Guest post- Andrew Batten.
Well we were once again back in the land of smiles in our old town of Phrae. Here we met up with many old friends and had some great reunions. After dinner and a few drinks my good friend Lee suggested we go drift triking. He had mentioned that he and his friends in the Phrae Drift Club were one of the first in Thailand to try this new extreme sport. He said it was fun and exciting but also FAST! We were intrigued and it was organized for a few days later.
We got the call to be ready, put on our sturdiest clothes and thickest socks and jumped in the pickups. First stop was the club house which also doubled as a friend’s workshop for welding, bike building and engineering. Here we met the 10 strong crew and loaded up 8 trikes, a cooler full of drinks and some cameras.
We took off to a remote part of the hills nearby the city. Here only the occasional farmer on a scooter could be found using the roads. I think in the 5 hours we were there we only saw 10 scooters and 2 cars on the road, so it was pretty much our own personal race track. The road consisted of one medium sized twisty hill which leveled out to a small crest and then followed on to the main bigger twisty hill flattening out to the valley below. 2 kilometers in total.
We when reached the top everyone climbed out of the pickups, unloaded the gear and got ready. Due to the language barrier and the casualness of the group the safety briefing was done in less than 10 words, a few questions and lots of miming with laughs. E.g. Miming over turning the handle bars “Good!” followed by miming over turning the wheels and using the front brake “No good” “Dead haha”. Followed by lots of smiles, laughs and worried looks by myself. Lee had mentioned before that these tarted up bicycles and the boys got up to 110km per hour! No pressure!
Before I tell you of my first ride let me first explain what the premise of drift triking is. Basically it
involves the crossing of two sports. One being Japanese car drifting. Which is the art of a driver intentionally oversteers, causing loss of traction in the rear wheels while maintaining control from entry to exit of a corner. Basically a controlled skid around corners. This is then crossed with a modified bicycle where the front half of a bicycle is grafted onto a tricycle rear end. The wheels then have hard plastic PVC pipe sections put over them to give them less grip, make them more slippery and stronger. Then you find a big hill and slip and slide your way down going crazy.
Simple in practice but you need balls of steel to pull it of in the real world because it goes against every driving skill you have every learnt. Basically you are trying to spin out on every corner but then control the spin smoothly around the corner. Every corner feels like you are coming in too hot and that when you go sideways you will flip and the roll the trike. The smooth hard plastic covers are there to stop this however.
Thailand isn’t a rich country and occupational health and safety hasn’t ruined fun yet here so my safety equipment consisted of a motocross helmet, soccer shin pads and boots with car tires graphed on to the bottom to be used as brakes again the road. Seriously. The pickup drives in front of the pack as they descend down the hills to film and check for traffic, while Jennie clung onto the back taking pictures. Most of the trikes didn’t have any breaking system at all apart from the shoes. Some boys didn’t even have these special shoes and just used ordinary sneakers. Crazy!
I think I was given the nicest bike because not only did it have a front brake but it also had a bike speedometer on it. That Speedo just scared me more to be honest. Now, I have experienced skidding cars, driving motorbikes and go-carts but this…. it’s a whole different thing. After the initial twists the hill straightened up to a main straight. Here you lift up your feet and bike really picks up speed! My first run the bike got up to 70km per hour! Scary stuff. Then you hit the next hill and do it all again. As I said over turning the handle bars into a corner and shoving your bum out to extent the drift is fun at 20km per hour but at 50 km it is downright scary. One other new guy like me did crash into a gutter on the side of the road where he rolled but luckily he was totally unhurt apart from the hundreds of tiny thorn hairs in his skin.
Overall it was a challenging but amazing day. I defiantly worked up a sweat from exertion and fear but it was totally worth it. It was amazing and I would have defiantly paid money for this experience. We had a great day and got some amazing photos.
The crew told me that they had just been featured on a Thai variety show showcasing their skills and that they had also won the Thai drift championship in 2014. So lastly a big thank you and shout out to Lee Suparsiri and the Phrae drift Club.