Taiwan in Cycles.
Note that none of the routes here include routes in Ta-ken, the ones that are popular with foreigners and locals. There are exceptions, but a good rule of the thumb is that any road that is popular with locals is inferior and should be avoided. The local riders -- and many foreign riders -- spend their days crashing up the 136 (the testosterone on that road is so thick that nearby chicken farmers swear their birds are 15% heavier than birds raised elsewhere), or on the small roads of Ta-ken, or up the not particularly interesting road past Zhongzheng Park in Fengyuan. Of course much of this is for training, but being old and fat and having time on my hands, I prefer rides that offer good experiences. And you can train on beautiful hills as well as boring ones...
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Getting up to Hsinshe
Many of my longer rides to the hills east of Taichung begin with a climb up to the Hsinshe plateau, one approach to getting to roads like the 8 and the 21. It rises sharply out of the city, reaching well over 600 meters. Thus, the climbs up to the top of the ridge above the plateau are often good workouts in themselves. Most of the roads I discuss below are on Google Streetview.
The 100 (green): This little gem of a road has a couple of nice coffee stops, and makes either a good workout climb or a wonderful little descent.
Taichung 88/Shuijing Road (red): this road makes a great workout, with steep inclines in the center, then flattening for a kilometer along the ridge with great views before the final climb to the summit. Plenty of life from bugs to monkeys, and nary a car, very enjoyable. I often do this when I don't have time for a long ride. This road can be reached from Nanyang Road in Fengyuan (map link). Local riders are common on the lower sections of this road.
Nankeng Lane (purple): A gentle climb through fruit farms brings you to just three kilometers from the top, then it is 25% grades for the rest of the ride. Not for the faint of heart, but empty and lovely. To get to it, take the road to Gonglaoping and Zhongzheng Park in Fengyuan, Shuiyuan Road (map link). You'll come to a Family Mart by the park, with vendors and a small morning market. Turn right, go past the Family Mart and past the morning market -- the local riders will all be going the opposite way to the Fengyuan Golf Course, a total yawner.
The Taichung 93 (orange): To get to this road, locally known as Wanxian Road, follow the 3 around to this point. You'll see a 7-11. Turn right and follow the road until it forks in into the Taichung 92 and Taichung 93, you'll know the intersection by the sudden avalanche of signs pointing to stuff hither and thither. The 93 is about 4 kms of 15%+ grade, very good workout. It brings you to the top of the ridge with great views north to Dongshih. I've never seen a local rider on this one.
The Taichung 92 (blue): Pretty and easy, another quick way up to Hsinshe. Lots of traffic, however.
The Taichung 95 (black): Another gem of a road, great combined with the 8 or the 21. A fantastic and enjoyable descent. Popular with local cyclists, it's an exception to the rule.
I'm not discussing my routes on the plateau itself. You'll have to get up there and explore.
The Fengdong Bike Path
This path is extremely useful for getting to the roads that go north into central and eastern Miaoli. On weekends it is like the chariot race from Ben-Hur, avoid if possible.
in large size.
Returning routes out of Dongshih:
Once you've reached Dongshih, two good routes are the road to Da Hsueh Shan (blue), which follows a rigid 6.5% grade up to over 2000 meters, with good views. The road surface is not in good condition in many places, so take care on the descent. It's roughly 130 km round trip, depending where you live in Taichung. The road is clearly marked, just follow the main drag through Dongshih until you see the brown sign for it at the other end of town.
Another good route is the road to Guguan (red), the 8, popular with local cyclists, who race up in the morning to the 7-11 and race back down. Since I am slow, I usually encounter them in the morning on the way down and seldom see cyclists on the way up. This road is very pretty and because the wind is funneled up the river, you have the wind at your back during the climb, making it seem easier. It gets up to 800 meters at the top past Guguan where there is a gate beyond which cyclists may not pass. Stop for lunch/coffee in Guguan, but be sure to climb to the gate, the best views are along that last 3 km stretch. Also roughly 130 kms from Taichung round trip, it makes a good overnight trip because of the inexpensive "spa" hotels there.
The purple dot identifies one of my favorite local loops, the Taichung 46, which is totally unknown to local riders (pics). This lovely road rises sharply to nearly 1000 meters at the top, then falls steeply back in a loop to the main road. Follow the 8 south out of Dongshih and then on the left before the first bridge over the river you'll see a temple gate. Turn left into there, then when you reach the loop, turn right and follow it up. And up. And up. The government is trying to make a tourism area out of it but it stubbornly resists such development. The road surface is poor and the ramps are steep and often covered with mud and leaves, so be careful on the descent. I'd avoid it if it rained the previous day. Roughly 85 kms round trip from Taichung, it has stupendous views once you gain a little altitude.
This road is amazing and a great favorite of several riders I know. On weekends one sometimes sees local riders.
If you continue, you descend a series of switchbacks, always a pleasure, with excellent views out towards the mountains. Climb sharply, then up a long upward grade, and you're in the village of Shuangchi, where you can grab a snack or drinks. Then it is three switchbacks down to the river. If you follow the road NE along the river, the views are spectacular but the climbs can be quite sharp. Well worth the effort, it's roughly 140 km round trip to the end.
The Dongchi Road Loop
Another way to approach the excellent Dongchi Road is from Jhuolan in Miaoli.
Routes from Jhuolan
To access these routes, you follow the bike path until you reach the tourist center where the old blue train cars are. Leave the bike path and go out by the parking lot, turn left immediately and follow that road across the bridge and around towards the 3. Pick up the 3, climb that bastard of a hill I hate so much, then roll down to Jhuolan. From Jhuolan, so many great routes in Miaoli, Taiwan's best kept secret.
3 + 52-1 (green):
Instead of turning at the light at the top of the long climb out of Jhuolan, go straight on the 52-1. You climb a bit more into fruit farms, then descend a long, steep, fun downhill to the 13. A good light workout, 75 kms from Taichung, give or take.
Miaoli 52-3 (orange): this outstanding road is empty of cars and riders. It meets the 3 at km 140. Follow the gentle upward grade through farms and hills along the reservoir, then the last two km are brutal 30% grades. Once you reach the top, it's an amazing downhill ride snaking along watercourses and farms, until you pop out below the dam. Totally excellent.
Miaoli 54: This road starts at the highest point on Pinglin Road and runs west to the 3. A lovely rolling ride atop the ridgeline. Post with maps here.
Miaoli 54-1: To find this sweet little road take Zhongzheng Road north out of Jhuolan. Just below the cemetery it turns into the 54-1. It climbs up through the cemetery, rising ever more steeply as you climb. From the top of the ridge it rolls up and down for the rest of the ride, until you hit the 54 and it ends, 8 kms later. Not a level spot on it, it cuts through farms and past the reservoir, kilometers of quiet empty pavement. Post with maps and details here.
The 130 (blue): This outstanding route is my favorite and I usually try and hit it once a month. Follow the 3 out of Jhuolan, climbing up, then down past the reservoir, then up again. When it plateaus, you'll see the sign for the 130. Turn left and start climbing. It's roughly 5 kms of 10% average grade, but some of the ramps are brutal. Near the top you'll see a large wooden building on the right hanging out over the hillside, that's the Mile High Cafe where we always stop for coffee and lunch. Tell A-Shen, the girl who runs the place, that you're my friend and she'll treat you right. The area has a ginger festival (locals know it as the Jiang Ma Yuan) and also grows oranges, red plums, and strawberries. Local cyclists know this road but you won't see many.
After the Mile High Cafe, climb the last switchback and the long ramp up to the top. Lovely views all the way up if the weather is good. Down the fantastic long descent to the T-junction marked by a gigantic rock. Turn LEFT (right takes you to Sanyi and the nearest train station) and follow the road (Miaoli 49) and the signs to the Broken Bridge (Longteng Broken Bridge) through a conservation area of forest and small farms, past some coffee shops, and then to the bridge. Once you hit the Broken Bridge, go past it about 200 meters and you'll come to an intersection, take the RIGHT across the little bridge and congratulations! you're climbing again, then down a nasty steep descent to a road running east-west. That takes you back to the 13 (to the west) eventually, and you can come home through Houli and Fengyuan. Total route is 100 kms or so from Taichung, with over 1100 meters of climbing. A great workout, decent food, excellent scenery, and some history. What could be better?
If you follow the 3 to Shitan, you'll hit the 126 and the road to the Mingde Reservoir (not on the map). This pretty lake is quiet and untrafficked. Well worth a visit. Take the road around the north side, and follow the 13 home. 145 kms round trip from Taichung.
The West Coast North of Taichung
The 140: If you follow the 13 out of Houli, take the 140, the turn to the left is just at the foot of the climb to Sanyi. Follow that road all the way to the 61, the coast highway, you can ride alongside and underneath it. Ignore the 1. If you have a sudden urge to ride the 1, lie down til it passes. If it persists, see a doctor.
A variant of this is to take the first road off to the right from the 140, which will take you to Yuanli through rice farms and old houses. I marked it with a red dot; it is designated the Miaoli 47. There's a Family Mart at the halfway mark. Coming back from the coast, it makes an excellent alternative to the 140, a long uphill slog.
The 132: Definitely needs to be done once. This otherwise nondescript, crowded four lane nightmare takes you into the heart of Dajia and the famed Matsu Temple there. After you've taken it to see the Matsu Temple, never ride it again. It sucks.
The 1: This road should be plowed under, the buildings along it destroyed, and the ground underneath salted over as a warning to the next ten thousand generations that some development comes at too high a price. Unquestionably the worst road in Taiwan, the 1 is an abyss of car repairs, truck traffic, gas stations, and convenience stores from one end of Taiwan to the other. Even the betel nut girls are sub-par. Just try finding a simple noodle restaurant anywhere along its length when you need one. Ignore the 1 unless necessary. There is no need to tell you that on the weekends this white line nightmare is crowded with local riders, who often take it on their way round the island. It drives me to despair watching healthy young people ride this road when practically any road south is better.
The 61: When you reach the coast, take the 61. You can (1) see the ocean (2) avoid traffic (3) duck under the elevated highway to get out of the sun (4) cut quickly over to the seashore bike path. That path begins right after leaving Tongxiao and is well worth leaving the 61/1 for. Just work your way down to the ocean on any small roads between the 61/1 and the sea, many are marked as bike routes.
Coming back to Taichung the secret way: Once you have done the coast, you must return to the city. And that means hill climbing because of the bluffs along the river, or climbing Tatu Shan, which isn't very high, but is a pain in the ass when you're returning from a 160 km ride, or climbing back to Sanyi (god no!). You can return via the 140 back to the 13, but the 140 is a very long upward incline, painful when I am tired. The 132 has several short sharp climbs and is full of traffic. I hate both.
There is, however, another solution: the secret way up Tatu Shan that is fast and easy. This route takes you up to the HSR and the 10, and then intersects the Tanzih bike path, which pops you out on Zhongshan Road (Beitun Road) in Tanzih, a few kilometers from Taichung. I've put a map on Google maps, since this route is complicated and non-intuitive. It starts from under the intersection of the major 3 and 4 highways which you can easily reach from [shudder] the 1. You go east and then when the road ends in a kilometer, you follow the gravel trucks up a road that runs along a stream, which you can't see from the road. You'll pass the gravel company and then reach the top. It's counterintuitive. There's an intersection right before the top. Go RIGHT and then when you reach the main road, go LEFT. If you can't find the road from the bottom, follow a gravel truck. Do not take the climb on the corner of Tatu Shan which is easily seen from the highway intersection; it is brutal. When you get to the top, follow the road as it curves around, then go straight. You'll go through a small town, pass a couple of Hi-Lifes (turn right at the second Hi-Life, a big one), then come up alongside the HSR. After you pass under it, go straight on Sanmin Road and you'll hit the bridge on the bike path over Sanmin Road. Take bike path back to Taichung.
I almost never ride on this mountain, so I don't have routes to offer.
An easy 80 km flat round trip from Taichung. Take the 10 out past the airbase and descend into Chingshui, then go down to the 61. Follow the 61 until you reach Gaomei Road (there are signs). Once you reach the wetlands, take some iconic photos of the wind machines there, and then turn north along the shore, follow that road to the river and turn east to return to cross the 1 and return to Taichung via the secret way to climb Tatu Shan above.
There are three basic rides south through flatness that is Changhua. The first is to ride to Lukang (many routes). The second involves looping Baguashan. The third consists of longer routes to Chiayi and points south. I'm not going to bother with Lukang as it is a simple ride, though you should go out to the 61 once you've done the city and follow the small roads up the coast and cross the river on the 17 and then take the bike path to Taichung. Some interesting terrain there.
Hugely popular with weekend riders from Taichung and Changhua, the easy climb up the 139 to the road atop Baguashan offers excellent views, with tea farms at the south end.
The other interesting road, though it is not nice, is the 137. The north end near Changhua and Yuanlin is a pesthole, but the south end has some old houses that date back to the 18th century. Worth a look once. The southern end of the 137 offers Tianzhong and Ershui, both of which have lots of Japanese-era buildings lying around uncared for. They are connected by a bike path whose surface is awful. When you swing around the south end of the 137 you pick up the 152 and return to Nantou city. Instead of following the 3, take the 14B, a few kilometers of empty farm road, very nice, and then climb over the 74 to return to Taichung via Liming Road or Wenxin Road. Either of these will be about 100 kilometer round trip from Taichung. If you get tired, bring a bike bag, you can board a local train in Ershui and be back in Taichung in an hour.
South out of Changhua: routes and remarks
Getting through Changhua city: skip the city by taking the alternate 1 that loops around its northwest side (AKA Jinma Road). It is the first major intersection after you cross the bridge (Follow the road off to the right when you get off the bridge! Don't go into the tunnels after the bridge). That comes down to the 19, get on the 19 and head south.
From there you have several options. You can work your way out to the coast. Yawn. The coast south of Lukang is desolate and windswept, the local economy in shambles. I avoid that. Or you can take one of the interior routes.
Assuming you are headed to Chiayi or Tainan, my personal favorite is to take the 19 down to the 145, which you hit a few kilometers south of Xihu. The road forks and there is a large Family Mart there. Take the LEFT fork which shoots straight down for a few kilometers. You then come to the highlight of the ride, the big red bridge in Xiluo. You can cross the bridge, get a snack in Xiluo and return, having done 130 kms or so round trip, all flat.
If you want to continue, there is a minor problem: the 145 takes a funky jag here, and it is unmarked.
From there I usually head to Chiayi HSR/Tainan or Douliu. From Douliu I take the train back, a flat and easy 80 km run.
For Chiayi, take the 145 all the way to Tuku or Beimen. In Tuku I pick up the 145A and then head due south through Taibao until I hit the 37, the HSR road. Or I go through Beimen, cross the river, and then turn left onto the 159 and take that to the 37. Either way I go to the HSR station, bag my bike, and take the HSR back to Taichung. That's a nice 120 km ride for me, flat, and 20 minutes back in the HSR. Pro tip: I stand with my bike in car 1, which is at the end of the train nearest the Taiwan Railway Station at the HSR. This shortens my walk to the train station lugging bike and stuff when I am tired and stinky.
For Tainan, you follow the 145 through Chiayi until you hit the 19 near Beimen, then follow the 19 to Tainan. It's marginally better than [shudder] the 1. The 19A is also a possibility.
Whatever happens, don't consider taking [shudder] the 1. If anyone suggests taking [shudder] the 1 south, just shoot them. The courts will be lenient.
The Central Mountain Range
East of Taichung is some fabulous biking accessible in a day or as an overnight trip. You should procure a bike bag for flexibility and a good camera. And a few good friends to enjoy it with.
East of Taichung:
Due east of the city there are three major routes. For the hills in Taiping and Wufeng which I know nothing about, find Nathan Miller, the expert on that complex and steep road network, on Facebook or join the Taichung Cycle group on Facebook.
The 21: This marvel is best accessed from the north end. Get thee to Dongshih, then take the 8 south out of Dongshih. Cross at one of the two bridges near Dongshih and take the road on the south side of the river, it's less crowded and much prettier. The climb up tops out at about 800 meters and is not difficult. But the descent down to Guoxing near Puli is pure alpine switchback heaven. Back to Taichung on the hideous 14 to the hideous 3, unless you want to climb the brutally steep 136. 120 kms depending on how you go.
You can also reach the 8 by going over Hsinshe, enabling you to put in lots of climbing.
The Xinghe industry Road (purple box): I've been on many parts of this road, it is lovely. Good luck not getting lost, though.
Gods above, it's beautiful in Nantou. Several of my favorite rides go through here. First, the area around Sun Moon Lake.....
147-131-Nantou 63: This is one of my favorite routes, culminating in the glorious Nantou 63, one of the island's loveliest roads. Take the 3 or the 136 to the 14, then follow the 14 to the 147. That portion of the ride will drag and you will catch yourself wondering if you passed the 147. It's farther than you think. Follow the 147 south through farms and hills until it summits at the 131, then turn east (left) towards the lake. The 131 will eventually take you to the 21. Climb the 21 to the lake, circle around the east side to Ita Thao (De Hua) village on the SE side of the lake. Have lunch. Behind the gas station you will see the sign for the Nantou 63. Climb three switchbacks to the top of the ridge above the lake (lovely views). Then prepare thy heart, for the Nantou 63 (purple box) is like an alpine descent dagger slashing through the heart of the mountains down to the 16. Take the marvelous 16 back to Shuili and take the train home to Taichung. 80 kms. If you want to bike back to Taichung, it is 60 kms on the 16 and the 3, crappy roads all the way. Really not worth it.
If you're not up for Sun Moon Lake, you can follow the 131 to Shuili, going south (right) instead of east (left). That's a short route of some 60 kms from Taichung. An easy climbing route for beginners.
The 131: Another pleasurable experience is to take the train to Shuili and then do a loop on the 131/Nantou 63. The 131 is one of the prettiest roads in Taiwan and is lovely along its entire length. From Shuili it climbs steadily past the reservoir until it summits at the intersection with the 147 among farms and hills. Starting from Puli is also recommended, you can get a bus to Puli near the train station in Taichung and return home via the 3.
The 152 (red): this is a sweet little road, the old road to Shuili supplanted by the modern 16. It runs next to the railway and is lined with tall trees, very pretty. On its way to Shuili it will take you to Jiji, the town-cum-tourist trap which is packed on the weekends, one of those places famous for being famous.
The 21. The 21 south of Puli to Sun Moon Lake is a traffic nightmare, avoid it. South of Shuili it is gorgeous and climbs 75 kilometers until it reaches the summit of Tatajia at 2800 meters, then swings down to the 18. That's an overnight ride.
Filled with tea farms, I have only begun to explore this area. There are several wonderful routes.
The 149 is surrounded by good rides, but a simple century ride I do sometimes involves riding to Jhushan and then hitting the 149, climbing to the 158A, which is empty of traffic, and then climbing through the tea fields. Neither difficult nor high, it is pretty. The 158A then descends back to the 3, which I use to return home. The 149 runs through a river gorge and is quite pretty, well worth a ride.
Lugu (blue spackles): Many riders take the 151 up. You can avoid the climb at the bottom by taking the side road I've marked up until you reach the 151. The grade on the 151 is gentle and it goes up to Xitou, but if the cars are too much for you, cross the gorge on one of the bridges and climb up the steeper parallel road on the other side. Overnight in Xitou, then on day 2 get up very early, like dawn, and climb up the twelve turns, each named for a Chinese astrological sign, to Sanlinxi at 1700 meters. Near the top you will see the turnoff for the Nantou 49. Turn right through the cedars (the route is on Google Streetview!) and plummet down through the tea farms back to Jhushan. An experience like no other. Pavement is bad or nonexistent in places and farm equipment is everywhere, so be careful. Go up early to ensure you make it before the fog rolls in.
Well, this is probably enough. Happy riding! Feel free to find me on Facebook or use gmail if you have questions.
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