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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.


新竹縣濱海自行車道 (Hsinchu Coastline Bike Trail)

posted by Martin Rubli at 18:42

A few months ago we got a Garmin Dakota 20 outdoor GPS to make our hiking and biking trips more flexible and give them a higher chance of succeeding. Since a lot of trails are quite poorly marked in Taiwan it has proved to be immensely helpful. Also, the accuracy is much higher than with my old GPS logger, so my Panoramio photos should now be spot-on. :-)

Unfortunately the weekend weather hasn't been as good as we'd have liked it and the first time we went biking with our new GPS we ended up caught in a thunderstorm and pushing our bikes through ankle-deep mud. While the pictures from that trip still aren't quite ready here are some from a more recent trip we did during perfect biking weather. Perfectly dry and neither too cold nor too hot.

Hsinchu doesn't have many tourist attractions. Aside from a 17 km bike trail along the coastline (last time I went a little more than half of it was still under construction) there's not much for easy biking, especially if you don't want to constantly turn circles around other bikers.

However, there's one bike trail that seems to be mostly unheard of: the 新竹縣濱海自行車道 (Hsinchu County Coastline Bike Trail). Even though some parts are still in construction and bikers are rerouted through small and quiet side streets it's quite nice and peaceful. It starts in East Hsinchu and leads North past the 新月沙灘 (Xin Yue Beach) all the way to 羊寮 (Yang liao).

This time we only made it a little more than half-way because it was getting dark. The rest will have to wait for another day.


Map of the 新竹縣濱海自行車道 (Hsinchu Coastline Bike Trail). (Click here for a bigger version.)

Map of the 新竹縣濱海自行車道 (Hsinchu Coastline Bike Trail). ([local:/gallery/data/hsinchu-coastline-bike-trail/images/original/20101121-154033_IL0472_FX520.jpg Click here] for a bigger version.)

The mouth of the 頭前溪 (Tou qian river) along which part of the bike trail goes. Most of that area is still under construction though and the bike trail instead leads through the small roads of a residential area.

The mouth of the 頭前溪 (Tou qian river) along which part of the bike trail goes. Most of that area is still under construction though and the bike trail instead leads through the small roads of a residential area.

A little rest stop on the dam of the 頭前溪 (Tou qian river).

A little rest stop on the dam of the 頭前溪 (Tou qian river).

The river park of a small side stream of the 鳳山溪 (Feng shan river).

The river park of a small side stream of the 鳳山溪 (Feng shan river).

Almost the entire stream is inhabited by mangroves (紅樹林).

Almost the entire stream is inhabited by mangroves (紅樹林).

Sunset mood on the 新竹縣濱海自行車道 (Hsinchu Coastline Bike Trail).

Sunset mood on the 新竹縣濱海自行車道 (Hsinchu Coastline Bike Trail).

This little bridge leads from the bike trail to the 鳳山溪橋 (Feng shan river bridge).

This little bridge leads from the bike trail to the 鳳山溪橋 (Feng shan river bridge).

We were a little surprised once we arrived here. The bike bridge leads right to the southbound side of the 鳳山溪橋 (Feng shan river bridge). We're not quite sure whether we missed one of the not-so-obvious bike trail signs or whether bikers are indeed supposed to cross the bridge in the wrong direction. Luckily traffic was very light, so we plucked up our courage and went ahead.
台15線
鳳山溪橋

We were a little surprised once we arrived here. The bike bridge leads right to the southbound side of the 鳳山溪橋 (Feng shan river bridge). We're not quite sure whether we missed one of the not-so-obvious bike trail signs or whether bikers are indeed supposed to cross the bridge in the wrong direction. Luckily traffic was very light, so we plucked up our courage and went ahead.
台15線
鳳山溪橋

On the north side of the 鳳山溪 (Feng shan river) the dam is painted with beautiful aquatic scenes.

On the north side of the 鳳山溪 (Feng shan river) the dam is painted with beautiful aquatic scenes.

The entrance to the 新月沙灘 (Xin yue beach).

The entrance to the 新月沙灘 (Xin yue beach).

Looking northwards from 新月沙灘 (Xin Yue Beach).

Looking northwards from 新月沙灘 (Xin Yue Beach).

The ocean near 新月沙灘 (Xin Yue Beach).

The ocean near 新月沙灘 (Xin Yue Beach).

Large parts of the 新竹縣濱海自行車道 (Hsinchu Coastline Bike Trail) are actually not quite along the coast but go through forest areas further inland.

Large parts of the 新竹縣濱海自行車道 (Hsinchu Coastline Bike Trail) are actually not quite along the coast but go through forest areas further inland.

This is the entrance to a short connecting part of the bike trail between two roads.

This is the entrance to a short connecting part of the bike trail between two roads.

On the other side is the 台15線. The bike trail follows it for a few hundred meters before it turns into a more quiet area again.

On the other side is the 台15線. The bike trail follows it for a few hundred meters before it turns into a more quiet area again.

The bike trail goes along the tunnel that covers the 台15線.

The bike trail goes along the tunnel that covers the 台15線.

On this section of the coastline trail you can even see the ocean once in a while. :-)

On this section of the coastline trail you can even see the ocean once in a while. :-)

Sunset over the ocean.

Sunset over the ocean.

The old 海岸路 (Hai an road), which is now a bike trail (with the occasional "lost" scooter or car).

The old 海岸路 (Hai an road), which is now a bike trail (with the occasional "lost" scooter or car).

The north entrance to the 海岸路 (Hai an road) bike trail.

The north entrance to the 海岸路 (Hai an road) bike trail.

The 弘法宮 (Hong Fa temple) by night. This temple is very "bling-bling" - everything is full with blinking LEDs.

The 弘法宮 (Hong Fa temple) by night. This temple is very "bling-bling" - everything is full with blinking LEDs.

Bike trip to 宇老 (Yu lao)

posted by Martin Rubli at 12:07

Today a few people from work decided to try their luck and go up to 宇老 (Yu lao) starting from 內灣 (Nei wan), which is about a 1,200 meter climb on a little more than 20 km. I'm glad to report that everybody made it to the top (and safely down), which is not bad given that many of us - including me - considered this trip quite a challenge.

As always the track log is on GPSies but you can also check out the map here:

Photo-wise, for now I only have a bunch of rather boring Panoramio photos but more will follow soon.

Update (2009-11-09): Thanks to everybody's picture sharing efforts I was able to put together a few nice group photos. Enjoy!

Before the start at the 內灣 (Neiwan) train station.

Before the start at the 內灣 (Neiwan) train station.

This photo gives you a good impression of how steep it is. Some areas are easily more than 15%.

This photo gives you a good impression of how steep it is. Some areas are easily more than 15%.

The view at the top of the pass is really nice. All the hills make you want to climb more of them. :-)

The view at the top of the pass is really nice. All the hills make you want to climb more of them. :-)

If you liked these pictures there are a few more in my Bike trip to 宇老 album.


Bike trip to 顯伯公 (Xian bo gong)

posted by Martin Rubli at 13:03

In preparation for an upcoming bike trip to 宇老 (Yu lao) I went biking today and decided to go to 顯伯公 (Xian bo gong temple).

Because I didn't know the name of the place before I left (ha ha ...) I had a hard time finding the small entrance road, so I decided to take a bunch of photos on the way and add them to Panoramio, so that they will eventually show up in Google Earth. Taiwan's road signs leave lots of room for improvement - this is my small contribution.

I had been told it was pretty steep, so when the road stayed fairly flat I was doubting my navigation skills for a while. But I was not to be disappointed. The road kept getting steeper and steeper forcing me to take a few breaks. Luckily the view is so good though (on a clear day you can see Taipei 101 from there!), that you forget your sore legs for a while:

View from a clearing near 顯伯公 (Xian bo gong temple). On a clear day you can even see Taipei 101 from here. (Unfortunately that was not the case when I visited.)

A fellow biker even went to the trouble to measure the slope at various points. I should have thought of that first. What better excuse for breaks than collecting photos and numbers for your blog? :-)

At the top of the hill is a tiny temple:

At the top of 顯伯公 (Xian bo gong temple)

This is what it looks like inside:

At the top of 顯伯公 (Xian bo gong temple)

The map is below and if you're curious to see some more details about the trip you can check out the GPSies track I uploaded.


Biking meets GPS

posted by Martin Rubli at 16:08

By now you probably all now that I'm a big fan of everything to do with photos, GPS, and maps. I recently started experimenting with some new tools and services.

For starters I found that Oliver Lau has written a few great GPS tools, in particular gpsplot, which prints nice altitude/speed charts for GPS tracks. Here's what my last bike trip to 八五山 (Eighty-Five Mountain) looks like (admittedly after a little tweaking and playing with gpsplot and gnuplot):

Since my GPS logger went a little crazy while I was in the convenience store buying refreshments I had to remove a bunch of completely-off-the-track points from the GPX file. For this I found GPX Editor to be a very convenient tool. It has nice functions to visually remove individual points or trip entire sections (say the first few minutes of a track because the points are erratic).

Luckily I don't normally need to spend any extra time editing my tracks. (Solar flares last weekend?!) But if I do I probably want to have a good place to put my nicely edited route. And until my website system has functionality to do that I'm resorting to services like GPSies.com, which contains a huge selection of all kinds of tracks. I've only just started, but you can find mine here:

Martin's track(s) on GPSies

I'll be uploading more of my own in the future. And I hope I can draw some inspiration for biking from the existing ones as well. You've got to love the combination of high-tech and sport. :-)


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