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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Racing the Rainclouds: Unfinished Business on Route 136


My health and fitness is coming back and I am gradually edging toward the form I was in last year before my injury. I had almost a week off the bike due to scheduling and weather, so I was rested enough to try the loop between the Taichung Route 129 and the venerable 136. If I am going to hurt myself, this is the route I seem to do it on. 


I had planned to take off at 6:00am, but with a baby that didn't want to go to bed, it was more like 8:00am that I finally put the wheels on the road. I saw the beautiful sunshine out my window and, in the drunkenness of sleep, thought to myself that it would be a beautiful day, so I needn't worry about the weather. 

I had just sent my bike to the shop to have all the bearings re-greased and everything washed up after my misadventures in the mud. The bike was just rolling smooth as could be. I climbed the Dongshan Rd. (Rte. 129) with much less effort than last time, testing smaller and smaller cogs.  


With the bike's smoothness and my own fitness, I was almost bored with the ease I was feeling. I stopped once for a coffee and once to stretch my legs before the climbing to avoid another injury. 


Once the climbing commenced, I surprised myself with my smooth, even cadence and steady speed. Just as I started up Baimao Shan on the Highway 21, I smashed headlong into a mass of cool air. At first it was a refreshing respite from the mid-morning humidity. Then I saw the dark clouds leading an advancing system of rain. 


As I looked out over the valley, I wondered how my friend Dom was faring on his climb up Da Xue Shan. From the looks of things the route was soon to be swallowed up by the gloom. 


I silently cursed my decision to reset my alarm and made hay for the 136 with vivid memories of getting stuck near the top during a violent rain shower. I would do it and accept the consequences. 

Luckily, it looked as if the area near the Route 136 was enjoying some clear skies. I tried to make time over a line of cars off the mountain, but as a sprinkle of rain slapped across my nose, I was locked behind a caravan of vehicles too fast to pass and too slow to keep me from riding the brakes. 


I had made it out to Guoxing and toward the Hi Life at the base of the Route 136. 

As I was descending, I noticed my shifting was getting sloppy. I would downshift and nothing would happen It would take a couple tries to shift the chain to a new cog. The chain would jump cogs and I noticed I was spinning out with two unused cogs at the end of the cassette. I used to experience this all the time with my Shimano Ultegra, but with Campy it was an entirely new experience. I kept wondering why my gear was behaving like Shimano. I fiddled with the barrel adjusters as well as I could, which seemed to work for a couple minutes. I figured I would do my best to get over the 136 with sloppy shifting and have it looked at when I got back to Taichung. 

I never had the chance. As I attacked the lower reaches of the 136, I tried to snap into an easier gear, and instead, the chain slid on down the line to the smallest cog... and stayed there. 

I noticed the derailleur cable looked a little loose, so I took out my multitool and attempted to pull it a bit tighter. I pulled and pulled and pulled as I was presented with more and more cable. 

The cable had snapped up near the shifter. 

It was time to call for a rescue and put this ride on the list of unfinished business.  



  1. Too bad indeed. At least you got to cruise for a few hours before playtime was cut short.

  2. How'd you like the shots of the cloud bank from my angle?

  3. It looks worse from your end. I guess owing to the fact they were blowing from the south. It got bad by you first. I am still amazed I had such good fortune with the weather that morning.

  4. Suggested alternate title: "Sloppy Shifts Stink Up the 136"