Imagining The Ride: A Cyclist’s Perspective On Lugu

Bamboo Cooked Meal

My mother has been in town for a visit, so my training and riding time has been greatly curtailed.

I really didn’t think I had anything to blog on this week… that is until I started listening to my inner monologue as I drove the family around Nantou.

I realized as I drove, that was thinking like a cyclist as I was not taking the most direct routes to our destination, but rather, I was taking the route I would use if I had been riding my bike.

We were on a virtual bike tour by car.

Periodically, I would find myself recounting some experience or another biking those roads, or explaining to the car full of non-riders exactly how difficult the climbing was.

After a while I caught myself and tried to avoid a “band camp” monologue, but I also enjoyed sharing what I really enjoy about passing through those places in the open air…. No windows to insulate or frame the scenery.


We enjoyed the nice weather with a Saturday trip up to Lugu to visit some friends and buy a little tea.

On Sunday, we took in the ride to Sun Moon Lake and over Bagua Shan.

Below are a few of the pictures I took and a few links to the routes I have used to bike to these places.


Jack’s Tea

Tea Snacks

Tea Set


Tea Baskets

Sun hat


View From Sanlnxi


Betel nut, Betel nut…. Where?!




Biking Around Sun Moon Lake and Beyond


What a ride! Sunday’s ride was really something special for me. It marked my first significant ride without knee pain in almost four months. Things had been looking up for the better part of two weeks and I had been itching to get out of Taichung. Before, I would simply hop on the bike and ride 200km or more to put some distance between myself and my city. Lately, I have simply been stuck, sitting at home, while everyone else was out sketching Taiwan’s rugged topography by bike.

After last weekend’s success I concocted a plan to go further afield, while building back into shape. The last thing I want is another three weeks off the bike.

The plan was to loop from Shuili Township in Nantou County, up the Nantou Route 131 to Sun Moon Lake, and then exit the lake at Dehua Village on the southeastern shore along the adjective defying Route 63, and then back to Shuili on the Highway 16. The entire route was only around 50k, similar to last weekend’s distance, but with the addition of a climb up to 800m.

Michael Turton was game for the adventure as he had never biked some of those roads, and we were joined by Andrew B. from Feng Yuan. (You can check out Michael’s write-up HERE)

I was feeling pretty anxious about things as a day of climbing could potentially lead to another flare-up with the knee. I imagined the possibility of getting to the furthest point and having to bail or continue forward in pain, each turn of the crank helping to degrade the knee even more. Since early March I have ridden with the fear that any real effort might contribute to making things worse. Still, I have ridden on these roads before as part of much longer rides, and I couldn’t wait to finally take my new bike further afield.

The ride was simply inspiring.

Shuili Bus Depot

Michael had the courtesy to drive us all down to Shuili in his van, otherwise I would have had to cancel, and we all unloaded our gear for a day of riding.

A Local Bus

Shuili is a pretty little town near the source of the Choushui River that was once a logging and agricultural hub, but it is now cashing in more from felling tourists than timber.

Michael and Andrew Embark Up The Route 131

We quickly headed up the Route 131, a route I have only taken downhill, and made pretty good time over the low rollers toward the lake. Andrew B. spun his way along on his mountain bike as we tested the terrain. I felt pretty good pushing a 39-27 gearing combination, but I was not about to over do it. The grades were between 2%-4%, so totally fine.

A Straggler

Several groups of cyclists came careening out of Sun Moon Lake as they had obviously had a much earlier start than our little “coffee and cake” ride.

Village Below Reservoir

The balmy heat was tempered by intermittent cloud cover and it made for some good cyclign weather… at least good for Taiwan in June. The temps were in the 30s (90s) and the humidity was otherworldly, but not bad at all.

Sun Moon Lake

The roads soon plopped us down on the welcoming banks of Sun Moon Lake, where we joined caravans of tourists jockeying for their own unique glimpse of the cloudy blue waters lapping upon placid shores.

Andrew Arrives


Views II



It was easy to keep pace with the traffic as we inhaled petrol fumes from tour busses that threatened to push us into the guardrails at every turn. Visitors in passing cars cheered us onward past the cable cars to Dehua Village.



We stopped for lunch amid tourist-lined streets and pushy vendors scrapping for their restaurant traffic.

Michael Climbs

As the grey skies closed in we decided to make the hill climb out of the lake before the rain could make the descent on the other side any trickier.

Over The Lake

I was really happy with my climb. I felt comfortable and steady with a good pedal stroke and it was here that I really realized that my knee would be ok.


As I waited at the top of the hill for Michael and Andrew, a light blanket of drizzle began to cover the entire basin below. Within minutes it was covering me as well. The descent would be far more technical than I had anticipated.


Over The Valley

We turned the corner just over the peak of Route 63 to reveal the rippling ramparts of Taiwan’s Central Mountain Range. My pictures just don’t do justice to this scene. The interplay between the light, clouds, shadows and scenery, punctuated by a weaving plunge through hillside farms and betel nut groves was a treat for the senses.

Great Roads Below

Cloudy Skies

The rain tapered off as I reached the bottom of the descent, just in time for a high speed assault on a ribbon of smooth pavement leading to the base of the valley.

Rolling Along

With mountains on all sides, we rolled smoothly along the valley floor. My legs were getting a little tired after so much time off, but with the entire scene spread out before me and the thrill of that descent, I was stoked on enough adrenaline to keep moving rapidly with a smile on my face.

The Flood

Suddenly, without warning, the skies opened up into a torrent of pounding rain. The air was filled with the deafening sound of thick raindrops pummeling the valley.

Brave Soul

We took shelter under an aluminum garage/betel nut stand and waited for the rain to abate. Within minutes we were back on the road.

UFO Cult?

River Wild

We were soon exiting the valley and headed back into Shuili. My legs were in great shape, albeit tired. We had had a great ride through great country. With good spirits all around we drove back under the sun drenched skies of Taichung.

With this ride I was able to regain the confidence I had lost after so many disappointing false starts on my road to recovery. Now I feel I can start to really enjoy riding again.

What a great ride!

Heading Home

Epic Fail!: Misadventures On Nantou’s Sweet 16

With my birthday on Saturday, I decided to spend the day with my wife. Sunday was to be a selfish day to myself– a day to rise to a new challenge and explore places I have never been. I really wanted to punish my body for turning another year older. I also needed a little solitary riding to just let the thought flow.

The plan was to do something approximately 160 to 200km… with lots of climbing.

My route of choice was the Highway 16 that starts in Nantou and climbs up to the base of Yushan, the highest mountain in East Asia. From looking at the map it was long enough, high enough, and in the right location.

I figured I could make good time out to Shuili, just at the base of the Highway 16, and then climb until 12:30pm or maybe 1:00pm if I was feeling good. The return would be down hill, thus saving energy, and once I returned to Shuili it would be an easy and familiar shot home along the Highway 3.

That was the plan.

I woke up early, but was pretty tired from some solid rides during the week and the hours of saddle time the day before. On my saturday ride I tried not to exert much energy, but I still wasn’t resting.

In preparation for this epic ride I calculated my birthday dinner into the equation and pigged out at Chili’s in Tiger City. Lots of good food and a rare dessert to pack in the carbs.

I put myself together and eased out onto the early morning road with a head full of music and some kind of plan for my day.

By the time I rolled into Ming-jian, I could tell my legs were not 100% and worries a little about my day’s forecast. I hoped to rally through it and push the sluggishness aside. Part of the plan was to stop in Ming-jian for a coffee and a little more nutrition before entering the mountains. I chose McDonalds for their Sausage McMuffin with Egg meal although I wasn’t hungry. After a few bites, I wrapped up half the muffin and stuffed it in my jersey pocket for later.

I hit the road once more to Shuili, where I took in a sport drink, filled up my mounted water bottle, drank enough water out of another bottle to squeeze the air out and flatten it into something pocketable, then I was off into unknown territory.

I highly recommend Shuili for its access to several locations in the foothills and central mountain range. From Shuili you can access Sun Moon Lake, Lugu, Hsitou, Sanlinxi, Alishan, Yushan and several other places.

The road out was surprisingly easy and I spun past a few easy-going cyclists on expensive road bikes. The burst of adrenaline had brought new energy into my legs and I felt unstoppable.

Then, just after the junction with the Highway 21, which goes to Alishan, the Highway 16 shoots up high above the beginnings of the Zhoushui River. The Zhoushui carves an impressive grey rift between the mountains, where the gravel trucks owned by the infamous Yen Ching-biao could be seen working non-stop to dredge out the riverbeds.

The road quickly narrows into a cliff-hugging ribbon of concrete. I expected the climbing to continue ever higher. Surprisingly, it leveled off. There were even a few downhill sections that emptied me out into a fantastic valley of green farms.

The feeling was surreal. I was surrounded on all sides by towering cliffs and dark, shadowy mountains, but I was cruising along flats drenched in sunlight. In the not so distant distance I could make out the silhouette of Yu Shan towering above the other mountains drenched in mist and sunlight. It was such a powerful image… too bad non of my shots could capture it through the light.

The flats suddenly rise up a steep slope to Dili Village, a Bunun town nestled into the side of a mountain. I made a standing assault on the hill until it flattened out into some very charming corners. If not for the debris that littered the road it would have been a cyclists dream.

I finally made it back to where I could get a proper view of the Zhoushui and it was an amazing sight as it eddies and curls in separate tendril-like streams that split and converge.

At one point the road overlooks a tight bend in the river where the vertical cliffs drop straight down into the valley.

After several pictures I continued up the road. It was nearing 11:30 and I still wanted to ride for another hour and a half.

I rounded a bend that revealed a treelined “boulevard” that zig-zaged toward the river. There were a few fern farms in there and more views than I could capture on my camera.

I was jamming down the hill, when I rolled over a gutter grate. The grate was loose and popped up as I passed with just enough speed to catch the raised lip with my rear tire. I knew in an instant I had a flat.

I attempted to change the tube, but as I filled the new tube with CO2, the tire remained soft. A faulty valve on the tube had cost me my last cartridge of CO2. Now I was really stuck and made the mental preparations to walk the bike out.

Just as I was putting everything back together, a caravan of three cars came by led by a pick-up truck. I thumbed a ride up the mountain back to Dili village. I had hardly seen anyone all day and just happened to be there when a guide and his customers were coming back from a little adventure. It was also fortuitous that they has a pick-up truck. You don’t see many of those in Taiwan. Ever grateful was I. Still, in the back of my mind I was thinking about all those calories I took in the night before that I wasn’t going to spend.

One of the best things about riding in Taiwan is how hospitable people are. I received so much help and it was so great.

Having imposed myself upon the group, I had to oblige the offer of food, which was freshly caught and cooked mountain shrimp. I couldn’t refuse.

My wife finally arranged to have our friend from Lugu come down and save my ass. It was noon and our friend wouldn’t be available until the afternoon. I whiled away my time at the hostel owned by Mr. Wu, who may give Trong Chai a run for his money in the category of “manliness”. Mr. Wu is an older gentleman, but looks much younger. He was wonderful conversation and a very awesome fellow. I am so grateful for his hospitality. We just chatted and sipped tea into the afternoon. I highly recommend his hostel if you would like to spend a weekend exploring the area.

“Jacky”, our friend finally arrived and brought me off the mountain. We stopped off in Shuili for some Bawan “Taiwanese meatball” at one of the famous vendors.

We finally located a bike shop in Shuili where, after about 10min. the owner was able to find a road tube.

I got myself all set up for my ride back to Taichung.

When I finally got back on the road I hit a blistering pace back to Taichung. My cruising speed generally ranged between 35-46kph. I was hammering home. My legs felt perfect running smooth as butter. Whoosh-whoosh-whoosh! Everything was clicking and I was eating up scooters all along the Highway 3.

I finally reached my front door in 2:23:31 from Shuili. I had still managed to ride 138km despite the premature end to my trip. It was a failed trip, but it was still very epic and in many ways a huge success.

I think it also served as a reminder to myself to not get so careless. There were a few things I should have done differently. I know where I screwed up:

  • I should have had one more tube with me.
  • I should have carried a spare CO2 cartridge.
  • I should have taken the Standard to Presta pump adapter off my kitchen table, where it has been for 6 weeks, and put it in my seat bag. These are very useful in Taiwan, where there are lots of standard pumps.
Anyways… I made it home safe.


The Hostel is the Yen Shi Hostel
Tel:電話:049-2741100 Cell:手機:0937-295570
Yenshi Hostel: #7-2 Dili Village, Xinyi Township, Nantou County.