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Monday, April 30, 2012

Into The Sunset: Dadu Shan Hill Loop

After all that rain, I finally made it out for a Monday night ride over Dadu Shan and back. What a great evening for sunsets. 

The route has a lot of climbing packed into 48km, and I probably should have taken off 15min earlier for a little more daylight through the tricky bits, but it was a good evening ride. 

It is often far too easy to forget how great it is to be a cyclist in Taichung if we can tolerate the nasty traffic. Lots of options for every type of rider.  

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Rainy Days

Not a lot to write about this weekend. 

The weather this time of year can go from dry to downpour in just a few moments. 

The only thing Taiwanese cyclists are getting these days is cabin fever. 

Friday, April 27, 2012

Cycling Taiwan's Northern Tip (Video)

Here is a nice little video from a rider who chose to climb up in the hills around Jin Gua Shi and Jin Shan along Taiwan's northern coast. Beautiful scenery that makes be rue this recent spate of foul weather.


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Taipei Times Letter: Blowing Smoke Against Better Bike Policies

Today's Taipei Times has a juicy letter from one Cilliers Landman that dips into several topics, not the least of which is government spending for bicycle infrastructure.

Landman writes:

In your editorial of April 17, you chose a valid topic to comment about. More people should ride bicycles, not only for recreation, but also to work. Unfortunately, you couldn’t help yourself and had to blame somebody for that not happening. So you went after the Taipei City Government. It’s all their fault.
Don’t you realize that Taiwan will never be Holland or Denmark? People here will never ride their bicycles to work en masse. Should the city government spend money on things like bike lanes and other bicycle-friendly facilities that few, if any, would use, you would be too happy to criticize such spending as a waste of money.
And isn’t it interesting that during the DPP administration, when their policies were ruining Taiwan economically and the president and his wife were stealing millions of dollars from the public, you were right there supporting them?

Mr. Landman is blowing lots of smoke and seems to hardly have the facts or the context of Taiwan's economic or political history at hand to form much of an educated opinion that reaches beyond the screen of partisan talking points.

The bulk of Landman's letter deals primarily with Ma's recent decision to partially revoke the oil subsidies that have artificially capped oil prices at an unsustainable level in the hopes of fueling economic growth. This is a policy that had remained steadily in place since the days of single party authoritarian rule, when the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) could more easily transfer and inject cash into its various industrial monopolies without the hassle of democratic oversight. Landman somehow pins these long-standing policies on the Chen Shui-bian administration, which was characterized as a weak executive branch facing an overwhelming opposition majority in the legislature.

Landman also erroneously believes the Chen administration stole public funds and ruined the economy. Chen was not jailed for misappropriating any public funds and despite a global economic crisis, Taiwan  experienced sustained economic growth from 2002 until 2008, when Taiwan's economy stagnated and even shrunk. Ah... but I digress.

What I really want to point out here is that the local and central governments do play a significant role in how bicycles are integrated into the transportation grid. For decades Taiwanese commuted to work on bicycles and pedicabs. It is not an alien concept to adopt. Whether Taiwanese will ride bicycles to work en masse can be greatly aided by a government that takes cycling seriously rather than an elitist pastime of leisure. The Dunhua Rd. bike lane debacle is ripe for criticism as it was a disastrous waste of NT$60 million of public money (I pay taxes too) on a project that was hastily designed and completed with the aim of blatant political grandstanding and spreading largesse to the valuable constituency of construction contractors without the consultation of cyclists.

Projects like Dunhua Rd. and other ill conceived bike lane projects that consume public funds to benefit only a small minority of recreational riders in the name of "tourism" only serve to sour the public appetite for real, functional bike lanes that provide returns for everyone in the form of a cleaner, less congested environment. This practice should really be characterized as a scandalous misappropriation of public funds that voters and people like Mr. Landman should be concerned about.

These policies fall right in the lap of the Ma administration, which enjoys the benefits of controlling both the executive and legislative... and probably even the judicial branches in government.  Even KMT politicians see that towing the party line may not be in our or their best interests.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Mother's Day: Six-year-old Bikes 15k for Missing Mom

In a similar story to the case of the 6yo. boy who rode his bike all day looking for a puppy, we have another story of a Taiwanese child biking far and wide. 

The news last night had a story of a six year old girl rode her little bike 15 Kms to find her mother. When her dad was sleeping, she got her ribboned bike out and took off. She naturally got lost. Someone thought it was weird that the girl was out riding by herself, so the police were notified. The police suggested that she should get in their police car. So she reluctantly got in the car. They attempted to help her locate her mom at work, but, like most Taiwanese children, the lost rider couldn't really remember where her mom worked. The police were forced to return her to the police station. Eventually, the girl's father went to the police station and took his daughter home.



  • British PM, David Cameron, looks to appoint a cycling tsar to address the concerns of cyclists in the UK. If everything goes accordingly, Bradley Wiggins will be limping out of the TdF this July and will have ample time to devote to UK cycling. 
  • Why do cyclists look funny? Q&A
  • Cyclists Clash With Toronto and the only thing that can restore the peace is if Celine Dion, Alanis Morissette and Alasdair Gillis can come together as a Giant Robot. 
A History of Mongoose BMX Bikes: I loved my old Motomag!

Monday, April 23, 2012

SALE!: Get A Garneau Steel Taiwan Touring Bike

I am putting this up as a favor for a friend. TiC is in no way responsible or liable for any transaction. Any and all transactions are strictly between the buyer and the seller.

I have seen this bike in action and it is a decent, capable tourer for Taiwan. Please see the information below for details.


From Dom:

I am selling my steel road bike. If you live in Taiwan and are interested, contact me...0987763144 The frame size is for an adult. I am 5'9 and it fits me well. The tires, upgraded, are new Continentals. The handlebars, stem are upgraded. The pedals are upgraded- They are regular pedals, but also have another side with clips. I have ridden this bike probably about 4ooom K in the 15 months I've had it. It is sturdy and comfortable to ride. It has been stored indoors. 16k NTD.

Weekend Update

Well... the weather kept me close to home this weekend, but I did manage to get a short ride with some hot climbing done. Dom and I did a little ride over Dadu Shan between Taichung and the coast. It was nice to try out my climbing legs to better evaluate how I am coming back from all that down time. 

The goal was to push heavier gears to about 70rpm on the climbs

The speed was there, but the recovery times were not. I guess I still need some engine work. 

Good times. 

Here is the route for a short jump over the hill with limited time. 



In other cycling news, the big one-day races are over, with my favorites in the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. The Ardenne series also wrapped up without the heavy favorites faring terribly well. I get the feeling Radioshack, BMC and a few others are holding back before the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France. 

I did enjoy seeing Nibali make a great effort to only place second in last night's Liege-Bastogne-Liege. He showed a lot of the courage that made him a standout in the 2010 Giro. 

It is a shame that so much racing is reserved for the final few kilometers of these races.  

Friday, April 20, 2012

Polar Opposites: Taipei Urged To Follow Kaohsiung's Lead In Bike Rentals

In the wake of a crumbling urban bike "plan", KMT City Councilor, Lee Yen-shiu is urging Taipei to take a more proactive approach to integrating the bicycle into the urban grid by following Kaoshiung's lead in offering an extensive bike rental program.

Taipei City has set up 11 public bicycle rental sites in Xinyi District (信義) since launching the program in 2009, providing 500 bicycles for rent near MRT metropolitan rail stations in the district, including Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall Station and Taipei City Hall Station.

According to the city’s Department of Transportation, an average of 23 people a day use the system. The department has budgeted NT$14 million (US$ 470,000) a year to manage the program, and incurred a loss of more than NT$10 million since its launch.

KMT Taipei City Councilor Lee Yen-shiu (李彥秀) said the department has failed to promote the program by limiting it to the Xinyi District. She called for the number of rental sites to be expanded to 12 districts and for a friendlier environment to be created for cyclists.

“Public bicycles should not only be used for recreational purposes, but as a short-distance commuting tool. With rental sites only in Xinyi, it’s difficult for more residents to take advantage of the service,” she said.

In Greater Kaohsiung, which also launched its bike program in 2009, there are 49 rental sites around the city, with 800 bicycles available, she said, adding that the number of residents using it has reached 1,300 per day.

It is refreshing to finally see some growing criticism on how the government is choosing to craft cycling policy. Now if only someone would commit to giving cyclists space to safely ride.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Dunhua Bike Lane Debacle: City Puts NT$60 Million Failure To Rest

My quick synopsis and commentary of a recent article from the Chinese language news wire:

Taipei City has finally been forced to terminate the ill-fated Dunhua Bike Lanes.

The Dunhua bike lane was launched 2 years ago with much fanfare, but due to poor design othere have been several serious accidents and numerous complaints. Therefore, after a lengthy evaluation by the Bureau of Transportation, the lanes have been slated for removal.

The lanes have been routinely criticized for having been constructed as a knee jerk reaction to the first bicycle boom in 2008, when the city sought to win political points on the heels of a trend.

Now, the city is proposing a redesign. But after an initial NT60 million initial investment, Taipei residents are reluctant to fund the redesign fearing a continuation of the same type of ill planned, ill thought-out city project that has been the hall mark of Taiwanese urban bike trails.

The lane runs from Min Quan E. Rd. to Keelung Rd. at 4.6km.

Ever since its opening in Sept. 2009, the city has received regular complaints. Many residents feel the basic design has many errors, for example the rubberized material is easily damaged and becomes slick in the rain. Furthermore, the lane cuts between pedestrian walkways and bus lanes forcing citizens to dodge bike traffic in order to catch a bus.

What this really shows is how little the government really considers the needs of cyclists before spending public funds on these types of projects. Often these bike paths are a quick means to pander to the electorate and to spread money to various construction firms.

It is disappointing when a city loses a bike lane when they should be creating them, but that is the risk of letting unrelated factors influence necessary infrastructure. If you're just going to do it half-assed, then don't do it at all.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Taiwan's Commuting Conundrum: Has Someone Finally Noticed? (Updated)

The Taipei Times published an article today concerning the influx of commuters in the wake of rising energy costs, and more importantly on the problems that still face Taiwanese commuters despite the NT$870 million allocated for bicycle infrastructure in 2011.
Some netizens scoffed at the idea, saying that the government was unfriendly to bikers and that saving NT$60 per day on fuel while spending more on lunch was not a good tradeoff. However, netizens who have already begun to commute to work by bike said they enjoyed the health benefits.
The article points to some companies that have taken the initiative by providing facilities for cyclists. Rather than paving more leisure trails for visitors and tourists, the government might want to allocate part of the budget for offering to subsidize the installation of facilities that promote cycling to work.

One anonymous staff member at an e-commerce firm said his company encouraged its employees to bike to work, adding that it had set up shower stalls equipped with free toiletries and hair dryers.

Taiwan Cyclist Federation director Tien Yi-sheng (田沂生) said that safety was still the most important concern for bicycle commuters.

“We still need more systems that are biker-friendly in Taiwan,” Tien said, adding that in Denmark and the Netherlands 30 percent of the workforce commutes by bicycle.

This is really the crux of the issue. Taiwan's streets are still too dangerous for most cyclists to want to navigate on a regular basis. To make the sweeping changes necessary to make cycling a safe and effective alternative to the automobile, someone is going to have to start making some politically unpopular decisions.


An editorial in the Taipei Times echoes many of my sentiments. Read It HERE

Taichung to Lugu (140k)

Sunday seemed like a good day for a ride. Still no word on my camera, so I am stuck with these awful Nokia images.

My plan was pretty simple. I need to put some miles in the legs and I need to build back into climbing.

The best way to do that from Taichung seemed like a little trip up to the tea farming areas around Lugu. Aside from the workout, I felt like getting up there to take a look at the Spring harvest. The Spring teas should be ready by the end of May and many of the lower elevation teas are already being rolled.

I love spinning along through some of the small villages in the area when the air is filled with the smell of freshly processed tea.

I had the most inauspicious start to my ride with a piece of tissue paper flying up off the road and into my rear derailleur. After picking the pieces out and getting things back to normal, I sluggishly took the Highway 3 out of Taichung toward Nantou.

Just between Nantou city and Mingjian I came upon the scene of an ambulance carting off a fellow rider. He seemed pretty banged up, but not in serious condition. His teammates ambled idly by over the demolished Bianchi frame, which sat in three pieces, held together by the brake cables.

It appears he may have swerved into the path of a passing scooter.

I normally don't take pictures of wrecks, but I thought I would just post a reminder that this could be any one of us on any given ride. Ride safe and be careful.

I took the bridge at Jiji over the river to the Nantou Route 131. This is a nicer way to bike up to Lugu. The grades are not as severe or as crowded as the larger Route 151, and there are plenty of pleasant scenic surprises.

As I reached the Route 151, I decided to simply cross the canyon to Hsiao Ban Tian, which is another tea producing area near Lugu. I really saw no point in continuing up to Sanlinxi in weather that looked just shy of rain.

I thought I would swing through Hsiao Ban Tian and see how the tea harvest a was doing. A few farmers seemed to be getting ready for the big Nantou tea competition, which is abut a month away.

The town was mostly still asleep. I continued off the hill on the exciting Route 55 and made some good time on the Highway 3 back home.

Just after Nantou, I decided to get off the three and hook up to the Highway 14 on the opposite side of the Wu River. As I exited I passed a wedding banquet that was being held in the space under the viaduct.

My legs felt pretty good all the way back and I kept the speed up so I could get home early and see my daughter.

I was home just after 1:00pm... with plenty of time for play and then a trip to Caffe Terry for a beer and the Amstel Gold Race.

Nice day!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Taiwanese Cycling Expedition Vows to Spread Their Seed For The Environment

Focus Taiwan is reporting that a trio comprised of two Taiwanese and a French national will soon embark on an expedition aiming to cycle from China to Vatican City with the message of environmentalism while planting trees along the way.
The three cyclists are each making personal sacrifices in order to embark on their latest adventure.

Chang and Chen have quit their engineering jobs, while Merlingeas, who teaches French in Taiwan, has postponed her marriage to her Taiwanese boyfriend.

Merlingeas said she will get married after the trip and joked that hopefully
Something tells me there is also a missionary subtext here that is not being reported. If this is the case I can't help but point out the irony of an environmentalist project combined with a colonial project that, at its very root, contains the type of dominionism that has led to so much of the planet's environmental woes.


In other news Giant's King Liu shares his vision of the future with CENS
Liu is upbeat about the prospects of the global bicycle industry, noting the global cycling population now reaches only 15%. He said that soaring oil prices will stimulate the purchase of bicycles, as growing numbers of people would use bicycles as transportation vehicles between MRT stations and their homes or destinations. This will combine with the growing popularity of cycling exercise to enhance the global cycling population, according to Liu.
It is understandable that Liu would be so bullish on light commuter bikes, as his company has been tapped to supply Taipei City with its You Bike.

Maybe instead of letting Giant tell customers what they want, people will look to other alternatives for their city travel-- alternatives like the sleek Tern Verge. The Taiwanese company that was born out of a Dahon family feud has just won the prestigious Red Dot award for design.

Of course, before people can bring their bikes into the city for transportation, they need to have a safe place to ride them.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Paris-Roubaix Tribute Ride: Taichung to Kaohsiung (240km)

For many cyclists the second Sunday of April does not represent the death and purported resurrection of a Jewish prophet, who will redeem the believers and relieve them from suffering. Instead, this date marks a different tradition, one in which its adherents use a cobbled roadway dating from the Roman era as a blunt instrument to inflict the maximum amount of suffering a cyclist can endure. Yes, it was Paris-Roubaix weekend all over again and I decided to craft my own homage to the fabled Hell of the North with a 240km ride from Taichung to Kaohsiung.

Looking for Lukang

My goal was to follow the tradition of Paris-Roubaix, and complete a point to point ride in a similar distance at the Queen of the Classics.

Paris-Rubaix is usually run on a 250-260km route from Paris the velodrome in Roubaix, Belgium. The uneven cobbled roads are legendary for shaking riders and their gear to pieces.

Although I have hardly trained, I felt well enough to give it a go and casually made plans to hit the Highway 17 South to Kaohsiung. I did this ride two years ago, but missed last year due to injury.

Erlin Prison

My plans almost immediately went awry. First, my camera stopped working. Then I took a construction detour in Yuanlin that landed me away from my planned route to Lukang, where I had anticipated hooking up with the Highway 17.

I could feel I was going away from my intended destination and stopped to ask directions. Nobody in Taiwan ever seems to have a clue regarding directions and often the obvious signs are absent, so I found myself meandering through Changhua County.

"Does this road head toward the Highway 17?", I would ask. "Yeah, just go straight." This conversation on three occasions led me to a T intersection.

To make matters worse, I was pedaling into a headwind. Talk about panic setting in.

As I blindly swiped at possible roads, led only by intuition, I was increasingly aware of how much time I was wasting and how much energy it was costing me to fight against the wind in a desperate search for a corridor to the coast.

I ended up spending 3 hours meandering around Changhua County trying to find the Highway 17. When I finally found it, I realized I would be fighting a steady headwind from the SE. I remember when I looked at the weather forecast, the prediction was for a wind from the NNW. I wondered if I had misread the information, and if it meant the wind was blowing TOWARD the NNW.

Now, this was bad. Not only had I wasted valuable time and energy making little progress in Changhua, but I would also be moving at a mere 25kph.

Yes, I cursed this situation aloud. I even thought of turning tail at the Zhoushui River. For some reason, maybe stubbornness and the fact that I had already posted my intentions on Facebook, I got in a tuck and lurched my way southward.

Zhoushui River

The Paris-Roubaix was dubbed the "Hell of the North" by the race organizers following a reconnaissance tour of the route following World War I. The devastation that had ravaged the French and Belgian countryside was enough to conjure visions of Hell.


Taiwan's western seafront along the Highway 17 could also be compared to a vision of Hell.

This is the proverbial carpet under which all the unsightly things in Taiwan have been swept. It is a desolate landscape of decaying infrastructure, smoldering industry-scape and the resulting eyesore of brothels, cheap motels and lurid KTV joints. The entire route between Yunlin and Tainan is a flat, windswept wasteland of rubble along with the piles upon piles of discarded oyster shells. There are mounds and stacks of shells dotting the entire area, some neatly bundled, others scattered in heaps.

This is by no means a scenic route.

Guy Shooting Rockets For Me

My legs were already burning by the 100k mark. I wondered if I had gotten myself in over my head again.

Then, at just around the fishing port of Budai, I was passed by a temple procession.

One little blue truck with three guys in the back passed me and they shouted a cheer for me. I saw the fat guy in the back frantically groping for something and I worried he might be getting ready to throw firecrackers out the back to wake me up.

I could see a puff of blue smoke as he lit a red box of rockets and I braced myself for the coming onslaught of exploding projectiles.

It wasn't an attack, but instead it was a cheerful salute as they rooted for me to keep going.

I looked down at my Garmin and I was cooking at 23mph.

Flooded Tombs


The wind had shifted to the NNW direction and I was rolling along making good time.

The temple flags confirmed that I would be finishing my ride with the wind at my back, soI settled back into the drops and blasted through Tainan.

Tainan City seems to last forever.

You know you're in Tainan when you the only hills you encounter are where bridges have been built to traverse the rivers and canals that cut into the pancake-flat plain.

Tainan Canal

Biking through Tainan I had more cheers of support from passing drivers. It really gave me a jolt of energy.

Oceanfront Bike Trail in Tainan

When I finally rolled into Kaohsiung, it was still earlier than I had anticipated. I was feeling ok, but clearly at the end of my riding day.


Before long I had my bike bundled up and was on the HSR to Taichung. I usually get business class because it affords more space for my bike behind the last row of seats. When I went to retrieve my bike, I noticed some asshole had put their luggage on my derailleur. There was plenty of space for it in the luggage compartment and in the cargo space above the seats. Totally stupid and unnecessary.

I sipped a coffee and let my legs decompress.

Bike, Stroller, Baby, Bag

I was back in Taichung in time to grab dinner and watch the real Paris-Roubaix. I felt better than when I did this ride two years ago. I have more miles in the legs with a new bike. I found I could ride in the drops longer and I took fewer breaks. I just wish I had been able to be in better condition. I have only one one other ride this year that was over 100mi.

I guess it was a good day of punishment.

Walking Dead