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THe bicycle has made a comeback on Phuket, with more on the way here right now.

Big Wheels Turn For Phuket

Sunday, December 9, 2007
THE CALVES and thighs of a group of bicycle riders are burning as they make their way on the long pedal from Chiang Mai to Phuket.

It's the Tour de Thailand, a leisurely ride that takes 28 days, including a little strategic time off to visit local attractions, and covers 2100 kilometres, all for charity.

Those who undertake the trip keep the wheels turning for good causes and have boosted the coffers of a collection of charities by more than three million baht in five years of rides.

We caught up with rider Chris Byrd in Prachuab Khiri Khan, a day's ride south of Hua Hin. He was looking forward to a day off.

A painful day off. ''We will be climbing 200 steps up to a temple,'' he said. ''After being on the road for 18 days, you can imagine how our legs will feel.''

For Chris, 38, who comes from Washington DC and now lives in Bangkok, there is plenty of gain in the pain. He is one of four riders who will do the whole glorious trip from Chiang Mai to Phuket, and he waxes lyrical about the joys of being on a bike.

When we spoke there were a total of 11 riders doing the southern section, being joined by local individuals and groups of riders for the daily sections.

Chris worked in a British pub in Bangkok but hankered for the chance to see the Thai countryside, recalling with delight his experience on an American AIDs ride.

Now he's enjoying every minute of this year's ride, stopping at schools to drum up enthusiasm for cycling. The tour has been refined so that the route takes in more pleasant smaller roads.

As anyone who has tried cycling knows, the view from a bike is the best way to take in the sights, smells and sounds of a country at your own pace, minus the noise and the haste of a motorcycle or a motor of any kind.

He sees it as a ''win, win, win'' for cyclists, for the sponsors, and for the charities.

Last year the tour raised 1.5 million baht. Because of the ban on alcohol advertising, one large sponsor had to withdraw this year but the target is still a very healthy 800,000 baht this year.

Soon the riders will be deep into southern territory, hoping to be joined by groups along the way in Chumpon, Lang Suan, Surat Thani, Ban Ta Khun, and reaching Khao Lak on December 14.

They will take the next day off to look around, then press on to Phuket for the annual picnic with local riders on the island at noon by the Welcome to Phuket sign, just across the Sarasin Bridge.

Then they will pedal on, hopefully with hundreds of others for company, to arrive at Loma Park in Patong about 4pm.

One of the riders deserves a special cheer as he passes. He's an amputee, and will have ridden all the way from Chinag Mai with a prosthetic leg.

To contact the tour, telephone Khun Kae on 089 8153169

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