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.


  1. Excellent! I have been planning an 80km ride around Meinong, but haven't gotten around to it. Hopefully soon. It looks very well worth the trip.

  2. Yes, the loop up highway 21 - over the 20 - and back down the 27 is amazing. I'm really looking forward to getting into good enough shape for this ride.

    PS: There's a bus to Meinong from the high speed train station in Tzoying that takes bagged bikes. $100NT for the 1hr trip.