Cycling the Northern Cross Highway

In addition to taking the coastal road that skirts around the edge of Taiwan, there are a few mountain passes as well. We planned to tackle the northernmost road that crosses the mountains, Highway 7, aka the Northern Cross Highway. Our route took us from Hsinchu to Luodong (near Yilan), via Guanxi and Baling, a total of about 160 km. The mountain pass topped out at 1170 m elevation, and Baling and Guanxi are spaced in a way that breaks up the climb nicely.

More on the Northern Cross (including pictures!)

騎自行車台湾環島 / Cycling Around the Island of Taiwan

As I wrote before, the day after I finished teaching at Royal we packed up our bags and started to cycle around Taiwan, something referred to here as 環島 (huandao), meaning ‘circle the island’.

Our trip can be neatly broken down into three sections: 1) the northern cross highway over the mountains; 2) the east coast and 3) the west coast.  I want to write about it in some detail for any future interested cyclists, so I will break it down into three posts based on those divisions.  But before we get there…

A summary of our huandao

Touring Taiwan

I finished work on Friday, and the very next day, Mike and I headed out on the next installment of our adventure in Taiwan: 我們騎自行車環島.  We are riding our bicycles around Taiwan! We started with the northern cross highway over the mountains to the East coast, and I’m currently sitting in a great B&B in Luodong writing this.  I have been taking some notes, and I’m going to write a more detailed description of everything when we get back to Hsinchu.  Until then!

Cycling Taiwan

Cycling is a great way to sightsee, and the conditions in Taiwan for cycling are absolutely fantastic! We’ve done a bunch of day and few-day rides since arriving. Sometimes we bring the GoPro, and Mike stitched together this:

Cycling Weekend: Neiwan

With good weather forecast for the weekend and no hot water at home, we decided now was the time to go on our first overnight bike trip here in Taiwan. There’s something really satisfying about travelling away from home under your own power. We chose to head over to the relatively nearby mountain town of Neiwan, home of lots of delicious food, hot spring spas, a suspension bridge and go-karting. It is a very popular day-trip location, yet it has a number of places to stay, so we thought we’d take our chances and see about finding a place for the night once we arrived in town. We had no trouble finding a spot, and ended up staying in a wonderful little B&B type place that overlooked the town.

It took a couple of hours of nice (generally uphill) riding to get into the little mountain town. There were some stretches of road that were a little busy, but it was definitely a popular route for local roadies – we saw many happy cyclists along the way.

arriving in Neiwan
The boardwalk is the first thing we saw when we arrived in Neiwan.

Once in Neiwan we rode around for a while looking for the B&B that we wanted to try first. It took a while to find the way, but we made it, and they had room! We showered up, changed into street clothes and hit the Old Street for lunch. We had some brightly coloured rice buns, pork skewers, glutinous rice tamales and some local oranges. Yum! We also bought some spicy peanuts, sesame cookies and a bottle of local honey to take home. After checking out the bridges and the boardwalk, we looked in on the local hot spring spa, thinking a hot bath would be a great way to relax our legs. However, it was a popular spot, with all the private rooms booked for a couple of hours past our arrival time. We decided to get dinner back at the restaurant that was part of our B&B and see if we still felt like the spa after dinner. In the end, I was pretty tired, so we had a couple of beers and enjoyed the scenery from the suspension bridge, and then hit the hay. There is an old theatre-turned-restaurant in town, and it is apparently a beautiful spot for cherry blossoms in the spring, so I’m sure we’ll be back again!

lunch in Neiwan
Rice buns: just some of the delicious food we had for lunch!

The next day we traveled upstream a little further, before taking an alternate route back to Hsinchu via Beipu. We took far quieter roads, but had a couple of big (category 4) climbs and I was completely cooked by the time we set foot in our apartment. The ride today was the longest I’ve done since we lived in Ontario, and I’m looking forward to logging many more kms and going on a few more overnight trips.

Buying a Bike in Taiwan

One of the things we wanted to do in Taiwan was explore it by bicycle. We decided, being in the land of Giant and Merida, that we would buy some bikes to ride for the year (and potentially take back to Canada). We always like to pop into local bike stores when we travel, and it was more fun to actually be in the market for new bikes this time! We checked out as many shops as we could in both Hsinchu and Taipei.

After much deliberation we settled on ordering bikes from our local Giant shop in Hsinchu. Mike opted for a TCR Advanced, and I opted for a Defy. The experience was different than what I was used to for my previous two purchases. I was used to large bike stores that carry many sizes in many bikes – you select the one you want, test ride it, and maybe take it home the same day. Our local bike store, Yicheng Bicycle, was a small shop with one of each bike on display, and the shop right out on the floor. Once you’ve decided on a model, Tim, the owner, measures you and orders the bike in the correct size. If you want to see how the geometry feels, then he sets up a fit bike to reflect the measurements of the bike you want. It was a neat thing to try different geometries on the fit bike instead of riding different bikes in stock.

Picking up the new rides from Tim
Read more

Looking forward to 2013

Well, we are firmly into 2013 now, and after quite some thought, I have decided to record some aspirations for the new year. I say aspirations because I would like to set some weekly goals, however I know already that these goals will at times not be met (for example, during our travels at Chinese New Year).  That’s ok, I just want to have something recorded I can work toward achieving to the best of my ability. 

Continue Reading