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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Taichung Ups and Downs

I found a little more time than usual yesterday, so I decided to look for a better hill training route.

I am still trying to build back up to a place where I can charge up the hills and have plenty of gas left for some speed on the flats and a sprint home. I would also like to do a few more hill century rides like these. Here, Here.

I figured I would have enough time to do an evening of climbing and get home in time for dinner.

I left along Wu Chuan West Rd. and through the Industrial Park. This makes a nice little climb through the back gate of the Tunghai Market and over to Taichung Harbor Rd. This is a better climb with less traffic than simply charging up Taichung Harbor Rd.

I then prudently bombed down the Highway 12 into Shalu. I had to slow down a little and remember how the roads worked. I wanted to go directly into Ching Shui and not back up the Highway 10.

The Highway 12 splits at the Highway 10 junction and, with some traffic heroics, you can make another easy descent into Ching Shui. At the southern end of Ching Shui, at the back of the town, you can go up on the Highway 10乙. This is a fun little ascent with a 5% grade. It has some switchbacks and some straight climbs. The Highway 10乙 goes past the Taichung Airport and links to the regular Highway 10, which goes directly into Daya.

I turned off to Highway 10 to go up to the Taichung Municipal Park. This is an excellent little climb with some flat sections on the top to spin the lactic acid out of the legs. The road ends at the highest reaches of Hsitun (Xitun) Rd. with a fantastic descent off the top if you can get it free of traffic. Hsitun/Xitun is narrow and packed with vehicles. Lots of fun, but dangerous.

I would normally turn on Wenxin Road, but I needed to stop by Mosaic and make one tiny adjustment. I left the Garmin on... whoops! Then I went home on Huiwen Rd.

It was a really nice way to shake up the legs a bit and get back into sustained climbing. i highly recommend this route for anyone in Taichung who is looking for a short, hilly training loop.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Tour de France and Some Taiwan Cycling Events

Michael Cannon Astride His Speedone

This weekend kicks off the 98th edition of the Tour de France, the peak of the professional cycling calendar. After last year's bore fest I am not looking forward to it as much as I was the Giro. With Alberto Contador riding with a vengeance following his positive test for clenbuterol and the doping ban he has hanging in legal limbo, I am just hoping the Schlecks from Team Leppard (Yes, I know.) or some brighter dark horses can make Contador and his Saxo Bank comrades work a little harder for le Malliot Jaune.

Honestly, after watching the Spanish rider eat up the competition in the Giro d'Italia, I wish everyone luck.

Tour de France:

Brought to you in part by EPO.

VeloNews has a stage by stage breakdown and Contador to be, what Professional Wrestling might describe as the Foil of this Tour. MSNBC chimes in on why Contador sucks.

Cavendish is going green.

BIG George make his 16th Tour appearance.

Cervelo will use the TdF to unveil their new carbon fiber S5. According to Cervelo's new marketing literature, the "S" stands for Supercalifragalisticexpialadocious.

Official TdF page.

Meat Is Murder! David Zabriskie of Garmin-Cervelo hopes to use Tour results to tout the benefits of the vegan lifestyle.

Despite his retirement and an aggressive doping investigation leveraged against him, Lance Armstrong keeps busy at shoring up his golden image.

Cycling Tips keeps tabs of the incestuous relationship between media and sport.

Tour de France viewing online can be found HERE.

Taiwan Events:

The TUAA Alishan Challenge is this weekend. Good Luck! I wish I could join.

The Iilan Road Bike Race will also take place 7/2/2011.

Bikeman's July Events Calendar (Chinese)

Never Stop Wuling Challenge 8/21/2011 (More events listed in Chinese)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Wheels Of Knowledge: Kaohsiung College Offers Credit For Biking

The National Kaohsiung First University of Science and Technology (NKFUST) Dept. of Liberal Arts and Humanities is offering a course entitled, Bicycle Theory and Practice, with the aim of teaching social awareness and cultural understanding, while teaching a practical set of skills.


Monday, June 27, 2011

Taiwan's Bicycle Tourism... What's Next?

Joyce Enjoys Riding The Roads

Jack Becker, the Director of the 2012 Velo-City Conference, is in town to attend the Bicycle-Environment Friendly City Conference at the Chung-hua University in Hsin-chu, where he presented on cycling tourism. Check his blog for some early impressions: HERE

This got me thinking of a little something I just read from Ryan Anderson over at Savage Minds, the Anthropology blog. Anderson writes:

I often wonder about the future of places like Las Vegas, Cancun, and Nakheel, especially since many international organizations (like the UNWTO) promote tourism development as a sustainable, surefire solution for socio-economic development. What will Vegas–or Cancun–look like in 100 years? What purpose will these places serve, and how sustainable will they actually be in the long run?

Many countries around the world continue to promote and finance ever more tourism development, in hopes that these investments will create long-lasting social and economic benefits. At least, that’s how the narrative goes. But what kinds of social spaces and places are being created under the guise of tourism, and what futures do these places face? What are the lasting social, political, and economic effects of these spaces?

Yes, what will become of these tourism bikeways and their infrastructure once the Chinese have biked them and gone home?
  • Taiwan's government now offers a downloadable e-book to help tourists and cyclists navigate Taiwan. I fear this will be ripe for misuse, but hope it could be of help.

Congrats to all the RAAM finishers and competitors. Still, you're no Jure Robic!

Taichung Bike Routes: Central Taiwan's Best Officially Designated Bike Routes

Joyce Enjoys Weekend Riding On The Hou-Feng Trail

Here are a few of the most popular bike trails and routes around Taichung City. I will let you draw your own conclusions.

Taichung City Bike Routes

Bike route 1071499 - powered by Bikemap

Hou-Feng Trail

Bike route 1071568 - powered by Bikemap

Nantun River Route

Bike route 1071598 - powered by Bikemap

Taichung Industrial District Route

Bike route 1071611 - powered by Bikemap

Hou Zhuang Rail Road Route

Bike route 1071649 - powered by Bikemap

Ya-Tan Trail


Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Call Of The Route 136

Off The Alternate Route 6

As I start rebuilding my strength and stamina, I keep looking for rides that will stress my body to the point of adapting and improving. I have been working in my regular weekday rides and doing some weekend rides that are deliberate in that they focus on jump-starting my fitness without wasting time or inducing another injury.

Of course, working these rides into my schedule is becoming more and more of a challenge. I had a bunch of family obligations this weekend, so I planned two shorter morning rides for Saturday and Sunday. Sadly, this weekend we had a passing typhoon dump a bunch of rain on Saturday and so I moved that ride over to Sunday as it was the more challenging of the two.

I decided to ride the storied Route 136 from Taichung to Caotun and back... over the hills.

The ride is a magnet for area riders as it is known for its unforgiving ramps and grades in the high teens. It is also a beautiful ride.

The Route 136 leads out of Taichung City through Taiping, where not a soul has ever taken a driving lesson. The High Life at the edge of town acts as the official point of departure where Terry from Caffe Terry starts his Route 136 Time Trial.

The road then undulates up through Toubienkeng and into the hillsides, which are covered in fruit farms and Long Yen (Dragon Eye Fruit) trees. Dogs lazily smother fleas on the hot tarmac and in the summer the sound of cicadas can be deafening.

Who Is A Ga Ga Fan?

I headed out of the city near Warner Village Mall, where I found a student waiting in line for the Lady Ga Ga ticket give away. Rumor has it that Lady Ga Ga will be performing in Taichung, Taiwan's third largest city... for free. If this is true it smacks of politics, I swear!

The 136

The highest point of the Route 136 sits over 2300ft and it is often referred to by local cyclists as "The Fence", for its vertical nature and its ability to create a natural division between Taichung and Nantou County. A cyclist can either climb the fence or go around.

The Lower Sections

I had my coffee at the 7-11 near the High Life and pushed myself up the fence. I saw Team Caffe Terry pass while I was sipping my drink, but I had no intention of trying to catch them. I wanted everything in the tank for my ascent. I was actually making pretty good time on the lower sections. The bike felt perfect.

Near the notorious and poorly named Bat Hole, I slowed for a rolling picture and a couple riders came up from below. I deferred and they gave me space to join them. I stayed for a few minutes, but then I felt strong enough to push off the front and they disappeared into the jungle below.

View Of Taichung

I burned a lot of matches on the way up. The ramps 3/4 of the way up, combined with the steamy conditions following a night of rain, made it rough going. I was pushing a 39 to 27 cog and the extra torque was really making me work for it.

Then, I was at the top. I had remembered one more climb ahead, but it wasn't there. It had taken 55 minutes, but not over an hour as I had feared.

Party Time

At the top there were several cyclists hanging out, chatting and hydrating. I saw several more descend as I was climbing. There would be waves of riders arriving all morning. Vendors will drive up to the top and sell drinks and snacks to thirsty riders. The place is like a hang-out.

Fun On The 136

Looking Out At Taichung City

Jimmy Flies To The Top

About 10 minutes later my riding parter from the lower reaches of the hill was making his final push to the top. He had jettisoned the fellow he had been riding with and made the ascent solo.

Astro Engineering

Jimmy is an engineer for Astro Engineering, a bicycle company, and he was trying out their gear.

The Other Side

I didn't stay long as I already had a full day planned with an Anti-Drooling Ceremony for my nephew, so I headed down the back side toward Caotun.

The descent was a a thrill ride. The roads on the eastern side of the hill were mainly dry, save for several of the juicy corners that were wet and covered in slippery betel pulp, which took some of the thrill out of the ride.

One Day I Will Get A Picture That Shows Exactly How Ridiculous This Really Looks

All too soon it was over and I was making good time back to Taichung on the Highway 14.

Pastoral Taiwan

I decided to take the prettier detour on the Route 6, which is the alternate from the Highway 14.

As I entered Taichung on the Highway 3, a fire was raging in Nantun. The last thing I needed was to breathe a bunch of smoke. I tried to duck under the plume by getting nearer to its source. Before long I was rolling back home. My legs were tired and I know I have a long way to go. But I felt like I had made a giant step to getting back to riding the way I want to be riding.

The 136 is a challenge every cyclist in Taichung should do at least once. I know I will be doing it more regularly as I regain my form and fitness.


Bike route 1068475 - powered by Bikemap

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Tern Of A Screw: Unfolding Of A Fracas and Other News

Hills Near Tucheng

... or

As The Wheel Turns

More information keeps coming out about Tern folding bicycles; the new folding bike company founded in Taipei by Josh and Florence Hon who are part owners of Dahon.

Questions have arisen as to why the owners might strike out on their own while maintaining partial ownership in Dahon. Originally, Josh Hon tried to imply the two companies were seeking amicable co-prosperity "like Adidas and Puma".

Looking into the latest report from Bike Biz, there may be a deeper family squabble being played out in the battlefield of enterprise.

The first note is that Dr. David Hon, the founder of Dahon, is not a part of the new venture and maintains ownership and management of Dahon China and Dahon North America.

Lastly, there is this little dig hidden in Tern's press release.

“We did some amazing things at Dahon, including kick-starting the entire folding bike revolution,” stated Hon. “But we’ve wanted to take things even further and in recent years we were running into a variety of issues with the Chinese factory that has registered the Dahon trademark in some countries. After a lot of soul-searching, we all decided that it would be better to start with a fresh clean slate, and after seeing the 2012 product line, we know we made the right decision.”


Without speculating too much... Copenhagen smells like my chamois after a double century.

Here are a couple more opinions on the matter. 1. Bike Commuting in Singapore 2. Small Wheels Big Smile

  • Changhua teens come of age on bicycles. Hmm... that's not how I remember coming of age. It's missing the Polish nanny, 68lbs of beeswax and a rock hammer.
  • Taiwanese hip-hop artist admits that a lifestyle of drinking beer and doing stupid things made him feel old... so he got into shape and biked around Taiwan. (video)
  • Here is my second training ride after 3.5 months of being injured. It is really hard to blog when you aren't riding. 28 miles of evening traffic and stops. Not bad.

  • Congratulations to the one of the greatest cyclists EVER! Jeannie Longo, age 52, was crowned the French National Time Trial Champion. Longo took the title after defeating a field of challengers, many of whom half her age.
  • I was just sitting here remembering my beloved 1979 Mongoose Motomag. What a fun little bike!
  • Lastly, I am happy to hear my co-worker has ponied up a down payment on a new Surly Cross Check. He couldn't have chosen a better bike for his needs. Congrats!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Tern For The Better?: New Folding Bike Company Debuts In Taiwan

Over the past several days there has been quite a lot of noise over the debut of a new line of bikes from a brand new bike company. Tern Bicycles introduced their new product line in Taipei last week along with some promotional material under the slogan... Life Unfolds.

The bicycles look handsome. They appear easy to operate and they are being targeted to woo younger, urban riders who might have previously eschewed the clunkier iterations of the folding bike-- iterations like those from Dahon, the industry leader in folding bikes.

This strategy is no coincidence as Tern was founded by Josh Hon and headed by his mother Florence Shen, the acting General Manager. Both Shen and Hon are still current board members at Dahon as they are the wife and son of David Hon, Dahon's founder.

From Bike Biz:

The company’s debut product range comprises 22 models based on five frame platforms. Retail prices are expected to be comparable with nearest competitors, ranging from $400 to $3,500 (although pricing is likely to be higher in the UK). There will be a three-phase international roll out, with 35 distributors confirmed to date. A UK distributor is expected to be in place by August. The first bikes will be shipped in September, with the rest of the world following closely behind.
It’s a brave move launching a new company to focus on such a niche product - braver still when there is well-established, direct competition. At a press panel session the day after the launch, senior members of the Tern team detailed how the company is so different to its competitors.

Although Tern is an entirely new company, it is mainly comprised of former Dahon Global team members. With so much shared between these two companies it is difficult to imagine Tern as an entirely new entity competing against industry stalwarts. Instead it looks to be more of a means to focus on a younger demographic without damaging Dahon's established reputation in the markets it currently enjoys superiority. Tern, in many ways, acts like Dahon's boutique brand. In a similar vein, QBP is the parent company of both Salsa and Surly bikes. Both Salsa and Surly are independent companies and operated as such, yet each focuses on a different segment of the market to reduce overlap and cannibalization of their respective customer base.

One look at the video above and we have a much clearer idea of whom Tern would like to target.

The video depicts young, hip caucasians cycling through Taipei's urban landscape (anyone who knows Taiwanese streets will immediately see what a little traffic control can do to distort reality).

For Tern, it is important to distance itself from Daddy's company and appeal to a different demographic. The first part of this effort is by ditching any inference that it may be an "Asian" brand beyond the gorgeous origami crane logo. Dahon sounds too "foreign". It sounds like it comes out of a factory in Asia (which they both do). Dahon does not sound elegant... it sounds "Asian"... as if Asian were a pejorative and the word is often thrown around as a pejorative on bike forums.

It is also very important to demonstrate the product's authenticity by having caucasians flaunt the product. I have even lent my own likeness to some exercise products as "The guy on the box" (an entirely different and uglier experience). Another time my friend donned a white lab coat for an ad selling water filters that were "so miraculous... they can turn wine into water." Both the white face and lab coat contributed to lending authenticity to the product. My friend was really not Dr. Winthrop and had no authority in the business of water filtration save for the miraculous filtration qualities of his liver on a Saturday night. This is not unusual as in Taiwan, we are expected to both actively exploit and are exploited for our "whiteness" and all that it entails.

The one quote from the Bike Biz article that struck me was about the expected life of the product.

Like cameras, each bike should last for about three years before it’s replaced. This will allow product designers to work towards designs which will be put into production three years from now, not in six months’ time. They will have time to work on really worthy innovations to produce true distinctions between older and new models.”
I am not sure if this is a reference to a life of use or its life as an SKU#.

Regardless, they are on the right track in looking at ways to make the urban riding experience better with a nice looking bike that I hope will convince non-riders to give cycling a try.

Monday, June 20, 2011

American Military Remembers A Cyclist In Taiwan.

I recently came across an old reprint from Stars & Stripes, the official newspaper of the United States military.

The article, which is a reprint from 1968 details the exploits of Conrad Dube, a Canadian who was stricken by polio at the age of two, and who dedicated himself to cycling around the world to raise awareness and funds for sufferers of polio.

TAIPEI — Conrad Dube, 39-year-old French-Canadian who was crippled by polio at the age of two, has worn out 12 bicycles, 37 sets of tires and pedaled 192,000 miles around the world in 17 years to prove his will is stronger than his physical handicap.

Taiwan is the 67th country he has visited in his travels to every continent. He was recently greeted by Mayor Henry Kao during a stopover in Taipei. The lanky Dube said he plans to wind up his current tour with a bicycle trip through the Philippines, sail from Singapore to Panama and then pedal through Mexico and the United States to Quebec where he plans to work on a book for which he has 1,000 sheets of notes. Mexico and the U.S. will be old hat for him as he already has been through the area.

I find this article interesting in many ways.

For one, Taiwan is still a destination for cyclists who are seeking to raise awareness for their cause, but beyond that this article really highlights how much the world has changed since Conrad passed through our beautiful Island. The most obvious change is the near eradication of polio. This article is full of little revealing details.

I find it interesting that even in 1968 in the darkest days of the Cold War Taiwan is referred to as a "country" without any of the ill fitting Chinese blanket terms various diplomats, statesmen military leaders and propagandists attempted to drape over the island to obscure the obvious.

Moreover this little piece reminds us how deeply the American and Taiwanese experience are intertwined through their respective historical trajectories.

In September of 1968, the United States involvement in Vietnam was at its zenith and Taiwan, under the Sino-American Mutual Defense Treaty of 1954, allowed large numbers of US military personnel to be stationed on the island as part of the US effort to "contain Communism". Taiwan also served as a destination where soldiers fighting in the jungles of Vietnam could enjoy a little R&R.

The areas around American military bases catered to the American needs by supplying labor, machine shops, recreation, bars and prostitution. In Taichung the American presence is still evident in several of the street names that run through the middle of the city. Even when I first arrived in 1998, the expat party scene was still focused around Hua-Mei Street/華美街 (Chinese-American Street), which is adjacent to Meitsun Rd./美村路 (American Village Rd,), and Zhong Mei Street/中美街 (another iteration of Chinese-American St.). These areas kept the Americans located in certain areas and made them easier for authorities to watch and also kept them from getting involved in local affairs, which by 1968 had started to become more pronounced with increasing incidents involving political activism and the high profile escape of the pro independence dissident Dr. Peng Min-ming.

The United States withdrew its forces from Taiwan by January 1, 1980 following an earlier pledge to recognize China... as China. Despite the withdrawal, the impact of over 25 years of American involvement in Taiwan left an indelible mark as the United States became the cultural center for Taiwan, having replaced Tokyo in 1945.

The last note I would like to make about this article is the mention of Mayor Henry Kao. Even in the dark days of authoritarian Taiwan, Henry Kao (Kao Yu-shu) was the first elected mayor of Taipei city and repeatedly defeated the Generalissimo's hand picked candidates. Kao, who was an ethnic Taiwanese was also not a KMT party member and later openly advocated Taiwanese independence. Kao's success in Taipei not only frustrated the KMT hardliners for his high levels of support, but his high popularity also highlighted the KMT's dictatorial leanings and emphasized the party's failings.

It was Kao's popularity in Taipei that led the KMT government to transform Taipei and Kaohsiung into "special municipalities" in which the mayor would be appointed by the central government; a process that ended in 1994 and was punctuated by the election of DPP member and former political activist, Chen Shui-bian.

It is interesting how a bike ride, even decades after its completion, can still find salience against the back drop of history and memory.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Great Route 129 to Route 136 Loop

Pray For Me

The great thing about living in Taichung is that you don't have to go far to have a beautiful ride.
For my Sunday ride I decided to keep the distance down, but I thought I should add some hills to my rehab diet. Nothing fit the bill better than the Route 129 to Route 136 loop through the foothills of Taichung.

Colored Wolf?

I need to control my efforts to ensure a solid recovery and so I made an easy spin out to Dong Shan Rd. Even though it was only 8:00am the heat and humidity was already unbearable.

Sunday Ride

As I headed for the hills, the roads were full of cyclists of all kinds who were already returning from their day's rides. I really should get out earlier to beat the heat, but I think it would be better to just acclimate and get it over with.

Wishful Thinking

I pounded away toward my first hill climb up the Route 129 to Hsin She, but I stopped at a temple along the way to stretch my legs out as I wasn't sure how I would fare on a sustained climb. My big fear is damaging my knee again and having to start again at zero.

As I finished my stretches, I saw two groups of riders aggressively chase each other to the base of the hill. "Damn!" I thought to myself, "those guys are going to badass it up that hill. I'm glad I'll follow up behind so I don't have to get passed."

A few minutes later I was on my way up the hill and a few minutes after that I passed two groups of very tired riders who pissed themselves out on the approach. I felt solid, but fatigued. I have done minimal climbing on the new bike and I am still getting used to its behavior. My out of the saddle work was a complete joke.

I soon reached the summit and stopped to refill my single water bottle.

Folks sure look like they're going fast when you're standing still.

Wearing His Beliefs On His Sleeve (*see note below)

Military Prison

There's more than one way to get a bike to the top of the 129

At the 7-11 at the top of the hill I met a group of three riders. One of them had a very special and unique "Taiwan bike".

Lanyu Themed Rikulau

His bike was a beautifully made Rikulau road bike, made with Reynolds 853 steel and sporting the "flying fish" design and several design elements borrowed from the traditional boats used by the indigenous Dao'oo people on Orchid Island, also known as Lanyu or Pong-so no Dao'oo in the local language on the island.

The circular design represents the "eye" of the boat to see the flying fish. The human figure represents the "first man".

The bike was a very interesting sight. Unfortunately, the owner was not fully aware of the symbolism on his bike.

I got going again, but stopped for a coffee at the grand 7-11 along the Route 93, before making some good time into the Feng lin valley.


Hsin She

The traffic was tolerable, but nothing is worse than building to a good speed and then catching up to traffic.

Route 93

Fenglin Valley

I started my descent into the valley and all too fast caught up to another car. I thought I would pull over and let the cars go on ahead so I could sit back and enjoy the descent.


Again and again I caught up with the touring traffic. It was really hard to get the full thrill from the narrow paved squiggle of a road.

Climber Struggles

Several cyclists were on their way up the opposite direction and several looked to be in various states of pain. I had already conquered a couple sections over 10%. Soon it was time for the killer climb to the plateau over the other side of the valley.

Mmmmm... Road

The road skates along the rim of the valley before plummeting down to the Route 136 below. The heat and my poor fitness really had me dogging it by the time I started rumbling toward Taichung.

Bike Riding

I finally made my way into town. I can feel the improvements are coming, but I have to be patient. Nothing promotes improvement like stressing the body. We shall see what next week brings.

This is a great local route for anyone and it should be high on anyone's list of thrilling rides close to the city.

Here's the map with my sad set of stats:

*Note: The man in the picture has a military tattoo on his arm calling for the deaths of Zhu de, the father of the Red Army, and Mao Ze-dong, the Chinese Communist leader. An additional slogan calls to "Retake Our Rivers and Mountains" with ROC and KMT (Chinese Nationalist Party) flags crossing below. The man is buying the United Daily, Taiwan's KMT newspaper. Old soldiers like these are becoming more and more rare. They represent a culture that owes its existence to Taiwan, while rejecting Taiwan in favor of a Chinese center. The United Daily had been a valuable tool in helping these old soldiers defend their collective Waisheng identity, which is bound directly to the fundamentalism of KMT ideology.