As I always do at the beginning of the winter season, I went away for a few days of cycling in a warmer country then the Netherlands. I do not mind a bit of rain and cold, but going to Mallorca or Tenerife to finish the year is preferred more. This time no Spanish, since I was invited to ride around Taiwan! An amazing opportunity that turned out to be one of the most memorable rides I had in the past few years. I even slept in hotels the whole trip…
Day 0: let’s get to Taipei!
Since the weather had been really crappy and in combination with the lack of motivation I was really keen to get to Taipei. This would be a good start into the 2018 season. No idea what I could expect from riding around a small island with a group of strangers. At least I tried to make a decent impressions and cleaned my bike before heading to the airport:
I had a direct flight Taipei from Amsterdam and was offered a nice deal for a business class seat. Since it was a red-eye flight the full flat seat was welcome and I was curious about the service levels of China Airlines. I turned out to be a comfortable flight and had some proper sleep in an airplane for the first time! First thing to do when you arrive in Taiwan is buy a sim card. For 15-20EUR you’ll get unlimited 4G and coverage is good across the whole island. How about that European providers?
When I arrived in the welcoming area a representative of Taiwan Tourisme agency was already waiting for me and helped me out with an taxi to the AMBA Taipei Songshan. Amazing new boutique hotel in eastern Taipei with panoramic views of Taipei 101 and Keelung River.
Within minutes my room turned a into a mess and I put my bike together. The hotel turned out to be really bike friendly: since it already turned dark and it was raining the hotel staff allowed me to test my bike inside the hallways 🙂 A quick meal in the Que, Steak & Seafood hotel restaurant allowed me to regain a bit of energy and stroll along the local night market and enjoyed some well deserved local deserts: fried chicken and unknown flavoured icecream. First thing I noticed was that I was one of the taller persons and was finally able to look over people instead of not seeing anything walking in groups.
It turned out these night markets were always located near temples. If you can’t find food, ask for directions to a temple.
Day 1: Taipei Songshan to Hsinchu
My alarm went of at 4:30: we had to gather early so we would be able to get everyone’s bike fixed and get introduced to the team that would be our guides for the upcoming days. Much to early for me but I managed OK especially when we were told we had a van filled with snacks to support us on the road! #snackvan
It turned out everybody would use a high-end Reach T20 folding bike to get the job. These local manufactured bike are mad. Having 53X11 gearing they had top speeds above 40km/h. While weighing around 10kg, they were properly fast! There I was with my Mason Revolution, a continent crushing race bike, being the awkward guy. Lucky for me there was Leland, going to do this on a fixie bike. Why?! No binge-reading here: he finished it. Massive respect dude!
The first part of the route was focused on getting out of Taipei. We rode along a the river on dedicated bikepaths. The weather turned out to be typically Taiwanese weather: cloudy, grey and wet. I couldn’t really bother since temperatures were way above 15 degrees Celsius.
The first day was about getting out of the busy cities and getting to know the group a bit better. Traffic was really OK and cars were not pushing us of the roads. Was feeling really safe and it seemed the cars weren’t bothered by us at all. Scooters were not bothered being drafted. We were just as welcome on the road as all other traffic participants. Nice welcome in Taiwan!
Outside the cities and towns we were riding on huge roads, usually with separate lanes for scooters and bikes. While we rode in a group in town, outside we could push as hard as we could. A few sprints to 60 km/h speeds were fun. Proper interval training to loosen the legs for me the first day. After we had lunch in a small local restaurant we visited the Pacific Cycles Museum where we got some history lessons about bike manufacturing in Taiwan. The best thing I found in the museum was the first aero bike:
A few coffees later we went back on the road and push it to Hsinchu. Jetlag kicked in and I was happy we arrived in the hotel. Quick dinner, night market visit and finishing the day in another temple. Done and dusted!
Day 2: Hsinchu to Lukang
We woke up with even more tailwind compared to the first day. The first part of the route was beautiful, riding along the coast while almost no peddling was needed due to the wind! This was great for the people that were not as experienced as me. The hero of the trip, Sparrow from Malaysia, doesn’t even own a bike. It requires a certain amount of craziness to sign up for a 900km bike trip then… the first part along the coast is also known as “The most beautiful bike path in Northern Taiwan”
In the picture below you can see Dale showing how the Taiwanese structured their main roads: two big lanes for fast traffic separated with a concrete wall from a slow traffic plus cycling lane. Enough space for us to play around on our fast bikes!
Colorful shrines next to the road
Sprinting, enjoying seaviews, sprints, #snackvan repeat…
Day 2 went by quickly and before I knew we were in Lukang. Not as much rain and long straight roads made us quick. I put in some serious effort on the sprints so was happy it was only a 107 kilometer ride today. During the afternoon temperatures reached 30 degrees Celsius, something I was not really happy with. Just a 20 to 25 degree difference with the Netherlands at that moment. Diner made everything good again:
Day 3: Lukang to Chiayi
After two days of 100+ km rides we had a recovery ride of 80km scheduled. The hotel served a huge buffet breakfast with both international and local cuisine. Quite sure why I didn’t lost any weight on this trip. The first stop of the day was at the ancient Lukang Longshan Temple. It is one of the oldest temples and was built in 1831. Amazing to see so much details and craftmanship. Due to restorations it remains in original state.
The ride out of the city was entertaining as always. Chasing scooters, getting compliments from car drivers and many locals clapping for us. And even dogs. But this time it were friendly dogs, not the ones like I encountered in Bosnia that would kill you without any hesitation.
The other highlight of the day was the famous Xiluo Bridge. It is connecting Xiluo Township and Xizhou Township in Changhua County crossing the Zhuoshui River. This remarkable long bridge (1.939m) was built in 1952 and when it was finished it was the second longest brigde in the world. I crossed it three time, once with the group and some efforts to get a good time on Strava. That didn’t worked well due to the slow traffic.
In the afternoon we visited the little village of Ban Tao Yao. This town used to be the state of the art clay and ceramics craft production center. While riding through this town, you were surprised by so many pieces of art.
And after that it was back into the city, time for a well deserved local diner and a walking desert at the night market!
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Disclaimer: this trip was sponsored by the Taiwan Tourism Bureau