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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Biking Taiwan's East Coast: The Glory of Green

Michael Turton over at The View From Taiwan has a wonderful write-up and pictorial spread on his adventures riding Taiwan's East Coast and Green island. It is obvious why the area is ranked the number 2 area in the world for cycle tourism.

Here is one little excerpt on the routes they took and especially on some of the trouble that occurs where the bike meets train. In Taiwan the left and right hands of the civil service are merely the anonymous sperm donors to the same policy.

The next morning, the dawn of a cool, overcast day, we cruised the 193 back to Hualien city, and picked up the 1:02 express back to Fengyuan. It turns out that 193 is much easier and faster done from the south -- I had underestimated the extent to which it is one long uphill slog from Hualien. It's a lovely road, one of the best on the island, never trafficked, and the views over the rift valley are incredible. Highly recommended.

The train proved to be another encounter with the TRA's bike train crapshoot. We bought the tix for the 1:00 pm express in Taitung the day before. There we were informed there were no bike places for our bikes and we would have to bag them --- even though it was a designated bike train with the special car for bike storage without needing to disassemble them and on which bikes could travel for free with a ticket for car 12. The spaces for the bikes were all taken, we were told.

The reality was that, as usual, the TRA staffer was wrong about the policy. In fact, we were able to pay the baggage fee and bring the bikes on the same train as luggage in the same compartment as the free bikes with the bike tickets. In fact, there were no such bikes, for the entire trip ours were the only bikes on the train -- meaning we could have had one of the four free bike spaces. The computer system associates the bikes with a seat in car 12, the car with the luggage facility, meaning that if the seats in car 12 are sold out, then there are no free bike spaces (that's right, bikes do not have priority in that arrangement -- it is impossible to get a free bike shipment if you have to sit in another car, as we did). Someone needs to give the brains of TRA planners are thorough scrubbing. There was absolutely no reason we couldn't have been treated as a free bike shipment and no reason not to reserve seats for cyclists in car 12, since it is a designated bike train. Argh!
Some really lovely photos in this set: HERE
*photos courtesy of Michael Turton

Bike Train


People laughed at me 4 years ago when I was zipping along roadways with a disc equipped drop bar bicycle. Now, Colnago releases a C-59 Disc roadbike. Vindication is mine!


  1. Buy a Tern in Taiwan -[latitude]=23.69781&distance[longitude]=120.960515&distance[search_distance]=500&distance[search_units]=km&postal_code=&city=&state=TC&country=tw

  2. If I can stop a loaded Long Haul Trucker with rim brakes at 60+km/h what does a road bike need discs for?

    I had a road bike with calipers before the Trucker and never had any problems breaking (even with a rack and panniers on it).

    On a related note Surly came out with a disc brake version of the trucker this year. I'm so tempted to get one (just to be rid of the stupid Tektro cantilever brakes) but can't justify getting rid of the current LHT seeing as there's nothing wrong with it! Only that it doesn't have discs!

  3. What discs offer is not just stopping power, but better modulation and control over braking. They can allow a rider to enter and exit a corner with better control making for a faster descent and a safer descent. They are also great in wet weather and they keep your rims in good shape.

  4. I know people quibble over grams in races so on that front I think overall the cornering capabilities and wet weather performance loses out.

    I can't see this being sucesfully marketed to the weight weenie racers. Did you remember how much ruckus electronic shifters caused?

  5. My guess is that the weight will go down dramatically in the near future as resources are allocated to develop this market.

    That is the key here--market.

    I think frames are getting to the edge of the weight envelope for safety and rigidity.

    Furthermore, the UCI has a minimum weight limit on bikes.

    These two factors will really be driving disc brakes and hydraulic disc braking systems as this offers bike companies something new to sell consumers to entice them into buying a new bike. With the UCI limit, disc technology my merely enhance performance in races.

    Right now the weight penalty is about 3/4 of a lb. I imagine there will soon be parity between caliper and disc systems in the medium term as road specific designs have been in the works for the past 5-6 years.

  6. Thanks for the link Drew.

    @OzSoapbox, as mentioned above disc brakes work better in the wet. Personally, I just feel a lot more confident with discs knowing that they will work well in all conditions.

  7. Hopefully it kickstarts some tech dev. I myself don't care about weight and anything that makes brakes better (and easier to adjust) is welcome.

    Personally I'd like to see some innovation in this field. We've added electronics to drivetrains... instead of re-inventing disc brakes for roadies how about we try something new?

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