Alishan

Alishan, April 12 - 13, 2010. Click pic for album

Taroko to Kending

Taroko Gorge to Kending, Feb 14 - 19, 2010.

Northern Cross Island Highway

Northern Cross Island Highway, May 19 - 21, 2008. Click pic for album
7th October, 2010

Bike fitting

While I've been lying on the sofa, reading, trying to rid myself of a cold, I've also spent some time on the internet reading about bikes and biking. Over at Endurance Corner, I found an interesting series of articles about anatomic considerations in bike fitting by a man called Alan Couzens (MS in sports science). I've always (OK not always, but at least since we started taking biking as a way of exercise and to stay fit a bit more seriously four years ago)bikefit.gif had a problem with the view that you get yourself a nice bike, and if it doesn't really fit, you adjust your body and get used to it - it's a great bike after all! In other words, the idea according to proponents of this view is that you adjust your body to the bicycle, rather than the other way around (because it's more important to have a bike that looks good than it is to feel good riding it?). That, however, will only result in sore shoulders, knee or back problems, excess fatigue, or all of that. On our first long ride on our new bikes over the Lunar New Year this year, I developed shoulder pains and serious numbness in the thumb, index and long finger on the right hand (classic signs of carpal tunnel syndrome I found out later) and in my left big toe that only disappeared after four or five months. The problem was that I had to overstretch in the cockpit into a position that was unnatural to my body, and that's the reason why I bought a new seat post with less offset, a shorter stem and new handle bars (twice!). Now I have the most comfortable ride I could imagine. In other words, adjust the bike to your body rather than the other way around. The articles by Couzens take a more scientific approach to this issue, and he describes different ways of measuring joint flexibility and muscle length and so on and how that translates into bike fit. I haven't tried these measurements yet since I am really happy with the way my bike is set up right now, but I'll do it sooner or later, out of pure curiosity. Here are links to the articles: intro, part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4
6th October, 2010

That’s biking

If you thought you were a good mountain biker, then check these guys out. I'm not into mountain biking myself, but this looks sooo fun, I just had to share this video. Some seriously cool stuff.
13th September, 2010

Balaka road

Saturday morning we took the MRT up to Hongshulin station to ride up the Balaka road for the first time in almost two years. We never do any rides up around Danshui and Yangmingshan. We first picked up Tim, Yanhua and A-bin at Shuanglian station, and then Eason met up at Hongshulin with his new Italian steel stallion, an elegant D'Accordi steel tube design. Tried it up on the mountain, and it rode well, but I thought the Campagnolo shifters felt a bit strange. Gearing up with the standard shift lever and gearing down with a thumb lever felt odd, and the standard lever didn't simply move in a plane perpendicular to the bike, but rather in a left or right-backward motion when you shifted. I really like the way Shimano combines the breaker with the shifter, and the way the levers are tilted slightly outward because that gives a more comfortable grip. Still have to try a Sram system to see how that compares. Great looking bike, though. The ride was as nice as always. After you turn from the 101 to the 101B, long sections of the road are shaded by trees and bamboo forest, with several nice views out over the coast and the Pacific. I also saw the b/w dog in the b/w pic again, he's still there. After reaching the top, D, me and Eason turned back the same way to take the MRT back in to town and work, while the others went on toward Jinshan (金山), although they also turned back after a while because it started raining quite heavily up on the mountain. We just missed the rain because we had stopped for a cup of coffee on the way down. 100911-balaka.jpg
The gang
Facts: Here's a detailed description of how to get there from a previous ride. Here is the ride with all the GPS data on my Garmin page. The data can be exported either as a gpx or a kml file from this page. And here's the Google map:

View Biking in Taiwan: Balaka road in a larger map
We turned back from the top of the road roughly at the midpoint of this map, because continuing on down Yangde Boulevard is a bit boring and with lots of traffic
8th September, 2010

Wufenshan weather station

A friend at the paper asked me a few days ago if we'd been up to the Wufenshan weather station down between Pingxi (平溪) and Ruifang (瑞芳). We hadn't, so we decided to go, despite the fact that I am ambivalent about the joys of the 106 down to Pingxi. I'm never keen to go, but every time we do, I find that it is a pleasant road, especially during the weeks, when there tends to be a lot less traffic than on the weekends. 01-0907.jpg
Taipei's municipal cemetery at Fudekeng is a nice way to bypass some city riding
So, anyway, we decided to go, because the views from the weather station are supposed to be quite spectacular. It sits at 740m above sea level at the beginning of the central mountain range where it just begins to rise, and has a clear view over Jilong out toward the Pacific in one direction, and toward layer and layer of mountains disappearing in the distance in the other. 02-0907.jpg
A view from the 106 as we're getting close to the 74.5km mark where the road splits up to the Wufenshan weather station
We started by going through the Taipei Municipal Cemetery at Fudekeng, because it is a slightly weird place, and because you can bypass a lot of city riding along Jungong Rd (軍功路), and then we took Wenshan Rd (文山路) down to the intersection of 106 and 106B. From there, just follow the 106 until you hit Pingxi and then Shifen (十分), where you can see the Shifen waterfall if you want. 03-0907.jpg
A view from the road up to the weather station
At 10am I had a binary moment. At 10:00am we were 100m above sea level, and at 10:01, we were at 101m. Lots of 1s and 0s there. 04-0907.jpg
Layers and layers of mountains
Down to Shifen, the road is cutting through the landscape at between 100 and 275m, but after Shifen the climb begins. You reach the top of the 106 at the 74.5km mark somewhere around 480m, which is also where you take a left to get up to the weather station at 740m. 05-0907.jpg
Jilong and the Pacific
By the time we reached Shifen it was already closing in on noon, and we were getting a bit tired, so we found a roofed bus stop half the way up the mountain where we could hide from the sun and decided to take a nap. After having slept for an hour, we continued again. 06-0907.jpg
Wufenshan Weather Station
When you reach the road up to the weather station at the 74.5km mark there are signs in Chinese asking you not to go up unless you have official business, but that didn't seem to be a problem. Not many people there, though, just me and Diane, and up at the station, we met a guy with a camera enjoying the view, and when we turned to go down again, a young couple came up with a picnic bag. The views were indeed great, well worth the trip. 07-0907.jpg
A view back down the road we came
We took our time from the road split and up to the station to enjoy the views, so it was a bit late by the time we decided to go down. We decided to continue on to Ruifang instead of following the original plan and go back the same way we came. There are always two dogs back home that need walking, so we cant' be too late. After a bite to eat in Ruifang, we could always get a train or a taxi back home. As it turned out, we would have had to wait for over two hours for a train that would allow bikes that were not bagged, so rather than beginning to look around for those big black plastic garbage bags, we just decided to take a taxi back. Lots of them outside the train station, and it only cost us NT$800 from there, so that's what we did.
Facts: This ride is about 65km and the elevation gain is just over 1200m, so there is a lot of climbing involved, especially after Shifen and up to the weather station.

Here is the ride with all the GPS data on my Garmin page. The data can be exported either as a gpx or a kml file from this page.

And here's the Google map:

View Biking in Taiwan: Taipei-Pingxi-Wufenshan-Ruifang in a larger map

4th August, 2010

Five favorite Taipei day rides

In response to a question in the comments yesterday, here is my list of our five favorite rides in the Taipei area, together with our reasons for liking them. They're all half day trips, so if you leave early in the morning, you'll be back home again between, roughly, 11am and 2pm depending on how long you stop at the coffee shops that lie at the end of several of these rides. As far as we're concerned, a coffeeshop at the end is an important, if not the only, factor in achieving favorite status, simply because it is nice to sit down with a cup of coffee or a cold drink after having climbed 600m. If there's a good view, so much the better. The exception to the half day rule is the Jiaoxi ride, partly because we like to overnight there and then bike back the next day (different nice route in each directions) rather than taking the bus home from Jiaoxi as we did yesterday, and partly because even if you go home the same day, it'll be later because you can't go to Jiaoxi and then not get a soak in a hot spring. Click the bold name of the ride for a link to a closer description of the route and/or a Google/Garmin map, with downloadable gpx/kml file in the case of the Garmin maps. So, in no particular order, because which one you like more will depend on the day, how early you got to to bed, how early you got up, how hot it is, and so on... Pingguang Road/Shizaitoushan This is a very enjoyable ride, maybe even the most enjoyable among these rides, partly because it bypasses almost all city riding, partly because the road is beautiful, quiet and quite empty of traffic, and partly because the ride up the mountain is challenging, but not extremely so. Can be turned into a much shorter and faster morning ride by taking a left where Pingguang Rd begins and riding out to Wulai Rd and then returning to the Xindian river park that way. Coffee shops in Xindian/Bitan when you return to the river park, or you could do like we do most of the time and go all the way into Taipei and have a bowl of shaved ice with fresh strawberries and mango outside Taida. Delicious.
The view from Shizaitoushan at the top of Pingguang Rd
Fengguizui This is probably the most challenging of these five rides, which is one of the reasons it achieves favorite status. Another reason is that this ride also bypasses most of the city riding by accessing it through the river park and then going over Jiannan mountain instead of doing the Ziqiang Tunnel through the mountain. If you don't, I might even strip it of favorite status because the city riding without the river park and the tunnel takes away much of the pleasure and it is a bad way to end a very nice ride. Good coffee shop at the end of the road with a very friendly and talkative boss. Can easily be extended to a full day ride by going down to Wanli and returning to Taipei along the North Coast road to Danshui and then the river park from Danshui into Taipei.
The coffee shop at Fengguizui
Both these rides are great because it always amazes me that despite living in a city of a couple of million people, I can get away from the traffic and fumes and down to a river park and then out in the mountains in about 30 minutes on the bike. That's unthinkable in most cities of this size. Jiaoxi A good ride if you do it the way we did yesterday, and an excellent ride if you go via Shuangxi and the Shuangtai Access Road down to Daxi on the Pacific Coast. The Shuangtai version is about 100km, the one via Pinglin around 70km. Two climbs, 600m and 500m. End with a dip in some hot spring in Jiaoxi, and either take the bus back after a seafood meal, or spend the night and bike back via Pinglin or the same way you came. If you take the bus, you only have to take of the front wheel, and sometimes not even that. Anyway, you can avoid the hassle with bringing a bike bag.
The descent to Daxi on the Pacific coast
Xiaogetou Go via Taipei's municipal cemetery at Fudekeng, which is an experience in itself. When you come down from Fudekeng, take a right and then an almost immediate left at the first bridge, cross the bridge and take a left again. Follow the road until you hit Wenshan Rd, and then follow that road. This is a great, moderately challenging ride that takes you up to about 600m elevation at Xiaogetou on the intersection with road 9. Turn right at the 9 to go down to Xindian, or take a left for about a kilometer and get a coffee at Helen's coffee shop (only open weekends, and maybe on public holidays). When you leave Helen's, continue 50m and then take a left to go down another way than the one you came up, or just continue down to Pinglin and a coffee at Vanilla Sky instead of Helen's before you turn back. There is lots of shade from the trees along the beautiful road, little traffic (more on the weekends) and quite a few nice views.
The view from the coffee shop at Xiaogetou
Pinglin For a longer and more challenging ride, because it includes two climbs up to 600m. A nice road. For variety, it's recommended to take the 106B past Huafan University on the way there and then return on the 9 via Xiaogetou simply to avoid repeating the same road. Get a coffee and something to eat at the Vanilla Sky coffee shop in Pinglin, and/or at Helen's Coffee shop at Xiaogetou.
Tea plantations and highway from the top of the 106B on the way to Pinglin
So, there you have it. There are of course other rides in the area, some of which we haven't even done yet (many rides in Danshui and on Yangmingshan, for example, with the exception of the Balaka road) and some that don't qualify for favorite status (Arouyang/Muzha hills), and any suggestions for other favorites are welcome. Didn't include Beiheng, because for most people (and, so far, including us) that is a two-day commitment. Taipei is a great area for day rides, and we'd love to hear that there still are other great rides out there that we have missed.
3rd August, 2010

From Taipei via the 106 and the 9 to Jiaoxi

Another day off, another ride, another great day. Didn't know where to go, so we called Luke to see if he and Tim wanted to come with us. Maybe they could come up with a good destination. In the end we decided for a round-trip to Pinglin, along the 106 past Huafan University to get there and then the 9 back via Xiaogetou, Shiding and Shenkeng. IlanPlain.jpg
The Ilan Plain and the Pacific Coast, with Turtle Island floating around in the mist that always envelopes this area.
We met at Liuzhangli at 7am, Tim bringing two new friends with him. When we reached the peak of the 106, before Pinglin, at 600m, Tim suggested a new destination: Let's go to Jiaoxi and finish the day with a dip in one of the hot springs and then a seafood meal, and then we get the bus back home. OK, who can resist finishing a hot day on the bike, 69km with over 1200m of climbing, in a hot spring in Jiaoxi, in particular the cool pool in the hot spring? And it was a hot day out there today, 38C in Taipei, 33C in Ilan. That cool pool was really nice. jiaoxi.jpg
Luke, Wanyu, Zhonghua, Tim and D enjoy the seafood
Facts: Here is the ride with all the GPS data on my Garmin page, including a map. The data can be exported either as a gpx or a kml file from this page.
1st August, 2010

Testing the new handlebars

road.jpgSo, as planned, we rode up to Xiaogetou for a morning coffee yesterday. I really wanted to try out those new handlebars. And they were great, for several reasons. I can now place the brake handles in precisely the position I want them; the flat top is really comfortable; when I'm in the drops, breaking and shifting gears is now a breeze; because the drops extend much further back than on the previous handlebars (and most handle bars I've seen, see pic in previous post), it is really comfortable to be in the drops, be it on the flats, uphill or downhill. Oh, and I almost forgot: About a kilometer from the top, 14 Ferrari blew past me, the lowest, widest and sportiest kind, going much too fast on the winding road. Or, rather, 12 Ferrari and 2 Lamborghini. Nine red ones, three gray, one yellow and one black. The Rich Boys' Club was on an outing. handlebike.jpg
With the new handlebars
Facts: Here is the ride with all the GPS data on my Garmin page, including a map. The data can be exported either as a gpx or a kml file from this page.
30th July, 2010

New handlebars. Again.

Got my new handlebars yesterday. FSA Wing Pro Compact. Aluminium, I have no need for carbon. This is what the FSA site has to say about them:
DESCRIPTION & MATERIALS
Double butted and tapered AL7050
34mm Ergo flat top
120mm wide center round section makes it easy to mount accessories
SIZES
Ø31.8mm x W380, 400, 420, 440mm(c-c)
125mm drop, 80mm reach
2° outward bend
FINISH
Shot-peened black anodized
Polished Center section
Color graphics
WEIGHT
271 grams (400mm)
Mine are 420mm, the width of my shoulders. I'm hoping that's the right width. It normally is, handlebar width should equal shoulder width, but the 2° outward bend means that the drops are bent outwards by 2°, thus making the bars a bit wider in the drops than on the hoods. The width is measured c-c in the drops, so the bars are a bit narrower than my shoulder width on the hoods. Have no idea if that will matter at all. I really like the flat top, that was one of the reasons I decided to change bars. Will make it a bit more comfortable going uphill and on those boring slow rides through the city. Just installed them this morning, and will try to take them for the first test ride tomorrow morning, probably to Xiaogetou. newhandlebars.jpg
Left to right: the Procraft standard ergonomic handle bars that came with the bike, then the Deda Newton Shallow that I thought was what I wanted, and then the as of yet untested FSA Wing Pro Compact. Smaller and smaller. Now I think the FSA bars are what I always wanted. Let's see what I think after the first ride.
29th July, 2010

Bike paths revisited, again

Going up to Fengguizui a couple of weeks ago, we found that they had added bike paths along Jingye Rd (敬業路) (runs next to the shopping area at Jiannan MRT stop) since we last did this ride a couple of months ago. This is of course what they should have done with the bicycle lane along Dunhua Rd, placed the bike path on the side walk instead of on the road, so that motorcycles and cars couldn't drive and park in it. This is a previous rant about the Dunhua fiasco, and so is this. bikepath.jpg
27th July, 2010

Shizaitoushan

Monday mornings are tough in the summer. To get away from most of the blazing sun, we get up at 5am. After brekkie and dog walking we usually get out at around 6.30, which means that we'll at least be done with all the climbing and on our way back home by 10am when the mercury normally hits 30 degrees Celsius. 100726-XDriverpark.jpg
Waiting for the gang
The same formula applied this Monday, and so we left the house by 6.30 to met up with Tim, Luke and A-bin at the entrance to the Xindian Riverside Park down behind the Water Park in Gongguan. There was risk of rain in the afternoon, so it had been decided that we should forgo a longer full day ride and instead do the very enjoyable Shizaitoushan ride down in Xindian, which neither Luke or A-bin had done before. 100726-Bitan.jpg
Breakfast for the late risers
I'd say it's a moderately hard ride, because even I can make it to the top at 655m without stopping once. After slowly climbing to 200m over the 13km or so from the Bitan suspension bridge to the foot of the mountain, half of it along the Xindian River, you climb another 450m over 8km to reach the peak at 655m. 100726-biking.jpg
D in style
The road from there and back down again is sometimes very steep, hitting fairly extended gradients of 20% and more, so that's why we're not too keen on doing this ride the other way round -- too much walking when you're out biking isn't much of a confidence booster. 100720-shizaitoushan.jpg
The view
Facts: While a 450m climb over 8km pans out to an average 5.5% gradient, that is a slightly deceptive number. The gradient frequently drops below 5% and the road is almost level in places, which also means that the gradient quite often reaches 10% and more. In particular, after about 6.5km, or 1.5km before the highest point, you'll run into a 14% slope, which could well force you off the bike if you've been pushing too hard. Here is the ride with all the GPS data on my Garmin page. The data can be exported either as a gpx or a kml file from this page.

And here's the Google map:

View in a larger map