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Who Knows Where To Bike in Taiwan? Michael Knows!

As I creak into shape after a lengthy (and hopefully long lasting) rehab, I am pleased to know Michael Turton over at The View From Taiwan has been busy combing the roads of Taiwan and keeping things up to date.

He has just published this great article (here) for anyone interested in visiting Taiwan for cycling.

Please give it a read and I hope to put up something in the coming week about my trip with Michael down the coast of eastern Taiwan.

Ride Safe!

TiC

A Few Links

  • Next Media weighs in on Lance Dracula:

  • Giant is eager to push for more tariff cuts on bicycle components in an expansion of the cuts already negotiated in the ECFA agreement. Many of the problems that have arisen from ECFA have been related to the lack of transparency, Beijing’s desire to package political negotiations with economic negotiations, and the Ma government’s desire to placate Beijing. 
  • Riding Miracle 13: A Taiwanese cancer survivor bikes Taiwan as the subject of a documentary. 
  • Michael C. gets bent on his new Performer Recumbent. Is this a review, recommendation or a cautionary tale. Not sure.  

Thanks A Quarter-Million!!!

Seven Bike in Mountains

I would just like to thank all the TiC readers who have stopped by this blog. I just noticed I have surpassed 250, 000 page views. I hope you have found this space useful or at least a little entertaining. Even if it is at my own expense. 

I promise I will try to get better and quit writing garbage. 

Andrew

Taiwan’s Booze Hounds Embrace The EBike

Last year a middle aged Taiwanese man that I know was given a brand new EBike, or electricity assisted bicycle, for New Year. It was thought that this would be an ideal gift for a man who, according to his family, isn’t an alcoholic, but just loves to drink.

His love of drink had gotten him a couple of large tickets and his family felt that an EBike would be a perfect way to skirt the current laws, which outlaw driving under the influence of alcohol. An EBike would allow him to freely drink and drive.

I thought this might have been an isolated case of one family’s pluck and determination in shielding a family member from embarrassment and trouble. I was wrong.

The Liberty Times reports on one Taichung resident who has been stopped multiple times for Driving Under the Influence (DUI).

When the police finally followed the fumes and caught up with Mr. Li, who had run numerous stop lights and reeked of skunky Japanese whiskey, the man refused the officer’s request to conduct a field sobriety test. Mr. Li was given a compulsory NT$60,000 fine for refusing the sobriety test and released.

With no laws covering Ebikes and other electric vehicles that are unregistered, Mr. Li was able to fight the ticked and have his fine reduced to NT$500.

The police complain that the use of Ebikes by alcoholics has rapidly increased as a method to evade sobriety checkpoints while continuing to put themselves and others at risk on the road.

In Taiwan the bike is not always for leisure and recreation, but it is also a further evolution in the public’s long, passive aggressive history of flouting the laws designed to promote public safety.

I guess when you see an EBike coming, it might be best to give him a wide berth.

EVENT INVITE: Help Me Celebrate My Birthday Over Alishan (Nov. 24-25)

Seven Axiom SL, Alishan in Taiwan


This November I’ll be celebrating another middle age birthday on the bike and I’d like to put the call out to invite my friends and TiC readers to join me in a two day ride over Alishan

Instead of doing the ride in a 250km 4000m single day effort, we hope to make this a more manageable, friendly ride by breaking it up into two days. Two days leaves time for a little beer somewhere along the route. 

This ride should be suitable for most regular riders. The route is incredible and unforgettable.  It is challenging, but not devastating. 


Info: Nov 24-25th, Alishan. First day from Taichung to Tsaoling on the 149, then second day leave early and head up to Fenchihu on the 169 or 149. Reaching Fenchihu in the early afternoon, we’ll take the 159A out of Shijhuo, one of Taiwan’s loveliest roads, down to Chiayi city and catch the train or ride back home. Come one, come all!

Contact: ackymouse@gmail.com

Action Speaks Louder Than Words: Kaohsiung’s Cycling To Success Away From The Spotlight

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This past weekend I was unable to ride. I had other commitments that took me to Taiwan’s southern metropolis in the port city of Kaohsiung.

Despite being off the bike, I used part of my trip to look deeper into Kaohsiung’s bicycle culture, which has received international recognition outside the usual channels of CNN-Pay-For-Play articles.

I find it surprising that almost every internationally syndicated article of Taiwanese cycling fails to mention Kaohsiung while piling the plaudits on Taipei’s leisure bike trails and Sun Moon Lake.

It may be that in Taiwan’s politico-economic climate, the leadership in Kaohsiung and Taipei remain poles apart in their vision of Taiwan as a center or a periphery, and therefore Kaohsiung will not receive any government help in raising her profile as a model for other cities in Taiwan or around the world for promoting the bicycle as a form of urban transport.

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Kaohsiung is a very different city than any other in Taiwan. It has wide boulevards and less traffic. The  slow lane is large enough for scooters and bikes, while the crosswalks separate cyclists from pedestrians.

I saw many casual riders out enjoying the day.

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Although Kaohsiung is not perfect, I thought riders had plenty of options for roads and rides within the city. There were regular bike racks located around town and near gathering places for city residents. I particularly enjoyed seeing bikes parked near Kaohsiung’s thriving cafe scene. Kaohsiung cafes seem to be filled with retirees who can barely hear each other as they shout in lively banter over the din. A very different vibe. It feels a bit like Tainan’s food culture… in a cafe.

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What really stood out were the bike rental stations located at various hubs around the city. I was surprised to see how many green and white rental bikes could be seen floating about the city.

Residents were actually using these bikes beyond simple recreation.

I saw numerous people approach the bike station, rent a bike, and take off into the city. It wasn’t just at purely tourist oriented areas, but all over.

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The bike rental program in Kaohsiung has actually provided a viable way to cleanly navigate the city.

The biggest problem I see is the lack of helmets, which increases the risk of serious injury… even on a slow city bike.

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I have to admit, seeing all those bikes rented out made me feel the excitement of possibility.

Taipei and Taichung still have a long way to go to better organize the city infrastructure to accommodate the bicycle.

Let’s hope other cities in Taiwan look to Kaohsiung for leadership in integrating the bike into our daily lives.

LINK:

 Be sure to check out another one of Michael Turton’s Northern Cross Island bike trips . Like a pilgrimage to Mecca, Taiwan riders must do this journey with michael at least once in their lives.

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Rabobank Leaves Giant At The Altar: Rabobank Pulls Sponsorship

Days after announcing an agreement in which Giant would hold exclusive rights to marketing Rabobank branded cycling gear as well as picking up the apparel tab for the Rabobank team, Rabobank has announced it will pull its sponsorship from professional cycling in the wake of the doping revelation uncovered in the Lance Armstrong investigation. 

“Great partners”The extension of the existing sponsor contract includes all Rabobank pro cycling teams. These consists of the Rabobank men’s road and cyclocross team, the Rabobank-Giant Off-Road team and, with its Liv/giant women’s brand, the Rabobank women’s team led by Olympic and World Champion Marianne Vos. 

“Rabobank and Giant have been great partners since 2009,” said Giant CEO Tony Lo. “We build bikes that help them win world championships, and their feedback pushes us to develop world-leading technologies. We’re excited to now extend that partnership into apparel.”

Taiwan’s largest bicycle maker may be scrambling to fill the void left by one of the peloton’s oldest sponsors and one of Giant’s best marketing streams for high-end bikes. 

With great partners like these, who needs enemies?

It appears Giant may be stepping up as the title sponsor. 

The Second Taiwan International Bike Festival and Links

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 To coincide with Taichung Bike Week, Taiwan’s second (actially third, but the first one got a do-over) annual International Bike Festival will kick off on November 10th. Taiwan’s Tourism Bureau has been busy stoking international interest in the event with press releases and inviting bike bloggers to fly in and write favorable pieces about leisure bike trails, Giant Bicycles, Sun Moon Lake and eastern Taiwan. While I can’t fault anyone for accepting the opportunity to be feted on the government’s dime, I have to wonder if the patronage pays off for Taiwan. There has been an obvious thrust under the Ma administration to ease Taiwan’s economy into one based on tourism. The bicycle is a major part of that equation. Check out this predictable press release from New Zealand or this gag-worthy brochure copy from the Canberra Times. The lucky bloggers had plenty to see as Taiwan again tries to lionize individuals to become industry icons. I hope in the future more cycling publications will send their own staff to see Taiwan’s cycling culture away from a government minder or industry patron who is footing the bill.

The best part of the bike festival is the Maxxis KOM Challenge, a sadistic race from sea level to 3275m. This year’s Giro d’Italia King of the Mountains winner, Matteo Rabottini, will be here to learn a thing or two about the misery Taiwan’s topography can throw at the world’s best.

Also:

Taichung Cyclists Double Down on Double Ten

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Wednesday was the mid-week Double Ten holiday, and nothing makes for a better excuse for a fantastic ride than a day you don’t have to be at work. 

Last week, Dom, my friend and riding buddy, announced on FB Taichung Cycle Page, that he’d like to put an all inclusive ride together for the holiday. It was a general cattle call to all local riders to see if he’d get any takers. 

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The results were phenomenal. Not only did he get over a dozen local riders to participate, but his ride also brought together several different strands of the Taichung cycling community. The group consisted of hardcore triathletes, industry insiders, weekend warriors, randonneurs, enthusiasts and even a novice. The sight was quite a spectacle. 

It was by far the largest group of foreign riders I have ever seen assembled in Taichung. 

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The group was not only for expats, but there was also local Taiwanese representation in the group as well. 

Moreover, it was a circus of personalities, many keen to crack wise. 

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Once everyone who had expressed interest had converged on the prearranged 7-11 in Wufeng, the mix of lycra and logos rumbled down the Highway 3. The most notable absence from the group was Michael Turton, a local cycling legend several riders had been keen to meet.  

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Our rolling swarm took a prudent speed along the backroads that lead to the Highway 14. There was lots of catching up and horsing around. It was a nice rolling conversation. 

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We made our turn at the bridge between Caotun and Wufeng to a noodle of a back road that served up an impressive view of rice fields and the famed Ninety-nine Peaks looming in the background.  

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The weather was sunny, with a light breeze to keep things cool; the perfect riding weather. 

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We all finally emptied out onto the Highway 14 and the pace quickened with the higher speed of traffic in general. The group broke up into different conversation and purposes. Some riders shot ahead to hammer the rolling hills, others held pack to simply BS with each other. 

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We briefly regrouped at a convenience store along the route to wait for stragglers and for Josh Colp from Culprit Bicycles. 

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Soon we were back on the road in cruise control.

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At the junction between the Nantou Route 147 and the Highway 14, the group split into two groups. The group made up of triathletes took the shallow hills of the major highways to Sun Moon Lake, while my group ventured out into the foothills for a more difficult scramble to the lake. 

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And then there were seven. 

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My group consisted of seven riders: Dom, an excellent (and well conditioned) rider, James from Lapierre (also an excellent rider), David from BH bikes, Xiao Ding, Mike (a relative novice) and the great distance chewer…. Mr. Peter Hagen Stewart. Peter biked up from Tainan to join us for our century ride and then bike home. 

It was an interesting group with lots of great chatter along the way. 

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We ambled up hills and along streams. There was hardly any traffic to speak of. It was really quite relaxing. 

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We were also treated to some fantastic descents that simple bring an automatic smile to the face. 

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As we met the Route 131, we waited for our group to reconstitute before heaving again into some more rolling terrain. 

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Before too long the Route 131 spit us out onto the busy Highway 21 and we were again scrapping for space amid tour busses and sight seers. 

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As we waited at the shore of Sun Moon Lake for everyone to make the final grind up the hill, we realized Xiao Ding was missing. We saw him spinning furiously for the lake, but nobody remembers seeing where he went. 

After waiting an adequate period of time we just had to keep rolling. It was as if he had been swallowed up by the turquoise waters and simply vanished without a trace. 

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And then there were six.

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We managed to successfully negotiate the amazingly bike friendly environs of Sun Moon lake. I was only boxed in by a CRV and pushed into a parking space by a Nissan. 

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At Ita Thao Village we took in calories. I am not sure if we were eating food, but we knew there were some calories in there somewhere. 

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Ita Thao Village is the site of our final climb for the day. It is a relatively quick ascent along a single lane road that looks like nothing but a long driveway. 

This little road provides an incredible payoff. It simply dumps you at the foot of the Central Mountain Range. 

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The strip of tarmac plunges down the side of the mountain, along hairpin turns and through small indigenous villages. 

All the while you are completely aware of the massive shadow of the mountain walls looming overhead. It is well worth the price of admission. 

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As each rider emerged onto the Highway 16, a smile was visibly stamped across his face… all except for Peter who had been too busy concentrating to work up a smile. 

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We were eventually spit out of the river valley in Shuili, where we soon discovered that the welcoming party had sent a nasty headwind to fight all the way back to Taichung. 

We made our pace lines and went for broke. Dom took some amazing pulls at the front to his credit. 

Peter turned toward Tainan at Mingjian, we left Mike at a 7-11 in Nantou, James and David peeled off to the other side of the river in Caotun… and then it was just Dom and I.

At about Changhua I was pretty well done. I limped on back to Wuer. Thoughts of food filled my mind. It was too much. I let Dom go on ahead and stopped for one last sugar high to carry me home. it worked. I was a new man all the way home. 

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This is the longest and most interesting ride I have done in a long time. It was great to be out riding with so many awesome people on a fine day off from work. 

A special hats off to Mike for completing his first century ride. 

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