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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Nantou County Ride: Back On The Bike

For my first ride after returning from a busy and weighty two weeks in the USA, I needed something to ease myself back on the bike. Just because I blog on bikes doesn't mean I never feel reluctant to get out and ride after a break. I put off Saturday to have one last day of loafing around and then took a leisurely ride out to Nantou with Joyce and Michael.

Even though I ride a lot, there is plenty to discover in my own backyard. I tend to choose routes for their ability to accomplish a goal and sometimes I plow on through to a destination without earning any points for style. Today I learned that I had made so many trips out to Nantou on the Highway 3... when there is the amazingly beautiful 14丁 just on the other side of the river that offers a much better riding experience by far.

My camera has been loved to death and is currently in the shop, so unfortunately, my phone was the only camera I had to capture today's trip.

A very enjoyable 60k to get myself working back to my prior form.


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Wreckreational Cycling Paths: Oz On The Houli Bike Trail

Ozsoapbox has a great little review of the Houli Bike Trail near Taichung, which I have ridden on a few occasions.
The trail goes from the hinterlands of the Daya-Tanzi township border to the foothills on Dongshih.

Personally, I find the experience far from leisurely. As Oz points out:
On the weekends however, providing the weather is half decent, tons of Taiwanese people flock to the country’s bicycle paths to get a taste of the outdoors via two wheels.
I love seeing people using their weekends off riding and Taiwan has very few places close to the cities that allow the novice a chance to fall in love with the bicycle. So many novices in one place, weaving, braking and competing for path space, makes for a frightening ride on weekends.

Oz continues and notes:
The surface of the track is this red grippy stuff (think like an athlete’s track) and was in excellent condition throughout the track.
When I first rode the Houli Bike Path, I felt like I was working way too hard to go so slow. The rubberized surface makes it feel like riding through sticky mud. Upon later reflection I determined that the coating acts to protect cyclists from themselves and from each other.

The trail attracts many non-cyclists too. There are walkers, joggers... and the ever present dangers presented by the dog walker. A leash and a dog can easily translate into a broken neck.

In his article Oz frets about hitting one of the helmetless, weaving children on the path.
There’s also lots of babies to be found being carted around and none of them were wearing any helmets – I was quite paranoid about hitting or being hit by one of these bicycles and being held responsible for baby’s resulting brain damage.
The danger and fear of running down a child may may not be as great as the fear of having a child cause a severe accident as an interesting piece in today's New York Times explains here.

Although the Houli Bike Path is a great place to slowly weave around... forget it if you want more from a bike than to just get out in the open air.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Taiwan Cup Organizers Learn Their Lesson

The organizers of the Taiwan Cup and the Taiwan Bike Festival have learned a valuable lesson about planning, and have begun looking at early November to kick off the second annual Taiwan Bike Festival.

King Liu, the founder and chairman of Giant bicycles has promised to make the Taiwan Cup race bigger and better in 2011, with November 5 already earmarked on the calendar.

The first edition was due to take place last Sunday but was cancelled because of Typhoon Megi and replaced with a hill climb won by Amets Txurruka (Euskaltel-Euskadi). Oscar Freire, Robert Hunter, Tadej Valjavec, Darren Lill and David Tanner also competed in the event that is part of the Taiwan Cycling Festival.

King Liu, the founder of Giant Manufacturing Ltd. and advisor to Taiwan's president is quoted in the article as saying:

We’ll run the event on a bigger scale on November 5, 2011. The government of Taiwan and the cycling industry here are very supportive. We want to make Taiwan a cycling paradise.

The article goes on to erroneously report that 2011 will be "Taiwan's hundredth anniversary", which is ridiculous and impossible. 2011 will be be the hundredth anniversary of the Republic of China, which began administrating on Taiwan in 1945 and retreated to Taiwan in 1949. Taiwan has been in its present location for millenia. Get used to more of this garbage as ROC cheerleaders seek to promote an unpopular political agenda.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Professional Cyclist's Frame For Viewing Taiwan

I found this little interview with Daniel Carruthers, a professional cyclist who has been living in Asia.
Some of his comments to be interesting and worthy of note.

Life in China is actually very different to Taiwan. It was easier living in Taipei. We lived in Shida, where there are plenty of nice food choices at good prices. It’s more expensive to eat good food here in China. Regular Chinese food is good, but I get sick of it – it’s the same everywhere and it’s very oily.

Getting things done in China always seems to take longer. Things seemed more efficient and stream-lined in Taiwan. More people speak English in Taiwan and you can get around there without having to know too much Chinese. But here in China, it is almost essential to master basic Mandarin if you want to get around. Not many people speak English unless you are living near a university campus where most students know some English.

I think one very common mistake foreign commentators make when researching and writing about Taiwan, is that writers seem to constantly seek an unnecessary and useless parity between Taiwan and China.

Logically, I see no reason to enforce this parity, but I suspect is has something partially to do with how "Westerners" identify and view otherness. As people view the "other" in terms of difference from themselves, the less care they take in grouping the "other" into categories that make cultural sense to them. The fact that people in Taiwan and China both speak forms of Mandarin Chinese as an official language seems to provide enough material for writers to seek parity between the two cultures. The same writers would probably not seek as much parity between American, English, Irish, Ghanan, Philippine, Fijian, Samoan or Pakistani cultures, despite their use of English as an official language. With such different social structures, I really do not understand why Taiwan needs to constantly be compared to China.

I feel another aspect of the parity between Taiwan and China is the resonant Cold War ideologies of the ROC, PRC and even the USA. In post WWII discourse, Taiwan was inaccurately portrayed by various political actors as some type of China.

I think this influence is evident in a recent blog post by Richard Masoner from Cycleicious, who brings the political term "overseas Chinese" into his blog post regarding the Taiwan Bike Festival. The term "Overseas Chinese", or 華僑 is a 20th century political construct devised and employed by the Chinese nationalists and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) to mobilize support and raise funds for their movement and later for the new Chinese nation. The term is built around an imagined cultural, ethnic and racial construct that has no real foundation in the history of "Chinese" identities. Masoner uses the anachronous term "Chinese diaspora". Chinese political actors used the invention of the "Overseas Chinese" as a base for political support following the Chinese civil war and actively sought to enact programs that would draw citizens of other nations together in support of a racial Chinese nation and in opposition to the PRC. No wonder people get confused.

It is not surprising that the interview above clearly reveals the cultural, environmental and social differences between groups of people who live within social and political systems with vastly different motives, goals and objectives. I would recommend writers be aware of their China bias and simply write about Taiwan as Taiwan. It only makes sense.


Monday, October 25, 2010

2010 SSCXWC and Cyclocross in Seattle

My cousin Ryan after the race

I spent the last full day of my trip to Seattle with family. I took my brother to a cyclocross race to watch my cousin compete in the Cat 3 race before the Single Speed Cyclocross World Championships in Kent, Washington.


The weather had been rainy, but cleared up just in time for racing to start.

Junior Racing

The first to race were the kids. I love seeing kids out there racing around on drop bars. Some kids has some pretty expensive rigs.

A competitor with her LaCruz

Most of the competitors were men, but several women were in the field. The women race at the same time the men do, but their placing is calculated separately.

Naughty Nurse

Lots of costumes on display.

"And they're off!"

Rich races Single Speed

Ryan slogs through the muck

Over the bumps

In decline

Slicing though the puddle

A Climbing Bike

Mud Flats

Ryan digs into a turn

What's the over under?

Dressed to kill

When will we get this in Taiwan?

Chinese Bikes... Made In Taiwan? Misleading Labels and Substandard Equipment

The Taipei Times is reporting that a number of bicycles and parts labeled "Made In Taiwan" are actually produced in China using substandard parts.
"Consumers often think they are buying a Taiwan-made product and only after they bring the product home and find that it is substandard do they realize that the main components are made in China..."
Taiwanese cooperation with manufacturing facilities in China is nothing new. With expanded trade and easing of regulations, there will surely be more of this type of "cross pollination". The government in many cases seems to even be treating economic partnerships between Chinese and Taiwanese companies as something "local".

I see a danger here in Taiwan degrading its brand as a whole.

Over the past 30 years Taiwan has become a well respected name in manufacturing. Over the past decade Taiwan's bicycle manufacturing industry has shed the stigma as an "Asian producer", and the name "Taiwan" has become synonymous with quality. Part of that quality stems from a system that promotes political and economic clarity.

Taiwan needs to protect its brand and strengthen rules that protect consumers from poorly made and potentially dangerous Chinese goods that sully Taiwan's good name.


The professional cyclist, George Bennett, blogs on his Taiwan Bike Festival experience.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Giant's Plans for World Domination

A Giant Branded Bike

Taiwan Today is featuring a lengthy article on Taiwan's Giant Manufacturing Co. Ltd., which has positioned itself to become the dominant bicycle brand in East Asia.

The article provides a lengthy history of Giant, from OEM to worldwide brand. The most interesting details come at the latter half of the article, which provides some fantastic mid-management speak that sounds like it comes right out of a cheap MBA program.

My favorite comes from Giant spokesman, Jeffery Shiou:

Asked to comment on what makes Giant so unique, Sheu mentioned the company’s complete dedication, since the very beginning, to bicycles. Its goal has been to become a “total cycling solution provider,” Sheu noted.

Despite the management speak, the article provides several points for discussion regarding Giant, branding and positioning itself as a world leader.

Giant also adopted sports marketing techniques to make its quality products better known. “We started to sponsor cyclists in all kinds of international competitions,” said Sheu.

If these cyclists performed well, their cycling equipment and devices would receive widespread media coverage. “That was how foreign customers became familiar with Giant,” he said.

Giant also invited many professional cyclists to test its vehicles and offer tips for improvement. For instance, opinions from these experts helped Giant build its world-renowned carbon fiber bicycles.

So much of sports marketing has to do with selling a fantasy. People care about what the pros are using and hope they too can purchase some magic to become a better cyclist, which beats traditional training any day.
Putting a bike in the pro ranks instantly increases its value. Put one on the podium and the value skyrockets. The rush to carbon fiber bikes is not driven by the pros, but it is driven by the manufacturers who will see increased profit margins with carbon fiber and use the pros to sell bikes. Let's face it... professional racing is about selling products.

Moreover, the company was among the first bicycle brands to produce a line of models especially for females. “Women make up half of the population and their needs should not be ignored,” said Bonnie Tu, Giant’s chief financial officer.

In April 2008, the world’s first female bicycle retail store, which sells Giant bicycles made under its subsidiary brand name Liv, opened in Taipei.

But Giant is not only about selling bikes. More importantly, the leading bicycle brand is devoted to promoting cycling culture.

Giant's View Of Female Cyclists

I think I have made my view of the Liv/Giant campaign abundantly clear. Something I might like to add is that Giant's marketing strategy seems to be focusing on transforming the image of Giant domestically from the proletarian, affordable bike for the masses, to a prestige nameplate that seeks to convey the messages of status, which, in a society with a strong Confucian cultural influence, locates people on a grade-scale that defines social relationships in terms of superiority and inferiority. I think networks of guanxi clearly demonstrate the social function of status within Taiwanese society and how Taiwanese use prestige symbolism to traverse the cleavage between these relationships.

With Giant defining and articulating "cycling culture", backed by its overwhelming presence and close relations with the central government, Giant may have more influence over how cycling culture develops in Taiwan than any other social force. Giant plays a large role in determining which products will be available to the consumer through its ubiquitous Giant retail stores.

“But we are not doing all this to ask people to buy Giant products,” said Sheu. “We just want them to be aware of the benefits of cycling, experience the fun of it all and make it part of their life.”

The foundation may have had a little bit of luck on its side. Many more people in Taiwan have become aware in recent years of the importance of reducing carbon emissions, and bicycles provide a natural solution. Indeed, starting in 2007, more and more people have taken to using bicycles as a daily means of transportation.

The first sentence above should be taken with a grain of salt. They are a business, and businesses want to make money and sell their product. Giant wants to sell a product... they are out to expand the market and gain market share. In the positive side, a company with a presence like Giant provides the opportunity for other component manufacturers to build partnerships with Giant and build brand awareness.
In spite of its many accomplishments, Giant has no intention of resting on its laurels. The quest to become the best bicycle company in the world drives it ever forward.
My final thought on Giant is the fact that Giant, as both a manufacturer and retailer, has the ability to exploit its vast supply networks and political relationships to squeeze out the alternatives. I know several small and dedicated bike shops that are under increasing pressure from the lower price points available from Giant.

These small, independent stores have been the centers of local cycling culture on Taiwan for decades where cyclists could gather and build community. These little shops are poised to suffer from the "Walmartization" of Taiwan's cycling retailers. If Giant does succeed in driving out the local independent retailer, Taiwan's unique cycling culture will suffer an important loss and the choices will be greatly limited.

We need a strong system of locally based independent retailers in our communities and I would encourage everyone to support their local bike shop over the Giant retailer where our money goes back into the community.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Taiwan Cup Cancelled!!! Dreams Of Taiwan Cycling Festival Blown Away By Typhoon

Due to Typhoon Megi, organizers of the Taiwan Cup and Taiwan Bike Festival have cancelled the remainder of the events that were to be held in the lead-up and conclusion of the nation's most substantive event for putting Taiwanese cycling on the tourist map.

Torrential rains in the Suao area have already led to severe landslides that collapsed a section of roadway with 20 Chinese tourists missing.

The cancellation was a necessary and responsible step with the dangers posed by seasonal typhoons that pass Taiwan between early July and late October.

I am a bit disappointed that visiting cyclists will be unable to experience the beauty and joys of cycling Taiwan, such as those I try to highlight on this blog, but it was an inevitable development in the face of a seasonal storm.

I hope the organizers will use a little due diligence and schedule events such as these during periods of more reliable weather. This was simply careless planning that unnecessarily led to a huge waste of both public and private resources that could have been better allocated to support Taiwan's cycling infrastructure.

Live and learn.

Tough Old Bird Tackles Taiwan For Cancer

As I reported on here, Sue Greene, an athletically accomplished mother of three, will be riding 300 miles over Taiwan's mountainous terrain in the name of cancer research. link

The 51 year-old rider plans to complete the journey in 5 days, despite having just recovered from a serious crash.

The married mother-of-three said: “I’ve got a friend who is terminally ill. I have also lost a couple of friends to cancer and this opportunity came up to raise money for Clatterbridge.

“I started cycling first in Easter with Middleton’s cycling group in Ormskirk. Shortly after I thought I’d give this a go. I’ve done marathons and I thought, I’m going to have a go at doing this.”

But it was uncertain if the challenge would go ahead after she crashed into a road barrier at the start of the month. Despite falling off her bicycle, breaking her rib and collarbone, she is determined to complete the challenge.

Sue said: “My collarbone has knitted wrongly but it has knitted in a way that works. My rib just sorted itself out. I was livid that I had to have a few weeks off. It hasn’t put me off at all. I still really enjoy cycling.”

This calendar year I have seen several friends and their families come face to face with cancer and it is an ugly disease that robs us of parents, children, spouses, friends and loved ones. Fortunately, the people I know are all survivors or winning the battle. There are still so many who aren't so fortunate.

I would like to wish Ms. Greene good luck and I hope Taiwan's riders will join her on her journey.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Road Bikes With Disc Brakes Coming To A Future Near You?

I just came across this little article from Cycling News about the recent UCI ruling on disc brakes for cyclocross racing and its effect on the future of road bike braking systems.


The rear disc mount puts more stress on the frame, requiring an strut between the stays to bolster the area.  Even so, just three rear rotor bolts are sufficient in this application.

The rear disc mount puts more stress on the frame, requiring an strut between the stays to bolster the area.

The UCI's recent lifting of the ban on disc brakes in cyclo-cross has been widely heralded as a positive step forward for the sport, finally allowing a critical piece of equipment to advance past what is essentially decades-old technology. The move from rim to disc brakes has already changed the landscape for mountain biking and 'cross riders – especially racers – stand to make similar gains:

• Braking performance – both in terms of power and modulation – will improve dramatically, especially in adverse conditions where even the best rim brakes can become virtually inoperable
• Mud clearance: by moving the brake hardware away from the rim, bikes are less apt to clog up with debris
• Overall weights could potentially decrease: even when factoring in a disc rotor, 'cross bikes' lower braking demands should make for smaller and lighter hardware than on mountain bikes plus even lighter rims than what is currently available
• Fewer pits during muddy races
• The ability to continue on if a rim becomes slightly out of true

Taiwan Bike Festival Is A Wash

The First International Bike Festival is a wash after a week of rain and bad weather. The outer bands of Typhoon Magi have dumped buckets of rain on the participants and may have greatly impacted the number of attendees.

You can not predict nature, but you CAN look back on previous seasonal weather patterns.

Last year at about this same time I was preparing to ride from Hualien to Taichung over the Central Cross Island Highway. A typhoon came within hours of hitting Taiwan and then reversed course and saved the trip.

In late October, Taiwan often receives one last typhoon to end the storm season before settling down into a mild winter. Planners should have understood this and planned around the typically unstable weather.

Why choose October and run the risk?

Another GIO scheme goes horribly wrong. *sigh!*

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Autistic Riders Circle Taiwan: Links

A group of cyclists who have been diagnosed with autism are currently on their third day of a round-island adventure that seeks to provide a positive activity for those with autism and their families.

I recently had an autistic student in my class, and it was a lot of work. She was a delightful girl, but demanded a lot of attention, but she had plenty of energy and enthusiasm, so I can see how cycling could be a great activity for families with an autistic member. My favorite quote from the article is from one participant's father:
"She might get hurt. However, seeing that she was so looking forward to the journey, I decided to fulfill this dream with her, "
I wish more parents shared this attitude with their children. I see so many parents afraid their children will draw a little blood or get a bruise that the children are so pampered and brittle they break or cry at the slightest bump or fall. Kids actually break bones from tripping and falling down.

I am also very proud of my wife for calling her bruise from a fall on some loose sand last weekend "a trophy".


Taiwan Cycling Festival and the Trouble With Taiwan's Ethnic Tourism

Mudan village of Shimen in Heng Chun

The reports on Taiwan's First International Bike Festival are streaming in from bloggers, riders and from the Government Information Office (GIO). Despite the wet weather, riders have followed their prescribed routes to enjoy the beauty of Taiwan's cycling. One recent report from Taiwan Today quotes the Minister of Transportation and Communications as saying:

“Not only are the participants in for a wonderful riding experience along Taiwan’s beautiful coastline, they will also get a chance to enjoy aboriginal culture, hot springs and local delicacies,”

Regular readers may have already noticed my scrutiny of the government and many of its policies; especially on matters involving culture, tourism, transportation and cultural production.

Taiwan often uses its indigenous cultures and their cultural production to attract tourism and satisfy the tourist's own fetishized desire for the "exotic".

The government of Taiwan, known as the Republic of China (ROC), was founded as a modernist project that leveraged its own definition of "modern" against peripheral peoples in an attempt to civilize/colonize them and draw them closer to the center. This civilizing project was deployed against all Taiwanese following WWII, and especially against indigenous peoples who would or could not acculturate.

The ROC government determined Taiwanese indigenes to be lacking modernity and sought to transform them under the ROC project, but in order to be recognized as indigenous, indigenes must provide displays of state defined traditional culture i.e. language, dance, art, material culture... etc. Therefore, to be indigenous in Taiwan, the indigene can not be viewed by the government as equal as they are always lacking modernity, which has been conflated into state high culture, a recent invention often referred to as "Chinese" or "Han"culture. This situation has resulted in a problematic post coloniality for Taiwanese as the civilizing project continues to bear against local and indigenous cultures through the various contact points between the citizen and the state; points which include schools, military training facilities, licensing programs, civil service, entitlement programs, and public welfare and utility providers. The GIO's tourism campaigns continue to bring this problematic postcoloniality to light.

During the 1990’s, eco-tourism took off in Taiwan in many of the areas “reserved” for the Indigenes, designed to allow city dwellers to escape and explore their own sense of “otherness”. Tourists will usually be treated to demonstrations of indigenous dancing, singing and traditional handicrafts to learn about the “other”.

The general assessment from the Tourism Bureau of the value of Indigenes in Taiwanese society echo a sentiment of the urbanite intent on encapsulating pure authentic primitiveness in which some conceptual balance can be achieved. The urban imagination collects the images of the Indigene and blends them together with scant knowledge of the colonial history of Taiwan.

In Taiwan, the indigenous people who once were at war with one another, were thrown together under a similar situation by a the greater power of “civilizing centers” that mandated Taiwan’s indigenous policy, thus becoming “exotic” in their own land. As Homi Bhabha points out in The Location of Culture, “ …the fullness of the stereotype –its image as identity-is always threatened by lack.” Indigenous people must now "perform" or lose their separate identity.

It takes less energy from those in power to avoid the dialogue of a lengthy colonial history on Taiwan, especially while social tension between Hoklos and “Mainlanders” takes center stage in the political arena. But the perpetuation of the status quo maintains an oppressive situation. In Taiwan there are only a few areas of social life where the dialogue between colonized and colonizer can actually be encouraged: areas of dance, tourism, and performance.

I think Hsieh Shih-chung has a very insightful observation on Taiwan's indigenous tourism, culture and coloniality:

The formulation of cultural tradition is based on the manipulation and interpretation by particular people themselves…especially when the tradition is utilized as a powerful element to maintain ethnic boundaries… Tradition is imagined, shaped and defined by holders or sharers of the tradition in a meaningfully current situation… Even when an ethnic group’s original cultural traits have disappeared, it can still mold an exotic expressive culture to attract tourists.” (Hsieh 1994:201)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Cycling Festival Gets Underway

Several participants have started blogging on their adventures during the Taiwan Cycling Festival. The GIO has provided several international bloggers and journalists with support to enjoy the event and hopefully write glowing articles about Taiwanese cycling to boost our international profile.

Here is one new blogger to add to the list: BevCycle

Don't forget your $35 socks: The Onion has the exclusive story.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Go East Young Man: Dwight Does the East Coast

I did 30 min. last night, but it is really cold. It is about 6 degrees C now. I miss Taiwan.

Check out Dwight's ride along
Taiwan's East Coast.


Friday, October 15, 2010

Catching Up!

I am still in Seattle and a bit busy. We had a beautiful service yesterday for my sister-in-law and I am happy to be here to lend a hand. The weather is cold, but the sun is out, so there is a chance I can get a little riding in. Let's keep our fingers crossed.

Here are some links to what has been going on in cycles:

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Alive and Kicking Around Taidong by Bike

It appears Michella has found herself on a bicycle in Taidong and has some great reporting from her interesting blog.

She is riding a folding bike around Taiwan and learning a valuable lesson in choosing the right tool for the job.