This is a ride I have been meaning to do for a while. Unfortunately ripping my AC ligament off the bone and tearing the meniscus ligament (both in the left knee) while playing rugby last year in October put paid to any cycling for a long long time. My knee is feeling better and I decided to do the massive North Coast loop (Monday, 20 May 2013). It was a good day for riding and I am glad to report that there was no significant discomfort and, apart from the usual aches and pains, the ride went off smoothly.
The ride combines the ride from Fulong to Keelung (see Rain Riding to Fulong and Back) and the ride from Keelung to Tamsui (see Cycle Trip to Tamsui, via Keelung). The total route was about 187km. I managed to do it in under 12 hours. I was hoping to do 200 km within 10 hours but I am still not fighting fit and even if fit, that target would be ambitious. Briefly, I cycled to Shenkeng, passed through Shiding and headed out to Fulong. From Fulong I just followed the coastal highway to Tamsui and then headed along the river side path back to Taipei.
I mentioned my intention to do this ride to Queenie and a few friends last week, but when I woke up rain was threatening and I was concerned about my leg. I haven't cycled too much in the past 6 months and my recent attempt at a 100 km ride (ride to Yingge) met with disaster as I had severe cramps at the 45 km mark and had to quit at 88 km. The following week I managed to do a 60 km ride to Wulai without too much trouble but I was still concerned.. Anyway, the morning I was going to ride I sat around the house for about 40 minutes procrastinating and then at 7:00 am I decided to head out and see how far I could get. I had no regrets.
Riding to Fulong
The first part of the trip to Fulong wasn't nearly as difficult as I remembered. Some of the climbs were as slow as I remembered but nothing really tough and nothing that caused any severe discomfort. I first headed down Hoping East Road to the Road 106. Then turned left and headed off into Shenkeng without any incident or fuss. Of course there was some traffic but nothing too difficult that I couldn't deal with.
From Shenkeng I just followed Road 106 through the mountains passing some of the smaller towns such as Shihding, Pingxi, Shifen, Shuangxi and Gongliao. Riding along this road was good since after leaving Shenkeng there wasn't much traffic and the mountain road was beautiful (as you would expect). When I got to Shifen I carried on straight instead of taking the turn off to Road 2. I just had my head down and was drifting happily along the road. After going off course for 1 km I realized my mistake, asked an older gentleman the way and he happily advised me of where to go. Although it was slower than I remembered, the views were still amazing and I loved being back in the mountains and back on my bike. Some of the views are shown below.
I rode into Fulong in 3 hours 20 minutes, slightly slower than I was hoping for but I forgot about the mountains and their slowing effect. Ideally this would be a 3 hour ride (or less). I stopped in the 7-11 for a couple of bananas, a Supao, a snickers bar and some water. After a 10 minute break I turned the bike around and headed for Keelung.
Onward to Keelung
After turning my bike around at the 7-11 I started to ride up towards Keelung. As I have mentioned before (see Day 11 - Ilan ~ Keelung) there is a dedicated cycle path heading out of Fulong that makes it safe. There are a few motorcycles that use the cycling path but I mostly blocked them and forced them off.
Snaking along the 40 km trail to the Keelung harbor is always a pleasure. I went at the same ambling pace as the first 56 km so it was comfortable. Along this stretch of road you pass through some of the small fishing towns and see some of the incredible vistas of the cliffs on the side of the island.
At this stage I was quite comfortable on the bike but when I hit the 75 km mark my left leg seized up with cramp. I had to get off the bike and walk it off. I got back on the bike but for some reason I just wanted to quit at that point. I knew the feeling would only last for a few kilometers so pushed through until I started to feel a little better. Then, as I entered Keelung, all hell broke loose with the weather and a giant rain shower ensued. I just carried on riding. It was too late to stop. I was already wet. The rain soon faded and within 30 minutes I was at the Keelung harbor. It was a sense of closure and this was the second point of departure where I could take a short cut back into Taipei or push through to Tamsui. Of course I chose the latter option.
Keelung to Tamsui, and Home
The worst part of the ride was still ahead of me, but I had no idea. I rode out of Keelung, headed uphill for a bit to get on the road to Jinshan and then headed for Tamsui and home. I passed the 100 km point of the ride (the first time I have done that in a long time) at a fairly innocuous part of the journey and continued pushing along the North Coast. I was really hungry and decided to stop at the 7-11 at Green Wave Bay where I grabbed some cold noodles and a couple of bananas. I rested there for a bit and then continued slowly on my way.
I passed through Jinshan and then headed off towards Shimen and that was the second point where it became really hard. The huge winds that were blowing South from the Northern tip of Taiwan were vicious and slowed me down significantly. Normally I can just blast through this part of the road but the winds were so ferocious that at some points, along the flat road, I was reduced to doing 7 km/h. It was worse than riding up a steep hill. It was a hard journey but after a long time I managed to push past the Northern tip and get out of the wind. It took a long while and I was utterly exhausted at the end of it. I think this was the part that really tired my legs out. But still, I made it.
After that it was relatively simple heading into Tamsui. There were no really exciting incidents along the way. I just continued to enjoy the views of the ocean and the road on which I haven't been in a long long time. I was way too exhausted to take many pictures and I was just trying to pedal for home. It was also at this point I realized I wouldn't be hitting the 200 km target I had set myself for the days ride and started thinking about doing an extra stretch to Hsin Tien to bring up the milestone but, after I reached Gongguan and was so close to home, all thoughts of going further evaporated from my mind.
Well, at the end of the trip it was a 187 km ride done in under 12 hours. Slightly worse than I was hoping. I was hoping to do 200 km in 10 hours but it was not to be. I was happy with the end result considering the fact that my one leg is half the size of the other since the muscle was severely atrophied after the operation on my knee, and considering this was only my third ride back, it wasn't a bad effort. I will probably repeat this ride at some point later but will try to add a little more speed and get it done quicker. The one great result of this is that I now know Fulong can become a regular route (there and back through the mountains will be a 112 km and I believe can be done in less than 6 hours).
Thanks for reading and, as usual, comments are always appreciated.
Thanks for reading and, as usual, comments are always appreciated.