What Bangkok, Thailand can Teach Us about Urban Bike Parks – A Close Video Observation by Cullen McMorrow

What Bangkok, Thailand can Teach Us about Urban Bike Parks – A Close Video Observation by Cullen McMorrow - Prevelo Bikes

Guest post by Cullen McMorrow.

Introduction by Cullen:

I volunteer as the Trails Program Director on the board of a local mountain biking advocacy organization, Austin Ridge Riders, and while researching bike parks across the country, I came across a video of one in Bangkok, Thailand, called Peppermint Bike Park. My son rides a Prevelo Zulu Three, and I am currently advocating for something like Peppermint for the Austin area.


While many American cities “sprawled” in the suburban movement of the late 1960’s through the 1980’s, by the mid 1990’s, the trend reversed, and many cities saw the return of residents to urban downtowns. The artist “loft” (re-purposing old warehouse space) transitioned into purpose-built mixed use (residential above commercial), as well as the return of densely-built townhome communities—this time not for senior citizens downsizing—but for young families who could no longer afford the lifestyle of a single-family home with a large yard, without an hour commute.

For biking culture, this has meant that a lot of us parents (who remember the quiet streets of 1970s cul-de-sac neighborhoods) are having a tough time providing that biking culture to our kids. My family lives in a rapidly gentrifying 1950’s grid-street neighborhood, where Teslas and Tundras short-cut down our residential street at 40 mph. Message boards and social media are filled with spats between cyclists and the two-tons-of-steel folks. I’m leery of bringing my kids up into that.
What options do we have, in rapidly urbanizing areas, to make biking fun, relaxing, challenging, safe, and social for our families?

Ride With Me @ Peppermint Bike Park, by nOng Supanich

Here are my frame by frame observations of Peppermint Bike Park, Bangkok Thailand. (I’d suggest just watching/skimming the video once; then skim through the points below; then watch the video again):

  • 0:04: It’s a long rectangular park in relatively flat terrain in a dense urban area
  • 0:08: It has an outer-perimeter veloway-style track (painted bright blue).
  • 0:13: It has at least three additional interior loop tracks, the other two styles being lumber-boardwalk and asphalt.
  • 0:20: An artificial pond/lake adds ambiance and what appears to be hobby-boats.
  • 0:23: The Lumber Boardwalk style trail is elevated and appears to have tilted planks for turns of different tightness.
  • 0:27: An outer-loop trail has a straight of pump-track/BMX-track style rollers. Note that a “straight” of rollers is a concept that actually comes from motocross of the 1970s. Back then, they were called whoop-de-doos and were intended to be a test of technical skill to get through a series of deep up-and-downs. BMX race tracks of the 1990’s however, smoothed out the “whoops” to be more wave-like, and the more common term became “rollers” (as in rolling waves, or features that you just “roll” rather than jump). It is clear from the peak-to-peak distances and mellow angles that the rollers featured here are meant to work like flowy waves.
  • 0:29: Note the Bridge where the boardwalk trail goes over the asphalt track. Whenever you have multiple loop trail designs, the question arises what to do about intersections—how do people access and exit the interior loops? Although you can have smaller loops spiraling off of a single backbone trail—those smaller loops become limited in size unless they’re allowed to cross each other or cross the backbone. Much like how highway planners debate interchange designs, bike park planners should take special note of how bike park traffic will work in a dense space.
  • 0:34: Note the directional arrows on all the paths. Although multi-use trail (hike, bike, stroller, etc.) is traditionally bi-directional, for dense bike-park trail designs like this, the default for rolling-wheel sports (whether bikes, skateboards, roller-skates, or scooters) should be directional.
  • 0:49: Note the merging of two directional loops which then allows riders to choose go left or right. This makes the interior loop have a large “figure 8” aspect.
  • 1:25: Note the pyramid shaped junction which appears to act as two berms or bowl corners for riders approaching or exiting what looks like a jump line or large-wave-roller line down the center.
  • 1:33: Great view of the asphalt pump-track style rollers mentioned above. And at 1:35, view of the backside of asphalt berms (in-sloped banked turns) to keep the pump track riders separated from the blue veloway.
  • 1:44: Note how the elevated lumber board walk has a concrete support structure. I have seen bike parks with elevated structures built with lumber posts, but this is clearly a more permanent design.
  • 1:51: Note how the mellowness of the wave rollers is easily ridden by the woman on the red bike. Note also that she instinctively stands up—that is the correct approach—you don’t ride rollers sitting down.
  • 1:55: Note how this lumber feature adds riding texture. The center planks appear to be deliberately rougher and uneven to add some bumpety-bump.
  • 2:10: At this point, the spacing between the two rollers is actually pretty short—see how there is barely more than one bike-length between them? My guess is that this first set was actually intended to be jumpable or manual-able (because that is the spacing that optimizes for that for beginner/intermediate riders).
  • 2:12: Note how the peak to peak spacing of the rollers has increased. (Longer spacing makes a wave pattern mellower and easier, but in this case, the depth of troughs, or amplitude of the wave pattern, has also increased, making this section more advanced. A more skilled rider would be standing and doing a lot of “sucking up” and “pressing down” body motion, pumping through the waves.
  • 2:31: Similarly, the man on the black road bike does not have the pump track technique down. It’ll be interesting to see if this video has anyone flowing it with style.
  • 3:08 Note the benches on top of one of the boardwalk bridge trails. That’s a nice touch to have an observation / hang-out area (maybe it could be even bigger).
  • 3:25: The tight switchback turns appear to be insloped/banked, which is good—although they’re not banked/bermed as much as MTB flow-trail or slopestyle would be, so riders will be braking into these turns.
  • 4:07: This up-slant with an optional banked-wall on the right is interesting. I personally would lay out those angles a little differently, but the slant-wall/bank concept is definitely a welcome addition to the track (and would be familiar to a lot of people with skateboarders and BMX background).
  • 4:46: Café with bike parking seems like a great place to chill after a session.
  • 4:51: It’d be interesting to know if they rent out bikes—I’d suggest that would be a great idea for a city doing something like this. Let people try different styles and sizes of bikes.
  • 5:08: Another aerial view shows how much tree cover and beautiful landscaping went into this park. Without that, if this was just a dirt lot trampled grass field, the overall experience would not match.

Overall, this bike park looks fantastic for an urban setting. If a similar project were being planned in my area, I would advocate for even more technically-challenging terrain and more specific session zones (BMX/MTB-Dirt Jumper style jump area, technical MTB area, trials obstacle course, kids zone, etc.) One example of that, in the USA, is Ray’s Indoor Bike Park in Cleveland (which will be the subject of another video walk-through!)

But, I think what Peppermint Bike Park shows is that the overall flow of pedaling loops throughout great landscaping is something *everyone* is going to enjoy.
A bike park should not be focused primarily around a small group of expert-level jumps, with everything else as an afterthought. A true “whole family” bike park will have lots of room for open pedaling.