After many trips to Taiwan finally found myself with a free weekend. What to do, What to Do. Let’s go Mountain Biking!
Four years ago while hiking the Great Wall of China, looking down at the trade trails beaten in by centuries of use. I’ve had the desire to comeback to ride these trails on a Mountain Bike. Here in the United States while riding riding in the back country and you might come across an old hunters cabin. In Taiwan or China you’ll come across an old palace or temple that are 1000’s of years old. There is so much history in this region that it just adds another level to the adventure of riding your mountain bike here.
For my annual Mountain Bike trips it is on my Bucket List to go riding on old trails in a foreign country and visit the various temples or buildings that are 1000’s years old along the way.
In September I needed to travel for work, then took some personal time in October where I drove 4800 miles over two weeks to take care of things for my parents. When I got back I was not really looking forward to getting on a plane and gone for several weeks. Once I learned I would have a free weekend, I saw the silver lining of the trip. Bonus! I am going Mountain Biking both days if I physically swing it.
Leading up to the trip that would have me in Taipei for 2 weeks. I reached out to colleagues in Taipei for potential guides, no go there and moved my search online. A day before I was to leave located a company that offered one day to 3 week tours from hiking to mountain biking and a few other activities. They would pick me up and drop me off at my hotel. Sadly they were booked for the next three weeks, asked for a recommendation and they sent me to a bike shop. I reached out to the bike shop, they would not pick me up, but if I can get to the shop would rent me a bike and extended an invite to the group rides on Saturday or Sunday. Perfect emailed what I needed for a bike and suspension settings now we wait for the weekend to arrive.
The weekend before boarding a plane to Taiwan I was dealing with the flu. After kicking the flu out of my system it left me with a nasty cough. It really sucked the week before the trip and the first week of the trip I am coughing hard every few minutes. In an effort to combat the cough before Saturday I walked down to the local pharmacy in Taipei and picked some meds to deal with it. They helped with the scratchy throat, but nothing for the cough. Lots of great tea was consumed leading up to the weekend and a few other tips sent my way by friends on Facebook. Nothing gave me relief from the coughing.
The cough appeared to not be leaving anytime soon and now I am on the fence if I should go Mountain Biking or not. A few of my colleagues that flew in with me mentioned they were interested in joining. That kind of forced my decision to go Mountain Biking. I emailed the bike shop to check on the availability of additional bikes and if the group ride would cater to those that have never tackled trails before. The response back is the trail they would be riding is not suited to those that have never ridden off road before. Delivered the news back to my colleagues then confirmed my bike rental with the bike shop.
Friday morning I pulled out my mountain biking gear, filled up with water dropped a few tablets that would clean the water over night and went out the door for work. I’ll just deal in the morning and ride anyways. I’ve been traveling to Taiwan since 2006 and this is my first chance to get a mountain bike ride in, we are not missing out on this opportunity.
Even thought it was early in the morning the sun just coming up over the mountains. Already it was hot and humid something I hadn’t thought much about, during the day I am in A/C offices and the nights had been cool with a nice breeze.
From my hotel to the bike shop took about 30 minutes. I arrived at Alan’s Mountain Bike shop. They don’t open until noon and on Saturday and Sunday’s they have a group ride at 7:30. While waiting a guy comes rolling out of one of the doors. I thought it was Alan, but through broken English let’s me know that Alan is on his way. Everything from Wheels, Spokes to frame were color coordinated a bright blue. Very nice looking that he fitted into a little car and off he went. About 10 minutes later Alan comes walking in. A super fit guy that speaks very little English and asks are you Erik, yes I am and introduces himself as Alan.
He opens up and we walk into his store/shop. It is packed with new bikes with the majority of all the Mountain Bikes 29ers. There are large number of road and commuter bikes too. There are awards from winning mountain bike races and many photos from Mountain Biking. Looks like I picked the correct bike shop. He has a little work area and then in the very back is more storage. He goes back there and comes out with two bikes for me to choose from, I pick the Giant Anthem X1. It has narrow handle bars and brings out a longer one that he need fit on the bike.
While Alan is working on setting up the bike a friend of Alan’s comes rolling in, he used to work in New York and we get to chatting about riding in the states. Along with what the riding will be like here. Jerry doesn’t have much experience in riding much outside of New York, the trails we will be riding today are technical and will be riding to another meeting point to pick up the rest of the group. Before we roll I take the bike for a quick spin to make sure everything would work for me and we are off. We would be riding the Mauo Kong Trail.
On my visits to the area I’ve been on the hunt for a place to rent scooters. I really want to ridedrive through the crazy traffic they have here. While I did not ride a scooter I did get to ride a bike through the crazy Taipei traffic and that is good enough in my book. We zipped down crowded streets, maneuvered around buses and scooters. It was a blast!
We traveled around 3km to the meeting point and picked up another five riders. We then started rolling again. Majority of the bikes in this area are from Giant. On this ride we had Yeti, Specialized and a guy in our group worked for an ODM that produces bikes. He was riding a prototype full carbon fiber 29er. It sure was a sharp looking bike.
We are rolling down the road chatting away zipping through traffic. There are a few quick hills then the road really kicks up.It would be steep for about 45 minutes or so.
Eventually the rubber band breaks for me and I am left to fight my own fight up this road.
As I am riding along other mountain bikers and a few on road bikes catch and pass me. Looking out over Taipei, to the far right if you look to the left of the apartments. You can barely see Taipei 101 in the distance this is the tallest building in Taipei. My hotel is next to it.
Eventually the road climb ends and we arrive to the entrance of a temple. Most of the temples I’ve come across have little shops like these. The heat, humidity and the climb really left me feeling like crap and craving a coke. Not sure why I am craving a coke as everything wants to escape my stomach.
We climb a few stairs then ride a bit and come to another set of stairs. I had to sit down a bit here really not feeling good at all.
I dry heave a bit and then feeling a bit better. I tackle the stairs and then we arrive at a paved trail where I can get back on the bike and ride.
A little pedaling and we start to get a view of our first temple. I forget about feeling like crap and continue on taking in this great sight.
Wow! This is just amazing and can’t wait to see more.
Passed the temple is another set of stairs and we come to a gondola. What you mean I could have taken a gondola, oh they don’t except bikes. We rest here a bit and then push on for one last climb then enter singletrack.
We start up on another road climb then into some rolling singletrack. It is very Pacific Northwest type trail, rocks, roots and narrow, the huge jungle leaves was a new experience. My legs are feeling weak and the stomach really not doing well, but we keep pushing on. This is fun stuff the trails are dry for the most part.
With views like this how can you not be having a great time.
In there is singletrack! We continue riding along there wasn’t any where to really catch you breath as you just climbed and climbed.
In the middle of the jungle we came across a few interesting sights. This shrine and then a row of working urinals, in the States we get a hole in the ground, here they have working toilets that you can flush along the trail.
Our next stop was a temple, how cool is that.
I walked into the store next to the temple and picked up something cold to drink. Downed it then laid down in the shade to cool off and rest a bit. The stomach was really telling me it was time to throw up.
After about 10 minutes, finally I could not take it anymore and asked if I walk across the street and throw up would it offend anyone. The response was that should be fine. As I started walking across the street towards the bushes. That’s when Jerry said oh your serious!
They quickly located a bathroom for me in the temple. Allowing me to hurl and not offend Buddha or those visiting the temple. After that I felt much better and hope the rest of the ride would go better for me. I thought I had been drinking enough water and would put in an effort to drink a lot more and often. As we still had a long ways to go and the day was getting hotter.
We rode a bit more trail and then came out to another road. This road would take us past the highest point you can reach by gondola. We would be riding much higher yet then coming down the backside of the mountain.
Climbing up to this point we came across several wild dogs. It is not something you really see in the Pacific Northwest and I had a concern of being bit by them. They were all friendly and just trotted along side of you, jumping off the road when a car came by. They were all medium sized dogs too, didn’t bark or show any aggression. In the city early in the week I had seen a large pack of dogs along the road. I am told they call get picked up by the government , those in the mountains are left alone.
After a bit of climbing and I am still craving that coke. We hit trail again and you can start smelling tea before you come to the tea farms. We start to see views of the valley again too.
The trail goes from dirt to paved stones. The call the singletrack here a path, this nice section of paved path is close to homes and shops. Once you get further in the path gets rougher and lot more technical as you come across broken stone. That was probably set a very long time ago.
- Looking out across the valley and a tea farm. From here we finally hit trail that goes down fast and one of the most technical trails I’ve ridden. A mix of loose, worn trail with old stone paths and steep stairs. It is also the point I come to the conclusion I’ll never rent a bike again plan to bring my own bike next time. Renting a bike you don’t know the condition it is kept in and would it take the abuse you were throwing at it. In my mind I would trust riding down some of this stuff on my own bike. Where I know the condition of everything including the brakes. There were some areas that it became very difficult to keep the group in sight. They were hauling and obvious they knew the trail well, I followed their line the best I could.
The trail offers up another view and then we head into the jungle again and down one of the longest sections of stairs I have ever been on. Then we have to climb up another section of stairs before hitting some of the last section of trails. I am bonked and so sick to my stomach that I need to hurl again. We push on and eventually re-enter the city and make it to our last regroup a 7-11 in Taipei. I purchase a couple Cokes and go lay down in front of the store to settle my stomach and cool off. A group of Roadies stop by and are chatting it up with our group and then they push on. I just want to go to sleep where I lay. It was a great ride one that I’ll never forget, but I am done. We’ve been riding in this heat for 5hrs and 46 minutes. Alan comes by with what he calls Chinese Red Bull to try and perk me back up. I take a couple swigs and it puts my stomach on full alert. We need to find some where to hurl and soon. Alan and Jerry can see that I am now in tough shape and call me a taxi. The taxi rolls up and before I get in look for some where to hurl.
Before we get into the hurl bit let me point out one little item. There are no trash cans on any street in Taipei. There are none any where that I’ve seen, when you finish a drink you hand the empty to the store clerk or not necessarily from the same shop you purchased it from. Every store clerk I’ve come across is happy to take the empty from you. So, I really need to find a location and fast. I find a large grate in the street and lean against a power pole and let it rip. Five hurls later I am feeling good again, pay from my rental of the bike, Thank Alan for a great ride. Not sure he believes me, but I email him again in a few days saying the same. I then get in the taxi tell him where I want to go and don’t move for 30 minute ride back in hopes I don’t cause myself to hurl again.
No doubt I have heat stroke and can’t wait to get back to my hotel room and cool off. I take a cold shower, throw up again set the do not disturb light for my room and climb into bed. I wake up a few times briefly to a few phone calls, but for the most part sleep until 8 the next morning. I go downstairs have a little breakfast and come back up, I see that Chinese Red Bull figured lets try it again. That sets off the stomach and breakfast leaves my stomach. Eventually the stomach settles after a few hours and feeling good. I go downstairs and see some of my work colleagues make plans for stroll. That stroll turns into a hike of Elephant Mountain. Ended up being a great trip and here is one photo from that hike.The rest of the group would continue hiking the four other beasts coming back to the hotel 5hrs later.
The mountain bike ride on the Mauo Kong Trail was a great adventure. If I was 100% going into the ride and it was a little cooler like Sunday ended up being. I could have avoided the being sick part of the ride, That aside I rode all the trails, saw some great sites with a great group that until that ride were strangers to me. The mountain range in the distance behind the Taipei 101 is where I rode the day before.