Questions before my first tour

cycling

#1

Hello Cyclists,
I’ve lived in Taipei for more than 4 years, and now I’m finally jobless - time for a trip!
I’ve always wanted to do the 環島 around all of Taiwan one day. But after some reading I’m not sure whether I should do the whole thing or just pick the best parts.
I’ll combine a couple questions here, any feedback is appreciated:

Time
I’d be free 11/26-12/1 (7 days), or 12/10-12/20 (11 days), or basically any time between 1/12 and end of February. I might move back to Europe in February or March, so this might be the last chance for now.
What time would you recommend for the best weather?

Route
The government recommends going anti-clockwise (https://www.dropbox.com/s/k9282ml61p7n57v/04_0024052.pdf?dl=0), but this thread says doing the east coast north to south is much easier:
First time in Taiwan - cycle touring/routes
If I only have 7 days, I could just do Taipei-Kenting along the east coast, go snorkelling if I get there early and take a bus or train back.
Opinions?

Gear
I have a decent flat bar road bike (Performer Storm 2017, complete Sora group) with mudguards and lights.

  1. Is there anywhere I can rent or borrow a rack and panniers? I’d feel stupid buying them for just one trip, as I have panniers back in Germany. Shipping them here would be too slow and expensive, but I could bring them on my way back in January, as I’m going there for the holidays anyway. Or is there an easy way to find them 2nd hand in Taipei?
  2. Right now I’m wearing sneakers with straps. Would you say cycling shoes + fitting pedals are a must? if yes, how much money should I invest? Supposing I can find shoe size 46/11 in Taipei…
  3. I used to have rain proof trousers back home. Do I need them, or will I be okay with soaked (cycling) shorts?

A bit of background:
I’m 32, used to only cycle 30-40 mins a day (commute), but did a 70km afternoon ride along the river last week and only my hands felt soar (gonna change those handles). I’m no big fan of long climbs though - at least not yet. Oh, and I do speak basic mandarin.

Looking forward to your advice!
Thanks,
Matthias


#2

@okonomiyaki just did his tour and can maybe chime in.

You aren’t going to get lucky with the weather. If you’ve been here for four years, you know how much of a difference weather is from Nangang to Sanchong and that’s just Taipei! This time you’re going all throughout the island and just like Taipei, weather varies in every city. That’s just how Taiwan is!

My advice is, set a date and be prepared for lots of change in weather and temperature.

Despite what many have said, I still suggest doing west coast first and east coast on your way back, so counter clockwise.

7 days is actually pretty quick, nonetheless it is the suggested time. However, this means you’re averaging over 100km a day. I would take around 10 days, just in case you want a rest/cheat day or you want to spend a day in the area.

If you don’t plan on coming back to Taiwan anytime soon, gotta do round the island. You’ll regret not doing the entire thing if you only do one side of the island.

  1. I haven’t heard of anyone successfully borrowing a rack and/or panniers (from a store) in Taipei. Best bet is to ask friends and ask those friends to ask their friends. Someone has a set to lend to you.

  2. You would be a bit more comfortable clipped in and your power transfer will be much much more efficient. I recommend it, but it’s not entirely necessary. If you were to invest, I would look to invest at least 5000-7000NT. Around 4-5000NT for the shoes and around 1000-2000NT for the pedals. If you want second hand LOOK system pedals, I think they’re LOOK Classics, I think I can dig up a pair for you.

  3. You’re going to get soaked no matter how much waterproof gear you put on. The issue with waterproof gear is that one second it’s raining and the next it’s sunny and 20C+ and if your waterproof gear isn’t breathable…you’re burning up.

As for being afraid you won’t be able to finish, @Throwaway did his tour after being on the bike for 2-3 months and doing minimal training. He had friends to do it with, so he had that little bit of pressure to finish each day.

For your sore hands, a nice pair of gloves will really make a difference. Also, if you don’t have them already, you can look into the side handles that go on the ends of your handlebars. Your hands being in the same exact position for a long period of time will also

You also have up to 12 hours to finish around 100km per day. The rest of the day you can just sit around and rest. Also, you’re not pressed for time and don’t have anything to prove, take two weeks to do if it if you want! 環島 goal is to finish and see the sights, not to finish fast.

Good luck! Get in some mileage in the next few weeks before your tour. You’ll feel a bit more confident setting off.


#3

I did late-Feb and got great weather. But you never know here.

Clockwise for me - I got blown down the east coast and didn’t struggle up the west. The people I passed coming UP the east were not having a good headwind day.

Straps are absolutely fine, no need to buy clip-ins unless you were going to do it anyway.

Shorts / trousers, depends on you. I’m ok with shorts and wet legs. Take a travel towel, always handy.

bonne chance


#4

Thought this would be good to add to this thread.


#5

Did the tour with 2 guys in their 40s that don’t go cycling regularly. About 5 days in another guy joined us after finishing his overseas work. The last is in his late 20s and had the best gear of us all, and ended up being far behind everyone. I think after putting in the mileage day to day most of us just became used to it, I completely stopped stretching after day 3.

Just a personal comment about gear too, I was the only one using clipless pedals and was often struggling to stay in the first or second position. Everyone else was using flats, it’s preference. That stated, if I recall correctly got my pedals and shoes for $4000 all out, 1000 on the pedals and 3000 on the shoes. And I’d fully suggest breaking in the shoes before committing to a ~700km tour.

Raincoats suck. Bought a really nice one before hitting the road, packed it away, and didn’t touch it until the second to last day. The rain was absolutely soul crushing. Tied off the raincoat to make it tight to the body and it still acted like a parachute, wind absolutely found every possible way into it and tried pulling me back. When I stopped pedaling I was actually going in reverse. The raincoat ended up in the trash bin and I dealt with the rain.

Really wish I waterproofed my phone better on those really bad rainy days. I have a waterproof case for my phone but it’s more like 90-95% waterproof. One of those days it was as though rain and wind were coming from every direction, even below. That’s when I should’ve taken the phone out from that case and put it into a sealed plastic bag. Almost completely ruined my phone.

On a closing note, I saw guys doing the tour on MTBs with a lot of gear strapped to it. Most of the people in my group brought the bare minimum, we washed our clothes in the hotel and wore them the next day. I was the only one with a backpack. Basically I’m trying to say it’s doable with whatever you have, just depends how comfortable you want to be. And I was perfectly content just spending one day everywhere. My favorite place was a village in the middle of nowhere on the west coast that had delicious food and really kind locals, just a nice place to stop for lunch.

I know it’s a lot to read, but that’s my entire experience in a nutshell. Have fun


#6

I don’t think this is necessarily so. If you have never used clipless pedals, they take a while to get used to, so time may be against you.

I have ridden with many people riding flat pedals who have been more than capable in the bunch.

Power transfer may well be slightly better, but there is some evidence to suggest it’s not as big as the manufacturers would have you believe, especially if you are mere mortal like most of us. Sure, if you are sprinting like Cav or climbing like Dirty Bertie, fair enough, but unless you are proficient in pulling up on the pedal stroke (after getting on for 20 years riding clipless, I still couldn’t say I have mastered that), I doubt there’d be a significant difference.

Pedals with toe-clips and straps are a good option if you don’t want to have to shell out for new shoes. Plenty of races were ridden on toe-clips back in the day, :wink:

If you do go clipless, I’d suggest go for MTB, simply on the grounds that you are likely to be on and off the bike a fair bit, stopping for food or whatever. Walking around on road cleats is a major PITA.


#7

I was wondering about this the other day. It occurred to me that my calves felt like they were basically doing nothing. So should I be putting effort into pulling up? I think I’ve always assumed that’d be happening automatically.


#8

Simple way to check is to ride with just one leg. The circle should be pretty smooth as you push/pull. When I try it feels like I’m pedalling squares, so… :blush:

I think the common tip is to imagine that you are scraping something off the bottom of your shoe as you reach the bottom of the pedal stroke and start pulling up. I have to say, I have to really concentrate, but as soon as I lose concentration my pedalling returns to my usual style. Years of muscle memory, I guess, and I just ain’t got the will to break the habit. :stuck_out_tongue:


#9

Hey guys,
thanks for all your feedback!
Here are my takeaways:
Time
Probably 10-20 Dec, so I might make it all around. My plans for next year are up in the air, better use the time I have now.
Route
No common direction, so I’ll stick with clockwise for now.
Gear

  • Just got the best gloves they have at Decathlon (https://www.decathlon.tw/zh/cycling-c110199.html).
  • Gonna either get their side handles (https://www.decathlon.tw/zh/cycling-c41536.html) or the Ergon GP “made in Taiwan rip-off” I used to have until the rubber was destroyed by sunlight.
  • No rain trousers it is.
  • Travel towel & waterproof phone bag added to my packing list.
  • I saw these shorts at Decathlon and quite liked them: decathlon[dot]tw/zh/cycling-c121199.html Unfortunately my size was sold out. Anybody tried them? I’m quite reluctant about the normal cycling pants. Just not quite my style…
  • @Throwaway
    You wrote "I was the only one with a backpack."
    Do you mean the others didn’t bring ANY luggage at all? I mean I do need a set of clothes to wear while washing the other, right? And a phone charger, basic tools, etc.? I do not wanna cycle with a heavy backpack.
    I was about to buy 2 20L panniers from Decathlon (decathlon[dot]tw/zh/cycling-c112481.html). But then I realised I can’t fit their rack (decathlon[dot]tw/zh/cycling-c122742.html) to my frame. All that weight with considerable leverage on my saddle post doesn’t seem safe either (decathlon[dot]tw/zh/cycling-c125617.html).
    Now I’m thinking whether I should find a rack that fits at my bike dealer, or is there another way to pack enough luggage for such a trip?
  • I’ll stick with my straps and sneakers. Just a bit worried after a rainy day my sneakers won’t dry till the next day. Anybody know some cheap fast drying shoes, ideally with a rather stiff sole?
  • Still thinking about a 599nt helmet which Decathlon doesn’t have on the website. I usually don’t wear helmets…

Cheers,
Matthias
PS: Sorry about the links, didn’t know there’s a limit of 2 per post.


#10

You can wear the cycling shorts under a pair of shorts if you don’t like the feeling of wearing only one pair of clothing out. I would highly highly suggest you buy cycling shorts (or even bibs) with padding.

I know the guys up in the Merida shop in Neihu (https://goo.gl/maps/aKLLj5NBrjD2). They have a more budget friendly brand that is along the same price as Decathlon, so if you want to check it out, let me know, I can meet you there so you get the extra discount.

This may sound very ma fan, but it does work.

You can send your clothes and necessities ahead of you via convenient store to convenient store. So, the items will arrive before you get to your destination. You’ll need to keep doing this, but atleast you’ll know, it’s a flat rate of 50NT (or was it 60NT).

This will take some planning, but will save you a bit of hassle when trying to find panniers or racks to fit on your bike.

Shimano actually has a shoe that is specifically for flat pedals, or in your case, straps that has a very stiff sole. Shops that sell Shimano shoes should have it. Not sure about the price, but I reckon it can’t be that cheap, I can’t comment on how well they’ll dry, but I have to assume it’s better than normal sneakers.

Always, always, always wear a helmet.

  • I’m a careful cyclist, nothing will happen to me…until something happens.
  • I only ride the riverside, nothing will happen to me…I assure you most of us are more scared of a busy summer early evening riverside path than Zhong Xiao East Road during rush hour.

599NT to save your life? There’s 200-400NT helmets that will do the same and are just as safe, just goofy looking, but will also save your life.

Wear a helmet.

image


#11

Sorry. Gonna have to take issue with this, again. [Let’s just say that I like to see balanced advice, eh?]

You might want to read this:

https://bicyclesafe.com/helmets.html

and this:

A wise man once told me… “a helmet may save you from serious injury, but it may also contribute to an injury you might otherwise have avoided. However, on balance, it will probably make no difference at all.”


#12

Being a rider of big sportbikes on road and track, I have never doubt the necessity of helmets.
There is a lot of technology in them, mainly to prevent the brain from moving and twisting, and that while prevent the neck from unnecessary bends (not easy if you discover the asphalt at 200 km/hr).
But for bike helmets, I really don’t see how they will help prevent much, and I can see all kind of scenarios where they do more harm than good.
I still wear them most of the time though …

On topic, I ride clip-less for 20 years, but should probably go for flat pedals for a tour like this.
Just for the benefit being able to buy other shoes if the weather really sucks.

On the other remarks, as adviced by Ranlee, go for cycling shorts.
The first day might be ok, but you will appreciate them the days after.

Get some very good lights, and learn to wake up early if you don’t already :).
Specially the northern part of the East Coast is a stretch you don’t want to do in the dark, too many scary trucks.

.


#13

Indeed.

I am not anti helmet. I am just not in favour of the ‘helmet is essential’ mantra. I believe in informed choice. I simply don’t get why society as a whole seems to think that cycling helmets are so vital while not equally promoting the use of helmets in cars, on pedestrians, at home while using the stairs. Pretty sure that statistically, head injury is more likely in all of these cases.

I should add that I spent a great deal of time looking at this when I worked for the Royal Mail and they decided that all posties should wear a helmet while riding their Pashleys. Sadly, I didn’t keep all the stuff I gathered, but I learnt a lot. As a start, I’d suggest folks look at the maximum impact force helmets are required to withstand. I’d then suggest getting a job on a building site where you are required to wear a hard hat at all times. I banged my head more times than I care to remember. Look also at the rates of cycling where helmets are mandatory. Look also at what goes on in Copenhagen (I think that’s one of the oft-cited examples).


#14

Didn’t mean to start a helmet war, but happy to see this is a place with divers opinions :slight_smile:

@ericinformosa
I wasn’t really planning to ride much in the dark, max an hour to get to a nicer accommodation or something. And wanted to skip the Suao tunnels between Yilan and Hualien, if that’s what you’re referring to?

I’m sold on the shorts.

Cheers,
Matthias


#15

Just like I said, it all depends how comfortable you want to be. The other guys had 2 small bags attached to their bike that contained things like bike repairing tools, phone chargers, and one pair of casual clothes (shorts/shirt), that’s it. It’s very doable. Some hotels actually had washers, others we just washed by hand. If the clothes weren’t dry by the morning we used the hair dryer to finish the job. I’d personally suggest against more than one pair of clothes unless you actually have a rack on your bike.

I had one small bag beneath my saddle that contained my wallet and keys. And a backpack that had snacks, gels, casual clothes, and hygiene gear/toiletries. After 70 or so km my back usually started hurting, but it’s worth noting that I’ve injured my back in the past so that may be why.

We were never far away from a convenience store or restaurant. Even many towns in the countryside had a family mart or 7/11. I’m confused, what are you planning on bringing in terms of luggage?

Also, editing to add that nobody else I was riding with were wearing helmets. Ultimately it’s your ride, everything here is just a suggestion. I actually like wearing my helmet. I also enjoy listening to music when I’m riding and some people talk down on that.

And one final note, cycling shorts are pretty much essential. Even with them, don’t be surprised if your crotch or butt start chafing around the third day. I ended up buying baby oil and just applying it to the entire area to avoid friction.


#16

I was looking for this the other day:

http://cyclehelmets.org/

Worth a look


#17

Interesting reading on some of the articles indeed, but it is all playing the numbers.

What I really would like to see is the medical side.
That’s where I have my doubt a bike helmet does much other than maybe preventing some rash.
Does it reduce impact like a good motorbike helmet does? I doubt, but I might be wrong.

PS. Guess time for a thread split.


#18

This one just published today by Chris Boardman:

https://www.britishcycling.org.uk/article/20171126-Chris-Boardman-0

To put this in a slightly different context, if you have a cycling club (formal or informal) that says ‘you must wear a helmet if you want to join our training rides’, you may find that some riders with plenty of talent and/or potential will be put off and will go elsewhere (or simply stay at home glued to the telly).


#19

Hi guys,
looks like I’m ready to take off this Sunday.

Just some feedback, in case someone googles this thread in the future:

  • I got cycling shorts & jersey from Merida for 2,550, thanks for @ranlee’s help.
  • Gonna get a 630nt helmet from Carrefour today, so congrats to those of you trying to talk me into it. :wink:
  • Was lucky and found adidas football shoes my size for 1,300. They are light, have a stiff sole and something like a neoprene layer inside, so they feel really comfy even without socks.
  • The shop I bought the bike from (Fuji store on Muxin Rd., owner is a really nice guy!) ordered me a rack for 800nt. It mounts on the axle (is that the term) and the break and looks pretty solid.
  • Bought 2 20L panniers from Decathlon as mentioned earlier.

Unfortunately one of my rear spokes broke on the way back from a test ride to Danshui. Hope that won’t happen again in the middle of nowhere.

Lastly a detail question about the route for day 2:
On Sunday I’ll go from Taipei to Keelung, then all along the coast to Toucheng. Mainly because a friend is coming along till Bitou, then heading back to Keelung and back to Taipei by train. I also like that part of the ocean, and maybe it’s a good idea for me too to keep it flat on the first day. :wink:
On Monday, should I just take the train from Toucheng straight to Hualien? Or cycle through Yilan, have some fish in Nan Fang Ao, then train from Suao to Hualien?
Or can I get off the train somewhere before Hualien? It just doesn’t feel like a circle with such a long part done by train on day 2.

Cheers,
Matthias


#20

Ride from Toucheng to Suao-Xin. Plenty of nice routes, I like being right by the sea.

Catch local train from Suao-Xin (note there are 2 stations, Suao and Suao-Xin), and get off at Chongde, that’s just north of Taroko. Easy safe riding from there to Hualien.