Each evening at dusk along a small tarmac road not far from the 700 Year Stadium a group of teenagers do things to their little Kawasaki Multi-Supersport bikes you’d never believe. The extreme sport is called ‘stunt’ riding, a sport that has become increasingly popular in Thailand. There are three teams in Chiang Mai at the moment that practise at the Irrigation Canal Road spot as well as behind Payap University. We talked to team ‘Fiendish Street Rider’ who put on a bit of a show for us. They’ll be doing a ‘proper’ show on May 10th at Big C Chiang Mai. “We didn’t know each other before this,” says one boy, “we just all love the thrill and speed of doing this and so we became a team.” All the boys were students in and around Chiang Mai, but there are also female riders. The guys explained, “It’s not that unsafe, but it’s better to get kitted up when you first start.” It certainly looks unsafe: throwing the bikes around, doing high wheelies, front wheelies (stopping) and other tricks with one hand, no hands, standing on the bike etc. “The girls like watching it for sure, but they like it more when we fall off,” they tell us. If you want to see Fiendish Street Rider in action just go down to the Irrigation Canal Road any evening. They practise on the left side after the second traffic lights just after the huge construction project where the dirt track turns into a road.
As night falls on Huay Kaew Road, opposite the Rincome market it feels as if an extreme circus has come to town. Outside ‘Higher – X-Gear and Bike Station’ shop in the Siri Panet courtyard kids try out the shop’s multitude of mad extreme gadgets. Perhaps not recommended for those already attached to Zimmer-frames, but safe for most that won’t cry over a bruised knee, and they’ll allow you to use any of their gear for free. What might be best described as innovations of motion machines, it seems with the new gadgets just peddling or kicking is outdated: many are moved by the rider using all parts of the body – imagine skateboarding with your ass or riding a scooter with your groin muscles. The madhop, which makes you look like a human grasshopper, might win for downright weirdness, but some of the newer skating equipment would not look out of place in Back to the Future III. We’re told the ‘magic wheel’ is popular, as is the ‘snake board’ and ‘wheel man’, but that probably means nothing to you. They also flog new generation Penny Farthing bikes and other bikes that fold like deck chairs so you can throw them in the car easily. Helmets and guards are provided and if you want to purchase then prices start at about 590 baht.
Higher shop will visit schools (already NIS) and put on demonstrations and also allow the kids to use the equipment for no charge.
Higher X-Gear and Bike Station 053 217 447, 087 996 4191
“These are flatland bikes,” says the young kid spinning his handle bars round, “not street BMX, that’s at the municipal stadium.” BMX has come a long way since the ’80s movie epic ‘BMX Bandits’ that assured America’s worldly domination of the ‘cool’ market. The tricks, that according to one of the new wave bandits down at Tha Pae Gate (they perform every night except weekends), can take a long time to master. They don’t use three bricks and a stolen door these days for their BMX kicks, it’s more about running backwards on the front wheel (scuffing), ‘megaspins’ or even a trick that goes by the name of ‘death truck’, which is actually quite apt for Thai cyclists of all ilk. Some of the lads that do tricks at Tha Pae Gate will put on a show at Central Airport Plaza on May 30th from morning ’til night.
If you’re interested in getting a BMX you’ll have to import one. ‘Roller’ shop outside the municipal sports stadium can tell you where from (at least 10,000 baht for the cheapest, we’re told). Even though the BMXers are all different ages they told us it definitely “gets harder the older you get”, still, maybe it’s time for the ’80s BMX Bandits to make a come back.
What started in the States – some say – in the ’40s as a tool that gave Californian surfers something to do while on terra firma, transformed into a massive subculture during the ’80s and ’90s entrenched in hedonism and punk de-values. Chiang Mai’s skaters may not hold onto the same nihilistic principles but they can certainly pull off a good ‘ollie’ (aerial skating trick). One long-term skater told us some of the Chiang Mai contingent have been around for more than a decade, though many are new to the scene – a scene, he says, that might be a lot more popular if the city was more accomodating. “There is hardly any public space to skate,” he explains, and tells us it would be great if not every inch of land in Chiang Mai was appropriated for business. Right now the skaters can be seen most nights down at Three Kings Monument. If you want to get involved you’re looking at about 4000/5000 baht for your board. There are two shops in Chiang Mai: ‘Stamp’, 3rd Floor Central and ‘Outdoor’ which is on Huay Kaew Road right next to Lanna III Condo. Hopefully, and the same goes for all the city’s burgeoning extreme sports, Chiang Mai residents might one day have a decent place to ‘play’.