Rapha Prestige Khao Yai, Thailand

Saturday 7 May, 2016

Khao Yai National Park. I vaguely remember reading about this place on one of those lists of top places to visit before you die. The article described the park as ‘majestic and transformative’, a place of wide open vistas and serene nature where wildlife roamed free. Having read the article, I knew that for me there was only one way to see Thailand’s oldest nature reserve, and it was by bike. And what better way to share the experience than with riders on a Rapha Prestige.

The splendour and undulating terrain of the National Park was apparent early in the ride on and as the riders passed through the gates of the park they were immediately presented with a 6km climb. Some teams struggled, their bodies not ready for such an effort so early into their 200km day. After such a cruel start, the park entry fee of 400 Baht now seemed a small price to pay compared to the physical cost of the ascent and even those RCC members who had ridden recon’ rides to prepare found it tough. But there was much more to come.

At the 130km mark riders faced a fresh and very different challenge – the dust bowl. An off-road trail, around 10km in length, this section of the route resembled an abandoned outpost from the film Mad Max. Dusty and desolate, with goats and cattle looking on, riders struggled to pedal through the loose sand and gravel. Many found it easier to jump off and push their bikes rather than endure fall after fall.

But as they rolled back to the finish at Escape Khao Yai hotel, it was obvious that the collective struggled had created strong bonds between the teams. The distance had even forced some to finish in the dark of night, something no one expected as they first set off in pre-dawn conditions.

‘Majestic and even transformative’ said the article I had read, and the description was right on. A Rapha Prestige tests and changes you, challenging you to find the strength you never thought existed.