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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Cross-ing Taichung County

Exploring Farm Roads Off The #136

One reason I sought out and went through all the pain and expense of building up a CX bike was to better explore the little betel nut roads and farm trails that litter Taiwan's counties. Unfortunately, I don't get to do enough of this. For the cost of several minutes to change tires and tubes, I can go from a road bike to an off-road bike and hit the trails. This would be better if my car hadn't been stolen and I could drive out to where the trails start... rather than bike 30 miles before the ride even starts. That's the down side. Knobbies tend to be a bit softer and a couple months on the road wears them down pretty bad. For this ride I went out the Local Taichung #136 past the Bat Cave (now unfortunately called "The Bat Hole") in Taiping. Just past the gaudy, gold-painted monastery I took a left over the bridge and off into the hills to the Fairy Falls. I used to go out there to jump into the waterfall before anyone really knew about it... but word leaked out and it has since become a party spot for foreigners and Taiwanese alike. Every so often someone drowns out there and the authorities discourage jumping into the falls.

I chose my 32c Michelin Mud 2 for the front and Michelin Cyclocross Jet for the rear. These are hard to find in Taiwan and I use them sparingly. Otherwise good tires. I do wish I had switched them around for the day or went all Mud2.
The whole area is much different from when I first visited a decade ago. The through road collapsed in a mudslide and now there is no access from the other side. Huge boulders are strewn about and a giant swath of hillside is noticeably missing. The area has become a kind of defacto nature preserve. I have seen pheasant and large herons back there as well as other animals.

I surveyed the terrain and made my way in. The path was partially paved and some parts overgrown and muddy. It was glorious.

Some parts of the road had been washed out and some half-assed construction was going on to make the road passable. It wasn't so bad.

As I got further down the road the conditions got more and more iffy. huge sections were overgrown and I took a little refuge under some banana trees as it started to rain.

In some parts the road was just a narrow track of dried mud. I glided over smoothly as if it were asphalt. I could look down at the stream below and at all the waterfalls. I love river tracing, so I had to imagine how to negotiate the stream bed below.

The whole valley was pretty peaceful and quiet. The only noise came from a distant construction project and the occasional roll of thunder.

I got a pinch flat on my way out. I didn't even notice for a while. As I stopped to change my flat, I heard the sound of grunting from the bushed. As a former paperboy I immediately feared a large dog or something would burst out of the bushes. I hate big dogs like Indiana Jones hates snakes. Finally, I looked up and saw a troop of monkeys looking down at me as if they were laughing at my folly. I patched up and went home before the rains picked up again.


  1. Looks like a great ride!

    Btw, where did you get your Salsa CX bike in Taiwan? I am looking for a similar setup

  2. CX is the way to go in Taiwan. I ride a Bianchi Volpe and love it for the craping road conditions in Hshinchu County. At night I sometimes hit some big potholes. The only problem was I had to bring a bike made in Taiwan from the US. I'm interested in Salsa and Surly bikes sold in Taiwan.

  3. Christopher,

    I couldn't agree more.

    There are a few QBP dealers here. The one in Taichung is Famous Bikes (contact info on the sidebar of this blog). You can pretty much get anything QBP from them and they allow a test ride. They had a nice 2009 La Cruz for a while and a Crosscheck I have been suggesting to folks for a while. They also sell a few Long Haul Truckers and the occasional Casseroll.

    I keep dreaming of some rides in the hilly parts of Hsinchu County. If there is anything up there you could suggest, I would be interested in hearing about it.

  4. Hi, I suggest you use Guansi, Hsinchu Hsien as a hub. There are lot of routes out of this town: East on 118, NE around Shrmen Dam, gonglu 30/30-1 up and over to Neiwan, Neiwan E on gonglu 122 into the mountains. These are the foothill areas I usually ride. (Neiwan gets a lot of traffic on weekends so beware.) I want to explore Jianshi but people tell me the mountains are hella steep. This area is not good in rainy weather either. Thanks for the QBP addresses. I'll try to check them out the next time I visit Taichung.

  5. Thanks! I appreciate it. I have been looking at a few routes... the 124 near Toufen and then into Beibu looks interesting.

  6. What are the prices like compared to US/Canada for a decent XC bike. I see your link to Famous Bikes, can one browse the selection online?

  7. For a XC bike (not a CX bike) the prices are quite low. It all depends on your standards, but USD $700 could get you on a well built aluminum XC bike with Shimano Deore or XT, Avid Juicy Disc brakes and all the things you need. XC bikes are pretty easy to come by.