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Friday, May 27, 2016

Soaking Up The Miaoli 54-1: Rain Rides


Last Saturday looked like the better of available weekend days for a ride. It smelled a little rainy, but the roads were dry. This time of year in Taiwan will often start the day tantalizingly clear, with bright sunshine and puffy white clouds lazily hanging over the mountain peaks. By noon it can often turn to sheets of rain and slop.

I have a simple policy for rainy forecasts. If it is raining when I wake up and shows no sight on stopping by a reasonable starting hour, I'll skip it and hope for the next day. If it is dry at start time...the ride continues even if the rain starts to fall. It just means the extra hassle of drying out the bearings.

I met up with Rob, a rider I had never ridden with before, and we headed toward the hills at an even pace for shooting the shit and talking shop. After some harder training days mid-week, I really was ready for a more dialled back ride.

Reaching the 7-11 in Jhuolan, we ran into Michael Turton from The View From Taiwan, and his crew of Iris and Mike (a.k.a. Mike Surly/M'erican Teacher). In an odd way, it was a meeting of several oddball spokes in the Taichung cycling world. It was also a great opportunity to keep the atmosphere of the ride fluid and amicable. I really enjoy these rides.

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The coffee and fuel from 7-11 vanished too quickly and it was time to head out. I had originally just planned an attack on the Miaoli Route 130 for a final sampling of the DT Swiss RR21 Dicut wheel that have been a revelation in the stiffness that can be engineered into a set of lightweight alloy hoops.

Instead, we headed out of Jhuolan on the Shuanglian Industrial Rd. that humps up a stiff climb through a cemetery (possibly littered with the bodies of cyclists who broke trying to cap the heart popping climb).
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As we pushed and heaved and zagged up the ramps, mist became a dribble that became a full drumming of raindrops on hemet tops and gear.


We met up with the 54-1, which is excellent by itself, or part of a larger network of rides that really showcase the hidden gems of Sanyi cycling. The 54-1 traces along the fingers of the Liyu Reservoir and through patches of orchard land.
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There are still plenty of short climbs as the route skims along a crumples ridge above the Dajia River Valley.
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The mist and rain obscured the deal of the foothills in a gouache blending of shapes and lines. Once you get used to the fact that it is raining, it can add an element of beauty to the landscape that we too frequently miss by hunkering down indoors.
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We eventually crossed the Highway 3 to the Route 130 and battled our way up against drizzle and gravity. It looked like a coin flip on the weather, so we trudged up to the Mile High Cafe for some hot Hakk-esque cuisine, which was totally welcome in the weather. 
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We lost the coin toss and the rain was soon coming down in sheets.... Enough to make the fun descent down the back of the mountain a whole lotta not fun, so we retreated and beat it home. 

I had been feeling like I was ploughing into the rain covered streets for some time and then realized it was the least convenient flat... a flat in the rain. The two-way rim allowed me to switch from tubeless to clincher mode with ease and we were again on our way back to Taichung. 

If riding in the rain is good for anything, it makes for the greatest naps afterward.