages to get you on the trail.  Our basic package is for 5 days of riding and includes your lodging.  We recognize this may not work for everyone and are open to setting up custom variations of time and lodging to find what fits your needs best.

So who is Discovery Adventure Tours or DAT for short?  Yep we are new on the block of offering bike tours, but we are not new to the adventure travel and  tour business.  We have been around for years as Discovery Sea Kayaks or DSK for short.  DSK has been recognized as one of the Best Outfitters on Earth by National Geographic.  So rest assured we have the experience to offer you a tour that will measure up to your standards.  The new name, Discovery Adventure Tours, was created to have a more sensible name for offering adventures other than kayaking.  The two guides that will be in Thailand will be myself, Jason and Colin.  Both Colin and I have years of experience guiding tours and riding bikes.  Colin's riding style is aggressive and fast.  Colin has been riding steep terrain in the Pacific Northwest for years and has developed all the skills needed for fast and rugged riding.  My riding style is a bit more cautious and not as fast paced. Though I have been riding mountain bikes for some time now.  Riding dual crown DH style bikes is newer to me and I like to choose what obstacles I attack. Between the two of us we can accommodate a range of skill levels on the trail.

How does this all come together?  Colin has been traveling and riding in Southeast Asia for years.  I am a recent convert to the trails in Thailand.  In our time traveling in the region we have developed relationships with local riders that we work with to offer well rounded experience.  Our local contacts will work with us to facilitate all our shuttle needs on the mountain plus provide a local guide for all rides.  The riding community in Chiang Mai is amazing and you will enjoy the opportunity to ride with the local shredders.

Should you bring your bike?  Realistically we do recommend bringing your bike.  For the type of trails we are riding it is best to be on a bike you know and feel comfortable on.  We also recommend a freeride to DH style mountain bike.  Suspension is key on the rough terrain we will be riding.  Some can get away with an all mountain style 6 inch travel bike but we feel to get the most out of the trails a bike with 8 inches of travel is best.  There are many ways to pack your bike for travel.  There are services that will box your bike and ship it for you.  If you are comfortable breaking your bike down. You can actually packing in your checked luggage.  We have had good luck using the Dakine Split Roller (100L).

We used the Dakine bag for the frame and most of the parts plus clothing.  We used a wheel box we picked up from a local bike shop from the wheels and miscellaneous tools.  The rest we carried on in our riding packs.  Yea it is a bit of work but if you watch your pack weight you can get around any extra charges.  
The last option for packing your bike is to check out a bike specific bag.  We are fans of the EVOC travel bag.
It is not the cheapest bag but if you plan on doing more travel with your bike it is a worth while investment. 

Traveling from the US we usually book air travel with Korean Air.  There are various airlines servicing Thailand but with Korean Air we are able to fly into Chiang Mai and the luggage allowance seems to be one of the better options.  It is a pretty long travel and I would recommend if you are coming over to try and plan on spending some time in the region. Make the long flight worth its while.    

If you have any questions about the guided service, travel or custom options.  Please email,

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Mountain Bike Tours Chiang Mai Thailand

So it has been awhile since I have been updating my Blog.  With Facebook, Google+ and whatever else there is out there I try and maintain for my business Discovery Sea Kayaks, it is hard to do much more.  But I decided I wanted to reopen the use of my Blog to inform readers on all kinds of news, events and even some of my business going's on.

I would like to start by introducing Discovery Adventure Tours or DAT as we call it around the shop.  DAT is a new business name that was developed to start diversifying the types of adventure tours we want to offer.  So Discovery Sea Kayak and DAT will be owned and operated by the same good folks, Richard Swanson and Jason Gunter. The new name just made sense to add other types of adventures.

The first project DAT is taking on is Downhill Mountain Bike Tours in northern Thailand.  We will be there this winter offering 5 day vacation packages for those looking to get out on steep terrain and get loose on their mountain bikes.

So how did this all come about?  Over the past couple of years I started riding my bike again.  I kind of dove in head first and can't get enough of it.  A good buddy of mine, Colin Blevins, was the right influence on me when it came to getting on the trails.  Colin is a long time island resident that spends a lot of his time on the go traveling around the world.  He has been leading trips in Asia for a long time. One day on the trail he mentioned he was going back to Thailand to ride.  The gears started turning in my head and told I was down to go if he didn't mind.  He was more than happy to have someone tag along.  So before I knew I had a plane ticket and excited to ride a new location.  Colin has long had a dream of running bike tours around the world.  It did not take me long to start seeing how this would be a great thing as well.  Though I concentrate my efforts sea kayaking off the coast of Washington state. The recent reemergence of mountain biking in my life gave me the perspective I needed to start DAT.  Colin has been brought in as the team leader and is working with me as an integral part of DAT Mountain Bike Project in Chiang Mai. It is a long term project and Colin will be in the foundation and every other step of the way.

If you are a mountain biker looking for steep terrain and want to get away from the winter in the US or Canada, this is the cure for you.  Check out the DAT site

Sunset Kayak Tour with Discovery Sea Kayaks

Earlier in the season I was able to spend some time on the water with videographer Chris West.  Today he sent me the video he developed from his time on the water with Discovery Sea Kayaks.  If you have never been to San Juan Island or have been here but not on a kayak tour.  You might want to check out the video. Some really great footage and images of town.  

Here is a fun still shot from the evening paddle.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Mountain Bike Chiang Mai Thailand

Last year I traveled with my good friend Colin Blevins to Chiang Mai Thailand.  We had one goal in mind, find fast and fun single track.  What we found was a thriving local bike community, great food and the single track we were hoping for.

Early in the year Colin and I started riding together frequently and Colin would mention the idea of heading back to Thailand to find more single track to ride.  Colin has been traveling in Thailand for the last several years and had a bit of experience with some of the trails. On many of our rides I would just toss out that I was in for the adventure myself.  Not sure if either one of us was taking me seriously.  Well my kayak season was nearing its end and it was time to make it happen or not.  I figured it out and bought a plane ticket. It felt a little head first since I have never flow anywhere with my bike before.  But Colin had a good plan and I was confident.

So we both purchased flights via Korean Air and we decided we wanted to try and take our bikes apart and pack them in our luggage and simply check them on the plane. With Korean Air we were allowed 2 checked bags and 2 carry on bags.  I opted for The North Face Rolling Thunder (Large) and Colin picked up a Dakine bag.  Both bags looked up to the challenge.  Our second checked parcel was a cardboard wheel box.  We completely disassembled our bikes and had no problem packing the frames in our bags.  The wheel boxes tuned into the holding tank for what ever parts we could pack into them without exceeding 50 pounds.  Lots of Gorilla Tape was used to secure the closure of the boxes.  Our bags with our frames were then packed with whatever clothing we thought we would need.  The bags actually had plenty of room.  Weight was the limiting factor.

After checking over the shared google doc spreadsheet we agreed we had everything we should need and maybe a bit more.  Once at the airport things went really smooth. Bags were pretty much right on the dot for weight and they were check in and ready to go.  It was nice to get that over with and know/hope they were on their way to Thailand.  All in all the travel to Chiang Mai went great.  We had great flights and no delays and arrive right on time.  On the ground we were happy to see our bags pop up on the conveyor belt.  Colin's girlfriend was already in Chiang Mai, as she was there working on new clothing designs for her business back in Friday Harbor, Wa.  She met us at the airport and had secured a room in the apartment building on the same floor as the room she and Colin were sharing.

This was the start of a month long trip to seek out fast single track. The first morning we built our bikes and went out for a bite to eat. Then it was time to hit the streets on bikes to ride out of town to Doi Suthep. Rising to around 1,676 meters (5498 feet), it was not hard to located where we needed to go.  We actually have a great view of the mountain from our apartment.  The street riding is an adventure in its own.  At first I was skeptical about jumping into what seemed a chaotic push of traffic with cars, trucks and motorbikes.  But once you make the move into the traffic it is amazingly less chaotic than it seems.  There is an unseen rhythm that you notice once you join the flow.  Finally we reached the base of the mountain and given the objective of the trip, finding steep single track, the plan was to hire a Song Tao (taxi truck) to drive us to the upper parts of the mountain.  This process in itself has some excitement.  But dealing with the drives day after day becomes a bit tiresome.  There never seems to be much of a consistent rate and wait times are variable.

The first trail we rode was the Bamboo Trail.  Yea I will admit I had no idea what I was in for and honestly the Bamboo Trail on day one kind of beat me down.  But it was a super fun single track ride though dense jungle to thick strands of bamboo.  The trail, looking back, is more all mountain style riding, which is right up my alley.  I was riding a 2010 Specialized Enduro Expert and Colin was on his Transition TR 250.  I have to say the TR 250 was more up to the challenge than the Enduro. So Day One was short and eye opening.

The days that followed we continued the routine of traffic ride out to the mountain.  Then the Song Tao hustle to get a ride up the mountain.  Along the way we met some other riders traveling the area. Then one day on the way out a guy pulls over ahead of us and asked if we were headed to the mountain.  We stopped and told him what we were up to and he was on his way to do the same.  He told us to ride to the park and his buddies were there and have their own shuttle setup for getting to the mountain.  We said sure and pedaled on.  Arriving at the park we were a bit surprised to see the rigs these guys were riding.  Everyone one had big bikes with dual crown forks.  We sat around and made some introductions and for a small fee for gas that everyone pitches in, we were on our way up the mountain.  First stop the Bamboo Trail and I was a bit intimidated by all the DH bikes and the amount of body armor everyone was putting on.  I remember asking Colin if we were all riding the same trails. Well these guys are local and know the trails very well.  So they were riding with speed I could only visualize and not achieve at the moment.  Plus the Bamboo Trail was just the mellow warm up for what was to come for the day.

The day was good and lots of new trails discovered thanks to our local hosts.  All the guys were great. Jay was the one who stopped us and the rest of the guys were super nice too.  Note was another great guy we met in the group and given I speak no Thai and he could speak English.  Well it was easy to get to know him.  He is a super friendly guy and we stay in touch today.  Actually we are going to be doing some work with Note in 2013, but more on that later.

So what does a day of riding looking like?  After reaching the top of the mountain we take steep descents through the jungle and end at small little village areas where there is always time for Thai Tea or some other yummy treat.  Then back to the shuttle and to the top of the mountain.  Another crazy fun and challenging run down the mountain and another village and time for lunch.  The process repeats till you cannot hold on to the bars anymore.

Trails are steep and some long.  Some of the longer trails were a good solid hour and a half of down. Trails are a mix of steep rock gardens, deep ruts that create plenty of hazards and the occasional slippery jungle mud.  Every second on the trail is exhilarating and challenging.  Ending the day walking the city streets and finding amazing places to eat.  Then back to the apartment for late night beer on the balcony listening to the bustle of the city.

From exploring steeps in the jungle to traversing the city on foot. This is a trip of a lifetime.  Great people and great riding.  I was there for a month and was not ready to leave when my time was up. Though I had good reason to get home and take care of some personal events.  I was still sad to leave the city.  Yea I was leaving a bit beat up from one of many crashes on the trail, but yet a bit wiser and faster on the bike.  The trade off seems worth it.

The news today.  Spending a decade operating a successful kayak guiding service on San Juan Island in Washington state, Discovery Sea Kayaks. I have decided to give mountain biking a try. Its a perfect complement to the kayak season.  My summers spent operating Discovery Sea Kayaks and winter in Thailand.  So I launched Discovery Adventure Tours (DAT).  My business partner Richard was super excited and supportive of the concept so its officially moving forward.  Colin Blevins is being brought in at the ground building level of DAT.  Colin brings his savvy travel knowledge of Southeast Asia, expert bike skills and over all great attitude to the team.  We are very excited about the project and hope that we can generate a small amount of energy and get people on the trails.  We are working closely with our local friend Note.  Note will be a big part of making things come together and we are excited to all be working together.  The new DAT site will launch in the next couple of weeks.  So if your interested give me a call at my Discovery Sea Kayaks office, 360.378.2559.  We have dates starting early as November.