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October 31st, 2010

Taiwan Cycling Festival: Getting Started

Posted in Cycling, Taiwan, Travel by MB

Taiwan Cycling Festival Logo

So, as detailed earlier, I was invited to attend the the 2010 Taiwan Cycling Festival, which officially took place from October 16 to October 24th.  Taiwan’s government, with support from its cycling industry, has been working hard to promote itself as a bike-friendly tourist destination. Over the course of two weeks, I had a chance to see the results of these efforts first hand, and now that I’m (finally) back, it’s time to tell you about it.

Wait, Taiwan?

Taiwan, for those living in the United States, isn’t a short flight away.  For me, it was a five hour flight from Washington to Los Angeles, and then another 14 hour flight from LAX to Taipei (TPE).  From a US-based traveller’s standpoint, there’s a pretty steep initial cost to any trip to Taiwan: aside from the ticket itself, the 14 hours in a plane (minimum) and the resulting jetlag means that the destination has to be worth all that trouble.  And Taiwan?  Absolutely was.  I was blown away by it.  But speaking of blown away . . .

The Plan Meets Typhoon Megi

The original plan for this trip was constructed, in large part, around the inaugural Taiwan Cup.  The Taiwan Cup was designed to be a professional road race highlighting the and headlining a week of amateur racing and organized rides.  Unfortunately, Typhoon Megi changed these plans, not only forcing the cancellation of the Taiwan Cup, but also resulting in a number of casualties along the eastern coast of Taiwan.

We made an initial effort at sticking to the plan, before the severity of the typhoon was apparent, but ultimately had to retreat back to Taipei and the western side of Taiwan.  This was the resulting itinerary:

Come Ride Taiwan With Me

I’ll be posting pieces that roughly follow the chronology of the trip.  So, to sketch out what lies ahead:

  • Thurs – Taipei.  Straight from TPE to the hotel.  There was, however, time for a walk.
  • Friday – Taitung/Chihpen Hot Springs.  Flew from Taipei to Taitung, toured some local markets, and maybe someone fell into the river while rafting . . .
  • Saturday – Chihshang.  The opening ceremony for the Taiwan Cycling Festival, and our first day of cycling.  It started with a short ride with Dr. Mao Chi-Kuo (毛治國), Taiwan’s Minister of Transportation and Communications. After that, we headed over to Taiwan’s first purpose-built recreational cyclepath in Guanshan, and then rode from there up to our hotel.  Bonus: portaging was involved.  Second bonus: an unexpected jazz concert.
  • Sunday – Hualian.  Knocked out a metric century (and then some) in the morning with an out-and-back along Highway 9, turning around at one of the markers for the Tropic of Cancer.  Finished up the day in Hualian, where we got the first real hints of Typhoon Megi.
  • Monday – Taroko Gorge.  Another AM ride, this time along the coastline in Hualian, in driving – but wonderfully warm – rain.  We then headed back south to finish the day in one of the most breathtakingly beautiful places I’ve ever been.
  • Tuesday – Taroko Gorge.  With a constant chorus of oh-my-god-look-at-that in my head, the day’s – and trip’s – highlight is climbing and descending through Taroko Gorge.  Words will not suffice to describe this day.
  • Wednesday – Taipei.  Fly back to Taipei, hit some local bike stores, and end up at the one of the team hotels for the Taiwan Cup.
  • Thursday – Taipei.  Attend the kickoff press conference for the Taiwan Cup, interview three-time world champ Oscar Friere, and – by the end of the day – find out that the Taiwan Cup is almost certain to be cancelled.  Instead of heading to Haulian to cover the race, we decide to head south.  But not before visiting Taipei 101.
  • Friday – Sun Moon Lake.  While passing through Taichung, we visit factories for Giant and Mekkem.  The day ends at Sun Moon Lake, a popular tourist destination (and, it turns out, where most of the pro racers end up).
  • Saturday – Sun Moon Lake.  Start the day with a ride around Sun Moon Lake with pros like Amets Txurruka.  Enjoy a good chat on the road with Vicky Liu (劉麗珠), president of the Cycling Lifestyle Foundation, about the challenges of cycling advocacy in Taiwan.
  • Sunday – Taipei. Late start to the day, which is mostly a road trip back to Taipei, where we reconnect with the rain.  Did I mention the rain?  End the day with a trip through an amazing night market.
  • Monday – China Airlines Flight 8 to LAX.  The longest Monday in my life (35 hours, I think).  The day’s plan to go for a ride in Danshuei is foiled by more rain, so we end up on a lazy tour of the waterfront and local markets before heading back to TPE for the trip back to LAX.  I leave behind new friends but take back a strong desire to return and share Taiwan with others.

Sound interesting?  Then check back daily.  There will be words, photos, and even the occasional video.  All of which I hope will show you what a wonderful place Taiwan turned out to be, and why I’ll definitely be heading back with my bike.

Note: I’ve added a Taiwan category (see sidebar), so all of my posts related to Taiwan will be available here.

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6 comments

  1. Will says:

    A shame about the typhoon. Looking forward to your reports.

    Great gorge tunnel photo. much car traffic?

    November 1st, 2010 at 9:18 am

  2. 2010 Taiwan Cycling Festival: Getting Started » Cyclelicious says:

    [...] I’m back now (even on EDT), and I’ll be writing about this trip over the next week.  Here’s the first article, outlining the trip (and explaining why our plans didn’t quite work out as planned . . . [...]

    November 1st, 2010 at 9:26 am

  3. MB says:

    Not much car traffic, but a fair number of buses. Among the many things this trip did was increase my tolerance for discovering an oncoming bus in my lane. Really.

    No one was malicious about it, though, and the only near bike-car conflict of the trip occurred when a car behind me didn’t appear to clue into the concept of me taking the lane (through a particularly narrow one-lane section). It’s not like climbing a quiet mountain road, but neither is it like trying to navigate a busy tourist route with distracted drivers (something that keeps me off, say, Shenandoah’s Skyline Drive in the fall).

    November 1st, 2010 at 9:48 am

  4. Richard Masoner says:

    Those buses are crazy, eh?

    I’m interested in knowing if you were able to have any substantial conversation with the Transport Minister when you met him. And were you able to find out of there’s any substantial cycling advocacy outside of this effort by the govt and industry?

    November 1st, 2010 at 2:22 pm

  5. MB says:

    I actually did, Richard, as well as with the Magistrate of Taitung County (sort of like governor). It’ll be a highlight of a post, shortly. Similarly, I had a great conversation with Vicky Liu, who is most definitely keyed in on advocacy, but I think it would be more accurate to characterize her as being part of the industry (in addition to being the head of the Cycling Lifestyle Foundation, she’s the daughter of King Liu, founder of Giant).

    November 1st, 2010 at 4:14 pm

  6. Taiwan Cycling Festival: Taroko Gorge Descent | Blacknell.net says:

    [...] polishing up and queuing the rest of the Taiwan Cycling Festival pieces this weekend, but I thought I’d go ahead and publish this great (tho’ impromptu) [...]

    December 10th, 2010 at 3:06 pm