We’re off! The inaugural Pedal Taiwan tour rolled out of Taipei at 9.30am this morning and we’re safely in Keelung after an epic 65km day of cycling. 

Chris MJ – Monday 23rd October – 7.23pm

Rolling out of Taipei through the eastern suburbs and past awesome landmarks such as Taipei 101 and the Dr. Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall – built in 1972 to commemorate the father of the Republic of China – was a great way to start the trip. We dodged the rush hour traffic and after 9km hit the outskirts of town and a pretty steep first climb of the tour.

Maxing out at 16 percent, it certainly rid everyone of their jetlag – especially Clare and Robin who only arrived nine hours earlier at midnight – but the route through lush forests was beautiful. From the hustle and bustle of Taipei to jungle-covered hills in half an hour… Only in Taiwan!

After a winding descent the first coffee break of the trip was made at the ever-reliable Family Mart, which no doubt (along with 7 Eleven) will become a lifesaver for tired, thirsty and hungry Pedal Taiwan cyclists.

We hugged the left-hand bank of the river as we climbed up once more, but this time much more gently, before switching banks and topping out above Jingtong at 297m. From here, the descent into Shifen was picturesque and meant we could clip along at a very decent average speed.

All until a quick regroup led to mechanical #1 of the trip, a snapped chain on Jane’s bike. Our guide James was to the rescue and after an incredibly efficient roadside repair, we were back on track and rolling into Shifen at a perfect time for lunch.

Shifen was packed with tourists but for good reason. Old Town straddled a railway line that was the focal point of Shifen – despite still being active and with trains regularly passing through. In between trains however, hundreds of people were setting off Chinese lanterns adorned with hand-painted messages of good luck, filling the sky with flaming orbs drifting in the wind.

James then took us for a feast of a lunch in a small restaurant hidden from the main street crowds. Fresh clam soup, deep fried shrimp, slow-cooked pork belly and an array of vegetables played centre stage in a memorable and certainly filling meal.

Before jumping back on the bike we quite literally followed to crowds (it was pretty busy…) to the Shifen Waterfall, a 40m wide horseshoe-shaped waterfall on the Keelung River that thunders 20m into the pool below. It was definitely spectacular but we were itching to get back on the bike for the final 25km of the day.

300m of tough climbing followed, averaging 7 percent, but the knowledge that the ride from the summit to our hotel in the port city of Keelung was entirely downhill was definitely reassuring. Everyone summited within 5 minutes of each other and after picking up some awesome drone footage of the descent (sadly the a pair of eagles curtailed our flying time…) mechanical #2 hit Robin – a blown out rear tire. Fortunately it was nothing serious and after a swift inner tube change we were back on our way to Keelung.

The team pulled in at around 4.45 to the Evergreen Hotel, welcomed by an ice cold beer and the knowledge that Day 1 was complete! The hotel spa and swimming pool beckoned to ease those aching muscles and we’re about to head into town for a dinner of local seafood washed down with green tea – perfect fuel after a long day in the saddle.