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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.

Saturday Commute

This morning I hopped on the Lincoln Continental and made the most of my Saturday morning commute.

I swapped out the stem for a shorter one to help with the fit after Li Chi, the disinterested Taiwanese distributor for Salsa, insisted on replacing my cracked frame with a wonderful Salsa La Cruz... that is just on the too big side of comfortable. It seems to be working out a little bit better.

The True Temper steel frame is buttery smooth with stable geometry. Pure plushness.
Switching between bikes always brings out the contrasts between the rides. There is always something to appreciate.

Ok, back to work!

MOTC Extends Caoling Bikeway

One of the best ideas the Taiwanese Ministry of Transportation has come up with, is to use disused railway lines as bike routes. In some areas this really works out for the better.

The Old Caoling Tunnel Bikeway is one of the best... and worst examples of how Taiwan reallocated existing infrastructure for bicycle travel.

I say this is a best and worst case scenario as the Caoling route at Fulong makes cutting across to the Iilan Plain a breeze without having to brave the truck traffic between Santiao Qiao and Tou Cheng.

On the down side, the tunnel is a frighteningly dangerous place to pass through on a weekend when the route is choked with wobbling tourists and small children who have no problem stopping in a dark tunnel. My greatest fear was that I might smash into a weaving child as I tried to pass quick enough to make the tunnel a short cut.

Mark Caltonhill writes an excellent report on the tunnel:

Anyone who has cycled through hilly countryside has, at sometime or other, prayed to the bicycle gods: “Let there be a tunnel around the next corner, and preferably one without cars.”

It was, perhaps, with this in mind that Taiwan’s cycling gods (OK, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications; MOTC) designated a 2.16-kilometer section of disused railway tunnel for development as part of the Old Caoling Tunnel Bikeway.

Offered the novelty of being able to cycle through a tunnel without sharing the road with countless gravel trucks – or maybe because the air is noticeably cooler inside – many Taiwanese tourists take a tour bus or train to the town of Fulong, near the tunnel’s northern entrance, cycle 15 minutes to the other end, drink a cup of coffee or eat ice-cream, then cycle back.

The MOTC recently extended the bikeway further along the coastal highway north from the tunnel’s southern entrance by constructing a barrier to ensure separation of the above-mentioned trucks with the soft flesh of cyclists. This route allows bikers now to safely cycle back to Fulong the long way after exiting the tunnel. On the way, its gentle slopes and curves take cyclo-tourists past a plethora of historical, cultural, and culinary places of interest.

Read the entire report HERE.


Taiwan's bicycle exports shaky, but bike makers have faith in the China market. “Our future lies in China and one of our goals is to develop this rapidly expanding market”--Giant Chairman,Tony Lo