Blog content

Latest posts

Active categories:

More tags ...

By date:

    (No recent posts)

Blog calendar

February 2020
Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa Su
 << Jan Mar >>
1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29

Blog features

RSS feed icon RSS feed

RSS comment feed icon RSS comment feed

兩日雙北 (Two days, two cross-island highways)

posted by Martin Rubli at 16:33

Four bikes, two days, 292 kilometers, and eight very sore legs. That's the summary of last weekend's bike trip which took us from 新竹縣 (Hsinchu county) across the central mountain range to 宜蘭縣 (Yilan county) and back the next day:

The lower arc was the first day, the upper arc the second day. These are the elevation diagrams:

Elevation diagram: Day 1

Elevation diagram: Day 2


It's difficult in Taiwan to avoid the traffic, especially on popular routes like the cross-island highways. Accidents on those narrow mountain roads are unfortunately quite frequent, caused by aggressively driving motorcyclists, Sunday car drivers who lack mountain road skills, but also by careless cyclists without lights or helmet.

There are a few tunnels on these roads, so any vehicle entering the completely unilluminated tunnel from the bright sunlight is unlikely to see an unlit cyclist. And the number of riders who consider a helmet nothing but an unnecessarily heavy sun shield is alarmingly high. I didn't get to shoot any "Darwin at work" photos but we did cross an ambulance on the way.

We chose - equipped with helmets and lights - to leave on Sunday morning in an attempt to minimize traffic, at least for the second day. Getting up at 0430 in the morning is probably my least favorite part about biking, and the sunrise isn't worth it, but with over 160 km to go on the first day it is a necessity.

Schedule (Day 1)

Day 1:

0530: Meeting point, 竹北喜來登大飯店 (Zhubei Sheraton Hotel)
0625: 關西 (Guan xi)
0630: Rest stop, 台3線/羅馬公路入口 (Highway 3 & Luo ma gong lu entrance)
0645: Departure, 羅馬公路入口 (Luo ma gong lu entrance)
0840: 羅馬公路出口 (Luo ma gong lu exit)
0855: 北橫入口 (Northern Cross-island highway entrance)
0915: Rest stop, 北橫之星 (Bei heng zhi xing)
0925: Departure, 北橫之星 (Bei heng zhi xing)
1035: 蘇樂橋 (Su le bridge)
1045: 巴陵大橋 (Big Ba ling bridge)
1125: 巴陵/拉拉山叉路 (Ba ling, La La shan fork)
1255: 四陵 (Si ling)
1315: 桃園縣/宜蘭縣 縣界 (Taoyuan county/Yilan county border)
1335: Lunch break, 明池 (Ming chi)
1455: Departure, 明池 (Ming chi)
1515: Highest point of Highway 7
1525: "777", 台7線77公里 (Highway 7, 77 km sign)
1600: 台7線/台7甲線叉路 (Highway 7 & Highway 7-bis crossroad)
1720: 圓山 (Yuan shan)
1805: 礁溪 (Jiao xi)

Distance: 162.2 km
Ascent: 2580 m
Maximum elevation: 1215 m


The second day was marked mostly by sore legs, joints, butts, and other body parts, on top of which came the heat of a clear summer day. Unlike the previous day where the mountainous climate cooled us down a little bit, wind and clouds were a rarity. After lunch an outside thermometer displayed 42 °C in the sun.

Unfortunately there is no interesting route back from Taipei to Hsinchu, so after the relatively quiet highway 110 we soon ended up on highway 3, one of the two large and long roads that connect Northern Taiwan with Southern Taiwan. The traffic on those is rather annoying and we soon ended up in the middle of rush hour traffic.

Only after 龍潭 (Long tan), where we took a shortcut, did the traffic get better again. Of course the shortcut came with a price: The last ascent of the day. But with over 250 km behind you most of your body is numb anyway, so it doesn't hurt that much.

Schedule (Day 2)

0820: Departure, 礁溪 (Jiao xi)
0935: Rest stop, 1st peak, 宜蘭縣/新北市 縣界 (Yilan county/Taipei City border)
0950: Departure
1040: Rest stop, 坪林 (Ping lin)
1105: Departure
1155: Rest stop, 石碇 (Shi ding)
1225: Departure
1245: Lunch break, 新店 (Xin dian)
1335: Departure, 42 °C outside!
1430: Rest stop, 三峽 大成國小 (San xia, Da cheng elementary school)
1455: Departure
1500: 三峽 台110線/台3線叉路 (San xia, Highway 110/3 crossroads)
1520: Rest stop, 三峽 台3線/台7線叉路 (San xia, Highway 3/7 crossroads)
1530: Departure
1700: 龍潭 (Long tan)
1715: Rest stop
1730: Departure
1800: 新埔 (Xin pu)
1815: 竹北喜來登大飯店 (Zhubei Sheraton Hotel)

Distance: 133.5 km
Ascent: 1681 m
Maximum elevation: 552 m


Photos

The start of 北橫 (Bei heng), the Northern Cross-Island Highway. Getting there from Hsinchu already took us a slightly over three hours, so we started the difficult part of our trip with over 60 km in our legs.

The start of 北橫 (Bei heng), the Northern Cross-Island Highway. Getting there from Hsinchu already took us a slightly over three hours, so we started the difficult part of our trip with over 60 km in our legs.

A preview of what I imagine my daughter would look like if I had one: a sixth-grader on a road bike.

A preview of what I imagine my daughter would look like if I had one: a sixth-grader on a road bike.

北橫之星 (Bei heng zhi xing) is a popular rest stop for cyclists, bikers, and other tourists. The shops there sell 水蜜桃蜜 (Peach honey water) but trying is free.

北橫之星 (Bei heng zhi xing) is a popular rest stop for cyclists, bikers, and other tourists. The shops there sell 水蜜桃蜜 (Peach honey water) but trying is free.

The western part of the highway has a lot of downhill sections - not exactly what you want when you're trying to make your way up to 1,200 m.

The western part of the highway has a lot of downhill sections - not exactly what you want when you're trying to make your way up to 1,200 m.

The view of the mountains still ahead of us.

The view of the mountains still ahead of us.

Something in his face seems to say "What am I doing here?" ...

Something in his face seems to say "What am I doing here?" ...

The remains of an old dam. It was probably torn down when the 荣华大壩 (Rong hua dam) was built a few hundred meters upstream.

The remains of an old dam. It was probably torn down when the 荣华大壩 (Rong hua dam) was built a few hundred meters upstream.

The new 巴陵大橋 (Big Ba Ling bridge), built in 2005.

The new 巴陵大橋 (Big Ba Ling bridge), built in 2005.

And the older 巴陵橋 (Ba Ling bridge), which is now exclusively for pedestrians (and bikers if you don't mind the dark tunnels on both sides).

And the older 巴陵橋 (Ba Ling bridge), which is now exclusively for pedestrians (and bikers if you don't mind the dark tunnels on both sides).

View of the river shortly after the 巴陵橋 (Ba Ling bridge).

View of the river shortly after the 巴陵橋 (Ba Ling bridge).

Just before the fork to 拉拉山 (La la shan). After this point the traffic becomes a lot lighter and the road narrower.

Just before the fork to 拉拉山 (La la shan). After this point the traffic becomes a lot lighter and the road narrower.

There are many misleading road signs in Taiwan, but this is one of the more frustrating ones. The altitude of 1,140 meters is not actually measured at this point but a few kilometers later after a further ascent of over 100 meters!

There are many misleading road signs in Taiwan, but this is one of the more frustrating ones. The altitude of 1,140 meters is not actually measured at this point but a few kilometers later after a further ascent of over 100 meters!

A dyslexic toilet in 四陵 (Si ling). I'd bet good money that the sign was written by the same person who misplaced the "Elevation: 1,140 meters" sign. :-)

A dyslexic toilet in 四陵 (Si ling). I'd bet good money that the sign was written by the same person who misplaced the "Elevation: 1,140 meters" sign. :-)

The closer we got to the top the more the weather started to turn. Taiwan's mountain roads are infamous for quickly turning weather, so we were extremely lucky to stay dry for the duration of the whole trip.

The closer we got to the top the more the weather started to turn. Taiwan's mountain roads are infamous for quickly turning weather, so we were extremely lucky to stay dry for the duration of the whole trip.

Finally, 大同鄉 (Da tong township)! This point is the border between 桃園縣 (Taoyuan county) and 宜蘭縣 (Yilan county).

Finally, 大同鄉 (Da tong township)! This point is the border between 桃園縣 (Taoyuan county) and 宜蘭縣 (Yilan county).

Murals of the local tribe's traditions along the side of the road.

Murals of the local tribe's traditions along the side of the road.

Richard and Sonic arriving in 宜蘭縣 (Yilan county). From here to the highest point of 北橫 (Northern Cross-Island Highway) there are still several downhill sections, but lunch is only a few kilometers away ...

Richard and Sonic arriving in 宜蘭縣 (Yilan county). From here to the highest point of 北橫 (Northern Cross-Island Highway) there are still several downhill sections, but lunch is only a few kilometers away ...

台7線, Highway 7 close to 明池 (Ming chi).

台7線, Highway 7 close to 明池 (Ming chi).

Our lunch stop for the day: 明池 (Ming chi).

Our lunch stop for the day: 明池 (Ming chi).

The famous old tree next to the 明池山莊 (Ming chi mountain hostel).

The famous old tree next to the 明池山莊 (Ming chi mountain hostel).

My trusted GT mountain bike. I had chosen the mountain bike over the road bike to spare my knees and make the lengthy downhill part more enjoyable. I had switched to thinner road tires just for this trip, which makes a world of difference.

My trusted GT mountain bike. I had chosen the mountain bike over the road bike to spare my knees and make the lengthy downhill part more enjoyable. I had switched to thinner road tires just for this trip, which makes a world of difference.

明池 (Ming chi) literally means "clear lake". But this green sludge hardly deserves the name! I guess even geography is all about marketing ...

明池 (Ming chi) literally means "clear lake". But this green sludge hardly deserves the name! I guess even geography is all about marketing ...

The last uphill segment between 明池 (Ming chi) and the highest point of the day. The latter one is so unspectacular and hard to determine that there are no pictures. :-)

The last uphill segment between 明池 (Ming chi) and the highest point of the day. The latter one is so unspectacular and hard to determine that there are no pictures. :-)

Ray, visibly happy to have reached "777", the most famous spot of 台7線 (Highway 7). Hardly a cyclist doesn't stop there to take a few pictures.

Ray, visibly happy to have reached "777", the most famous spot of 台7線 (Highway 7). Hardly a cyclist doesn't stop there to take a few pictures.

The vast riverbed in 大同 (Da tong) is being used as a farmland for water melons. From here it was all flat until our hotel, but still over 30 kilometers to go. This was the only time I really wished for my road bike.

The vast riverbed in 大同 (Da tong) is being used as a farmland for water melons. From here it was all flat until our hotel, but still over 30 kilometers to go. This was the only time I really wished for my road bike.

On the morning of the second day in front of our hotel in 礁溪 (Jiao xi), from right to left: Ray, myself, Sonic, Richard, and Richard's wife. Richard's wife did us a huge favor by accompanying us by car and making sure we were well watered and fed for the entire time.

On the morning of the second day in front of our hotel in 礁溪 (Jiao xi), from right to left: Ray, myself, Sonic, Richard, and Richard's wife. Richard's wife did us a huge favor by accompanying us by car and making sure we were well watered and fed for the entire time.

龜山島 (Turtle Island) as seen from the 北宜 (Taipei-Yilan Highway). The road crosses two mountains on the way from 礁溪 (Jiao xi) to 新店 (Xin dian). Luckily neither one of them are as high as the first day's.

龜山島 (Turtle Island) as seen from the 北宜 (Taipei-Yilan Highway). The road crosses two mountains on the way from 礁溪 (Jiao xi) to 新店 (Xin dian). Luckily neither one of them are as high as the first day's.

A statue on the side of the road.

A statue on the side of the road.

On top of the last mountain of the day, just before the downhill section to 新店 (Xin dian).

On top of the last mountain of the day, just before the downhill section to 新店 (Xin dian).

The view of the 翡翠水庫 (Fei cui reservoir) between the trees.

The view of the 翡翠水庫 (Fei cui reservoir) between the trees.

View from 石碇 (Shi ding) towards the Northern end of Taiwan.

View from 石碇 (Shi ding) towards the Northern end of Taiwan.

Without a doubt the hottest part of our two-day bike trip. The temperatures in 新店 (Xin dian) had reached over 40 degrees, so on the way back to 三峽 (San xia) our brains were nearly boiling under our helmets.

Without a doubt the hottest part of our two-day bike trip. The temperatures in 新店 (Xin dian) had reached over 40 degrees, so on the way back to 三峽 (San xia) our brains were nearly boiling under our helmets.

Fortunately Taiwan is full of little wayside pavilions, just the thing to take a quick rest.

Fortunately Taiwan is full of little wayside pavilions, just the thing to take a quick rest.


  1. Sonic says:

    Pretty Good. We are waiting for next challenge. But I am not a crazy guy.

  2. Ray says:

    Nice journey~
    It's really nice to bike with you.

    and when i saw the one you descirbe 明池, I laughed~
    but 明 means bright not really clear~ in the sunshin, every lake or pound are bright ~
    hahaha....

    Looking forward our next bike trip... but ... one day is enough~

  3. Richard says:

    Wonderful biking journey.

    Brought me back to the 2-biking days, especially the picture Sonic, Ray and me were heading to the hills before 明池. Those days were hot, tough, and a bit cray. However, the memory is sweet.

    I like the picture Sonic looking at the bikes within deeply thinking and the comment Martin made.

    Looking forward to the coming biking with you all.

  4. Martin says:

    Thanks, guys. The trip was great fun indeed. Luckily the brain only remembers the good moments and not the sore points, so I'm sure it won't be long until the next challenge. :-)

  5. Norm says:

    Nice, thanks for sharing. I spent 6+ weeks in Taiwan with my wife/daughter this winter and brought the road bike with me. Most of that was in Ilan County, (Luodong is where we stayed much of the trip). I did a lot of that kind of climbing when I was there, up into the hills, up that river on one side and back the other side. Up some seldom traveled quarry roads. The landscape pictures make me a little sad I can't spend more time there. I'm currently sitting in a big building in NYC wishing I was there now and could spend the fall there riding. Maybe some day. If interested I blogged about my stay there, check the link I posted with my comment.

    Norm

  6. Martin says:

    Thanks for the link, it made for some interesting reading. I especially recognized myself in the part about yelling at reckless truck drivers. ;-) Anyway, it looks like during those few weeks you got about as much biking done as I do in a year's time, so no need to feel bad about not having spent more time there!

Leave a comment

Your comment: