Last Saturday (11 August 2012) I had the chance to go for a bike ride. Nathan Miller suggested a route that was about 120km in distance and would see me ascend approximately 1,500m in a single day. I was kind of looking forward to the ride but would cut out about 40km from the ride. I was mostly interested in climbing the mountains than riding the flats. Nathan's route recommended I ride over the mountain to Wanli (萬里) on the North Coast in Taiwan. Then head to Sanzhi (三芝) and climb over Yangmingshan and back into Taipei. I decided to climb Yangmingshan from Jingshan (金山) instead that would cut a couple of kilometers off the route. Still was a great ride. The climb over Yangmingshan would be the reverse trip from when I previously climbed Yangmingshan.
I would start in Taipei, head along Road 28 North and head up the first 500m climb to Fengguizui (風櫃嘴). From there I would descend into Wanli (萬里), turn left and ride to Jingshan (金山). From Jingshan (金山) I would ascend over the back of Yangmingshan and then down the mountain into Shilin, and finally home.
The first part of the trip was easy. I just cruised down Chienkuo South then North Road, crossed the Daje Bridge, through the tunnel to Shilin, past the National Palace museum, up a small hill and then got ready to climb to Fengguizui (風櫃嘴). I set out at around 10:00am which meant that I would have reduced daylight towards the end of the ride which was a big reason why didn't decide to climb Yangmingshan from Sanzhi (三芝). It was a beautiful sunny morning when I left but I could see that there was rain coming in the afternoon (or so I thought). As I discovered it would be an awesome day with only a slight drizzle on Yangmingshan.
Before climbing to Fengguizui (風櫃嘴) I took a breather at the bridge that takes you onto the small road that goes towards Wanli (萬里) and chatted with a fellow cyclist about the route. He said he does the route fairly often and the climb is only 40 minutes or so. Its about 6km to the top at an altitude of 500m but as I recall you start climbing at around 100m so its about a 400m ascent over the 6km. After taking a rest and enjoying the view I started the climb to to Fengguizui (風櫃嘴).
The one thing that strikes you immediately is how little traffic there is. There is the odd car and the odd motorcycle but when I was riding up it was relatively empty of motorized vehicles. There were many cyclists going up or down though so it is a very popular ride and certainly one I will do in the near future. The road is pretty decent. A bit narrow in parts, but not too bad and, like all roads in Taiwan, in good enough condition for a comfortable ride.
As you can imagine, the road does have a fair number of switch backs to reduce the steepness of the ascent. The great thing being that after turning around on some of them you get some tremendous views of the city (see the picture of the weather above) and also the mountains into which you are riding. Some truly beautiful scenery which makes this ride (as most others I have been on it seems) brilliant. When you have something beautiful to look at and enjoy, the pain in the legs somehow vanishes.
I finally made it to Fengguizui (風櫃嘴) in under an hour. Had some pretty nice views of Taipei (well Taipei was too far to see it properly) and also the mountains that go down to Wanli (萬里). Some really nice views. Of course there were many cyclists at the top and also a couple of motorcyclists and people who had arrived by car. Everyone was enjoying the view. At the top there was a nice shady pagoda fully occupied by cyclists - they the ones who need it the most I guess. I stayed up there for abou 20 minutes or so drinking water, taking in the view and chatting to a few of the people at the top. I was, I must admit, looking forward to the ride down, but I knew it would be the final precursor to the big climb over Yangmingshan.
I jumped on my bike after the break and headed down the hill where I saw a couple of cyclists coming up the other way. They were excited to know the end was near and to be honest, the ride up to Fengguizui (風櫃嘴) from Wanli (萬里) looked much more difficult. I will indeed have to try it sometime. At anyrate, I headed down to Wanli (萬里). It was mostly an uneventful ride down. I got some nice speeds downhill (and even overtook one car). Lots of nice switchbacks so do need to be careful the bike doesn't slip from under you. Still, it was good to be going downhill for a while (at least until Wanli (萬里) that is. The road itself was once again a lot of the beautiful, sub-tropical green vegetation that is so common in Taiwan. I absolutely love being in the middle of it as it reminds me of where I grew up in South Africa. I should also say (and you can see from the picture above) this was the time the weather started to come in. I was increasingly concerned about rain and visibility, especially on the higher reaches of Yangmingshan.
I rode down the mountain, blasted through Wanli (萬里) and found myself on the North Coast Road from Keelung to Tamsui. I have ridden this road a few times and written about those rides in other places (see Cycle Trip to Tamsui, Via Keelung and Around Taiwan - Day 12 - Keelung ~ Taipei). I blasted past Yehliu (野柳) and headed straight for Jing Shan (金山) where I stopped to have lunch at the 7-11 that leads to the climb over Yangmingshan. I had some noodles, some calorie free jelly, some supau and some fruit and then prepared to leave.
As I was leaving the 7-11 I met a Taiwanese guy and a Japanese guy, both retired. We had a funny three way conversation. I could speak English and some Chinese. The Taiwanese guy could speak Chinese and Japanese and the Japanese guy could speak Japanese and English. They were riding buddies and the Japanese guy had come to Taiwan to ride for a week with his Taiwanese friend. As I said both were retired, in their late 60's and told me they had just ridden over Yangmingshan. Awesome! I asked them about the weather on the mountain as it looked intimidating (see picture above) but they assured me it was only light rain and visibility was also good. I must also say, their bikes were amazingly light compared to my Yukon. I really do need to get a lighter road bike!
I left Jing Shan (金山) and headed up the mountain slowly arriving at the sign for the Yangmingshan National Park in about 30 minutes or so. It was about 5km away from Jing Shan (金山). On the way I passed two other cyclists who were already off their bikes and pushing their bikes up the mountain. I thought it was a bit early to be doing that. I thought the climb to the top would take about three hours. In the end it was only 2.5 hours. I was happy with the time. The trip over Yangingshan was also the exact reversal of the my previous climb over this beautiful mountain (see Ride Over Yangmingshan). The climb itself was gorgeous. There was light, intermittent drizzle all the way up keeping it nice and cool, the clouds over the mountains made for some gorgeous views. Altogether the climb up was pretty amazing and I got up there much quicker than I thought I would. I do think the climb over from the Taipei side is more difficult. But climbing up from Jing Shan (金山) is definitely more beautiful.
Along the way I stopped a few times to take a drink and some pictures. It seemed at this point I was the only cyclist on the mountain and I got a lot of stares and encouragement from some daytrippers who were also enjoying the view. I guess people who don't ride bikes have no concept that with a little bit of effort, going over the mountain is possible. Anyway, after a couple of hours I eventually got to the top of the mountain where I took a well deserved rest. But it was starting to get late and I wanted to be off the mountain before dark so all to soon I left the mountain, drifted past the sulfur steam and headed for culture university where I would descend into Shilin.
On the way down the mountain, I was pulling off some nice speeds when all of a sudden I saw my front tyre go down. I had a flat! I got off the bike and pushed it for about 1km where I found a motorcycle shop. I wanted to change the tyre myself and just use their pump but they insisted on doing it for me. Who was I to argue? They did it, I rested and within 20 minutes (I had to walk a bit) I was back on my bike and heading for culture university. The descent from their into Shihlin is steep (I didn't expect it to be that steep) so I really took it easy going down there.
In all I rode close to 90km, ascended 1,500m within an 8-hour time frame. I rechecked my logs from my circumnavigation of the island (see Around Taiwan - Final Overview) and it seems I did not have that much climbing to do on any of the days. I was fairly happy with what I accomplished on the day. I do wish I could have had the legs to ride up over Yangmingshan from Sanzhi (三芝) but it is what it is and I was, overall, pleased with the effort. I am looking forward to the next ride out.