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
20th July, 2010

Fengguizui

fgz.jpgFengguizui this morning. I am so out of shape it's embarrassing. At the café at the top, we overheard the owner's very loud father (?) discussing D with the owner, wondering if she was a man, despite the obvious physical characteristics normally associated with women. "It's such a strange hair cut, it's got to be a man." "No, it's a woman. She cuts it herself. She's a hair stylist." "How do you know?" "She told me." "Really. OK. Strange hair cut, though."
27th June, 2010

Holidays

Back in Sweden for the holidays. Didn't bring our bikes despite an early suggestion from D. Unfortunately -- temps hover around 20, and the skies are blue. Would have made for perfect biking. Instead, we had to go sailing, first time since we left Sweden all those years ago. IMG_0719.jpg
A friend's trimaran. We own neither boat nor bikes in Sweden anymore.
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Enoying the cool Swedish summer breeze. Cold at night according to Taiwanese standards, actually. 14-15 degrees. Dropped to six (6!) one night.
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Dreaming about biking
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4th June, 2010

Bike shops

Going to work at the Taipei Times today, I was bored so I started to count bikeshops. It's hard work. Here's what I found: There are at least 10 shops within 10 minutes walking distance from the office. Two Giant stores, one Specialized store, one Merida store, one brand I can't remember, and five other, non-branded, stores. And that's only along two roads on the edge of the office district in one part of Neihu. How can all these shops expect to survive? There's got to be a shake down soon. Oh, and there's also a store selling Ferraris and Lamborghinis and another one selling Porsches. No Aston Martin store, though.
24th May, 2010

Taipei-Northeast Cape-Jiaoxi

100524-01.jpgWe packed our day packs this morning and decided to go down to Jiaoxi (礁溪) for a dip in the hot springs on the assumption that the Central Weather Bureau was getting their forecast right - overcast and 20 percent risk of rain. Their forecasts have been crap after all the criticism they received for not correctly predicting the enormous amounts of rain brought by Typhoon Morakot in August last year - it killed over 700 people and wiped out a whole village in a landslide in Kaohsiung County - as if they were in the business of fortune telling rather than dealing with probabilities. Ever since, they seem to have been constantly forecasting worse weather than we actually get. A while ago, they said there would be thunderstorms every day for over a week, and we didn't even get rain. They must have decided to err on the side of caution. 100524-02.jpg
We stopped in Shifen for some noodles and doufu and a Shashi, ie, a Hey Song Sarsaparilla, the only soft drink I drink unmixed. Because it is soooo good.
We got a later start than planned, and didn't get out until 7.40, right in the middle of the morning rush with people going to work and parents taking kids to school and double and triple parking to drop their kids off. I think I even saw one driver kick a kid out of the car without stopping although he may have slowed down a bit. By 8.30, we had done the 16km to the place where road 106 splits in to 106 and 106 A. We took the 106 for 20km, past Pingxi (平溪) and down to Shifen (十分) were we would take road 2C to Shuangxi (雙溪), but first we stopped for noodles and doufu in a place almost on the narrow gauge railway from Ruifang (瑞芳) to Pingxi (a really nice train ride, by the way, if you like riding on trains like I do). We also watched a series of sky lanterns disappear into the skies as a couple of school classes were setting them off. One of them crashed in a forest almost immediately after take-off, which must have brought lots and lots of bad luck. And it was probably the teacher's, too. 100524-03.jpg
Then the train came through town
From Shifen, its about 13km into Shuangxi, were the plan was to hit the mountains for some quiet and solitude, and a few great views out over the Pacific from a hilltop observation deck. However, we entered Shuangxi from another road than last time, so I was a bit more confused than I normally am, and then we started talking about something, and before we knew it, we had continued down the 2C several kilometers past the road we wanted, so D suggested that we do the ride along the Northeastern Cape coast road past Fulong (福隆), Dali (大里) and Toucheng (頭城) instead. Since we hadn't done that before, we decided to try it. It soon turned out that there were too many gravel trucks going up and down that road to be comfortable, but since we were already on it, we pressed on anyway. 100524-04.jpg
D puts a towel on her head to show that she's Taiwanese during a break at Shicheng scenic spot
About 25km past Shuangxi, it was time for a break, and we stopped for a coffee and a waffle at the coffee shop at the Shicheng (石城) scenic spot, about 30km away from Jiaoxi. With some coffee in the system, we then made it down to Jiaoxi in just below an hour without stopping, except for a red light just on the outskirts of Jiaoxi. I was pretty happy with that - after 75km on the bike, we could both still keep an average speed of just above 30km for an hour without resting. And we didn't even have the wind in our backs. 100524-05.jpg
A cup of coffee against the backdrop of Taiwan's east coast
In Jiaoxi, we picked one of the dozens and dozens of hot spring places. They offered small private rooms with a big hinoki-clad tub for two for NT$400. It's great to soak your body like that after almost five hours on the bike. We had originally planned to go to a public hot spring, but they wouldn't let us put our bikes in a safe place so we decided to go somewhere else. That might sound like asking a bit much, but here in Taiwan we are almost without exception allowed to bring our bikes inside restaurants, bars, hotels and whatnot when we're out biking. We've even been allowed to bring our bikes inside at Carnegie's in Taipei for Sunday brunch (5 of'em!) and at Kiki's on a busy night (3 bikes). Anyway, after the hot soak, it was dinner at a seafood place, and then we hopped on a Capital Bus (首都客運) and were back in Taipei 45 minutes later, for 90 bucks a head. Pretty good. Just take the front wheel off the bike, and the girls will even help you load it in the luggage compartment of the bus. 100524-06.jpg
Dinner in Jiaoxi
Facts The Garmin map of the ride with the Garmin data can be found here, and the Google Map is here. This is a nice ride, but I recommend forgetting about the taking road 2 around the cape and instead taking the Shuangtai industrial road (雙泰產業道路) in Shuangxi and going through the mountains (a previous ride) because there is no traffic, it is quiet and the air is good, and there are mountains to climb. If you don't have time to spend the night and ride home again next day, Capital and one or two more bus companies run buses to Taipei every 15-20 minutes, and all they ask, at least at Capital, is that you take off the front wheel. No bike bags or anything else required, and it is only 90 bucks per person.
22nd May, 2010

Xiaogetou

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D gets a drink at the convenience store where the road splits into 106 and 106A
So, after a year of very little biking (only managed 500km (!) last year) we are slowly getting back into it again this year, and I am slowly beginning to exercise again. We have made 1000km so far this year, and the goal is to break through 3000km before the year is up. Still not very much if you think about it -- my old man used to do 4000-5000km or so a year just going to and from work, 10-15km each way, five days a week. Anyway, with yesterday's ride up to Xiaogetou (小格頭), we did 120km on the bikes this week, and I did 20km on the treadmill (D probably ran 40 or 50km, though, plus an hour of spinning every day. Hard core.). Some of our friends from the long new year's ride and the Alishan ride have a standing 8.30 breakfast appointment at Helen's coffee shop at Xiaogetou every Saturday. We haven't been able to make it before due to work or other Saturday commitments, but we suddenly realized Friday night that we both had Saturday morning free, so we decided to get Saturday breakfast at Xiaogetou. 100522-Xiaogetou.jpg
Lots of bikers make it up to Xiaogetou on weekends. It's a veritable Autobahn of bicycles getting up there.
Haven't been back there for several months, and had almost forgotten how nice the ride up the 47 is. You climb up to 570m over seven kilometers going counterclockwise from the split were the loop begins if you look at the Garmin map linked to below. Since you're already at about 160-170m elevation at that split, it means the ride isn't too steep and that it's not too difficult to do it without stopping once to rest. Still enough to get a good run-through and make me tired, though. Once there, we realized that none of the others had made it up there yesterday, despite the good weather. Checking in with Tim later, it seems everyone was busy with bringing kids to school tests and other stuff. Anyway, after cooling down with a delicious ice cold chocolate drink with whipped cream at the last empty table - the place is crowded with cyclists on weekends - we went down the other way to complete the loop. This road is about 1km longer than the other way up, and it may be a bit steeper as well. Still, both roads are great, with great views, and it's also nice not to have to go down the same way you came up.
Facts A map and data from my Garmin can be found here.
17th May, 2010

Chengtian Rd/Nantianmu Rd

We wanted to do a ride we'd never done before, and we also wanted to find another way than Ankeng Rd to access the Northern Cross Island Highway, so we decided to go through the mountains between Tucheng (土城) and Sanxia (三峽). That cuts out most of the city riding, but adds 15-20 km to the ride, which may or may not be a concern whewn you want to do the Northern Cross. We got to Yongning MRT Station via the Yonghe side of the river park, which we entered by crossing the river on Yongfu Bridge (永福橋) at Gongguan (公館) and then re-entering the city after Chenglin Bridge (城林橋). 100517-01.jpg
The river park on the Yonghe side of the river
At Yongning MRT station, get on Chengtian Rd (承天路) which runs just in front of the station and follow that up into the mountains. The first few kilometers are boring, with houses, cars and small factories. After a while it changes name to Nantianmu Rd (南天母路), so just follow that. When the houses and the traffic end, there is a killer incline that we, and probably everyone else, walked. It's a very long incline that varies between a 17% and a 24% gradient, and it was tiring even to walk -- take it from someone who knows. The rest of the road down to the 110, Ankeng Rd (安坑路), is a very pleasant ride, and, to our surprise, with several coffee shops scattered along the way. It turns out that this is a good place to watch the Tung trees in full bloom -- the season just passed for this year, but we will probably go there next year. 100517-02.jpg
Bridges are fun
About 10km from Yongning you reach Ankeng Rd. The plan here was to take a right on the 110 for a kilometer or so, and then get onto Ziwei Rd (紫微路) which later morhps into Baiji Rd (白雞路) and then takes you down to the 7A and the beginning of the Northern Cross. The plan was changed, however. D complained of a headache and feeling less than fit even before we left home this morning, and when we got here, it was time to go back. We still had about 25km to go even without going up to Baiji Temple, so we decided to do that ride another time. We went back into Taipei along the 110, and were reminded of why we wanted to find a way to bypass it. 100517-03.jpg
Steamed egg and a Taiwanese sausage with a couple of cloves of raw garlic in the midday sun
In the Xindian River Park, D laid down for a while, before we returned to the city and some food and a strawberry/mango ice. That always is a great way to cap a great sunny ride.
Facts: Most of the facts about the ride is in the post, but here is what I think of this route as a way to replace the 110 when doing the Northern Cross from Taipei. If you're spreading the ride over two days by stopping at Baling the first night, it might be worth the extra 15 or 20 km through the river park and the mountains to avoid the heavy traffic on the 110. And if you do it on a weekend, you can take your bike on the MRT down to Yongning and save even more time and kilometers. If, however, you're doing the Northern Cross in one day and then getting the bus or train back to Taipei from Yilan or Luodong (which we are planning to do some time before the end of this year), I would stick to the 110, because it saves kilometers and energy well needed for the 1200m climb and the 160 km down to Yilan. 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
3rd May, 2010

A perfect day

It was one of those days that you don't even get a dozen of each year, and not even half a dozen of them ever fall on a day when you're not working, and less than three of those days ever fall on a day when you don't have anything else planned so you can use it for what it's meant: a bike ride. Clear blue skies, no smog, not too hot, not too cool, not too humid, a nice breeze, not too strong so it stops you in your tracks when you're working your way up a steep hill against the wind, not too faint, just enough to cool you down. Background music: Perfect Day with Lou Reed. 100503-02.jpg
The second MacArthur Bridge and the mountains north of Taipei from the first MacArthur Bridge this morning. What a gorgeous day! The power lines run right into the city.
We went for Fengguizui again today. The first real ride since we started using cleats. I had decided to go all the way to the top without stopping once, disregarding such details as speed or time. Even if it took me an hour, I was going to ride my bike to the top without putting a foot on the ground. And it worked: 41 minutes and 47 seconds from the bridge, I passed the Fengguizui road sign at the top. I even passed D standing on the roadside about 500 meters from the top: "My chain skipped, help me put it back on." "No way, I've decided to make it to the top without stopping and I'm almost there. You fix it yourself or you walk." She fixed it herself, but it stopped her from going all the way up in less than 40 minutes. 100503-03.jpg
This is Taipei about twenty minutes from the Ziqiang Tunnel, the Palace Museum, traffic jams and pollution. Just so you don't ask me why Taipei is such a great city for biking.
We took Jiannan Rd both up and down because the weather was too good to spoil the experience by going through a packed and polluted Ziqiang tunnel. I didn't have the Garmin on today because the mount is broken so it would have fallen off, but we must have climbed somewhere around 1100m, and we clocked around 56km. Once at the coffee shop at the top, the weather was so good that we had problems forcing ourselves back on the bikes to go down again after the coffee and waffles, but in the end we had to. We finished it all off with lunch at some place with an outdoor patio at the shopping complex down by Jiannan MRT station, and then we slowly moseyed our way through the river park and then along Renai Road down to Tim the bikeman for a chat. 100503-01.jpg
The view of parts of Taipei from the coffee shop with the talkative boss at Fengguizui
I'm finally getting my position in the bike more or less set up the way I want it, and I'm also getting more and more comfortable with the drop handle bars after having ridden an FCR with a flat handle bar for the last three years. I'm now comfortably spending most of my time in the drops instead of on the hoods, but I'll still have to make one final adjustment: I think I'll get a new, shorter stem. I took one that was 1cm shorter for a spin when we visited Tim today to see if that would make any difference at all to my problems. And it did, even at 1 lousy centimeter -- it felt better both in the elbows and the shoulders. I've now decided to put D's stem on for the next ride just to make sure -- it's 2.5cm shorter than mine -- and I'm almost certain that it will make all the difference in the world.
Facts:Here is the ride with both the shorter climb on Jiannan Rd and the Ziqiang Tunnel, and there are several previous descriptions to be found by clicking on Taipei under Categories in the right column
20th April, 2010

Pedals

We have never used cleats and clipless pedals, but when we bought our new bikes we decided that it's time to begin. D's using them in the spinning classes in the gym, but since I don't ride bikes indoors, I've never tried them at all. We've been meaning to put them on for a vp-pedal.pngcouple of months, but there's never been time to take the bikes for a spin down to the river park and try it out before we started using them. Today we finally found the time. We rode down to the river park and replaced the platform pedals with our double-sided VP pedals that came with the bikes. D's pedals are marked M11, which is branded as "VP-M11 Superlight SPD style pedal" at 320gr/pair. Mine are unmarked, but look and weigh about the same. It was less challenging than I thought, and after a spin around the river park and adjusting the clip so it wasn't too tight, we felt quite comfortable. Even though we were only going slow and although there are no hills in the river park, you could feel a difference in power. I'm looking forward to our next ride. Mazu knows when that'll be: I'm overloaded with freelance work and the Central Weather Bureau is forecasting rain for the coming week.
15th April, 2010

Riding up Alishan

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This Monday and Tuesday we went down to Jiayi to ride over Alishan together with five friends. We hired a small bus to pick us up and drive us down to a few kilometers ahead of Jiji (集集) in Nantou County (南投縣), alishsan01.jpgthe epicenter of the big 921 earthquake on Sep 21 1999 that killed about 2,500 people. It would then pick us up on the other side of the mountain and drive us back to Taipei when we got off the mountain the next day. Door to door service that was cheaper than the high speed rail and meant that we didn't have toput our bikes in bags and switch to a bus to get to where we wanted from the HSR station. From the place where we got off the bus, there was about 10km to Jiji, a ride that brought us through the Green Tunnel (綠色隧道), a long section of road with trees that reach over and meet above the road so that the canope creates the illusion that you are biking through a tunnel. Or at least that's the idea. A pleasant ride, in any case. alishsan07.jpg
Breakfast for champions. Imagine waking up to this view every day. I can think of worse places to live. We came up all the way from the distant center of the picture to this spot at 1300m altitude.
The sun was blazing down so generous amounts of sunblock 48 was applied. After Shuili (水里), the climb started off with a short but intense 16% gradient, and then it basically never dropped below 5% except for short sections when it felt like we were going down, but my Garmin Edge told me that we were still going up, only the gradient had dropped to 1% or 2%. A gradient of 5% to 6% may not sound too bad, but if it goes on for 50-60km and sometimes reaches 20% and frequently goes up to 8-10%, it turns out to be quite tiring. alishsan05.jpg
The hillside road has been completely washed away by a landslide that has filled the river bed
The night was spent at Luke's brother's tea shop and restaurant at 1300m. It seemed to be the only place along the road that had not suffered from the Morakot disaster in August last year. Almost every mountainside had suffered minor or major landslides, and there were several road blocks where the road was simply closed for a couple of hours, then opened for 15 minutes to half an hour for traffic and then closed again for another couple of hours. alishsan03.jpg
The people living in this house were lucky to get away with their lives. The third house is half gone, split clean down the middle
When the road was closed, workers climbed up on the bare rock that remained after the landslide and then hung from ropes to set off small rock slides to clear the hillside of any lose rock and soil before they would pour cement over it, I guess, to prevent further landslides in the future. It certainly looked dangerous enough to see them hanging in the ropes and seeing the rocks bounce down the mountain side. When they were done, they let go of the ropes and walked/jumped/ran down the 100 meters or so of steep, muddy, rocky mountain side. Wonder how many die each year in that line of work. Tuesday morning we got a slowish start, and left at 8am, except for Luke and Bohong who left a bit later after having talked some more with Luke's brother. alishsan08.jpg
Setting off on the second half of the ride. A beautiful day
By 12.30, we had reached Tataka(塔塔加), the high point of the road, and just at the trail head for the trail up to Yushan. We were looking forward to a meal, but had managed to pick the one day of the month that the restaurant at the end of the road was closed, the second Tuesday of the month, so we had to continue on our way. We decided to get our meal further down, in Fenqihu (奮起湖), but got stuck in one of the road blocks for a couple of hours. Luke and Bohong were also caught at a road block further up the road that we managed to reach when it was open. A two hour wait. Luckily, we had nuts and chocolate bars and stuff to keep us going. alishsan10.jpg
Containers have many uses
The problem with the road blocks was that we were delayed, and so we decided to ask the bus driver, another of Luke's brothers, to come up on the mountain to pick us up there. Our descent thus ended at 1500m, but that had still allowed us a great, 30km, long decline, apart from a couple of kilometers when we entered Alishan Township, where the road leveled out and sometimes even reached a 1-2% gradient according to my Garmin. In the end, we didn't get lunch until dinner, at 6.30pm, below the mountain. We then dropped Victor at the Jiayi HSR station for further transport to Gaoxiong before continuing back to Taipei. Didn't get home until 12.30am. alishsan12.jpg
We came that way...
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... and that way, too.
Facts Here is the ride on my Garmin page with all the bare data: elevation, time, distance, heart rate, cadence, calories burned and so on. If you go in the not too distant future, call the local highway bureau (公路局) to find out about road blocks and times so you don't get caught waiting for a couple of hours like we did. There really is a lot of road repairs going on. Added: A link to the highway disaster prevention and relief information system (公路防救災資訊系統) for those who read Chinese. Maybe not too frequently updated since I couldn't find info about the Alishan road. They give three information numbers on the site: (02)2311-3456 ext. 1968 (automated response), 0800-008456 and road disaster info 0800-231034. Photo album with a few more and larger photos.
5th April, 2010

New handlebars

A late start today. Rainy day prospects, but in the end (past noon) we got out there. Bought a new handle bar a few days ago to see if that would help me with my hand and shoulder problems, and I really wanted to try it out. I bought a Deda Newton shallow/compact handle bar, with 2cm shorter reach and a 2cm shorter drop. I also wanted to do a climb before we do the Alishan ride next Monday-Tuesday, and so we decided for the Fengguizui ride up Five Finger Mountain past the Palace Museum. fgz100405.jpg
A view of Taipei from Fengguizui today. A bit of a mist, maybe.
What a difference those two centimeters made! No hint of the shoulder and the right hand felt good too, so that was NT$2,700 well wpent. And I'm just getting hapopier and happier with the bike for every ride I do. It just feels faster than the old FCR, I get more power going uphill, and it responds pretty immediately. That of course has to do with the Aksium wheels, a pair of very good entry level wheels, but there's also the drop handle bars, the size of the frame, which is a 53cm rather than the 50cm of the old one, and the geometry, although I haven't read up on frame geometry so I don't really know what a degree more or less at the head tube is supposed to. In any case, the bike simply feels faster, and I like that.
Facts Here's the ride on Garmin Connect. It can be exported as a gpx, kml or tcx (Garmin) file from there. And here's a previous description.