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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Two Sides Of Central Taiwan: Looping The Banks Of The Wu River (65km)

My wife really wanted to get out on the bike to shake off the New Year malaise. She wanted something flat, easy, and not too busy. I just wanted breakfast.

After a long morning of digging up bike clothing and equipment that had been mislaid during Lunar New Year cleaning, which meant it wasn't just lying around in plain sight, we headed out the door to the Early Bird Diner on Chung-ming South Rd.

With my borrowed bike I am without my usual seat bag and so my pockets were bulging with all the things I like to have handy for a ride: Multitool, tire levers, mini-pump, keys, camera, phone, money... etc. I decided not to bring the extra inner tube as it wouldn't be a long ride and I has meticulously put one in my wife's seat bag when she bought the bike. I could just use hers and the probability of two flats in a 65km ride is pretty slim.

Bike Path

After breakfast I decided it would be easier to roll straight down Chung-ming South Rd. to hook up with the Highway 3 out to Nantou.

There is a lovely bicycle path that runs the length of Chung-ming South Road, which is perfect for small children, leisure 2kph rides in circles and neighborhood entertainment.

It serves as the perfect example for how bike paths are not taken seriously in Taiwan. They are not intended to move bicycles as traffic.

This path follows the raised median on a path made of uneven brick. It unnecessarily zigs and zags. There are concrete traffic pillars every block... and it cuts through a pedestrian green space. This is not the type of thing you would use to commute into the city. It is pretty and great for a little fun if you have fat tires and no place to go... but it is in no way a bicycle viaduct that might encourage leaving the car at home.

Caution... for you or for them?

I had been banking on the idea that maybe the traffic on the Highway 3 might be a little less aggressive as it was a weekday and just before noon, when everyone in Taiwan is scheduled to go out and eat.

I was wrong on that count and regretted not taking the more casual route along the 63 viaduct. The traffic from Taichung to Dali to Wufeng was making Joyce nervous. Lots of aggressive bus drivers and guys trying to show off their penis size by driving fast, wild and loud.

Joyce Waits At The Tricky Bridge

Just after Wufeng the insanity in the traffic subsided and the Highway 3 became a pleasant ride.

Happy Rider

At Nantou I was trying to connect to the Highway 14丁 on the Changhua side of the river, but it was not marked very clearly so we had to cross the big bridge to Nantou and then double back to connect up with our road.

Under The Viaduct To Nantou

Despite all the hassle of getting there, the 14丁 is a fantastic road. It offers an up close glimpse into that rustic side of rural Taiwan. It seems every building is in a state of slow motion collapse.

Bridge Over The Wu River

There are fields, rolling hills and Bagua Shan above.

The Apple of Her Eye?

The 14丁 follows right along side the Wu River and its surrounding wetlands. Suddenly you are in a different Taiwan than the clouds of dust and exhaust from the trucks on the Highway 3 side.

Along The River

We followed the road back toward Changhua and passed one small faming community after another.

Local Riders

The 14丁 ends at the market in Fenyuan where we stopped to hydrate and relax. My legs were still tired from the 160 kilometers the day before and I welcomed the chance to sit down.


We continued to casually spin down the road and I was happy to see my Wednesday night ride illuminated by sunlight.


Everything seemed to be going right. Joyce was pacing herself and enjoying the ride. I was up ahead looking for pictures.

Bagua Shan

Then I felt my phone vibrate like a phone call. "Uh oh!", I thought.

Wall Art?

It was Joyce on the other end. "I have a flat tire."

I quickly turned around to change the flat. I knew I had everything ready to make a quick tube change and then we could be on our way to get back in time for a meeting with some good friends. We had a reservation at Puzzle Pizza and therefore could not be late. The pizza is too good to lose a reservation.

When I arrived, I opened her seat bag to pull out the inner tube I had meticulously placed into the bag when we bought the bike. Whoops! Empty. I had not double checked the contents of the bag before leaving. We were in the part of the trip between neither here nor there and so we walked ahead to a wood carver shop. The guy at the shop was enthusiastic to help, so I let him take out his patch set and air hose. Unfortunately, the patches were too old to work.

The guy loaned me his scooter to ride back to the closest bike shop. They were closed.

Finally, Joyce called a taxi to come out and pick her up. If you ever need to call a cab, withhold the information about having a bike. Although a modern bike can easily fit in the back of the average taxi, in the mind of the cab driver it is impossible. Once the driver spends the time driving out to pick you up, the idea of collecting a fare on the trip is a much more attractive proposition.

We loaded everything in the taxi and we all thanked Mr. Zhang at the wood carving shop before heading back.

I pumped up the speed and my legs were searing with muscle burn as I hammered at the 52 tooth chainring. The burn lasted for ten minutes before I settled into a good pace home.

The taxi beat me by less than 10 minutes.

Despite the trouble it was still a fun ride.

Moral: Don't Be Stupid and Check Your Shit Before Leaving The House.



  1. Man,
    Talk about bad luck!
    Sorry to hear about the flats.
    I was just waiting during my two weeks on the east coast for a flat, however I was extremely lucky. 700x25 tires - at my weight might have helped out?

  2. It was my fault for not checking.

    I swear by the 25c tires. Despite the current obsession with 23c I think they are not faster and in some conditions even slower than 25c. The Conti GP4000 25c tire is a gem! Unfortunately they are hard to find in Taiwan.