Sunday, May 27, 2012

Orchard Alley

Did something really foolish yesterday - turned my phone to vibrate while in the bookstore and never changed it back so it could wake me up for my ride this morning. But, with all the missed rides recently due to rain, I wasn't about to cancel a ride just because of a late start. So, in the blazing 9am sun, I set off for a ride down Orchard Alley.

Things were pretty busy when I got off at Ciaotou Sugar Refinery MRT Station with a second hand market going on.

There was also an unusually large number of cyclists on my route today. Seems there was some sort of big group ride going on that had started in downtown KHH and was going to circle the reservoir and then back again.

They went left and I went right in search of a quieter road with a little more shade. Country road #40 was the answer.

This took me down to major highway 22. Then went east on the 22 for a couple of km to the KUAS campus, which is where you turn south again and enter Orchard Alley. The ridge in the background was shielding me from the chaos that is Fo Guan Shan Temple on a Sunday.

As you can see by the shadows on the road, the sun was all but directly overhead by 10:30 a.m. and it was getting rather hot. This quiet road is wonderful riding though, despite the heat.

Being of seafairing stock, my knowlege of farming is limited to say the least. So, when I saw this cactus being grown in rows, I wasn't sure what to make of it. A quick search with Google revealed it to be a Pitaya cactus or Dragonfruit tree. It should start to bear fruit next month I think.

Then came across this odd structure. An abandoned amusement park from days gone by?

A little further along, my quiet lane came to an end and I was thrust out in front of E-Da World. When will this monstrosity get abandoned? I would normally turn left here and drift down the hill to the Goaping river and enter the city via the back side of Niaosong, but the heat was getting to me. Therefore, took a shortcut down to highway 10 and got out of the sun under the elevated highway.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Victoria on my Mind

Local Victoria boy Ryder Hesjedal seems happy with himself in this year's Giro D'Italia.




Wow, what an exciting Giro this year! Hesjedal rode really well on both Saturday and Sunday on two really tough stages with multiple climbs that can only be described as brutal - very impressive stuff.

It now all comes down to the final 31km race against the clock today to see if Ryder can make up the 31 second deficit on current race leader Joaquim Rodriguez. Could be celebrating the first Canadian to ever win a Grand Tour tonight!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Victoria is Canada's Most Bikeable City

Read an interesting article today about my old home - Victoria.

Researchers at UBC and SFU have recently declared it to be the most bikeable city in Canada. The system they use is an offshoot of WalkScore. It uses factors such as cycling infrastructure (Ex: bike lanes), topographydesirable amenities and road connectivity to give cities a score on how bikeable they are.

*They don't include statistics related to cycling accidents or probability of bike theft in their calculations. I guess they assume that more cycling infrastructure means safer cycling.

I wonder how the cities in Taiwan would compare - Kaohsiung certainly has lots of bike lanes, though connectivity is a problem. It's topography is very cycling friendly, as it's almost totally flat. And desirable amenities are everywhere:

Can read the original article at Victoria: Canada’s most bikeable city
Also, a connected article: From bikeability to bike score that included this graph:

Average Bike Score for 10 Canadian Cities vs. % of Commute Trips by Bike

The Cycling Route Planner for Vancouver was also pretty cool:
I especially like the google function that allowed you to superimpose the data you were interested in onto the map - stuff like designated bike routes and truck routes.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Over the hill to Meinong

I reached an important marker in my training this week: 600km of base miles.

As explained at Cycling Base Miles 101:
Base miles aim to gently increase cycling specific muscle/tendon/ligament strength, build capillaries, get your butt used to saddle time and improve your cardio vascular conditioning.

At 43 years old and 125kg (now 120kg) I was a bit worried about injuring myself if I hit the hills too soon, so I made a rough plan:

a) After 600km: Begin to challenge hills under 300m
b) 1,200km: Challenge hills under 500m
c)  2,000km: Knock yourself out.

So, with 600km under my belt, I set off for my first real climb of the year:
A 240m hill en route to Meinong.

All week, when I had no time to ride, the weather was great and I started to grumble about it being another weekend of rain, lightning and thunder. But as the saying goes: "Be careful what you wish for!"

At 6:30am when I left the house it was already pretty warm. At 7:30am when I stopped for a drink in Yanchiao it was a getting a bit hot. I passed a farm woman riding a bike with her body covered from head to toe and thought to myself:  "Lady, do you know something I don't?"
To which she of course answered in her best Benicio Del Toro as Freddy Four Fingers accent:
"Andy, I probably know a lot you don't."

At the 3-way hub in central Yanchiao where I like to stop at the Family Mart for a drink. With a temple on one corner, fruit and vegetable market on another and a convenience store it's quite a busy spot.

Before you actually get to the real climb though, there are about 6 short but steep hills that give you a taste of what's to come so that you can chicken out and take the easier route modify your route if need be. The first of these climbs takes you right in front of Cock’s Comb Mountain.

Though not a very long climb ( about 2.5km ) the grades were very steep. I just couldn't find a gear low enough to prevent myself from getting winded. I know Rule#69: It is strictly prohibited that under any circumstances a cyclist should walk up a steep incline. Luckily, my will to live is stronger than my pride, so I hoofed it up a few of the nastier sections. Luckier still, was that no fellow cyclists came along and caught me in my moments of shame.

I was ever so glad to reach the top of this climb, but really should have studied the topographic a little more carefully - I then would have known that this camel had two humps. There's a small temple at the top of the second peak with a nice rest area. Met a group of 4 oldtimers taking a break there, who had brought along with them a full sized tea kettle and campstove and proceeded to whip up some lao ren cha; one of those very pleasant little surprises that make riding in Taiwan so enjoyable.

A quick descent brought me down to highway 21 where I proceeded north for 10 minutes to the bridge at highway 28 and turned right.

By the time I finished grabbing something to eat in Meinong it was already 10:30am and I couldn't stop visualizing the mountains on the north end of town as being the lip on a giant frying pan. Decided to leave exploring Meinong to another day and caught the bus back into KHH.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Ocean View

Finally made it down to my local bike shop today and got the broken spoke on my Kona fixed. Didn't have a lot of time left after the repair, so headed out to JungShan University.

The road along the ocean on the back side of Monkey Mt. is one of my favorite KHH city rides. It's a narrow, winding road with no shoulder, that sees a lot of traffic on the weekend. But at 3pm on Friday afternoon, it's great!

The weather forcast said there was a 60% chance of rain today, but the skies were nice and blue all afternoon. I always stop to enjoy the view from the top of the climb looking back at the university and the entrance to KHH harbour.

Looking north from the same point you can see the red umbrellas at Escape 41 down by the water.