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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Cross-ing Taichung County

Exploring Farm Roads Off The #136

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Night Stats

I just got back from my night loop. Not a personal best, but I'll take it. Traffic was a little heavy tonight, but I love the feeling of fighting through the scooters. My bike, as a cyclocross race bike, excels in these situations. It is almost like criterium racing. I think I was a little tired for the intervals at the end. This is also the third time I have opted to just hold my gearing to the 50 tooth chainring and limit my cogs between 12 and 26.

Time for some chocolate milk!