body{background-attachment: fixed ! important; }

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Superfluous Things: Taiwan's Bike Sales Reel in Europe and China.

Sunset on Lanyu

  • On the tail of a New York campaign, the Taiwan Tourism Bureau is on full offensive in San Francisco. The Tourism has laid out its familiar narrative of world class cycling routes, the CNN infomercial on Sun Moon Lake being world class, and Wuling's 105km KOM Challenge. The question remains.... Can Taiwan live up to its own hype or will Taiwan's cycling tourism suffocate before it reaches maturity?
These influences are still very strong, but the Taiwan we know today reflects the influx of the mainland Chinese in 1949, led by Chiang Kai-shek, who fled the Communist takeover and brought with him as much of China's heritage as he could organize (apparently, the treasures of the Forbidden City had already been boxed up during the 1930s because of the Sino-Japanese War, so it was relatively easy to get them out). 

Feel free to write-in and offer your own correction to this piece.

Tempest in a Tea Kettle: Typhoon Day on Wuling


With a tropical storm bordering on typhoon bearing down on Taiwan threatening to flood the weekend with boredom locked inside and nothing to do but eat Oreos (which is what is done on typhoon days) I did the math and figured Saturday would probably be the day to get a ride in.

The typhoon seemed to be behind schedule and wouldn't be arriving until late Saturday and early Sunday. I figured that would probably mean the moisture would be sucked up by the typhoon and we might have clear skies.

I figured I might just have enough time to make a run at the 3275m Wuling Pass-- the very road that utterly destroyed me a few weeks back.

As I eased into my ascent, I was nervous with fresh memories of suffering high up on the foggy ramps high above central Taichung. My pedal stroke felt easy and slick. I was loose... without the pressure of a race.


The mountains clung fast to a wall of clouds that threatened to burst through at any moment and drench the pass with rain.


I moved upward as my shades filled with misty drops of water from a passing cloud. In my mind I had a threshold for physical exhaustion or inclement weather that would preclude an immediate escape.


I passed various landmarks of recent woe buoyed by the notion that I night just make a good day of it.


I climbed higher and higher. Occasionally I would glance at the altimeter to watch my burning legs devour chunks of altitude in satisfying doses.


I was happy to pass other cyclists on my way up with the understanding that my photo stops were merely that-- opportunities to take pictures for this blog.

IMG_8988 IMG_8989

As I closed on the summit, the great wall at Kunyang towered over the roadway. It is such a marvel of roadway that I had to make more of an effort to photograph it. 

Somewhere near Yuan-feng the air suddenly changed from the usual balmy summer air that has the consistency of over boiled spinach, to a crisp , coolness that shot directly into my lungs. It almost hurt to the most satisfying way. No, it actually did hurt to breathe. I could feel my lack of conditioning disturbing. I only hope I can bring my VO2 max back up. That is really the killer of one of these high altitude rides in Taiwan. If you are not getting enough oxygen into the muscles, you are going to suffer. 


Layer over layer over wiggling fold, I capped Kunyang with a clear line of sight toward the summit.

IMG_9007 IMG_9013 IMG_9021 IMG_9022

At last my pain had come to an end and I had plenty of energy remaining...suddenly. I snapped my obligatory picture and scared a few tourists along the way as I grumpily lined up my shot while they fiddles with iPad photography. 

photo 1 IMG_9050

Any chance to enjoy Taiwan's mountains is worth the effort.

IMG_9046 IMG_9053 IMG_9063

Meditation in Miaoli: Miaoli Route 60(苗60)

Here is a little meditation through the foothills of Miaoli on the Route 60 between Dahu and Tongluo. 

I hadn't been on this road in a while and I thought I might have another look. I felt pretty good on the bike and the ride just turned into a meditation of sorts with my thoughts keeping me company as the machinery whirled away. 

The road looks like a dead end, but a smaller road juts out to the side and immediately introduced a nasty little hill that had me gasping for air. 

I made the climb and continued on the Miaoli Route 119 and 119-4 to Sanyi. It is a quiet little road, but I was in serious need of water and food. Just at the end of the Route 119-4 I went to a closet of a store and had the coldest bottle of water I have ever tasted. 

I raided the calories stored at a convenience store in Sanyi and then trudged on home. 

Just a simple day on the bike. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Million Dollar Mountain: Taiwan KOM Raises Purse

The Road To Wuling

The 2014 Taiwan KOM Challenge opened its registration on September 15 with the additional lure of an NT1,000,000 purse. This was supposed to be my year, damn it! 

Velonews adds:

The Taiwan Travel Bureau in association with the Taiwan Cyclist Federation announced the details of the 2014 Taiwan KOM Challenge, which will take place November 15.
Now in its third year, the Taiwan KOM Challenge’s 105km route travels from the eastern coastal town of Hualien, starting at sea level, and rises along its route to the roof of Taiwan, up on HeHuan Mountain at 3,375 meters [11,073 feet].

The course takes the participants up at an average 7 percent through the Taroko Gorge to the 97km point at Dayuling, and then rises up its remaining kilometers to a maximum incline of 27 percent, averaging 17 percent for the final eight kilometers.

The 2013 men’s winner, Rhaim Emami of Iran, completed the race in three hours and 26 seconds from the official timed start, which began after the 18km of neutralized riding.
This year’s race sees a massive increase in the prize money, one million Taiwan dollars [33,145.60 USD] for overall men’s winner, and $200,000 ($6,675 USD) to the women’s winner.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Tackling Tranquil and Terrible Tainan: The View from Taiwan's Southern Expedition


Michael Turton of The View from Taiwan has posted a magnificent spread detailing his tour of the foothills of Tainan. The full article can be found HERE.

Here is an excerpt:

The 179 turned out to be absolutely brutal, 16 kms or so of up and down hills, none big, but almost all 10-12% grades, a couple every kilometer. Because the area around the reservoir is a conservation district, there was no development -- no houses, no water, no people, nothing. The road surface was broken up with great gashes that ran parallel to the direction of travel, dangerous invitations for your wheels to slide into. And of course, no views, the whole thing was vegetated over. It was basically 16 kms of brutal ascent and descent, with nothing flat.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Nantou Lane 17: A Tour of Agricultural Nantou on 山茶巷.


With a long weekend for Mid-Autumn Festival on the menu, I felt like I was in the mood for all the danger and excitement of a little exploration. After a car trip on the Number 6 Freeway to Puli, I have become interested in the roads that blanket the foothills to the Central Mountain Range. By the size of some of the cliff faces, the roads all carry the alluring air of mystery. I decided to try my luck on the Nantou Lane 17, also known as 山茶巷.


The day started out on a happy note as I chatted up Mr. Yang another Taichung based cyclist who was out introducing a lady friend to cycling with a trip to Sun Moon Lake. I have since heard they are still together.


After a refill on water and nutrition, I beat it to the beginning of the Nantou Lane 17, which looks like it is simply devoured by the jungle right off the Highway 14. With the encouraging signs of "civilisation" up ahead, I began my climb.

IMG_8699 IMG_8711 IMG_8716

The first ramp exposes the riverbed below. It is only a prelude to the full onslaught of angry switchbacks on a road that should be wiped from the map.


At first, the climb doesn't seem too bad with shady strips of evenly laid concrete hidden beneath shady bamboos....


The ruse holds until the 1.5km marker, when the road reveals its true nature. A beautiful waterfall gurgles below like the Siren's song--calling on riders to lay the bike down, give up on the day and take a dip in its cool, pesticide coated waters.

IMG_8732 IMG_8736

Just after the waterfall the rap action starts. This is the main show. The road has a climbing profile of Disney's Matterhorn ride.

The switchbacks are long 12%-15% grades that could have easily been chopped into shallower switchbacks, but the lazy engineering crew couldn't have been bothered.


The far too occasional Mitsubishi service truck or Suzuki Prince makes the climbing that much harder as any rhythm or momentum that is gained, is immediately lost while dismounting to get off the roadway as local farmers must meet their quota for betel nut trees sprayed.

IMG_8755 IMG_8764 IMG_8777

By kilometer 4, the legs were becoming jelly. I knew it was going to be a long day. By kilometer 7, the jungle was transformed into a surreal landscape of betel nut trees amid boulders and earthquake debris.

IMG_8789 IMG_8817 IMG_8818

Although I stopped to check and double check the GPS, the road is more clearly marked than on Google Maps.

I opted for the shorter road down as it seemed to suggest a lake. Sorry, nothing!

IMG_8827 IMG_8834

I did manage to pass a giant rose growing operation that I had seen the night before on TV. That was cool.


I was soon plunging toward Nantou full throttle chasing a mirage in the heat that seemed to look just like an ice cream bar.


The scenery on the road was sort of a Greatest Hits version of the agricultural areas in the foothills between Gukeng and Miaoli. The real draw for this road might be if you are looking for a harder alternative route to Jiufen Er Shan and the earthquake epicenter. It is also a great little road if you are looking to explore the hundreds of farming tracks that branch out all over Nantou.

It is certainly a great route if you want to practice climbing.


Route 2,790,109 - powered by