Who is the Bicycl Featured Rider?
The Bicycl Featured Rider could be a person that all of us know. The Featured Rider could be a friend, a stranger, maybe even a pro. They represent Bicycl and share our passion for cycling. One thing is for sure, the Featured Rider loves to ride. Maybe it could end up being you?
This week Francis Liew is the Bicycl Featured Rider. We love that Francis thinks that mixing a vacation with exercise is a great idea and think more people should pick up the habit!
Words - Francis Liew & Photos - Francis & Christine
How would you describe yourself in 100 words?
I’ve never given it much thought. And I think I’m the worst person to ask. Best ask my friends and enemies and they should be able to give you an objective answer.
Everyone is saying cycling is the new golf. What got you started?
I’ve actually been cycling since I was a kid but it didn't seriously become a lifestyle option until 2003. In my year of sabbatical and took to an alternative lifestyle that became very bike centric. I’ve been on a bike since then and while there are periods where the bike has taken a back seat, I always come back to it. As for it being the new golf, ye, I see it happening through very recent years. The type of cyclist attracted has changed dramatically. Diversity in numbers is a good thing.
Taiwan seems to be a must go for a touring cyclist. What makes you decide to make a road trip there?
Christine & I are starting to venture away from the regular cycling haunts around home. Mixing a vacation with exercise also sounded like a great idea. In March we signed up with Giant Travels for a 3 day trip in Eastern Taiwan. We covered Fenglin(Hualien) to Taitung. We are no strangers to Taiwan but this time, another dimension has been added and we liked what we saw and experienced. So we decided that the ‘’holy grail”of a round island bike trip must be attempted and we saw to it in Late Oct-Nov.
There’s also a practical dimension. Taiwan is a bike centric nation for very obvious reasons. There is now a National round island cycling route and it’s clearly marked. Infrastructure has been put in for this purpose and it makes touring so easy! I see no reason not to go!
Can you describe what a typical day of cycling in your trip?
Most days we’ll cover around 100km. Day starts either around 8 or 9am depending on distance and topography of the ride that day. We’ll take a break between 11.30 am through 1.30pm when it’s the hottest. We’ll be checking in at the destination by 5 pm. We averaged just under 20kmh and took breaks every 20km or so.
How do you keep yourself safe?
We didn’t really take a lot of extra precautions. Safety in Taiwan has never been an issue for us. Road safety wise, it’s really common sense, but of course they do drive on the road so adjust mentally. Having said that, Taiwanese drivers are very aware of cyclists, so much so that I sometimes feel guilty for holding them up. But observe local practices and behave likewise and you’ll be fine. One note for the uninitiated though, left turns are tricky for us. Watch for the instructional sign overhead in cities especially. You actually have to cut across traffic and get into a waiting box meant for motorcycles on the right in order to turn left. Confused? I suggest you observe, not rocket science here.
Are there any special equipment considerations for people who want to cycle in Taiwan?
Besides the usual spares and pump, I would say none.
What is your fondest memory of the 11 day journey?
The rural areas are the best! Interaction with folks who are genuinely curious of who you are and where you’re going. And not to forget, street food!
And the most difficult moment?
Climbs! We started out of Kaohsiung and the second day we had to climb from Checheng to Shouka….now I know what some say that you cannot have enough gears! We took like forever (4.5 hours) to reach Shouka alone.
What advice do you have for travellers who want to go cycling in Taiwan?
It’s entirely possible circumvent the whole island without logistical support entourage. There’s usually a convenience store somewhere and since we speak the language, asking for help or directions will never be an issue. They have very affordable luggage forwarding services - just check with your hotel or the convenience stores.
A lot of merchants also offer free delivery (minimum amount varies). We bought a variety of things and they all shipped to our final destination.
Get a sim card at the airport...it’s very affordable for a 2 week unlimited 4G data plan. It comes with NT250 worth of calls too.
Which country would your next epic ride be? Why?
We’re thinking Korea next Sept. Korea has also invested a lot on bike infrastructure in recent times; they have this bike path called the 4 rivers ride. Goes from Incheon to Busan. Why? We’ve never been to Korea yet and this seems like a good way to tour. The weather should be cool then too.
Thank you Francis for the chat and sharing of your trip! We hope that you enjoy this new series. Who knows, you might be the next Bicycl Featured Rider!