A Thai Strada adventure

IT is a well-known fact that Thailand, our neighbour to the north, is a hugely popular destination amongst many Malaysian bikers. Given its rich sights and tourist-friendly cities, many opt to ride cruisers and go on a sight-seeing sort of ride across the kingdom. However, there are the brave few who opt to take up a more challenging path across the country as how the recent Ducati Strada 1000 Corners Adventure did.

The group, comprised of 17 bikes from the Ducati Club of Malaysia (DCM) recently charted across the country on a slightly different path. As the ride's name suggests, the trip's ultimate objective was to take its riders on a quest to conquer the country's fabled '1000 Corners' route in the northern region towards the tourist haven of Chiang Mai, followed by a ride further up towards the picturesque Golden Triangle region before heading back South towards Malaysia.

By the time the trip from Kuala Lumpur to Thailand and back was complete, the group would have covered a distance of more than 7,000km in a span of 11 days. Suffice to say, things looked pretty optimistic with little mechanical gremlins to deal with. The 17-strong group was made up mostly of Ducati Multistrada owners, perhaps the most fitting of models in the Ducati model range suited for the task. The only exceptions here were two Diavel cruisers, and two brand new Hyperstrada models – one fielded by Ducati's Malaysian principal and the other from its Thai counterparts.

The ride from the Bangkok's outskirts to the city of Tak on Day 3 of the adventure was a relative breeze, charting across several seemingly endless straights on Thailand's major highway network. However, the pace – as well as the risks – was raised drastically on day four as the group geared up to conquer the infamous 1000 Corners route from Tak to the backpacker's hotspot known as Mae Hong Son.

As its name suggest, the route is comprised of a seemingly endless series of corners and turns connected consecutively, snaking itself across a hill valley with several drastically challenging elevation changes along the way. In fact, the route's name is a true understatement of its own reality, especially after knowing the fact that the route actually has 1,864 corners in total. And that includes long sweepers, tight uphill hairpins, and an unpredictable stream of lefts and rights.

Many bikers have charted this path, and many have successfully done so, but inevitably some don't, often ending in disaster. We have heard many horror stories of bikers crashing on this route mostly due to a brief loss of focus inevitably caused by fatigue.

The 1000 Corners route's total distance may be just several hundred kilometres in total, but, depending on the pace and the number of stops, the ride takes at least eight to 10 hours to complete – literally, almost the entire daylight in a day.

For many bikers and motorcycle enthusiasts alike in the region, this is one route they must ride at least once in their lifetime of biking, and is considered by many as the ultimate baptism of fire in terms of riding a bike in the Southeast Asian region.

Fortunately, all of this group's 17 riders and bikes safely and successfully conquered the route, having only one small incident involving a fallen Multistrada. Fortunately, the rider came out only with a scratch, as well as a broken pannier mount, but that was easily fixed by the group's ride-along mechanic and things got going again quickly.

After a full-day's worth of riding, the group's immensely exhausted facial expressions and emotions was clear, but it hid the fact that all 17 riders were mighty delighted and somewhat relieved in completing the challenging route on their beloved Italian V-twin machines. To put it simply, the usual night time socialisation soirée from the previous nights ultimately became a very short and brief affair in Mae Hong Son.

Nevertheless, the ride was one memory that will not fade in their lifetimes, with each rider receiving a certificate in a small ceremony from Mae Hong Son's Chamber of Commerce office the next day, certifying their success at completing the route.

Day 5's ride from Mae Hong Son towards Chiang Mai also proved to be equally challenging and took almost the entire span of daylight available. Nevertheless, the ride became slightly more picturesque that included a ride pass a pine tree reserve, and a stopover at well-known a coffee haven in Pai before charting down a challenging downhill route towards Chiang Mai that was rich in corners as the previous day's route.

Reaching Chiang Mai by nightfall, the group was clearly excited and looking forward to the ride's scheduled rest day on Day 6. Our ride-along may have ended in ChiangMai, but the group continued riding towards Thailand's infamous Golden Triangle region and spending a night in Chiang Rai before heading back south towards Malaysia.

After 11 days of riding, over 7,000km covered, a good dose of spicy yet tasty Thai food was needed, and the riders treated their aching bodies to Thailand's infamous massages. Also, the adventure ride would become one of the best memories the riders could amass in a lifetime of biking.

Rest assured,the stories shared by the group amongst DCM's club members would inevitably inspire more of its members to take on the challenge once again, and perhaps lead to other similar excursions in the near future.