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Friday, March 2, 2012

Wuling: A Cycling Icon Hiding In Plain Sight

Lee Rodgers, the Taiwan based British cyclist who writes for Velonews, has another report from the Tour of Langkawi in which he looks for another excuse to mention Taiwan's famed Wuling ride.

Iʼve mentioned this hill-climb before, but permit me to drone on. Itʼs a 90km beast of an event that lives in central Taiwan, and goes from a sleepy town that goes by the name of Hualien, meanders through the rather magnificent Taroko Gorge amidst and sometimes through enormous slabs of ancient rock so delightful that entices riders even mid-race to utter ʻooh wow!ʼ and up and up and up to a small makeshift stage where a septuagenarian Robert Plant look-a-like is doing an acappella version of Stairway To Heaven in a string vest, leather speedos and Uggs — and then up a little more, all the way up to 3,275 meters.

I mentioned this climb (named Wuling) to one of my Peloton Buddies the day before the stage up to Genting and he actually said that he found my tale hard to believe — as if Iʼd make it up! Ok, there is no septuagenarian Robert Plant look-a-like is doing an acapella version of Stairway To Heaven in a string vest, leather speedos and Uggs. Heʼs actually 64, but the rest is true.

I raced up it late last year alongside Euro-peloton veteran Michael Carter, and he, of the Grand Tours of Spain, Italy and France, said he had never seen anything like it.

So Gending, Stage 6. I suffered, yes, and my time wasnʼt knockout, but it wasnʼt really that bad. I have, as maybe you can understand if youʼve tried even jogging for a few hundred meters at close to 3,275 meters, had worse days. Yet it wasnʼt easy by any means. Itʼs very beautiful up there in the Highlands and the mountain deserves respect, with the bottom 8km close to 16% average and the same for the top 4km or so.

I think I understand what Lee is really trying to say. When you have such a badass climb in your backyard that you know would gain the respect of the sport's most talented climbers, you take a little local pride in it and then wish you could bring Marco Pantani back from the dead, just to hear him whimper about the final grade to the top.

I get the sense that Rodgers, much like myself, wishes the sport's elite riders might one day discover the climb to Wuling and validate it as exactly what it could represent to cycling--an iconic climb.

Today, the climb to Wuling gets little respect or recognition beyond our fair island. Sometimes it doesn't even get respect from local organizers.

The climb that stands to cement Taiwan's international reputation in competitive cycling as a place where legends are born, is again left out of the Tour of Taiwan (Maybe the Tour of Tai-Yawn might be a more fitting moniker).

So, in reverence of Wuling and in gratitude to Lee Rodgers for his continued salesmanship of my adopted home and its magnificence, here is a pictorial look at the 90km of climbing that makes Hualien to Wuling a must for any cyclist looking to test their mettle.


If you are interested in racing to Wuling from Puli, the Nantou Cycling Association will be holding the Wuling Cup 6/17/2012.

The event will divide the field into a race group and a recreational group. If you can finish the climb in 5hrs 30min. you can qualify for the race group.

This might be a better alternative to the Neverstop Wuling Challenge, which saw 7000 riders converge on the mountain at the same time creating conflict with motorists and potentially dangerous conditions.


  1. Are the disc brakes on your bike a personal preference, or do you deem them better than v-brakes for these kinds of climbs & descents?

  2. Are the disc brakes on your bike a personal preference, or do you deem them better than v-brakes for this kind of climbs & descents?

  3. Before I had one bike for all conditions in Taiwan and chose a CX bike with discs. I really like the versatility of the set-up. The discs were great for stopping. The bad points were the lack of options for wheels forks and hubs. They were wonderful in the dirt.

    Now, I have a dedicated road bike with caliper brakes and they work great with the bike.

    I also have a steel CX bike with discs and greater stopping power.

    I was tempted to go with disc tabs on my road bike, but I wasn't sure how the technology would be developing in terms of ISO standards, hub spacing etc...

    Now, as the technology starts to matriculate through road bikes, I am still unsure, but I can imagine how awesome road discs would be on those descents.

    When I did Wuling on discs before, I felt very confident with the braking. I did it with the new bike and it was also good, but the difference was that the new bike is fit better and balanced better. Combine the two and it might be an even better descender.

  4. Great post and photos, Andrew. I would love to ride Wuling the next time I'm back in Taiwan. Do you have a page on Facebook that I can follow?

  5. Thanks Jeff!

    My FB page is simply a personal hodgepodge of dinner table discussion.

    TiC is where I can focus almost exclusively on bikes.

    Next time you are in Taiwan, look me up and I will try to make time to ride Wuling with you.



  6. nice! just googled Wuling and saw my name ;-) ps this is Lee Rodgers!

  7. Lee- I always enjoy your stuff on Velonews. Now if you could convince the Tour of Taiwan to throw some of these climbs int the mix.

  8. Hi, If I were to cycle up hill on Wuling. Anywhere can I start?