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