(Click on the pictures for a larger version with caption)
So are you also a crazed cyclist like moi? Cause you DEFINITELY have to be a bit crazy to cycle in Taipei, Taiwan! The streets are filled with potholes (or worse..), there are more motorcycles than people in the city, & traffic rules are basically non-existent! ("What do you mean 'red means stop'?!?")
Still, Taiwan has one of the best (if not THE best) markets for bicycles in the world, in terms of both price and quality! To be completely honest with y'all, I'd never even owned a bicycle in my life until I came to Taiwan! In fact, I didn't even get that until after I'd been here about a year or so. There were a lot of strange "coincidences" that occured that kind of forced me into getting a bike, but after I'd done so, I instantly regretted not having done so sooner!
Thus, the first (& only) bicycle that I bought was a 10-speed mountain bike, a no-name brand (it had "Plough" on the crossbar--& probably weighed as much as a real "plow"...). No-name or not, it was definitely of better quality than the cheap "Murray" bicycles that one would buy for US$110 at your local Walmart--and it only cost me NT$2,100 (& even included an NT$300 U-lock!)!!! "Uh...so what does that mean?", right? Well, translated into US currency (which at that time was roughly US$1=NT$26), my "Plough" only cost me about US$80!!!
So I started to use the bicycle instead of the bus to get to school and work, saving tons of time in the process. What normally took over an hour by bus during rush hour traffic (NOT including the waiting time for the bus, which sometimes lasted even longer than that...) now only took 10-20 minutes!
Of course, since I was only using my bicycle for transportation purposes, I was content in getting a cheap, no-name "Plough". It wasn't until the summer of 1995 that I started realizing the recreational potential for such a vehicle. I noticed that two of my SAT students (Jay & Wilson) from the Princeton Review were also cycling to class, and they had nice bikes! We talked about going on a bike trip up nearby Yang Ming Shan (i.e., Mt. Yang Ming), & set the date for that weekend. I asked a classmate of mine (David) to join us & Jay asked a friend of his (Mike) to come along as well, & so it all began: history was in the making....
Although Wilson chickened out on that first bike trip, the 4 of us slowly crawled our way up one of the steepest roads up the mountain-- and at the hottest time of the day to boot! (1 pm!) Dehydrated, we pedaled to the top & had this feeling of accomplishment that you would not believe! Then came the fun part: flying DOWN the mountain! (Roundtrip, around 25 miles.)
After that, we started scheduling trips every weekend & inviting more & more people along. Our unofficial "club" of cyclists grew--at its height there were nine of us cycling from the small town of Jiao Xi all the way to Ilan, Su Ao, Tou Cheng, and then back to Jiao Xi (about sixty miles or so). We explored the entire northern tip of Taiwan, going from Taipei over Yang Ming Shan all the way to Jin Shan, along the coast to Shi Men, back down to Tamsui, and then back to Taipei; we biked west to the Chiang Kai-Shek International Airport located on the west coast in Taoyuan; we went east to the major port city at Ji Long; and we went south to Mu Cha, Xin Dian, Bi Tan (where, incidentally, I also competed in a Dragon Boat Race...) and the Temple at Zhi Nan Gong. (Want to see where these places are located on a map? NOTE: 138K file...)
So we'd cycle near & far: distances ranged from short, 25-mile round trip rides to long 60-70 mile round trip rides. Sometimes even in downpouring rain! (Of course that was usually cause we had no choice-- what started out as a bright, sunny morning suddenly turns dark & stormy while we're 50 miles from home....). Half the club consisted of high school students from the Taipei American School (Jay, Mike, Wilson, Peggy, Xin Hong, Jeff, Jason, Bobby, etc.), the other half consisted of friends of mine from the MTC or work (David, Luna, Chris, Irwin, Diane, Kiet, Edward, Nicole, Cathy, etc.). Sometimes there would only be 2 of us--the "core" members, so to speak (Jay & I).
Sadly to say, many people at the MTC have left Taiwan to find jobs or continue with school...Also, since it was the summer time, Jay & a lot of his friends were on break & thus could afford to go on a lot of trips; as fall rolled around & school started up again, our excursions have become more sporadic; perhaps once every 2-3 weeks now. But still, the trips do continue. And when summer comes around again... :)
So if you're in the Taipei area & have a "thing" to go cycling, don't
hesitate to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Oops, before I forget--I'm no longer biking on a "Plough"! Special thanks to fellow cyclist Luna who, upon returning to Canada, took pity on my "poor" bicycle (relatively speaking, compared to hers..) and donated hers to me!! I'm now on a 21-speed Giant with Altus A-10 "rapidfire" gearshifters (& lighter than my "Plough"!)!! So what happened to the "Plough", you ask? Ask Irwin...I passed it on down to him! Also, special thanks to Jay & Mike & Peggy for the "forked" handlebars, stem suspension system, & halogen head light that they gave to me for my birthday. And of course, to my brother & sister for the nice cycling computer. Thanks!
On a final note, for those of you who are interested in a HUGE cycling Adventure--say, one from the east coast of the U.S. to the west coast-- check out my friend Peter's homepage! Well worth checking into! & Happy cycling to everyone!
July 27, 1996
Well, it's been almost a year since I wrote the above article concerning my cycling adventures in Taiwan; been too busy to update it. In fact, recently I've been way too busy to go on bike trips... :(
Still, I have managed to go on a couple of really good ones, including a repeat of the 60-mile trip all the way around the northern tip of Taiwan (see the map...). What made that trip really cool was the fact that my dad was in Taiwan & joined me for the trip!! The cycling club here was rather impressed with him, especially considering his age (he doesn't look it, though...). Of course, I knew that he would be able to handle it without too much difficulty, especially since he'd just finished hiking the 2400+ mile Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine!!! I was honored to lend him my (Luna's...) mountain bike for the trip. Ah, but then what did I ride, you ask? Well, around X-mas time I treated myself to a new bicycle!! Yup, brand new. Why in the world does anyone need to have 2 bikes?! Well, first of all, in case one needs to lend one out to a close friend or relative! Second, it was a racing bike! World of difference between a mountain bike and a racing bike. Third, it was so cheap here! Sooo cheap, in fact, that I bought the exact same bike & took it back over Chinese New Year to give to my brother! (He competes in triathalons, so he kind of needs a good racing bike more than I do...) The model: a Giant R3000, 14-speed, really nice gear shifters & tires--for the low cost of NT$12,000 each (again, with an NT$300 lock thrown in for free). That's about US$460; the same bike in the states would probably be over US$600!!! Remember me mentioning how much cheaper bikes are here compared to the U.S.?
In April I attended the International Bike Show held at the "World Trade Center" in Taipei. Lots of stuff to make a cyclist drool!! A really cool event to attend, especially the last day of the show--cause that's when a lot of companies start to get rid of cool stuff (either free or at really cheap prices...) so that they won't have to transport it all back to their respective countries. Managed to get a helmet (with a built in flashing red light in the back), can of lubricant, a CD of the entire show, brake pads & reinforcers--all for FREE! Also got a very loud horn & a really nice bike bag (that can be converted into a regular backpack) at a very cheap price! One friend of mine that attended got free tires, another got free front and rear lights...
In other news, one of the "co-founders" of the Taipei cycling club, Jay, has finally gotten onto the Internet!! Check out his page for a nice analysis of most of our bike trips--stats taken right out of his biking computer! Jay, BTW, is the gentleman who owns the scanner; in fact, all of the photographs on this page were scanned in on his computer! Thanks, Jay! I really do have to find the time to go back up to his place and scan in a couple more pictures of recent bike trips...
Now for some good news & some bad news. First the good; since I last updated this page, I've accumulated a heck of a lot of miles--5284 miles, to be precise, as of 1 month ago (June 15th). Why do I remember the miles & date so clearly? Well, that's the bad news--it's because that was when my bike computer died!! Time to get a new one...
Well, there's still a bit more to tell, but I think it's going to have to wait for a bit; besides, this page is getting a bit too long anyways! Time to start adding pages to the 'ol homepage...
Til next time, keep on cycling! And wear a helmet!
TW EAST COAST TOUR, CHINESE NEW YEAR 2008
Recent cycling trips:
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