Sunday, November 9, 2014

Cycle Route 4: Pinglin to Shiding

Here's the 4th of 6 cycling routes in the mountains southeast of Taipei City, from Pinglin to Shiding. The 13.3 kilometer ride begins with a climb of 5.5 kilometers in length, rising 357 meters. You can find the route on Google Maps.

If you're doing these routes on your bicycle, this is the one you'll remember as the toughest. The average grade over the climb is "just" 6.6%, but significant portions are above 13%. And there's a downhill section halfway through to scrub a lot of the elevation you climbed at the beginning.

Bike friendly restrooms under the #5 Highway bridge.

This is tea-growing country, and along this back road you'll see pocket plantations tucked into the folds of the steep mountains, with jungle rising at the edge of the well-tended fields.

Tea and a scooter along the road

A leather living room set's final resting place

The road is empty for the most part, and that's both a blessing and a curse. Not much traffic to worry about, but the road is slipping off the hillside in some places, with long, wide cracks running down the middle of the single lane.

The video doesn't often reflect the true steepness of the climb, but these images from switchbacks show how quickly this road can climb when it wants to.

Here's the view leading to the top of the climb. It's not spectacular, but you'll be thrilled to reach it.

And then there's the moss that grows on the road, threatening to cause your tire to lose traction and slip to the side. This is not just a problem for bicycles, as scooter riders will also want to exercise caution, in both directions. This is no place for fast descents, and when climbing, you're well advised to follow the dry path.

After the initial, hairy phase of the descent, the road condition improves, and you'll have a chance to enjoy the scenery, and the statues that people have set up along the road. Guanyin, the goddess of mercy, I can understand, but a zebra? No idea.

Huafan Road leads to a university, so you'll see more traffic on this lower section of the descent. It's a twisty road, and no one seems too inclined to stay to the right of the double yellow line. When you hear about college kids getting in wrecks while riding their scooters in the mountains, keep these images in mind.

The ride ends in Shiding, the town huddling along a river in a narrow canyon. Refill your water bottles, and grab something to eat, because another climb awaits. Cycle Route 5 starts here and heads up, and up, to Highway 9, the Beiyi Highway, before descending toward Xindian.

On a technical note, this video was made with GoPro 3. The camera was attached to my helmet. The scooter I'm riding is a ten-year-old Kymco Techno GT 150.

On a musical note, the music in the video is a bootleg recording of the Wild Alibis, performing at Alley Cat's in 2010. The song is Long Haired Doney, by R.L. Burnside.