The Way To The Top
Today was my first real day of riding in a couple of weeks, so I decided to shake the rust off with a little climbing. April was a month of century rides and by the end I was getting pretty sick of the flats and needed to climb something. I was also testing out my recovery and a new cleat position, so I was happy to do a shorter climb today. Michael T. and I decided to hit the road to Da Shueh Shan and see how far we could go before our legs or time ran out.
Orchards of Dong Shih
We met up at the start of the bike trail between Dong Shih and Feng Yuan. The trail is fine in the early morning before it fills up with electric bicycles and wobbly, inattentive riders. The trail empties out near the Hakka Cultural Center in downtown Dong Shih and we then navigated the busy township streets to
Dong Keng Street, which is a gorgeous road that just keeps going and going up the mountain. It changes names a few times on the way up, but as long as you stick to the main road you'll go right up the mountain.
How Not To Store A Bike
Dong Keng road is a relatively gentle climb that could be done by riders at any level of experience. The difficulty depends on how you ride the hill and the gearing you have available.
The entire area on the lower part of the mountain is one rolling hill on top of another, covered in jungle and fruit orchards. Many of Taiwan's Hakka come from a culture of fruit cultivation and thus, when their ancestors moved to Taiwan, they headed for the foothills to continue practicing their traditional modes of agriculture. This area is also populated by Atayal speaking peoples, many of whom adopted Hakka farming techniques.
The road snakes ever higher, so I just sat on a 14-15kph pace for most of the way up. I really wasn't in any mood to destroy my legs on this one. I really just wanted to enjoy the scenery.
As the sun broke through the clouds, I was wishingI had stocked up on water. I did my best to conserve what I had brought. We met a few other cyclists on the way up and we all exchanged greetings and encouragement.
Michael plugged away at the incline and then we finally decided to stop for food. They really didn't have much in the way of good climbing food, so Michael used a Jedi mind trick to convince them to cook up something entirely off the menu for us--fried noodles. Mine came with a little extra protein in the way of a bug, but I ate most of it.
Just beyond the restaurants at Kilometer 11, the road flattens out for a while and large stands of cedar trees provide cooling shade as respite from the heat. The creaking of the bamboo makes and eerie sound as you pass the groves along the road.
The road is pretty peaceful with the occasional SUV or luxury sedan that speeds by way too fast. It seemed ever other car was a Lexus or BMW.
At one point we passed a clear cut. I haven't smelled evergreen sap in a long time and it smelled like my childhood in the Pacific Northwest. From high on the ridge you can look down and see all the way to to ocean. The grey riverbeds stand out from Dong Shih and even Feng Yuan can be seen poking through Taiwan's famous haze.
Sometime after 1:00pm Michael gave word that it was time to head back down, so we turned tail and hit the descent like a slalom course. A damned headwind greeted us at the best part for a sprint and so the top speeds were embarrassingly lousy. We hit the road back home content that we had a beautiful ride on a beautiful day. The weather couldn't have been better.
I Ride Off Into The Distance
Total Distance: 120 km/75 mi
Starting Altitude (Base of Mtn.): 1230 ft.
Altitude: 3062 ft.
Vertical Elevation Gain: 1832 ft.
Maximum Speed: 48kph (sad)
Unfortunately there is no alternate way down and you have to come back the same way you go up.
Here's Michael's take on the ride.
Check out Michael C. on his rides in Kaohsiung and Northern Taiwan.