Today I went for my first bike ride ever while in Taiwan. I have been coming to Taiwan for work since 1993. It is usually such a tough work trip, that I never bother to try to get out for a ride. It take 3 days travel time back and forth. Because of that, I usually just have my head down working for the days that I am here that I have not wanted to stay longer. Get in, get the job done and get out. That is how I have approached it. I stay at a hotel that has a nice workout facility and I usually just treat the week as maintaining in the gym.
This time I had to stay to do some work over the weekend, and the guys in the office had a ride planned. I knew that before hand, so I brought gear along with me and borrowed a bike, and there I was at 8am on a Saturday out in front of the coffee shop waiting for the group ride. Just like I have done in 50 other cities around the world.
I really didn’t know what I was in for. I have been in Taiwan a bunch and all I have seen is tight little streets, with cars and people, and scooters and bikes everywhere. It has always looked like chaos.
After a bit of bike set up work, we rolled out of town a group of 6 making our way across Taichung city. I was surprised how much it was like riding anywhere else I have been. The traffic is bad in the city, but it all kind of flows. The scooters occupy the side of the road, and you just learn to share space with them. They don’t go a lot faster than we do on bikes and they seem to just give you space. Yes there are trucks and you really have to watch out for pedestrians, but I was surprised that it wasn’t that bad.
When we got out of town to the east, is where it got really fun. The mountains we headed towards, I am told are called Da-ken. I am sure that is not how it is spelled, but that is how it sounds. The traffic falls away when you get to the mountains, and the roads get narrow and go steeply up. We went up a double climb that was about 1 hour worth of climbing. The sun was hot, and there were a ton of other riders out. Mostly casual, but some serious looking cyclists.
I rode with Kevin, his wife Kerry, Johnson Jan who works at a bike parts supplier and Wendell who works for Burley in sourcing. We had a nice pace going. They all live here, so they knew where we were going and I was just tagging along.
Johnson schooled all of us on the climb, but we came tearing down a really narrow poorly paved road on the back side of the mountain in a group. It was huge fun.
Below are a couple of photos from the day. We ended back down in Taichung at a Starbucks, and I have to say that I really never knew what I have been missing. It was a lot of fun. 2 hours of riding, some urban a good mountain climb a fun decent and a good coffee at the end. Not that much different than the riding that I have done in a bunch of other places around the world.
The world is truly “flat”.