Kind Shock general manager Martin Hsu organized a six-day, 510 kilometer ride around Taiwan's picturesque east side following the Taipei Cycle show earlier this month, and extended an invitation to BRAIN to have a rider come along.
With the big boss knowing he'd be too tuckered out after four days of the trade show hustle, the opportunity was passed along to me. I would've never turned down the chance, but I'll admit I was a bit jealous of Marc flying home after the show while I faced another week away. Of course, all was forgotten once we left the city and started riding.
Having only been to Taiwan once before with my sights limited to Taipei, Taichung and the view from the bullet train between, I had no idea of the island's beauty. The ride revealed a side that every cyclist should see from the saddle.
The group of 65 riders from Kind Shock, Neco Parts, Novatec and Kind Shock's distributors in France and China boarded a bus directly following the close of the show at the Nangang Exhibition Hall, and drove through what I've been told is the third longest tunnel in the world to get to Yilan. The next morning, after a quick train ride to Hualien, we started pedaling.
Along the way, we wound through the Taroko Gorge, spun alongside the Pacific ocean, and grinded our way 1,000 kilometers from sea level to the top of Jinhen Mountain. On the final day, we reached the southern most tip of Taiwan outside the tourist town of Kenting. The weather cooperated for the most part with little humidity and only one day riding through the pouring rain (thank goodness for emergency ponchos and hot tea!). With hardly any development on the east side, traffic was minimal and the unspoiled lands afforded stunning views. In the end, it was one of the coolest experiences I've had and an amazing bike tour.
Here are a few photos from the week:
Martin picks up his custom jersey and shorts for the ride on the first night.
Getting the bikes ready.
Does playing with chicken heads ever get old? Not for Kind Shock's U.S. guy Rick Taylor. Eating traditional Tawainese meals for seven days was all part of the experience.
Taroko Gorge. Many lives were lost while building the east-west road passing through the gorge, and a traditional Chinese arch at the gorge's entrance serves as a memorial.
We stayed the second night in cabins at the Leader Village Taroko, a summer-camp like setting at the top of a 9 kilometer climb.
At night we were entertained by singing and dancing from local village kids. Here, the girls give the crowd their rendition of "Nobody" a popular song by a Korean pop group.
Former BMX world champ J.J., who was along for the ride, showed he's still got it.
Can't start the day without the group stretch! Every morning, the riders gathered around for a 10-minute session to loosen the arms and legs before a long day of riding.
We stopped at the Giant store in the Cisingtan Scenic Area outside Hualien for a refuel at the store's coffee shop. The 3-year-old shop located along a popular coastal bike path sells accessories like gloves, lights and helmets, but makes most of its money on bike rentals to tourists. The shop's manager joined us for much of the ride.
The ride was all too much for Christophe Morera, better known as Momo, from France's Race Company, and J.J. who power napped after lunch.
View of the Chang Hong River, which is an up-and-coming tourist attraction for whitewater rafting.
A rider enjoys the flats after finishing the gradual climb from the ChangHong bridge, where the Chang Hong River meets the Pacific Ocean, up and over the Ruigang Highway to the small town of Yuli. This was the hottest day, with temps approaching 90 degrees, and one of the few times we welcomed the extreme air conditioning inside the restaurant!
A musician hired by Kind Shock (who rode the entire way in dress shoes, and often with a collared button down under his jersey), plays his two string violin for the group after lunch in Yuli. Clearly, this volunteer from the local police station was particularly entertained by his sounds. The local police chief arranged a special meeting with us to discuss Taiwan's support for cyclists explaining that many police departments double as bike stations, where cyclists can stop for water, directions or any other assistance.
A broken spoke was a quick fix for Chris Treugut, as BikeCool journalist Sarge Iou looks on for a lesson in roadside repairs.
We made some new friends along the way.
The view of the Pacific descending from Jinhen Mountain.
Me with the Euros at the marker for the southern most point of Taiwan in Eluanbi Park