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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Bike Insurance: How Much Would You Pay For A Little Piece OF Mind?

The China Post is reporting that one insurer has begun issuing insurance policies for bicycles. The policies provided by Taiwan Insurance will cover accidental damage, loss, theft and personal injury.

This is a wonderful development as I tried to see if I could insure my own bike when I bought it three years ago. At the time I was told that it was impossible to insure unless the bike could have a registration number and it could not be insured under any other policy.

The bicycle insurance that is being offered by Taiwan Insurance can be purchased from NT 1295 to NT 6000, depending upon the value of the bike and other coverage.

There IS only one catch....

The policy must be purchased along with another insurance plan offered by the company. This may be a great idea if you are a cyclist who is currently in the market for an insurance policy, but possibly too prohibitively costly for just the bicycle insurance. Now, if you are an avid cyclist who often takes risks with a very expensive bike, the offer might be worth buying some additional insurance. You might actually feel comfortable leaving your beloved steed parked at the World Gym.

Fall Quarter Will Start Without The Professor: Laurent Fignon (1960-2010)

Known in the sport as The Professor for his scholarly eyewear, Laurent Fignon, the two time Tour de France winner lost his battle with cancer at the age of 50.

Fignon was also known for his tactical skill and finesse in a race. Although Fignon won two Tours, he will likely be remembered for the one he narrowly in an epic duel with Greg Lemond during the 1989 Tour de France, which came down to an 8 second difference between the two riders, and remains the narrowest of Tour victories ever recorded.

Although he lost the Tour de France in 1989, he did manage to pick up the Maglia Rosa in the 1989 Giro de Italia and win dozens of other races.

Au Revoir Laurent!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Guide Of The Century: How To Prepare For A Century Ride

Due to work and other commitments, I often have to save up my serious riding for weekends and that often means as much time on the bike as possible. The result has been dozens of century rides under my belt as I seek new and different places to visit or different ways to test my body. Putting down 100 miles in a day has become a pretty common feat, though the mystique of the "Century Ride" remains. There is something rewarding about seeing the odometer flip to the triple digits, and now I am training (weather permitting) to double that in a day's ride.

With all the long rides I post, a number of people have contacted me about my preparations for completing a century ride. Although I am not as meticulous asI was when I first tried 100 miles (note: This is not kilometers) there are still some practical and sensible things a rider should do to prepare.

1. Be physically prepared: Ride longer distances leading up to your century and try to emulate the conditions (hills, flats, estimated wind direction...). If you know the route and you now the landmarks then you know where you are in relation to your goal. It helps rein in a defeatist imagination that seems to want to imagine you are further back. You don't need to long distances to get into shape. Shorter, high intensity rides, can increase your overall fitness so the long miles won't seem so long. Two weeks before your first century, you should complete a longer ride, maybe 50-75 miles. Cut back on the riding the week prior. When you ride, pace yourself. Do the first 50 miles at an easier pace and see how you feel for the other half. A slow 15mph pace can easily get you to your destination in 8 hours with the occasional pit-stop.

2. Make sure your equipment is in good working order. The last thing you need are mechanical problems on a long
ride. This goes with shoes and clothing. Can you imagine finding out your chamois rubs or you get hot spots in your shoes at 50 miles? Once you start to think about any article of discomfort, you will think about it all day. Be sure your bike is fit well and is comfortable with properly inflated tires. Every imperfection is magnified the longer you sit on a bike. Overinflated tired might not be noticed on shorter rides, but an beat you up on the long rides. One century ride I got a flat and filled with CO2. I usually inflate to 100psi, but I bet I was around 130 and it just beat the crap out of me. A helmet that doesn't fit can give you neck and back aches down the road as well.

3. Food and nutrition management is vital. Start eating and drinking for your
century a week before. You want to make sure you have plenty of glycogen stored in your muscles. Start really packing in the fruits, veggies and carbs mid week. If your body is ready it helps ease the mind. Cut the caffeine and the booze. These will only dehydrate you. Start taking in the carbs to fill your glycogen stores for maximum exertion.

4. Eat during your
century. Maybe one thing every hour if you are not conditioned for regular centuries. Eat before you are hungry. Granola bars, raisins, a ham sandwich... whatever works for you. Try not to eat candy unless you are 20 miles from the finish.

5. Drink during your
century. Drink before you are thirsty. If it is hot, you may want to add one sport drink for every two bottles of water.

6. Start stretching more the week before your

7. Read for pleasure. It gives you something to think about on the ride if you go solo.

8. Don't worry too much. You put down a few miles and take them one at a time. Next thing you know you have put together a string of 'em and they make 100.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Pollution and Cycling

Ever since Sabinna posted this article at Satin Cessena, I have been trying to think of the reports I have seen that suggest cycling helps to negate the effects of pollution and other health risks.

I finally found an old article that I think explains and compares the impact on one's health the different modes of commuting have. You can check it out: here

The study found that motorists registered the highest levels for all pollutants except nitrogen dioxide, while "cycling commuters had significantly lower levels of exposure to benzene compared with car commuters".

Dr Chris Rissel of the Central Sydney Area Health Service, one of the authors of the study, explains: "There are two competing explanations for our findings: the tunnel effect, where everybody is travelling in the same polluted corridors, and the leaking of the exhaust and fuel systems into vehicles."

So while cyclists are often able to take routes with little or no motor traffic and produce no pollution themselves, motorists get a double dose from vehicles around them and their own cars. High levels of benzene exposure for motorists in particular can be due only to the leaking of their own vehicle fuel system.

A similar European study in 1995, found that "even when account is taken of effort (a cyclist breathes on average two to three times as much as a motorist), the cyclist emerges as the victor of this comparison" (quoted in Cycling: the way ahead for cities and towns).

Victorian health professional Dr Jan Garrard points out that a regular cyclist is better able to deal with air pollution as well: "Physical activity enhances the immune system, so in general terms a fit person will have a stronger immune system".

CNN Ranks Kaohsiung Third Best Cycling Metropole In Asia

CNN international has released their rankings of Asia's "Cities for Cyclists", and Taiwan's second largest metropole comes in at number three behind Kyoto and Beijing.

According to the article Kaohsiung boasts, "a growing network of bike lanes that currently add up to 150 kilometers (not bad for a nation known for scooters and busy streets). It’s also the first city in Taiwan to offer self-serviced bike rental kiosks to the public."

I would have to agree in the respect that Kaohsiung has undergone a transformation over the past several years from a chaotic and polluted blight of urban decay, into a very friendly and charming city for cycling as well as other forms of alternative transportation.

I recall my earliest impression of Kaohsiung from the late 90's was something akin to a mash-up between The Road Warrior and Escape From New York. After a couple trips I wrote the place off as simply a place to catch a bus to Kenting.

After many years of mainly avoiding Taiwan's second largest city, I recently went back and the place had totally transformed into a large friendly metropole with a small town feel... like the unlikely mating between Taipei and Tainan. There are now wide, tree-lined boulevards and open spaces. Public art (that is not in the vein of Gimmo worship) and rapid transit. The city was relatively clean and bright. Most of all... I saw people freely moving around the city on bikes.

For my own trip there by bicycle, I rode down in just over 9 hours and quickly navigated through the city to catch the HSR home. It was gorgeous. Most of all... I felt safe.

I think the points highlighted in the article point toward some progressive and visionary leadership that has helped make this all possible. Kaohsiung's Mayorship will be contested later in the year and I hope to see the people of Kaohsiung continue to support the leaders who are taking bold steps to make a transformative difference rather than simply funding projects to enrich themselves (by proxy) and their cronies.

Mayor Chen Chu and former Mayor Frank Hsieh deserve a tremendous amount of credit for Kaohsiung's amazing transformation and I hope this point is not lost on the people of Kaohsiung. I would also like to see an end to the ethnic politics that has kept many Taiwanese from pursuing their own interests in a sustainable future and throw their support behind politicians who make similar moves to improve the quality of life in the Taiwanese city.

Furthermore, in a more abstract way, I feel these concrete changes we have seen in Kaohsiung are both the direct and indirect result of a Taiwan centered outlook. I hope to see more of this in the future. China and Chinese do not hold the keys to Taiwan's future and no amount of increased revenue can turn Taiwan into an island that lives within its environmental means.

I Love A Rainy Night

I just thought I would post a few ics of our lovely night ride in which we were stranded for an hour during a torrential downpour and electrical storm that seemed to come out of nowhere. We just waited it out with a few other unfortunate folks in a nearby temple.

That's just a fact of life here in Taiwan, where the late summer is a crap shoot of weather... or maybe some crappy and shitty weather to be more exact. The rain cooled things off and it actually turned into a nice evening.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Wentlands in Changhua: 85mi./137km

Seaside Road To Nowhere

Originally this was supposed to be a post about taking my wife out riding on her new bike, but at the last minute things came up and she had to scrub the mission. So instead, Michael T. and I went for a little trip to the wetlands around Changhua. Most of these pictures were taken around Wang Gang. I put in 85 miles and Michael was able to put in another century... because he is awesome.

I took a little run out to the end and back.

Just after this picture was taken, some sloppy riding resulted in a pinch flat

Some amazing concrete work

Aw, Shucks!

They're Good For Men

Old Town

Michael on a Dike Ride

Cycles Invade Police Station

I know!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Welcoming A New Member To The Stable: It's A Nag!

My wife and I would like to share our joy in welcoming a new member to our stable at home. Yes, my wife brought home her new bundle of joy last night and I thought I would post the pictures of her brand new Colnago Prima.

For the past two years my wife, Joyce, has been completely devoted to her graduate studies in Translation at Fu Jen University, and for the past year she has spent countless hours hammering away on her all consuming thesis paper on the effects of patronage in the publishing of Taiwanese literature. A magnificent and provocative paper, which will greatly contribute to the field. Unfortunately, to finish in minimum time as the top student of her class for four semesters, she hardly had much time for anything else. I am very proud of her accomplishment.

Now she has time again to devote to her physical and mental well-being and wanted to buy a bicycle, so she could get out and exercise without having to renew her membership and Taichung's World Gym, which is not much more than a self serving shithole of deceit and ignorance. Vincent Chen, the manager, is (rumored to be) a real asshole and she would rather not go there again. A bike made a great alternative. And so... and much as I protested (not)... we went bike shopping.

I tried not to be too pushy or go shopping for myself and so I first had her identify what she wanted to do with a bike if she were to buy one. She wanted to do regular rides for fitness and recreation. Mainly road riding and group rides. She wanted a road bike with drop bars and something light enough to carry up stairs and most of all, she didn't want a bike that would have frequent mechanical problems or need for costly upgrades.

After a fit session and some geometry gazing, we started shopping around to see which bikes were available and not just for viewing in brochures, we narrowed things down. In each case we tried to find WSD bikes. Unfortunately, many of the women's bikes are poorly equipped.

The final choices came down to: Specialized Dolce with Sora Triple, Colnago Prima with Shimano 105, Kuota Korsa Lite with Campy Veloce or Sram Force and a Giant Avail with Sora/Tiagra mix.

The liability for most of the bikes we were looking at was the reliance on Sora shifters and Alex rims. It can be argued that Sora takes too much hand action to shift up and down the cassette. The Alex wheelset is a staple for bringing a price point down, but they are not the most reliable wheels. Most of the bikes had too few spokes as well. 2o ft and 24-28 rear. The Sora triple crank can be quickly rendered unreliable and is known for frequent derailleur adjustment,

My wife chose the Colnago Prima, their entry level road bike, as the one she wanted and Rocky at T-Mosaic made us a pretty good offer on it.

The Colnago was the only bike we saw that came with a complete Shimano 105 gruppo and FSA chainrings. It was the only 10spd and therefore offered a little more breadth in the rear cassette. My wife got a wide ranging 11-28 cassette to get her started off to go with the 34/50 FSA compact crank. The chainrings seem sturdy. The rims are contracted out to a Taiwanese company that does other alloy rims of quality and this bike and the most spokes (28ft 30r).
The frame is double butted alloy (Made in Taiwan) and I guess the fact that Colnago is willing to put their name on the bike may be a vote of confidence. Most of all... my wife loved the fit and feel. She felt good on the bike and it made her smile. That is the most important thing. It helps that it is a pretty bike. The Kuota was just a bit on the ugly side for my wife.

Some of the other factors that led my wife to this decision was that Rocky is a highly respected builder and fitter with some scruples and opinions on proper fit and gear. Many industry people come in for builds and fitting.

There is also T-Mosaic's weekend rides where there are several women who ride and the instant support of other "sisters" is an attractive proposition. She can always join a group ride.

So, my wife got everything she needed to get started: gloves, cyclometer, clipless pedals, front and rear lights, seat bag, bottle and cage, fitting and everything for NT58,000.

That may sound like a lot, but when buying a bike you should always go a little over budget to fight off the "shoulda's". "I shoulda' got this and that."

My wife feels that as long as she is investing in herself, it is worth it. Now she can't wait to get out there and get her money's worth.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Vuelta a Espana...Ole!

This weekend the Vuelta a Espana kicks off in Seville on August 28, to cap the grand tours for the season and there are still quite a few riders out there who are hungry for a little victory. Yes, many of the big winners will be missing and this one is a bit of a consolation prize for those who fared worse or were injured at the Tour or Giro, but there should be some good racing.

Denis Menchov, who has been just out of reach of some glory is due for a victory. The mighty Schlecks are in it. Italy's Vincenzo Nibali, who put on a show during the Giro, will be back at it, as will Spanish favorite, Carlos Sastre. Maybe Christian Vandevelde can also put something together for a return to the peloton.

It should be an interesting race.

Mixed Messages: Giant's Message Abroad

I would just like to draw the comparison to this promotional video for Giant to a non-Asian audience. The message is markedly different.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Hill Climb Equation:136+100+21+133+14+136=Pain

This morning I decided I was going to do some climbing and find the fabled passage between Hsin She and the 136. I got a late start and the thick morning haze just held the heat and humidity to the ground. It was the least comfortable type of heat.

I took off through Taichung to the Route 136, Taichung's fabled hill climb. Just after the Bat Cave I took my detour and headed up into the mountains of Taiping. I remembered some of the roads that cut through the county from my earliest days riding a scooter in Taichung and I thought the road up Jiu Tong Shan 酒通山 might lead to the other side near Hsin She. I climbed up in that humidity and was not liking it at all. Finally, I found my road and was off on a smaller, more interesting road down the other side.

The road to 中和 is not very well kept and I was reminded again why I got a CX frame. Even with 25c tires I just cruised over the ruts, cracks, bumps and mud.

The climb was higher than I thought and offered up some fantastic views of the valleys below.

I finally emptied out in 中和 right behind the elementary school. If you decide to take that road, it is the right.

I decided to keep climbing as it was still early, so I headed out toward the Highway 21 to Guo Xing. The climb was steady and I felt like I had been neglecting my climbing skills as of late, so I did it at a steady and not a hard pace. If only I could magically keep the Big Bike Club on their side of the road.

I was having the most sublime descent off the mountain, just totally in the zone and keeping my speed up. I was tracking well into the corners and having done that route enough times I know exactly where the palm husks are always laying in the road (every time). And then... and then... I crept up on a slow moving car. I hate that. I was eventually able to pass the car and then I encountered a tour bus. I could only breathe the fumes for so long before I found an opportunity to accelerate around him. I felt kind of smug with the feeling that the driver must have been surprised to have been passed by a bicycle. I kept my distance from the bus as he shadowed me into Guo Xing township. He would creep up on the hills and I would lose him on the flats. The bus kept me hammering at some good speeds all the way out before I pulled over to check out some fruit. Not long after I stopped, the bust pulled up and stopped too. I expected to get some crap about passing busses or frightening the driver, but instead, the driver opened the door and had his assistant give me a coffee. I thanked them and they were on their way.

I followed the 133 to the 14 and although tired, I kept a good pace out on the Puli Basin. My mind wandered to the ride ahead on the 14. I have done it dozens of times and it is a long, flat, windy ride with a few cars. It isn't bad, but I am sick of it. I am especially sick of the two little hills near Caotun. I just hate them for their ability to sneak up on you and they are annoying and not fun. So, to avoid the hills, I turned onto the dreaded 136 and somehow found the energy to put a good climb together for 3/4 of the ascent. As I neared the top a great roll of thunder ripped me from my zone and a light rain started to fall. I took refuge under a makeshift carport and waited 20min. for the rain to abate. I was more worried about the descent on wet roads.

Eventually, I made it out onto the road again and slid off the mountain back to Taichung without incident. No great distances today, but I claimed three rough peaks in a single ride.
I just wish I didn't climb like a sprinter.

Bike route 663775 - powered by Bikemap

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Treatise On Superfluous Things: Giant "Woos" Women

The New Face of Women's Cycling?

“To get more women on the road, we have to get them to think of these things as accessories... Natural, everyday accessories, like handbags."-- Bonnie Tu, Giant CFO

As a man talking about women and women's cycling, I am sure I am putting myself in great danger of talking like an ass. When was the last time a man really understood women? I also have to say that in order to write this I had to... er... man up and actually put my sophomoric maleness aside or at least under a critical light to better do justice to this topic in a more mature way than I am usually comfortable doing. Since when has acting mature ever been fun? I am also inspired by the many women riders I have met and seen in my time as a cyclist in Taiwan.

Ok! Here goes nothing...

Now that my wife has finished her thesis, she has been exploring the idea of buying a bicycle for exercise and recreation. I have tried to keep my distance and only offer help when she asks, as I have a tendency to get really excited about bikes and then kill the buzz. Shhhh!

My wife has been doing a really good job with her research and I am having fun watching her do all the responsible stuff that comes with buying a bike. She has bought books, magazines and searched online for as much information as possible for what she should be doing.

And then I got the following email:

"I hate how they promote women's bikes"

Along with the email she included a link to the the Liv/giant website.

Liv/giant is a company-wide concept of products and retail space aimed primarily at women and at increasing the number of women who ride bicycles. According to Giant CFO, Bonnie Tu, who is also taking point on the Liv/giant campaign, the goal of the concept is to "woo women into cycling".

On this blog I have explored the idea of how women approach and interpret cycling, and moreover, how increasing women's involvement in cycling can transform the cycling landscape. Although Giant offers a range of bicycles for women, I am sadly disappointed in the way Giant perceives women and women's cycling. Despite the company's massive revenues and leading R&D, Giant by no means lives up to its name as a leader in the future of women's cycling.

The Liv/giant website linked above provides a fantastic opportunity to analyze and discuss the semiotics of Giant's message; a message that makes me increasingly uncomfortable.

The Website:

The link leads to a slick, modern website with large photo images and soft graphics. The sequential photo montage depicts a glamourous young woman in fashionable clothing, make up and stylish hair, relaxing and enjoying a life of leisure outdoors and on a boat. The images are indistinguishable from those you might find in the scented pages of the top fashion magazines, like Elle, Cosmopolitan, Vogue, and Marie Claire. In every picture the model is wearing a skirt or tube dress, and high-heels. At first it is difficult to discern what exactly is being advertised as a bicycle only appears in only four of the ten slides, the other slides seem completely irrelevant to cycling. It actually appears that the bicycle is merely an accessory to the clothes, make-up and the girl. That may be Giant's point after all... not to sell bikes, but to sell bicycle clothing to women.

Ready To Ride?

"We should not be too familiar with the lower orders or with women."--Confucius

It is obvious the model depicted in the advertisement does not ride a bicycle. If she were riding a bicycle she would not be wearing skirts, heavy fabrics or clothing that might drape into a chainring. Her hair would surely not be glossed into place and her make-up would have run down her face in the heat and humidity. She would not be white, and would have much better muscle tone. Unless she has clips in the base of those heels, I don't see how she does it. Nothing about the woman indicates that she rides a bike.

I am actually having a hard time believing this concept and marketing campaign was headed by a woman and a cyclist. Not only does Giant buy into and promote the oft repeated stereotype of women in Taiwan as vapid, silly creatures, who shallowly concern themselves with fashion and spend someone's money on handbags and accessories, but Giant, a company that sells one of the greatest tools for mobilization and liberation, employs imagery of their object from what feminist theorist, Laura Mulvey, identifies as the "male gaze", a term which borrows from Jacques Lacan to demonstrate how media images can be gendered to reflect the sole view of the heterosexual male as the predominant frame.

The fetishized, gendered images of the slender female body with ample necklines, bare, airbrushed skin, and voyeuristic glances up skirts, long, slender legs, appeals more to the mass-marketed male frame of of the eroticized woman that has been the the predominant grammar of fashion photography for decades. This type of fetishization of the sexualized female (for the pleasure of the male) does not empower women, but rather reinforces feelings of insecurity and a negative body image: These are not empowering images for the majority of women and they do not reflect women's athleticism, strength, power and determination. They are the exact opposite of how cycling should make a person feel. Nothing can encourage positive ideas of body image faster than by pushing the body to do amazing things and to accomplish the "impossible".
Gear For Cycling?

"Nobody should doubt that our women’s bikes are designed for women by women.”-- Bonnie Tu, Giant CFO

Bonnie Tu presumptuously claims to be the "godmother" of Women's cycling and yet I can't help but feel she views Taiwanese women through the chauvinistic and dismissive lens shared by so many men. Although many women (and men for that matter) in Taiwan (and elsewhere) buy expensive name brands and buy into modern materialism, Giant's concept feels even more awkward and patronizing considering the new roles of women in contemporary Taiwanese society... including Bonnie Tu, who holds the deputy post in one of the nation's largest and most successful companies. Compared to many countries around the world, including the United States, it is not uncommon for women in Taiwan to excel to become leaders in their respective fields and vocations. Taiwan has already had a female vice president and may very well have a female president or at least presidential nominee in the near future. Women not only hold high positions in politics, but also in every major vocation in Taiwan. Women in Taiwan have taken the agency to plot their own lives and careers to pursue a variety of interests. I am always surprised by the great plurality I have experienced in Taiwan. This is why I am so puzzled that Giant would reduce women's cycling to "an accessory, like a handbag". This is an insult to all the strong, intelligent and capable women out there who do not need to be coerced into buying a bike just to go with a good pair of pumps. Women in Taiwan are perfectly capable of buying a bike for any number of intelligent reasons, and do so.

On A Pedestal: Liv/giant Boutique in Taichung

Lastly, I feel this marketing approach is short sighted and irresponsible in many ways, not the least of which is the impact of selling bicycles as simply accessories. If this is a successful approach and manages to convince more women to buy bicycles it is easy to view it in a positive light. It might even be economically savvy and make lots of money for Giant. More power to them if women respond to this type of marketing. The downside is that although cycling is more friendly to the environment than automobiles, they do not come without an environmental price tag. The metals have to be mined, the materials transported, the electricity spent, and all the other little things that go with industrial production . A bicycle can only negate that footprint if it is actually used and used well. Selling bikes as superfluous fashion accessories that may do lots of sitting really does little to negate the environmental deficit of the bike's production.

I see nothing wrong, and lots right about a large bicycle company targeting women and giving women a space in the marketplace to explore cycling without the feelings of intimidation and inhibitions in dealing with a male dominated sport. The Liv/giant store does a lot of things right, but I DO wish Giant would approach women cyclists with more respect and the acknowledgement that Taiwanese women have the ability and the intelligence to approach cycling for its obvious merits and not for the superficiality of the runway.

"Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel... the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood."-- Susan B. Anthony

She Pedals Magazine

For an excellent alternative in the portrayal of women's cycling, I suggest the approach taken by SHE pedals magazine, a magazine devoted to women's cycling that depicts women cyclists enjoying the sport while maintaining their femininity without falling into a dated male caricature. I picked up a copy in Palm Desert and found it to be a provocative portrayal of the sport. Even in the cover image we see a silhouette postured to display independence and power. Her physique is not waifish, but fit. She is confident and assertive.

Good Advice

I would also suggest picking up a copy of Every Woman's Guide to Cycling: Everything You Need To Know, From Buying Your First Bike To Winning Your First Race by Selene Yeager. It offers more confidence building information for beginning female cyclists than Twiggy. Muscles like those will never get her in a Giant ad, but I bet she can kick some ass on the bike.

Women deserve far better treatment from Giant.

Bike Pic Of The Day

It's ok... he's a derailleur hanger

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

10yo Boy Collapses During Forced Bike Ride

Ummmm... This report from the China Times is so amazingly shocking and so full of ridiculous quotes, I am going to post the whole thing:

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Police were called to rescue a 10-year-old boy, who collapsed by the roadside with exhaustion after his mother made him cycle part of the way on a 63-kilometer trip yesterday.

With not enough room on her 50cc scooter for her three children, the mother forced them to take turns on a bicycle during a journey from Nantou to Taichung.

The family was traveling from Taichung to visit relatives in Nantou. A one-way trip using their form of transportation took them six hours to complete. Their return trip was brought to police attention when a passerby saw a little boy sprawled out on the side of the street in exhaustion.

The woman claimed that she and her children — aged 12, 10 and seven — were unable to fit onto the small scooter. She found them a bike and made the siblings take turns riding it while she gave the other two a lift in the scooter.

When a passerby noticed a 10-year-old boy lying by the side of the street, they quickly took him to a nearby police station. The officer in charge described the boy as “soaked, tired and hungry,”noting that there were wounds on his elbows that possibly resulted from falling off the bike.

After treating the boy's wounds and feeding him instant noodles, the officer was told about the extent of his onerous journey. The family had already made the trek once, when they left home in Taichung for the children's grandmother's house in Nantou. It was on their return trip that they were nearly crippled with exhaustion.

In total, the family traveled 120 kilometers in 12 hours. Under questioning, the mother said she did not want to spend money on train tickets because she was afraid of motion sickness. When the police officer offered to give the family a lift home, the mother reportedly refused, put on her raincoat, and told her kids they had a long journey ahead.

Most of the insanity speaks for itself, but there is one issue that was only touched upon at the end, and that is how Taiwanese society deals with incidents of domestic abuse and neglect; especially in cases involving children. According to a recent report, of the 13,400 cases of child abuse reported last year, 87% involved one parent.

Although the number of reported cases of abuse and neglect has risen 35% since 2005, anyone with experience working around Taiwanese children and young people will immediately view the numbers with caution as the majority of cases are never reported.

Although the Child and Youth Welfare Law has been on the books and regularly amended since 1973, very few citizens who suspect cases of abuse, harm or neglect to a child actually file a report. Even government employees who are bound to report these cases, like the officer cited in the article, look the other way.

The reason many people in Taiwan do not take action in domestic issues has several causes that are both traditional and structural and these influences manifest themselves throughout Taiwanese society in many different forms. The first is a traditional Confucian view of relationships, which is constructed as a pyramid with elder males on the higher end and women at the lowest. Children and women have been viewed both traditionally and within the ideology of the ROC, as something "lesser" or "lacking" (I have another post on the way). Another traditional component may be the valuation of "harmony", which has been a major factor in social negotiation in traditional and contemporary society. Taiwanese often would rather restore harmony than incur the risks of disharmony. We often see these points negotiated at traffic accidents where it is more efficient and harmonious for the police and claimants to quickly negotiate a solution. Another related factor may be the Taiwanese recent experience with a strong, centralized state. In inserting oneself into other people's relationships one stands the risk of linking onto a wider network of relationships that may bring a whole new set of social and political liabilities.

In this case the officer restored harmony by allowing the woman to simply leave after reviving the child. Saves on paperwork!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Fat Zoning and Muscle Memory

Here are a couple articles that may be of interest to those who are training or want to start training.

The first is Matt Fitzgerald's new book, Racing Weight, about the myth of fat burning zones and on strategies to increase your weight to power ratio.

The second is a little article concerning some new research in which a team of scientists have discovered that muscles retain their memory of earlier form, far after you have destroyed them under layers of doughnuts, beer and reruns of Three's Company.

Taiwanese World Cyclist Goes Into The Wild

Taiwanese world cyclist, Wu Shih-chang, has safely arrived in Vancouver B.C. after a harrowing test of nerves and strength pedaling through the Alaskan wilderness.

Wu reported encounters with hunger and bears during the Alaska leg of his global adventure in which he hoped to stick to his meager budget of only $8000 USD allotted for his entire trip.

The Taipei Times reports:

Wu said he first thought that riding around the world on a bicycle was a romantic thing to do. After setting out, however, Wu said he came to realize there was nothing romantic about it, as he instead had to deal with loneliness and learn to survive.

Every day, he was busy thinking about how to make his food last until the next food stop 100km down the road and about where he would set up his tent that evening.

Wu said that during the first few days of his ride in Alaska, he miscalculated and didn’t bring enough food. With the next shop more than 100km away, his blood sugar levels dropped and he started feeling dizzy, as all the trees seemed to be white. After that experience, he said he never dared set out again on an empty stomach.

The bears probably wouldn't be a problem during the fat days of summer, but should be avoided in the spring when there are young cubs and in the fall when food supplies dwindle before hibernation as Timothy Treadwell learned in 2003.

Carrying enough food may be a greater issue, especially being from Taiwan, where there is always a 7-11, roadside stall, betel nut stand and in some cases roadside produce available for easy purchase. Many Taiwanese underestimate the vastness of continental living. My father-in-law could not understand why I could not take him to visit Seattle, San Francisco, L.A., Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon in 4 days of driving. Concepts of "far" can seem much different around the world.

Most of all, I would really like to applaud Wu for his spirit of adventure. It takes guts, brains and courage.