Monday, December 21, 2009

Epic Training Ride with the Columbus Team

No food in the house, except for some USANA Vanilla Nutrimeal for pre-ride breakfast.

Previous EPIC ride in Taiwan can be read here

This was an epic ride with a group of strong riders from the local top Taipei team. Met the group at 7.30am to ride to Yilan over the hills. There was a substantial amount of climbing with very little flat riding. On every hill climb, the Columbus boys were on a mission to be the first to the top. The first hill I saw this happen, I saw them take off and I responded with some power-riding myself, but mostly it was just to keep up. However, one by one they dropped like flies, till it was just me and a young fast 19 year old up the road. I punctured half-way up the climb before I could catch him! I made the change and in five minutes we were on our way again.

The weather was considerably colder today so far this year! It was 10 degrees in Taipei City and 4 degrees up on the mountain tops. I was wearing all of my winter gear and was pretty warm. The Champion System custom made clothing makes some good stuff. The jacket I wore was wind-proof and kept me warm once I started moving and had good breatheability.  If we stopped for too long at the 7-11 stops (greater than 10 mins, I would get quite cold and it would take a good few minutes of pedaling to warm-up again). If you are wanting to keep your feet shielded from the wind as well as keep the shoes clean, then the Champion System shoe covers work fantastic. If I did not have a skull-cup today, my head would have become frozen on the descents!  It is important at this time of the year to keep warm whilst out training and getting all the clothing items can be quite expensive, but it is a good investment to continue your riding enjoyment.

The racing up mountains and the odd attack kept the ride pace quite high throughout the 6 hours we were on the bike. The average speed was quite low at 25km/h but this was due to the several big climbs we had to go over on 47-1 and Highway 9. After going through Pinglin, the pace picked up considerably and we were reduced to four of us and I knew we were all suffering. After the next guy popped, I pulled through and mentioned that perhaps we should slow down as we still needed to come back the same way (another 80kms!). I think they were glad to slow down and just ride tempo all the way to Yilan City. The descent down, overlooking the ocean, was quite nice although there was quite a head wind that forced you to keep pedaling down!

Stopped to re-fuel at 7-11 in Yilan.  Seven-Eleven's here are everywhere and they even have Merida bike floor pumps and a set of tools available at many stores!

Normally on Sunday's I go riding with the No.7 Park Bike Shop on Sundays, but since they were doing the running event I went with the Columbus Team. Their main focus during the ride is a good quality workout mixed up with some racing while No.7 Park Bike Shop rides center the focus around enjoying the views and times socializing with good coffee. The Columbus ride is catered for the more serious rider and they don't wait for you at the tops and if you get dropped you are riding on your own till the next re-grouping spot - the 7-11 convenience store. The guy pictured above, is a talented 19 year old rider who is one of the best climbers in Taiwan - he apparently forgot his helmet for this ride! He was smoking everyone on the climbs and he is a future rider to look out for.

Ride summary:
  • 160kms
  • 6 hours
  • Five major climbs 
  • Food/drink:  1 x Hammer Gel, Oatmeal Raisin Bar, chocolate milk bun, 1 x 600ml chocolate milk tea, M&M's, egg pudding, 2 x 600ml REV 3 surge drinks, and 2 x 800ml sports water from 7-11.
  • Started having cramp issues with 40kms to go - but was able to control them with more fluid in-take and out-of-the-saddle riding. I put this down to not drinking enough fluids + intensity during the six hours.
  • Almost swiped by a bus on the final climb and chased by a massive dog coming back into Taipei
  • Suffered yet another puncture (I never seem to go an entire month without puncturing!)
  • Training Peaks file viewed here

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Bikedan attends Taichung Bike Week

Last week I visited Taichung to check out what new products were coming out in 2010 and to network with bicycle industry professionals. I also had the privilege of attending the grand opening of FSA's new and bigger factory. The article I wrote about the opening can be found on A couple of photos from FSA opening are displayed the end of this posting.

Taiwan is a global leader of product development in the bicycle industry and it is the second largest exporter of bicycles in the world. Over the years, Taiwan's bicycle manufacturers have become more innovative and ambitious in the production of high-end bicycles to satisfy discerning cyclists. Higher levels of cooperation and strong competition within the industry has given designers and producers the opportunity to work together to create more cutting-edge components and bicycles.

Some of the interesting new products that caught my eye include:

  • A Titanium chain that supposedly outlasts Dura-Ace by 4,000kms

  • Funn MTB Components new custom line and pretty Taiwanese models

  • A new bike transmission system that has no maintenance and aimed at commuters and cycle touring

  • Super-lightweight tires for racing - lighter than any that is currently out there on the market

  • San Marco's new REGALe Racing Team saddle - stay tuned for their exciting announcement over the next few days

  • FSA's new in-development 11-speed component set

  • FSA's time trial bars with buttons for smooth gear shifting

  • First Choice Components with their new lighting/GPS system

  • Pro-lite with their award-winning wheel-sets - newest product for 2010 is the 5-spoke carbon front wheel

  • Plus alot more!

  • A couple of Taiwanese product managers discussing strategy at the FSA opening

    Specialized Vice President being congratulated by Douglas Chiang, owner of FSA

     FSA factory worker assembling the crank-set

    NEW: Tour de Formosa (Taiwan) in 2010

    Unique Cycling Event to be staged in Taiwan

    After the immense success of the 2009 Deaflympic Games in Taipei, the Chinese Taipei Sports Association in conjunction with the Chinese-Taipei Cycling Association has decided to hold a Tour de Formosa Cycling race in 2010 for all the hearing impaired cyclists in the world. It is hoped that it would become a Deaf's equilivent to the Tour de France and be held bi-annually indefinitely. Deaflympic Cycling Events reports can be found here

    The objective of this Tour de Formosa:  

    To raise awareness among hearing-impaired cyclists the opportunity to race and develop friendship ties, as well as improving the riding standard of the hearing-impaired cyclist world-wide. Additionally, to encourage more of Taiwan's hearing-impaired young talented athletes to develop their cycling skills. 

    Another big reason for Taiwan to stage this cycling event is to raise Taiwan's Profile in the world by showcasing the beauty of Taiwan's stunning landscape and unique culture. By putting Taiwan on the world map will ultimately increase tourism to the country. 

    The Cycling Tour will be modeled on the historic Tour de France race and it is hoped that the competition will become a major international cycling event. Stay tuned for the course details.

    ICSD Bike TD will be invited to provide technical guidance. The Tour is set to be raced over 7 stages from October 29th through to November 7th in 2010. International teams are restricted to four-man teams and two team staff and to be eligible for the competition you need to hold a current National Cycling Association license. It was not clear if it is only restricted to hearing impaired riders or if it is open to all. The numbers of Chinese-Taipei Teams that can enter is unlimited. International teams are provided with free accommodation and all meals.

    As more information is made available, it will published on my website. If you have any questions about the Tour de Formosa please contact me on

    This event also represents a unique opportunity for companies to develop partnerships with the Cycling Teams that will take part.

    Monday, December 14, 2009

    Riding with your Wife

    I thought this would be a good post to write as I feel its pertinent to involve your wife (or girl-friend) in your cycling adventures, as long as she is a willing partner and enjoys the challenge of bike riding. Sometime ago I read a blog article on Riding with your Wife by Wade Wallace from Melbourne, Australia. I thought it contained excellent advice and my wife found it particularly amusing that she could not stop laughing! During our recent ride up to Wulai, some of the advice was taken on-board.
    My wife, Jen, also rides an Orbea, in fact it was a nicer one than my previous Orbea Opal that was spec'd with lower grade components. The fact that her bike was better than mine, made my wife very happy and proud! She loves the feel of buzzing along on an efficient performance machine - however she does tire fairly quickly since she does not get out regularly enough to get the muscles adapted to cycling. When we ride together, we usually do rides that include plenty of stops for sight-seeing and for munching on the various foods that can be found here in Taipei. Refer to my earlier post about Xindian and Eating Delicious Foods. So, more recently, we were both invited to go riding with the 7th Park Bike Store's weekly coffee rides and was assured that riding to Wulai from the Xindian MRT station would be an easy rolling 15kms each way and would not be a problem for my wife.
    Jen and I were both up at 6am and out the doors at 6.45 to ride along the river path for 10 kms to meet the group at 7am. We managed to get there 15mins late, but fortunately the group were waiting for others to turn up. There were several girls present and some quite new to cycling! Since Jen is all decked out in her Hansaton-Champion System cycling gear, she looks a pro and people thought she'd be pretty quick! She informed them that she just has the looks but likes to ride slow.

    Since I was riding with my wife, I had to make sure she would be ok and happy during the ride. I asked her what she thought if I should ride on ahead with the faster guys and let her ride with the girls. She did not like the sound of that, so I duly stayed on her wheel and ensured things would go smoothly.  She told me that if I was not with her the whole time, she would not have been able to make it through the ride. It was her longest ride to-date, totaling 52kms including hills and rolling terrain. One of the biggest enjoyments of the ride was actually getting to Wulai and being able to relax at Helen's Mobile Coffee drinking good coffee, eating waffles and cheese cake, while savoring the splendid views of the river and bush clad mountains.

    What made it manageable for Jen was that I was there to push her up the hills if she needed it. I would only push her if it was clear that she was not going to make it without stopping and of course, with her permission. It is actually a hard workout to propel yourself up the hill AND to push your wife. My heart rate was getting up there and I found myself trying to push faster so I can get over each climb and then recover. It made me think that we should get a tandem bike at some point so that we can enjoy cycle touring together.  As for the tips from the Cycling Tips blog, the following tips were utilised:
    • Pushing your partner/wife up the hill if she is tiring
    • Buy coffee or have scheduled coffee stops
    • Making sure she is comfortable
    • Making conversation about topics other than cycling or advice about training
    Bikedan's wife's top tips:

    1. When out riding with your partner and she complains that she is tired, don't bring up your amount of training that you have already done that week to justify that you should be more tired. Bottom-line: when she says she is tired, it is best not to tell her she shouldn't be!
    2. Do encourage your partner/wife to go riding with you on a frequent basis
    3. Wearing matching uniforms can help your partner/wife feel like she belongs next to you on a bike OR feel more like a pro even with beginning riding skills
    4. WIVES: Since cycling is a big part of his life, do make an effort to go riding with him once in a while and enjoy time together on bikes 
    More photos are posted below for your enjoyment. Thanks for reading and stay tuned for the next blog article which will be about a recent race I competed in here in Taiwan.

    Jen is enjoying a nutritious USANA Oatmeal-raisin bar that provided sustainable energy to complete the 52km ride

    Jen and I posing at mid-point of the Wulai ride

    Riding through some nice scenery on the way to Wulai

    Riding through the Wulai Market Street that was not too busy since it was still very early

    Tuesday, December 8, 2009

    Shooters' Hill Time Trial 4.2kms

    This is a climb that is scheduled on the National Race calendar every year and the top elite riders post sub 10 minute times, which is a motoring pace. Any time under 12 minutes is a good one. The climb goes from 50m to 250m above sea-level in 4.2kms, with a max grade of approx 8%. It is a sustained grade that stays about the same all the way to the top. It is a wide open road with numerous bends and sharp turns as you race your way up to the top. It is a popular training spot here in Taipei with various riders testing themselves with the hill climbing. The descent back down is nice and fast. I would consider this hill to be a safer and more appropriate one to use as a hill climb time-trial over the Liuzhangli Climb I posted about several weeks ago.

    A google map can be found here to get directions on how to get there: Shooters Hill Time-Trial

    I had been suffering from serious hay fever attacks over the past three days and was not feeling great at all today. I needed to get out on the bike after taking a couple of days off. I needed to get some speed into the legs since I have a race this weekend. I actually felt quite sluggish when I did the first climb as a warm-up before doing the actual Shooters Hill Time-Trial, so I was not expecting to do a quick time. 

    I started out well, maintaining an average wattage of between 380 and 400 watts - got over the first steep spot and kept a good steady pace on the gradient that followed, however since it was my first attempt, my early pace was not sustainable when the gradient got steeper after 1km or so. I practically blew-up at the seven minute mark and had no power left to drive it home for a respectable time. Up till the point before I blew, I was averaging close to 390 watts with an average heart rate of 175 bpm (20.3km/h avg and cadence 77rpm). The last six minutes or so only produced an average power of 293watts with an average heart rate of 177bpm (speed dropped significantly to 15.3km/h avg and cadence was 69). In short, I was suffering just to make it to the top for a time of sub 13 minutes. Ideally, if you have paced well and punched through the right sections, your power average should remain constant throughout.

    To view the power file, click here Training Peaks File

    Bikedan's Tips for achieving your personal best
    • Have adequate recovery in the days leading up to the hill-climb time trial day - don't do any tough rides two days out from your scheduled date. 
    • Ensure you warm-up well - I rode through the city and did another nearby hill (Jian-nan Road) as my warm-up. Normally this would work well for me, but due to the hay-fever and feeling all-round sluggish, I probably did too much on the Jian-nan climb. A good warm-up would be to do 20mins easy riding followed by 5x1min threshold intervals with 1min rest in-between and then recover 5-10mins before you launch into the time-trial. 
    • Pace yourself up the climb - at the begining do an out-of-saddle effort to get over first steep section and then settle into a pace that you can maintain.
    • Attack the steep turns through the tightest line.
    • Use land-marks to gauge your progress (once you have a few climbs under your belt, you'll know the landmarks and know when to ease off or put on the gas).
    • Keep your cadence as high as you can maintain (any thing over 70rpm average is good, but 80rpm is more ideal).
    • Save enough so that you can really punch it in the last 1km - I believe this is where alot of time is gained or lost. If you can aim for negative splits - i.e the last 2kms done faster than your first 2kms, then you have done a good job of pacing. But don't go out too easy!
    • If you train with power, then aim to ride at just below your threshold power for the first half and then the last half give it all you have. Heart rate can be a guide, but as you saw in my case, the heart rate had a higher average for the second half for almost 100 watts less power! 
    • Stay smooth and focused!
    The Jian Nan Road climb is a great one to do and once at the top you are rewarded with a stunning view of Taipei City and the 101 Tower as you ride back into the city.

    Monday, December 7, 2009

    Taiwan - Road Cyclists Paradise Part 2

    My last posting talked about Taiwan being a Road Cyclists paradise. I thought it would be prudent to justify my claim by providing a few photographs for you to enjoy.

    Here is a quote from Feiren who is a long time resident here in Taiwan and has a compilation of great rides throughout Taiwan:

    "The really great cycling in Taiwan is out of Taipei. The cross-island highways offer lush scenery rising from tropical jungles to temperate cypress forests well above 2000 meters. 

    The ride at 5am up Taroko gorge or scaling the Southern Cross are both world class.

    Networks of side roads conceal many, many treasures". 

    Over the last few days, the weather has been very favorable at this time of the year. Enabling more hours to be clocked up exploring the outdoors.

    More great photos below. For a larger view, you can click on them.

    This picture reminds me of alot of what New Zealand offers in the South Island, particularly the Queenstown Lakes Area. This is not far from Taipei City, about 1.5hrs of cycling to reach this beautiful lake at Shimen, which is on the Northern Coast Highway (no.7) and can be done as a great 120km loop from Taipei. Stay tuned for my up-dates on some more brilliant riding routes.

    If you have been enjoying my postings, please consider following me on TWITTER: bikedan and also RSS my site so that you get automatic updates delivered to your computer.  Thanks for reading.

    Friday, December 4, 2009

    Taiwan is a Road Cyclist's Paradise

    The more I explore different roads around the Taipei greater area, the more I believe that Taiwan offers a lot for the discerning road rider. You have plenty of options on any given day, depending on your training/ride goals for that particular day. There is just an amazing network of roads waiting to be explored and for the most part it is very safe riding. Unlike in many Western countries (except for Europe), Taiwanese drivers are used to two-wheeled vehicles (scooters and bicycles) and are not bothered by them. There is very little road rage here - in contrast to what you'd experience in the US or New Zealand.

    If you have been following my blog over the last couple of months, you will have seen my articles and photographs of the wide variety of riding routes I have completed. That should be enough evidence to support my claim that Taiwan is in-fact a Road Cyclist's Paradise! Several American expats who live here also attest to this fact. You can find plenty of mountain climbs all ranging from 20 mins in length to more than 60 minutes long in the Taipei area. Other parts of the Island boosts climbs that go for 50+ kms if you are looking for that epic climb. There is a climb here that has Asia's highest paved mountain road, which I will try and find and ride before leaving Taiwan! You can also find plenty of flat and rolling types of terrain if you don't fancy all the climbing!

    Today was the coldest day out on the bike for me, a nippy 59F (15C degrees) so I wore my Champion System  arm warmers and knee warmers for the first time. The custom-made garments worked very well and kept me feeling warm, light and aerodynamic. If you are needing custom-made uniforms for yourself or for your team, I recommend taking a look at Champion System simply because they make one of the best quality uniforms at the best value-for-money. If you are only a one-man team, you can still get custom-made uniforms done for you at a very reasonable price! You can click on your country flag at the top of the CS home-page here.

    The route that I chose today was on the Northern Cross Highway (#7), a spectacular mountainous route that crosses to the East Coast of Taiwan. A great description (plus photos) on this route can be seen on Rank's Blog. This is a route that normally takes two full-days to do the loop starting from Taipei. However, I only did part of the Hwy 7 route as an out and back ride.  I spent the first hour riding along Highway 3 through Yonghe City,  Banqiao City, and Sanxia City to get to Highway 7A. The traffic thinned out immediately after I made the turn onto Highway 7 and it was a good 30 minute climb (310m) over 14km to the top. I had a refreshment stop at the 7-11 in Sanmin (had my favourite Milk Tea drink) and cycled onto Fuxing (400m) before I turned around to head back to Taipei City.  I was buzzing during my ride and wished that I could have kept going to attempt the full loop via Yilan City on the East Coast and back up Highway 9 through Pinglin to Taipei. Apparently it is more than 250kms for the loop and would definitely make for a big day!

    The key to doing well on big rides is to ensure you are hydrated and fueled for the ride duration. Today's ride was almost 4 hours for close to 100kms and I was feeling strong at the end. I was able to do some sustained efforts close to time-trialing pace. I even did a fair bit of motor-pacing behind trucks and scooters on the way back along highway 3.

    Here are some tips for ensuring that you do not bonk on long rides:

    • Drink 600-700mls every hour. For the first 2hrs I was drinking REV 3 energy drink. Once I got to the 7-11, I had a 600ml bottle of milk tea and then topped up my bottles with plain water.
    • Ensure you eat adequately so that you can continue to ride strongly without fatigue. My nutrition for this particular ride consisted of:
      • 1 x Hammer Gel containing 90 calories
      • 1 x USANA Oatmeal-raisin bar containing 170 calories
      • My pre-ride meal was a bowl of eggs and noodles (good source of carbs for fuel)
      • Another good choice for food is bananas
    • Ensure you train consistently week-to-week, building up to bigger miles gradually so that attempting the longer rides will not shock the body.
    At the end of the training ride, I still had plenty of energy to do more riding! Hopefully sometime soon I will be able to attempt the 250km loop in one day!

    Google Map of Today's Route (roughly - does not include the little diversions down small roads along the way)

    Training Peaks file here

    Tuesday, December 1, 2009

    Route 106 to Ruifang

    Riding on Route 106 towards Ruifang City offers some stunning mountain scenery alongside the Keelung River as you pass through a couple of old townships (Pingxi and Shifen) that make for some interesting exploration.

    Once out of Taipei City via Muzha it was raining for the most part of my 100km ride, however it was quite enjoyable and peaceful. The only real hills was the 3-4km climb up to Pingxi Township (250m) and then the longest climb (500m) occurs after Shifen before it drops down to Ruifang. After riding to the highest point, I turned around to ride back. It was quite a tricky descent due to the narrowness of the road and a number of switchbacks to negotiate in the wet.


    Pingxi Township

    Pingxi is worth the stop for an hour or so if it is your first time through and  you have time. You can explore the old cobble-stoned streets, check out the market; and see evidence of what was once an important coal mining town in the early 20th century. If you have to have caffeine during your trip, you have come to the right place as it has many tea plantations in the area.  On my way back, I stopped at a local restaurant at the crossroads for big plate of pork, egg and vege fried noodles for $60NT ($1.85US). Good feed after spending half the day exploring in the rain!


    After passing through Pingxi, it is a very easy ride alongside the Keelung River to Shifen. It is highly recommended to spend at least half an hour checking out the Shifen Waterfall (十分瀑布) and the surrounding mountains. It is has been dubbed as the "little Niagara of Taiwan" as it is the country's broadest waterfall being 20 meters in hight and spanning across 40 meters. The rain gave the area a misty romantic quality that was refreshing. The actual waterfall viewing deck is currently closed to the general public due to some safety issues.  However, there was no-one to be seen, so I jumped over the fence next to the rail-way line to walk over and snap a few pictures of the awe-inspiring waterfall.

    The entire area is surrounded by mountains and bush with numerous waterfalls cascading off the mountainsides onto the road.  On a normal day, it is a very popular route for both cyclists and motorcyclists alike; often very crowded with weekenders. However, due to the rain there was only the occasional cyclist to be seen and I mostly had the place to myself, especially after Shifen. According to the 2007 Lonely Planet, this area of Keelung River receives more than 6000mm of rain a year and for this reason, there is more waterfalls than any other river system in all of Taiwan. There is another smaller waterfall - Eyeglasses Waterfall that you can view as  you walk over the bridge.

    If you have an interest in Coal Mining history, there is the Taiwan Coal Mine History & Cultural Hall that you can check out. This used to be a real fully operational coal-mining station, so everything on display is real authentic mining equipment. There is apparently a 1km train ride you can take into the mining tunnel (Lonely Planet 2007).

    To view the google map of the ride, click here. This map just shows the starting point at the Shiding area and maps out just over 20kms. I came from Taipei which adds another 15-20kms to your journey each way and then depending on how far past Shifen you go, it makes for a good half-day ride. It is not too difficult to do and there are plenty of sights to see along the way. If you are feeling adventurous, I would randomly choose a couple of the small one-laned roads that branch off the main 106 road, you never know what you might find! 

    Getting there from Taipei

    Excerpt from Rank

    Pingxi/Pinglin (via Shiding).
    Cross the bridge toward Taipei Zoo and turn left onto Xinguang Rd. Stay on Xinguang Rd. as it loops under the freeway and continue on straight down Wenshan Rd until it ends. Now cross the river and you will be on Beishen Rd. Having bypassed the unpleasant downtown Shenkeng. From here you can continue onto to Pingxi and Pinglin via Shiding. It is also possible to take a small access road over the hills to Nangang and then loop back to the cemetery on Yanjiuyuan Rd (
    Pingxi/Pinglin (via Shiding)

    NB: Photos are now clickable for viewing

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