body{background-attachment: fixed ! important; }

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Tour de France Preview

The 2010 Tour de France, which is arguably the greatest of the Monument races in cycling, is set to get under way on July 3 for the 8.9km Prologue in Rotterdam.

The Tour is always fun to watch, but this year will be extra special as it is the last that will combine two elements people love to hate-- France and Lance Armstrong.

After this year's stellar Giro d'Italia, the Tour de France will have a lot to live up to. The route and teams are in place and a year had passed to let the bad blood fester in the media. Floyd Landis and Fabien Cancellara have added a couple twists to the mix with allegations of blood and bike doping.

Here are a few of the teams and riders to watch out for:

Team Astana will be back with defending champion, Alberto Contador, who will try to assert his dominance over the peloton after an ugly, and very public spat with former teammate and rival, Lance Armstrong. Contador will have some capable back up with ex-doper Alexandre Vinokourov, who is back from a 2 year suspension. He just reminds me of Drago from Rocky IV.

Quick Step will be riding without the master sprinter and leader, Tom Boonen. After a couple seasons of personal and health issues, he has developed a severe case of tendonitis and again must sit out another race.

Team Sky will be coming into the Tour headed by Bradley Wiggins, who looks more at home as the guitarist from a 70's British rock band. Sky has been looking strong this year.

HTC-Columbia will see if Mark Cavendish can sprint his way to win the Green Jersey for points; a prize he barely lost to Cervelo's Thor Hushovd.

Team Saxo Bank will again field the Schleck brothers, Andy and Frank, who will decide which of them has the legs to compete for the GC. Last year they finished 2nd and 5th respectively. Frank Schleck demolished the competition in Time Trials this year as well and that could play a factor.

The Cervelo Test Team will have Carlos Sastre battling for the GC, with Thor Hushovd along side.

Liquigas has the formerly suspended doper, Ivan Basso, up front to make an attempt to follow his Giro win with the TdF. Vincenzo Nibali will be waiting in the wings if Basso falters.

Team BMC has again pinned their hopes on Cadel Evans, who is hungry and due for a major tour victory, especially after a 5th place finish in the Giro. The climbing duel between he and Bosso during the Giro was spectacular. Cadel and George Hincapie are the Chicago Cubs of cycling.

Team Rabobank has Denis Menchov, who might be a dark horse favorite to win this year. He is a skilled climber and has won two Vuelta de Espana (Tour of Spain) titles, one Giro, and has placed 4th, 5th and 11th at the Tour de France in the GC category.

Team Radioshack, which was established by Lance Armstrong after his bitter public feud with Astana captain, Alberto Contador, is stacked with talent to carry Armstrong's ancient 38yo. legs to the finish line. Aside from the legendary Armstrong, Radioshack will feature 2 time runner-up Andreas Kloden and the Armstrong's capable wingman and confidant, Levi Leipheimer, who is ready to leave Armstrong's shadow after one final Tour. Armstrong finished second in this year's Tour of Switzerland, which is a warm up to the TdF.

I am sure there are several I missed, but that leaves plenty of room for debate.
Here is the link to the official TdF Website for updates and Webcasts.
VeloNews has some great route profiles here.

Bicycle Video Fails

We often like to record our cycling exploits, or at least wish we has a camera crew following us on our best rides, but in making a visual record we also face the risk of capturing our cycling failures for posterity.

U.S. Receives Taiwanese Financial Assistance for Bicycles

Oh what a difference 50 years makes....

In the aftermath of WWII, the United States, under the Joint Commission of Rural Reconstruction (JCRR) funneled massive amounts of aid to Taiwan in an effort to repair the damage done by both allied bombs and Chinese Nationalist maladministration, as well as to shore up Taiwan's economy to defend against the stated threat of Communism. The annual $100 million infusion of U.S. cash provided capital for infrastructure projects, training and technical assistance. Much of this aid was in the form of grants dedicated to agricultural development. It was after much of the immediate post war period that the United States became one cultural center of Taiwan as Taiwanese compared themselves against U.S. values, modernity, and material wealth.

In 1965, amid shrieking protest from the dictator, Chiang Kai-sheck, the aid money stopped flowing just as Taiwan was slipping into a post agrarian economy. In embarrassingly simple terms; the unholy mix of Taiwan's state-run monopolies, KMT party corporations and especially the dynamism of the indigenous small to medium sized enterprises would spend the next 20 years forming the economic dynamo that would become one of Asia's most powerful economies in the 90's.

Now, Taiwan would like to do a little bit to return the favor.

Seeing America's conundrum of having built an economy and culture upon interstate and motor vehicle dependent transport, The Taiwan Bicycle Exporters Association (TBEA) has pledged an annual donation of $50,000 over the course of three years to the Bikes Belong Foundation, which seeks to:

"...increase bicycle use in America by adapting and implementing state-of-the art international best practices in infrastructure and urban design to make bicycling safer, more comfortable and more appealing."

The TBEA donation will be matched by SRAM, a Chicago based company with deep connections to Taiwan's engineering and development talent.

"With the help of the TBEA and the additional support from the SRAM Cycling Foundation, we will be able to show many more individuals, legislators, engineers, and business developers the role that bicycling can and will play in our future through the Best Practices Project," said Tim Blumenthal, president of Bikes Belong. "We're honored to have the support of the TBEA. It is another example of how the industry is coming together to get more people on bikes more often. "

It is always nice to see Taiwanese unselfishly reaching out to help the unfortunate.

Also: Check out the conspicuously flag-waving Taiwanese Trans-American Tourist. I don't get all these recent stories that fixate on the ROC flag. It smells like the GIO.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Cycling Through 228

Chiayi Memorial

During my ride to Chiayi last Sunday I came across two separate memorials to what is known as "The February 28 Incident" or simply, "228"-- an episode of mass violence in which the Chinese nationalist soldiers and police killed and executed tens of thousands of Taiwanese within the course of three weeks in a large scale exercise of state violence. In Taiwan the three simple digits still carry tremendous weight and meaning that would be otherwise lost on a cultural outsider as the event has followed a historical trajectory that pervades Taiwanese society at all levels, from those who remembered and even perpetrated the violence, to those who remember hearing about it in hushed tones behind locked doors as a deafening silence. Younger Taiwanese all recognize the numerological code, but often conflate it into the Formosa Movement and other clashes between citizens and the state.

Nearly every area in Taiwan has some kind of 228 memorial as political and social forces necessitated its reverence. In some cases a memorial stood in defiance in other cases in memoriam. Of the memorials I passed on my ride, each has integrated established narratological forms into the construction to reify the event and secure "the story" of 228 in the public consciousness. The memorial in Yunlin is inscribed with a short narrative to explain 228 to the viewer, and the Chiayi memorial uses a memorial sculpture depicting a history of oppression at the hands of outsiders.

It has been argued that the February 28 Incident and its aftermath made a distinct Taiwanese history knowable through a complex system of iconalization, mythmaking, ritualization and deployment in a process Stanford historian Hayden White describes as “narratological causality”, which asks us to “consider the relationship between what we perceive to be the ‘facts’ of history and their performative and narrative construction.”(White 1987, 194). The events become less of a “true account” of the past, but rather a constructed mythologization of events in an “ irreducible overlap between what has happened and what is said to have happened” as historians and political actors impose their own treatment of history.

The first open commemoration activities for February 28 resulted following the end of martial law in 1987, when the newly formed opposition party, the DPP, sponsored seventeen commemoration events across Taiwan as an extension of the opposition movement (Edmonson 2002, 30). The DPP used the first commemorations to introduce 228 to the public and historicize it in a manner that would link specific 228 related platforms, such as apologies and compensation, to Taiwan Independence and democratization.

Close-up of Sculpture

The initial commemorations were often put down by the authorities, which served to reenact 228 and solidify public support behind the opposition forcing the president to try to discredit the protesters by assailing their motives as political gamesmanship. Despite Lee’s public dismissal, the strategy used by the DPP forced the KMT to finally confront the February 28 Incident. In 1991, president Lee Teng-hui ordered a full investigation into the Incident with inconclusive results. In successive years Taiwan would see the first state commemoration ceremony, a memorial, museum and an apology from the president.

In 1997, the February 28 commemoration involved a parade combining a conglomeration of civic groups and government officials, both oppositional Taiwanese and “New Taiwanese” or "Mainlander". The event followed a route that brought the marchers through the historical sites of 228. The event was explained by Lin Yi Hsiung “as a symbol of social activism’s link to the Incident through a struggle against Tyranny, a battle most civic groups feel embroiled in… and the new Taiwanese discourse of Taiwan’s antagonistic relationship with China…that is why the theme of the march is ‘Remember February 28, Don’t Become Chinese’.”(Wachman 1994, 71).

Reflection Blocks

This paradigm shift of February 28 in Taiwan as a collective national memory of opposition to tyranny has expanded to embrace even the nationalist Chinese on Taiwan who had previously been targeted by the opposition as the perpetrators. China’s growing threat to Taiwan’s defacto Independence and security have become woven into the fabric of the memory of February 28 as the “aggressor”. Peng Min-ming , the DPP presidential candidate during the 1996 elections emphasized the link between foreign aggression and the Incident when he declared, “ The February 28 Incident only proves Taiwan must not unify with China, otherwise an even worse historical disaster would take place.”( Liberty Times 2004). In 2004, Peng’s sentiments were shared by the approximately 2 million people who, on February 28, linked hands, forming a human chain that spanned Taiwan, tip to tip. The event was organized partially as a campaign stunt for the upcoming presidential elections and inspired by a similar exercise in the Ukraine. The symbolism of the event was to create a wall defending the “homeland” against China’s missiles. The event was the high point of the election (Taiwan Ri bao 2/29/2004). It also simultaneously delineated the Taiwanese "us" from the Chinese "them" and repositioned Mainlanders from "outsiders" into a collective Taiwanese "us", or at least offered to provide a bridge to reconciliation.

An excellent example of 228's location in Taiwanese life and culture comes from the 2004 presidential campaign. On March 19, 2004, the incumbent president President Chen Shui Bian and Vice-President Lu were both grazed by bullets while riding in an open motorcade. Before the public had been informed that both injuries were not life threatening, the buzz on the street returned to the February 28 Incident. Many people openly pondered the possibility of another uprising, while others prayed to the ghosts of February 28 for peace and for the welfare of their leaders. The immediate connection between the attack on the president and the violence, retribution and ethnic mistrust of the February 28 Incident demonstrates how the resonant silence of 228 combined with its politicization and reemergence as a mythologized common memory and continues to frame the Taiwanese experience in a mimetic symbol of Taiwaneseness. And in an eerie twist, the injured Chen Shui-bian narrowly won the 2004 presidential election by 0.228 per-cent of the vote; a fact that was not overlooked by his supporters.

The memory of the February 28 Incident has passed through over sixty years from a tragic event that transpired over the course of March 1947, beginning with an attack by KMT officials against an individual on a public street. Since that event, the February 28 incident had been in a state of constant negotiation and relocation in Taiwanese society. The impact of the February 28 incident as event, led the KMT authorities to publicly silence the experience in public, forcing the experiencers of 228 and their progeny to mythologize the experience in a social-political frame of disenfranchised citizens against the forced political marginalization of the Taiwanese majority in Taiwan. Despite the massive shifts in state structure, these memorials continue to play a role in creating a Taiwanese collective memory and they symbolize an imagined collective experience that is uniquely located on Taiwan.

Yunlin Memorial

In more recent years there has been an effort on the part of the central government to ignore 228 and Taiwanese have even been called upon to "forget" and "move on". This begs the question: Is there a place for this entity of 228 in the 'Greater China" narrative that seems to be the goal of Chinese nationalists on both sides of the Taiwan Strait? It seems, now that 228 has been unleashed from its decades of suppression, it is possible to let it fade beyond memory as the forgetting is voluntary and not mandatory. That is the real danger.

*Edmonds, Richard Louis. Goldstein, Steven M, ed. 2001.Taiwan in the Twentieth Century: A Retrospective View. Cambridge University Press.

*Wachman, Alan M. 1994. Taiwan: National Identity and Democratization. New York, M.E. Sharpe, Inc.

*White, Hayden V.1987. The Content of the Form: Narrative Discourse and Historical Representaion. he Johns Hopkins University Press

Sunday, June 27, 2010

(201km) Long Bike Rides and Getting Caught Out In The Rain

Rainclouds over the ChoShui

On Sunday I did everything in my power to set myself up for failure, or at least a bad ride. All I knew for the week is that I wanted to do a long ride and make up for a week of rain. I wasn't sure what the weather would be like and just didn't think about riding. Without a plan I could not make the physical or mental preparations that can make or break a day of endurance riding. That means that I did not spend the week eating correctly. I did not spend the night before hydrating properly. I did not prep my body with stretching on the non-riding days. I did not mentally trace my route and imagine when and where to expend my energy. I did not plot my course on a map and look for "outs". I did not even have any fruit at home for breakfast. I didn't even know where I was going until I woke up. This is absolutely the wrong way to go about things. Seriously.

Taichung's Ugliest Piece of Public Art (Look at the anatomical proportions. I guess with a flying man-cow-horse you can make up any proportions you want. WTF?!)

I woke up late as I had fallen asleep on the couch while watching World Cup and never set my alarm. This would seal my decision to head down the Highway 3, which is a hillier route to southern Taiwan. I wasn't sure how far I would go, but I figured I would head back when I felt about "half-way". The humid air was already boiling by early morning and I knew it would be one of the hottest days of the year. The sun is about a week away from its closest point to the earth (July 6) and the temp would soon be up into the high 30's.

A Friendly Group of Cyclists

Being the first really sunny day in a while there were several cycling groups already out and on the roads by the time I took off. Some were huge packs (convoys) and others were just a four or five riders out for the morning. At one point as I was zoning out into my music I heard a loud "woof", and turned to find a big Taiwanese roadie on too small a bike greeting me for a couple pulls. With all that energy I was afraid he'd push me past my comfort zone on a long ride. I try not to get into "chase the rabbit" games on long rides as the energy is always needed at the end. Luckily he was all about enthusiasm and not performance, so he made a great riding partner for a few clicks.

The Sweetest Place in Gukeng

The temperatures soared by mid morning and with the humidity I knew I had to pay extra attention to my hydration situation and my nutrition intake. I stopped near Gukeng, by the Honey Museum, for some water and sport drink.

On these really hot days it is important to drink enough and not too much. I was trying to drink water to Fin Sport Drink at a 2:1 ratio. Periodically, I stopped for water and bought an extra bottle to dump over my head to bring my temperature down and to wash the salts off my face. I've come back from some rides looking like a salted ham. The Fin is the least sugary electrolyte drink and it is the easiest to drink on a long, hot ride. I also rode with my leg muscles over my lungs to keep my HR down. The heat can be really dangerous and I have had some rides where I came home and collapsed with headaches and fatigue from the heat. Hot riding can be done well, but it has to be done right.

The Yunlin 228 Memorial

Near Gukeng I also stopped to take a look at the Yunlin 228 Memorial. Local 228 memorials have sprung up in nearly each county as the result of the indigenization phenomenon that started with the end of martial law in 1988. I will blog more on this a little later.

Pineapple Fields and Hills

I headed along the mountains into Chiayi County. It is pineapple season and the sweet smell of pineapples was enough to overpower the smell of pig shit. I kept an eye on the white, billowy clouds that hung on the mountains and hoped the gorgeous weather would hold, but maybe a special order of opportune cloud cover would have been an ideal treat.

Whah... Cow!

I was getting excited as I was moving along the foothills and the local communities are often distinct and colorful. You never know what surprises lie up ahead.

Groovie Ghoulies

I passed through Mei shan and through a small procession of pilgrims to the local temple. They even had a dangi spirit medium preparing to flay himself near the front of the temple.

Renyi Reservoir: Originally established by the Dutch and expanded by subsequent colonists.

I decided I would head back before noon at Huan-a Rd. I had been passing through the area of Saaora speaking people also once known as Tevoran. The Tevoran area was used by several groups of Siraya speaking plains indigenes as an area to seek refuge during headhunting season. Tevoran was also used by many of the Maddou villagers in 1636, when the Dutch embarked on their campaign of retribution. The custom of withdrawal in times of impending threat may have led to the popular, and inaccurate trope that the plains indigenes retreated into the mountains and became the highland Aborigines.

Chiayi 228 Memorial

I finally made it to the 159甲 to Chiayi City. At the base of the hill there is another 228 memorial. Chiayi actually built the first 228 memorial in Taiwan near the train station as it marks the final battle of the failed rebellion. The newer memorial uses a "totem pole" depicting a greater trope of Taiwanese oppression at the hands of outside powers.

Chiayi (Proof:火雞肉飯 lower left)

As I rolled into Chiayi City, I felt a single raindrop hit my face. I looked up and saw a large, dark cloud rolling in from the southwest. At that I calculated I would have enough fuel in the tank to get home at speed and busted for Taichung. The race was on. I was keeping my speed at about 35-40kph. and made quick work of the counties. I was so concerned that a front would move in from the southwest that I didn't notice the mountains I had just come out of were veiled in advancing rainclouds.

I pushed myself to sustain my effort. Despite rainclouds on all sides I was riding in a trough of sunlight. The heat was simply intense and riding through the thick, humid air was just a labor.

As I closed in on Changhua, I noticed a massive, black raincloud sitting right over Taichung, held in place by Bagua Shan and Dadu Shan. By this point I stopped at a 7-11 to buy a plastic bag for my electronics. I was pretty much resigned to getting soaked.

I soldiered on into the face of the storm and the rain just wouldn't start. I thought I might be able to make it home without getting wet. I was sorely wrong. Just 8km from my front door the clouds opened up. It was as if someone pushed the "rain" button and it just poured. My ipod promptly died and I just kept going. I figured with the bibs on it would be like an old time swimming suit. All I needed was a handlebar mustache and a penny-farthing. The coolness of the rain actually gave me a boost of energy.

My bike performed flawlessly in the rain. The disc brakes worked as if dry and that gave me the confidence to continue at a slower, but safe 33kph. I figured I would pedal my ass off to get home and then I could relax with a hot pizza, rather than sit around some place dry for an unknown period of time. That was all fine until the electricity started and I was seeing spots from a flash of lightning over my head.

I thought about what to do if my bike gets hit by lightning besides die. Anyone know? I figure with such small tires, being exposed and with metal clips in the shoes, the prognosis can't be good. I hid for 15-20 min. then I decided to brave the storm once again. I though if I could ride close to tall things I would be ok. I pedaled the remainder of the way home with even a couple guys on scooters cheering me on for riding in the conditions. A little adventure for what I had assumed would be a so-so ride.

Storm Over Changhua

Bike route 562079 - powered by Bikemap

The Spark of an Integrated Cycling Network?

The Taiwan News reports that the government is working on creating an "intelligent system" (yes... I know... government and intelligent system) for managing "cycling convoys".

First, I have to say that I am thrilled they chose the term "convoy". It brings back the old, inspiring C.W. McColl tune (Yes, this is in my ipod for biking).

The system, consisting of a global positioning system (GPS) and online map technologies, automatically issues a warning to the leader of a bike convoy equipped with smartphones when any member of the group lags far behind, the Ministry of Economic Affairs said in a recent statement.

"When you get lost or have a flat tire, all you have to do is to press a button and you can immediately inform others of your situation," the ministry said.

The system is aimed not just at enhancing the safety of cyclists but also to help them share their fun, according to the ministry.

"Bikers can use a feature to share photos or videos with their family members to show where they are and what they have seen along the trip," the statement said.

What the article does not tell us is: Who is eligible to use the service? How does one apply for access the service? Can be used by non-Mandarin speakers to accommodate foreign visitors.

It sounds proactive and intriguing, but so do unicorns. It also sounds a lot like something that can be achieved with existing cell-phone technology. If I get a flat I can call the leader. If I want to share photos I can capture and send. Most modern cell-phones have GPS and mapping applications. Hmmmm!

Police Sponsor Tour of Changhua County

The Changhua Police Brieau (No... not the toadies for organized crime that run from shootings at gambling dens...) are sponsoring a county-wide bicycle event in which participants are issued a cycling passport and collect stamps at 99 police stations in Changhua County. link

"Police officers are taking part in the event to help promote awareness of fraud, drug abuse prevention and teenager protection, with 77 police stations included in the itinerary.


Cho said he hopes the event will help improve family relations and strengthen ties between the community and the police."

I am always impressed by the narrow focus bicycle events seem to represent in Taiwan. This is still a great activity and I hope they get lots of people to participate. It shows initiative and creativity. I think a lot of Taiwanese cyclists would be up for something like this.

I would like to reiterate that if the police really wanted to help cyclists, they could stop and ticket every jerk-off they see driving like an asshole.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Dreams Come True Cycling Taiwan

Candy Cranks has a pice about two Singaporeans cycling around Taiwan with some great observations:

Taiwan - very ‘long distance cycling’ friendly, i.e. if you are doing a round-island cycling trip or if you are like us, cycling around the world carrying panniers on your bicycles, you will be greeted by strangers zooming past in their cars, scooters who would shout out from across the road to you: “Jia You!” which means “Gambateh!” We made many friends just by carrying our panniers around. Once, a couple stopped their car in the middle of the road whilst we were cycling along the road to tell us our seats are too low. They even showed us there and then how which seat position will make cycling more energy efficient. So, in Taiwan, we never felt alone when we are cycling.

A group of Taiwanese students get used for propaganda cycling in "mainland China" as they cycle to Tibet.

Mark Choo's cycling site in Chinese. He has some good route planning info and other details.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Tour Time: Chasing Legends Trailer

Here's a little warm up to get into the mood for Le Tour.

There should be enough bad blood in the peloton to make things interesting enough. The Giro was amazing this year and now I hope the Tour can do even better.

The Tour de France runs from Saturday July 3rd to Sunday July 25th 2010. It will be made up of 1 prologue and 20 stages and will cover a total distance of 3,642 kilometres.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

花蓮--武嶺--台中: Central Cross Island Highway: Hualien to Taichung

Soaring Views From Wuling

This weekend it was time again to make the long trip out to Hualien for another go at the Central Cross Island Highway. This time I would be joined by Michael T. Jeff M. and a new face to my riding circle, Dwight J., who is an excellent rider with a very nice Reynolds 953 road bike from the domestic custom manufacturer, Rikulau. The custom paint is all in a Grateful Dead motif. And it is orange.

Our goal was to make it up and over Wuling on Ho Huan Shan in two days. With such good company who would want to miss out? I decided to request the time off so I could make the Friday afternoon train and not arrive too late.


As with any bike trip, there is always something conspiring against you; weather, health, mechanical problems, family issues, and countless other things that threaten to rain hell on your plans for a weekend joyride. For me, it was a snowballing collection of minor problems that were accumulating faster than gnats in my eyebrows. I had been feeling like a cold was coming on all week and on my Wednesday ride I felt like I was only breathing at 50% of my normal capacity. The chest congestion was only alleviated by huffing asthma medicine.

I took Friday afternoon of and hopped the HSR to Taipei and then connected to a train going out to Hualien. The trains all advertise space for bikes in each car, but mine didn't have an apparent spot, so I tried to desperately sandwich it behind a seat. This was pissing me off as the derailleur was poking out and passengers were rubbing against it. I had no idea what was being squeezed under the bike bag and the whole experience scared the hell out of me. I hate taking the train. When someone came to claim their seat I moved to the next car... only to find a huge space available to store my bike. I then alternated in and out of the adjacent seat as riders came and went.

We needed all the help we could get

I didn't arrive in Hualien until 5:45pm and I quickly assembled my bike and changed into my biking clothes for my ride up Taroko Gorge. Unfortunately, something bent on my front wheel and I was getting all sorts of wheel rub. It was a choice of either some friction and a front brake, or free spinning and no brake. Safety first. The issue bothered me for the entire trip as I kept thinking about how much more energy I was using to compensate. I am sure it wasn't that much, but psychologically it was a menace. I didn't have much light left, so I started to hammer for Tian Xiang, right at the top of Taroko Gorge where the rest of the guys were waiting. Darkness soon fell over the gorge and the feeling was one of smallness as I could make out the shadows of cliff sides against the backlit sky. My pace slowed to avoid wasting valuable energy for the next day and because the road was unpredictable with dangerous chunks of rock dotting the lanes. When I finally arrived my lungs were rattling and I was just in time for dinner before the kitchen closed. The cook punished me with the gamiest "chicken" I have ever had the displeasure to eat. It was like that scene in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, where they over-cook the turkey and can only gnaw at the dried out meat. Our lodgings were at a Catholic hostel next to the old China Youth Hostel. Simple lodgings, but a bed nonetheless. I hardly slept with my heart racing from my night ride, so waking up was easy as a fitful sleep never arrived.

Going Up!

We started out just before seven, to beat the rumored road closure, which seemed to be taking the weekend off. After letting the legs warm up we steadily made our way up into the mountains. The views are always breathtaking. As rough as this ride is, it is simply stunning. It is a cyclist's dream. I wish my camera could do justice to the scenery, but my technical ignorance and saturated light conditions led to some disappointing pictures.

A Light At The End

My biggest concern was that we had skipped out on breakfast to head out before the road closed and I wasn't sure how a breakfast of Powerbars and almonds would hold everyone until we could have a proper meal. There is a big difference between "nutrition" and "food" to last for a day of riding.

Michael and Dwight Take-5

We continued up the mountain and hit all of our scheduled rest and regrouping spots early. There are about four major points to stop along the way, counting Tian Xiang. Each spot has water and sport-drink and maybe more. The first major stop sits right under "The Wall", a series of steep switchbacks that lattice their way up the side of a mountain and offer some amazing panoramas of the Taroko National Park. We sat down for a few minutes and ate mini-bananas, drank Supau, and chatted with the locals before resuming our climb.

The Wall

One of the little treasures found along the way is the series of little red bridges designed and built by the Eifel Company. Each Eifel bridge is marked with the Eifel insignia and a mark that signifies the bridges were originally requisitioned for use by the French colonial government in French Indochina (Viet-Nam). The date "1954" is conspicuously stamped into each name plate; a historical signpost illuminating Taiwan's position between geopolitical events, thousands of miles away, involving the old colonial world and the neocolonial world order of the Cold War. Following the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu, the colonial infrastructure projects were suspended and sold to other Western allies; possibly bought with some of the remaining U.S. Aid money in 1964.

Eifel's Bridge

Bridging Divides

The weather was gorgeous during the entire ride. After all those days of rain, it was exactly what I needed to bring the color back to my 1970's Playboy-style, cycling tan-lines.

The Anatomy of a Climb

I was sticking to my plan of approximately 8mph for most of the climb, though after each start and restart things it was getting harder and harder to turn the crank. The gradual grade slowly starts to sap the energy right out of you.

Jeff Pushes Onward

The road along the mountains is full of all kinds of creatures. There were butterflies, hornets, beetles, birds and several troops of wild Formosan Macaques. Periodically along the ride I could hear the barking and woofing of the macaques as they tried to defend their territory from cyclists and tourists.

Monkey... or Macaque

I was pleased to arrive at the little cafe near the God Tree. The last time we made this trip, this was the spot things started to go seriously bad. At that time the cafe was closed, it was getting dark and it looked like tempers were beginning to flare. This time we had a delightful lunch and peach-honey coffee. The operator is a very friendly woman who speaks excellent English. We made light conversation with a family on vacation and then headed out for the final leg for the day.

Cafe at the God Tree

I was thrilled to be seeing the scenery in daylight. So many wonders that I had missed in the dark on the last trip were brilliantly visible. It is amazing to be able to look down at the East Coast and see where you started the day.

Looking Back

The mountains just keep getting more and more impressive as the road edges upward.

The Bike Takes A Rest

For those of us who live down on the plain, it is easy to forget the vibrant diversity of our island. We tend to reduce it to our immediate location. As cyclists we are really lucky to have such a topographical spectrum to savor on each ride. As Taiwan's mountains rise directly out of the ocean we can climb from the salty coastline, through jungle, cedar forests, and alpine meadows all in one day's ride.

Cliffside Traverse

It could be very easy to confuse many of these pictures with some of the more heralded cycling spots in Europe and in many ways Taiwan's passes rival those that are already enshrined in the mythos of the sport.

Michael Arrives In Record Time

We arrived at a little strip of family farms and hostels around Dayu-Ling at about 5:00pm, which is pretty good for a strong, but leisurely pace. I was really happy for Michael to have done such a great job on Day 1. He rolled in to base camp with energy and power.

Dwight Gets Checked Out

When we pulled up to out hostel we encountered a group of riders comprised of old guys from CPC (Chinese Petroleum Company). They took a special interest in Dwight's bike and examined our machines to comparison shop and sing our praises for shelling out X-dollars for whichever shiny component they were hot for. Despite our cordial meeting, we soon discovered we would likely be sharing a single room with Team Metamucil. We asked the girl at the restaurant if there were any other hostels that might have rooms and she fortuitously had an entire building that was vacant. We took it. It was also another night of light sleeping as I was buzzing from altitude and excitement.

That night after arriving we sat down for dinner and discovered that the food in the mountains is not high in variety of quality. This put me in a dilemma. My nutrition plan called for a good, high carb dinner to replenish my spent glycogen stores and a bit of protein to help repair the muscles. I figured if I ate enough, despite not being hungry, it would pay dividends on the hill climbs. The other guys thought they'd make it up at breakfast. We also had bought fruit and I found chocolate milk tea for my recovery drink. My nutrition strategy would be a double edged sword.

Morning in the Mountains

Over Sunday breakfast of what seemed to be last night's noodles, Michael announced his desire to return to Hualien with Jeff. I was happy Michael had made it to where he did, but I was also disappointed I would not be able to post a picture of one of the most inspiring individuals standing atop Wuling at the sign with a bicycle by his side. Maybe another day... but not this time. Dwight and I needed to get to the greater Taichung area and so we were determined to summit by mid morning.

Dwight and I readied for a tough climb of some real steep grades, said our goodbyes to Michael and Jeff, and headed toward our goal. The abrupt warm up climb out of Dayu Ling was a rough wake up call so early in the morning. To add to my misery, I was also feeling a little nauseous from a bad case of Mona Rudao's Revenge that would make seated climbing that much more of a concentrated effort. Ugh! I bet it was the chicken.

Dwight and I kept taking bites out of the climb and before long I settled into a nice even pace... if that's what you can call a sledgehammer pedal stroke.

Where It Starts To Get Interesting

I took a little rest up at the rest stop at the half-way mark to TCB and get a coffee. Dwight came along and was just clearing his head of the altitude. We were over 2500 meters and our bodies were demanding more oxygen than we could provide. The temperatures would oscillate wildly between extremes of hot and cold around every switchback and it was making my lungs react with fluid and coughing. It was bad enough trying to get oxygen in the high altitude and then my lungs were conspiring against me to limit how many alveoli were available to put the high octane stuff into my blood. I was pissed.

Leaving The East Behind

I settled into slow, even breaths and let my muscles power up the climb, alternating toe direction to spread the work between muscle groups. Toes up... hamstrings... toes down.... quads. I was really getting into it and feeling the progress. I was much stronger than last time and that knowledge alone was a big motivator. Although I haven't been doing my regular hill climb lately, the practice was paying off.

Dwight Pulls Himself Up

Dwight was also powering up the climb. He was a fantastic cyclist and stormed up the ribbons of roadway with a determined grind.
The Road To The Summit

Finally, at 3275 meters the ascent was over. We had crested the mountain sometime around 10:00am. For me it would be my second trip to the top and for Dwight his first. It is not an easy feat by any measure and there we were at the top. Taiwan's rippling mountain range eddying into the distance and clouds far below. It was euphoric.

Looking West

The next task was to get off the mountain. I am not a believer and thus descend with guarded caution. That caution was rewarded several fold as driver after driver strayed over the double yellow line. Each corner becomes a potential catastrophe as ascending vehicles cut for the straightest lines rendering many parts of road impossible to safely pass. Gravity is not only an enemy on the way up, but on the way down in can easily pull you into a belligerent driver. Several times I saw the face of stupid. The worst was the Volkswagen T4 van than thought passing three cars and a tour bus with a 12% grade on a blind corner was a reasonable maneuver. With a van closing in and a rain gutter nearly a meter deep on my right, I had to become as small as possible and consider crashing into the gutter to avoid getting hit. That incident put me on edge for the rest of the descent. The adrenaline put my Spidey senses on alert and soon every motion in my periphery became a threat. Earlier I also saw an underpowered Suzuki Solio pull a similar stupid move, but it was nowhere near as close.
Dwight J. Triumphant

We zig-zaged down off the mountain through Wu-She and stopped for a moment at Mona Rudao's grave before aiming for home out of Puli. We kept a wicked pace mostly between 38-45kph. taking turns pulling. Dwight made one fantastic pull on the way to Caotun. We maintained this pace and despite my intestinal discomfort, I felt pretty good. At one point we caught a couple riders from Taichung out doing a Puli ride. They hopped into our line and Dwight and I took turns pulling. At no time did either of those two make a move to pull, which is fine, but then after nearly losing them a couple of times, they stayed in line until we hit the last major hill out to Caotun, popped out of line and smoked us on the hill climb. Not the most courteous of riders. Despite two days of hard riding, we pull their asses out of Puli and then they leave "ffft! Without a do-you-mind-me..."

At Caotun Dwight and I parted and he kept on the Highway 14 toward Changhua. I took the Highway 3 to Taichung, but not before a stop at the poor Wufeng McDonalds to alleviate my symptoms. Afterward, with a little encouragement on the road, I was overcome with a new burst of strength and power to propel me home at a speed that was eating up other cyclists and some slower scooters alike.

There is something I really like about returning home feeling battered and pummeled, and knowing I look it. I love the feeling at the end of the day's fight against all my physical and mechanical enemies; the feeling that although roughed up, I pushed myself to overcome and I won another day in the saddle. I put the bike up sometime around 4:00pm. In two days we had logged 124 miles, climbed to nearly 11,000ft in just under 60 miles, covered 32,644ft. of vertical climbing and had a marvelous time.

Thanks guys!

Be sure to check:
Michael's Post on the ride with pics.