First a few things: I don't work for the competition (didn't know there even was) and even though I am giving it 2 stars, I still recommend it, but I DON'T recommend Luis, the guide. If you are unlucky enough to get him, switch, please.
I was picked up at my hotel at 9:15 and got to the office at around 9:35, left the office around 10:15 and got to the step off sight around 10:20. I had chosen the hike and bike, as I am not a super-strong mountain biker, and description in the brouchure states clearly "The easy feeling of riding down a hill in contrast to the strenuous hike up adds reward to the experience." I'll come back to this later.
When we got to the step-off sight, the guide wasn't there, apparently there had been a mix-up and the guide would be delayed. No problem, I got to meet the couple I would be going with, there was a total of 3, plus Luis, the guide, and Sam, a guide trainee. We were given a bottle of water and we stepped off.
I was US Marine Corps infantry for 6 years, so I think I can tell the difference between a forced march and a nature hike. This was a forced march up a slippery, rooted, rocky mountain - almost running. At the first break, I hinted to Luis that this was just too fast, the others I know agreed. He didn't get it, so at the second break after 30 minutes of more running, and after a minute to catch my breath, I told Luis flat out I wasn't going to run up the mountain any more, but I didn't want to hold him up, and I would meet him at the top. I explained I wanted to enjoy the nature of the walk, look at other things without having my head down, just trying to avoid tripping - he replied "you can look when we get to the top" The couple with me, after catching their breaths, agreed that it was just too fast, unnecessarily (the 3 of us weren't in a rush) and simply unsustainable.
When we stepped off again, Luis had gotten it. He slowed the pace, and actually began stopping at points of interest and explained different things about the flora and fauna of Thailand, very interesting. I can tell he was annoyed with me for questioning his job, as when I asked questions I got a short "yes" or "no", or sometimes ignored, but when the couple asked, the answer was much more in detail. No problem; I learned alot of interesting things anyway.
I ran out of water about an hour from the top (you will need more than one or 2 bottles, it is a strenuous but worthwhile hike, so don't believe them when they say one bottle is enough). We finally made it up and switched to the bikes. This is where things turned ugly.
After a safety brief, we began riding. The bike is supposed to be 27 speeds, but mine shifted after every TWO clicks, so it was more of a 13.5 speed. That wasn't the main problem, the rear brake was. There were 2 positions for it: open and locked. That, the bike being so high and me being tall, as well as my relative lack of experience in mountain biking - the high center of gravity as well as it not being an "easy feeling trail" (see pic, I wish I had taken more, as this was the least difficult, but I was trying to focus on the trail) made for a miserable ride. I felt sorry for the 2 others with me, as they had to stop all the time to wait for me. I told Luis to carry on and have Sam make sure I make the right turns, Luis got very upset, sarcasticly saying things like "sorry if I can't make you happy" and other nonsense. It was very uncomfortable, as now I had to go faster than I felt safe going so as not to hold up the others, and flipping over the handlebars for relying so much on the front brake. I hated the ride - the trail was full of rocks, roots, gullies, and very slippery mud. It was almost funny watching the rear tire coming up the side, perpendicular to the front wheel because it was locked, full of mud, and slidding without control. Funny until I crashed multiple times. The protective gear I can vouch for, it works well!
The bizarre ending was when we finally got to the lake. I laid my bike down, took off my gear, placed it on the ground next to the bike, walked over to apologize to the couple for ruining their ride, and began walking back to Chiang Mai. I just didn't want any more problems and was embarrased for having held them up. As I was walking away, Luis got VERY agressive, walking after and following me, shouting things like "Hey, you have a problem with me? If you do, let's fix it right now." Not in a "hey let's talk about this calmly" manner, but in a "let's throw down" manner. I hadn't said anything at all to or even about him. Having been in Thailand long enough, I understand "saving face", and just wanted to let it go. I walked the 16 or so kilometers back to my hotel. It was very embarrasing and a huge surprise to see a Thai respond like that out of no where. It was a first for me, and I have been to Thailand many times.
Like I said, I think Mountain Biking Chiang Mai has a good business, but if I had to ask them one question, it would be why would they have a guide who clearly doesn't want to be there? I like talking to guides, learning about them and the culture, but he gave us little opportunity to ask him anything and asked almost no questions of us and, like "so how long have you been here?" nothing at all, very impersonal and unfriendly, and clearly unstable.
I am sure the company will respond to this saying I am a difficult person or I work for the competition, none of that's true, I just want to make sure that if you do go here, and you should, make sure you don't get Luis.