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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Inside Knowledge: Taiwanese Bike Companies and The Costs of Chinese Manufacturing

Bicycling IQ has a very good article up on the exodus of smaller Taiwanese bicycle component manufacturers from China as structural increases make doing business in China less of a profitable endeavor. The problem for these companies is in finding competing economies of scale.

Courtesy of the China-Taiwan cross-strait economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA), tariffs on bicycle imports between the two countries have dropped from their previous levels of 12%, to 0% this year. The ECFA has been well-received by Taiwan-based makers of higher-end bicycles; but mostly those who had previously added mainland infrastructure to their manufacturing arsenal, years before they caught a whiff of earnest free trade discussions. They can now toggle their operations almost effortlessly between the two countries, depending on demand and client need. Other, smaller, OEM’s may struggle to compete against such flexibility in a declining global market.

The whole article is really intelligently thought out and is worth a read.


In other news, Giant has apparently won a bid to supply the city of Taipei with a system of bicycle rentals. Details of the winning bid or competing proposals are scant, but it appears Giant has its work cut out for it. This must be good news for Giant's President and Founder, King Liu, who also serves as a special advisor to the Taiwan's president Mr. Ma Ying-jiu.

The You Bike program aims to:
  • Promote Taipei City's image as an eco-friendly international metropolis
  • Create new tourism opportunities in Taipei
  • Improve residential quality of life and citizen satisfaction
  • Reduce the use of cars and motorcycles to improve air quality and transportation
  • Encourage people to take up cycling
  • Transform Taipei into Taiwan's capital of cycling
It is this writer's belief that the Taipei city government will have to do much more in providing city-wide bicycle infrastructure to make this project more than leisure rentals along bike paths. The city will need to provide a safe cycling environment, enforce traffic laws, provide safe storage facilities, retrofit busses and MRT cars for bicycle transit, increase the number of bicycle ONLY lanes and many other projects before this projects can begin to benefit Taipei residents. Lots of work to do before putting bikes on the roads.


The Ritte Stuff: Taiwanese R&D

Wired Magazine has published a great article on Ritte Van Vlaanderen bikes, and how the company built itself up backwards.

Apparently, the company started as a joke to make a less obnoxious jersey, and then it grew into producing bikes using Taiwan's R&D.

My favorite part is this:

Canon was at Interbike, the annual bike biz bonanza, three years ago when he hooked up with a Taiwanese firm that specializes in carbon fiber bicycle engineering and manufacturing. (Canon refused to name the company because he doesn’t want competitors cribbing from his business plan.)

“They had a prototype frame that was amazing,” Canon said. “I convinced them to build me 20 bikes. I went out and presold them at cost, then presold 50 more.”

Although he concedes his Taiwanese partner designed “95 percent” of the first-gen Bosberg, Canon insists Ritte called the shots on later models.

“We have a lot more control over the design,” he said. “I’ve designed the new Crossberg. We’ve completely redone the tubes.”

And, he argues, Ritte isn’t doing anything many of the bigger companies aren’t doing too – outsourcing to experts. The way he sees it, he can’t match the expertise of a company specializing in carbon fiber design and manufacturing, so why try?

I find his honesty refreshing. You don't get all the marketing junk about the team of Italian engineers or the bestestest most laterally stiff, yet vertically compliant... blah blah blah.

Taiwan has a great reputation for not just producing, but also engineering some of the best frames available. Lots of open moulds out there begging for a brand to stand behind them.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

A Little Scrap Of Video

I just discovered a short video of me from the Neverstop Wuling Challenge. It seems there were a few cameras on me at the same spot, so I cobbled together a little video.

Friday, January 27, 2012

American Cyclist Killed in Kenting

Some sad news has come over the wire.

Apparently, the 24 year-old teacher was struck by a truck and killed.

“He had a couple weeks off for Chinese New Year, so he was doing a bike trip, from Taipei to the southern tip of Taiwan,” said Kuebrich’s brother Ben. “He was very active and very athletic, and always doing lots of long-distance endurance sports.”

Although cycling deaths occur in every country where bicycles are available, and this story should not take precedent simply because the victim is an American, it really highlights how Taiwan's traffic culture lags behind more progressive countries when it comes to educating drivers to drive defensively.

Anyone who has driven or ridden on Taiwanese roads knows how much stupid and aggressive behavior goes on regularly. I saw it today.

Sadly, another member of our community is gone... and it was likely a completely avoidable death.

My condolences go out to Mr. Kuebrich's family and loved ones.

Please ride safely.

Determination: Fighting For Life

As the clock runs out on my Lunar New Year vacation, I thought I would take a short ride through the hills around Taichung and get back into riding.

The ride is not very long, but it consists of some pretty challenging climbs and technical descents.

I thought I would invite Chris B. and Michael Turton to take part in the fun.

Lolita Brand Shorts

We started up Dong Shan Rd. a.k.a. Route 129 to Hsin She. I was expecting Chris to take a while and maybe stop a few times to rest. The climb up to Hsin She is not the easiest climb for a novice and Chris only started doing hills a week ago.

Chris Starts The Climb

As we started toward the beginning of the climb, I gave Chris some pointers on the climb and climbing in general, and then I took off up the 129.

Michael's Busted Bike

About three quarters of the way up I received a call from Michael. He had been brushed by a passing car in a hit and run. The car had pushed him into the barrier resulting in a bent rear derailleur and the end of his ride.

Incidents of car vs. bike seem to be becoming more frequent around Hsin She, especially as the area continues to devote more and more space to tourism and recreation.


I waited at the top of the hill for Chris to arrive. I had no idea how long it might take. After about ten minutes, Chris came plodding up the final ramp. He hadn't stopped once.

This is an incredible feat for any novice, let alone one who was 60kg heavier just a few months ago.

Atop Route 129

What Chris has done is an inspiration to all.

He has dedicated himself to life. He made a commitment to himself that he was not going to simply throw his hands in the air and grasp for excuses. He had every reason to not even start down the road to fitness. He is a father. He works a lot. He was always the "husky" kid with all that... "husk".

Chris Before

Then Chris became a strict vegetarian. He ordered a bike and started running while he waited for a decent bike to arrive in his size. He learned to refuse the extra calories and has shown remarkable willpower.

Today, that willpower was on display as he tackled one gnarly climb after the other.

In this post I have included a number of pictures that show Chris gritting his teeth and fighting through the climbs.

For me, these shots do not just show how far he has progressed as a rider, but they also show how far he has come in taking control of his health.

As I come back from an injury, I also feel inspired to get back to a higher level of fitness.

If anything, Chris shows us all that there are no excuses to getting on a bike, having fun and getting fit.

Watching Chris ride with such a positive attitude is really an essay in determination.

Thanks Chris!

Look 695 Mondrian

We stopped for coffee and chatted with a group from Fengyuan. They all had some nice bikes. Looks are among my favorites.


Fellow Riders

Chris Hacks Up An Unassuming Challenge

We then kept a good pace toward Feng Lin Valley.

He Arrives

The 16% Grade

Putting The Hammer Down

Cruising The Highlands

Finally, it was time to head back to the city on the Route 136. What a nice little ride.

This Man Is Smiling Because He Is In Good Riding Health

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Crossing The Great Hsiluo Bridge

Saturday I had my first real ride in six weeks. I had been procrastinating and hedging over whether to go for a ride.

Finally, I received an invite from my buddy Nathan to ride with him from Taichung to Kaohsiung. Nathan was on the second leg of his Tour of Western Taiwan. He was going to eat the western plain in two bites... and I was not about to go all the way to Kaohsiung. I offered to join him to Hsiluo on the banks of the Joushui River, but no further.

By morning Nathan had changed his plans and decided his GPS knew that the best way was along the hilly Highway 3, and I was left to ride alone. I was unsure of the condition of my leg, but the die was cast. I eased into the saddle and took to easy spinning south.

Just as I pointed my nose southward, I pulled up alongside a fellow rider with the only Salsa Casseroll I have ever seen on Taiwan's roads.

I find this fact amazing as this is one of the best all-rounder road bikes on the market. It is one of those bikes that is ideal for what so many people envision themselves doing on a bike in Taiwan.

The Casseroll, with its steel frame and 425mm chainstays makes for a rigid and comfortable road bike, commuter and light tourer. The Casseroll can also accommodate fenders and 35mm tires. The bike can also be ridden as a geared, single-speed or fixed gear bike.

According to Salsa:
So just what is Casseroll? Well, it’s a road bike with real road bike geometry, not a cross bike or hybrid bike. It’s definitely not about road racing though. Casseroll is about road riding, whether for commuting, fitness, or looking at the scenery. Casseroll is the dish. You pour in the ingredients, stir it up, and ride.

The rider was Stanley T. I realized that I had seen his bike several times before sitting on display at Famous Bikes in Taichung. Stanley is a regular rider with Tom Jian from Famous and he was equipped for his round-island tour for his Lunar New Year holiday.

We decided to ride together down to Hsiluo as Stanley had no real destination other than somewhere south.

As we kept a touring pace toward Hsiluo, Stanley offered to show me around the Tenway Gardens, a restaurant and garden area near Beidou.

Finally, it was time to cross the great Hsiluo Bridge.

There is just something wonderful about crossing that span going full tilt on a road bike. The red rusted beams go flying by, but the bridge never seems to end.

A fellow rider on his Eddy Merckx came along just as we reached the other side.

The Hsiluo Bridge is the beginning of the Yunlin Route 145, one of the best roads for any ride to Tainan or Kaohsiung. After Hsiluo, the roads are flat, well paved and have far fewer traffic lights than any of the Provincial highways. The Route 145 will eventually hook up to the Highway 19, but not after skipping all the lights and traffic.

I then turned toward home... the long way. I pushed wind toward Mailiao and up the Highway 17 to Lukang. It was brutal. Beyond that, although my leg was not an issue, mu stomach was pulsating with soreness.

I beat it back home for a Century. As I arrived at my gate the O-Ring was already beginning to fail. The security guard must have seen the immediacy in my eyes and just opened the gate for me as I doubled over in pain.

Sadly, I lost all dignity before reaching the elevator for a very long ride to the 14th floor.

Must have been a Bad Peach.


Stanley suffered some type of road calamity after we parted and will be heading home early with a little road rash and a bent rim.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Whup a Links' Ass!: Bike Links Around The Horn

  • World Biking gives Taiwan its endorsement as a bicycle travel destination. According to the authors:

Our Verdict

Taiwan is a good choice for a short bicycle touring holiday or as part of a longer Asia tour. Biking Taiwan can be as easy or as difficult as you want to make it. If you want a challenge, hit the mountains and cycle one of the cross island roads. If you want to take it a little easier, stick to biking the quiet roads of Taiwan’s east coast.

All in all, cycling Taiwan poses few difficulties. You rarely have to cycle long distances without services, roads are in good condition and the country is safe enough that you can camp just about anywhere.

  • Congratulations to Taiwan's Hsiao Mei-yu. Hsiao finished first in the 500m Track final and sixth place overall in the UCI Track World Cup Womens cycling competion in Beijing. Hsiao has really cemented her stature in the sport on the world stage.

Other Links:

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Dakeng: Taichung's Closest Climbs

I have been off the bike for a six weeks and I am really feeling it. After having my leg realigned I was feeling well enough for another attempt at a ride. I needed something close. I needed something easy. I needed something interesting.

My buddy Chris finally had some time as well. He is new to cycling and has really only ridden through the clouds of scooters and cars in the flats of Taichung City with a couple of other excursions.

We decided to hit the foothills in Dakeng above Taichung to make the most of our time and conditioning.

We met in the city and were soon on the "bike path" out toward the golf course on Taiyuan Rd.

There were a few other cyclists out. It is still technically a work day, so not the same volume as on a weekend.

We stopped at the 7-11 on Buzi Rd. to wait for Michael Turton to join us.

Just as we started climbing toward the golf course, we took a left up the Dakeng Alley toward the CKS Campground.

The ride lazily twists around farms and creeks up to the top of the hill.

Chris got his first taste of climbing by burning all his matches on a couple of the steeper sections.

Michael easily spun his way up in preparation for is exciting cycling expedition to Sabah later this month.

I felt pretty good and my knee was pretty well behaved. I tested out my strength and comfort on the bike. The weather was also excellent.

At the top of the hill, I ran into a woman who looked to be in her late 60's getting ready to tackle the steepest section of the road up to the campground. I love seeing seniors still ripping it up.

Chris was happy to celebrate his first "summit". When I first met Chris, he was 6okg heavier and nowhere near being able to climb stairs... let alone a hill. Just awesome!

We chatted for a while at the top before bombing back down to the city.

What a wonderful excursion to get back into the swing of things.