Monday, December 22, 2008

Conquering 風櫃嘴 + Fury of the Elements

After much turmoil and nearly missing the flight, me and the bike miraculously arrived in Taiwan ON TIME (much love and thanks to the China Airlines folks at JFK!). So I had the SL re-assembled as soon as I arrived.

That brings us to today, Monday the 22nd.

Thanks to the jet lag, I got up before 5:00 a.m. With nothing else to do, and a sexy bike waiting, I just decided to hop on the road with the shorts, UA base layer, jersey, and PI arm warmers, intent on taking down 風櫃嘴 (Feng Gui Zui), one of the toughest peaks around the Taipei area with pops.

As soon as we got on the road, I realized the size of the challenge in front of us: cloudy-to-drizzly weather, bit of a chill, and a first experience on the 39/53T crank (12-26 cassette). Dad had a nice triple crank T_T. lol

Without much trouble, we maneuvered the city streets, got onto the bike lanes by the river bank, and connected to the base of the mountains by the National Palace Museum. Note of interest: all 7-Elevens sport bike racks and outdoor seating for bikers in TW, and there was conveniently one right at the base.

1 Snickers bar and hot chocolate later, we took on the peak. Here's a quick feel for the mountain:

Base --> peak road length: 10km
Base --> peak elevation gain: 648m (about 2000 ft)
First 3.2km elevation gain: 203m, gradient 4~6%, occasional 12%
Remaining 6.8km elevation gain: 445m, gradient 11~13%, occasional 4~6%

Stats seemed pretty solid, and the first 3.2km served as a great warm-up on the new crank. Not too bad. However, as soon as we transitioned into the winding, hairpin-turn-filled mountain road, the gradient quickly ramped up to the challenging levels that separate men from boys.

Compounding the challenging geography was the weather. Apparently the drizzles in the city area (a basin) were simply leftover waters AFTER clouds have dumped its bulk on the peaks...and we ate the fury of wind and water by 1/2 way up the peak.

Despite the challenging slopes, we had anticipated being able to hit the peak without having to take a break. We ended up taking 3. I'd attribute the first to dealing with the quickly dropping temperatures, the second was to throw on a poncho at 1/2 way (it started raining sideways then!), and the final one...was about 30m away from the peak.

That final stop illustrates the difficulty of the climb by that point: 14% gradient, sideways rain, and we were in the cloud (< 10m visibility), and incredible gusts. The gust got so bad, the headwind blew me to a stop while power-climbing! 0.o Definitely had to stop and get off the bike at that point, and we walked the final meters.

After a little rest at the peak and meeting a fellow biker who drove up to check the peak conditions (real shocked to see we made it to the top), we decided to forego the rest of the planned route and descend the way we came up. Both of us had to ride the brakes the entire was that scary maneuvering the wet, blind, and windy hairpin turns. Ran in to a solo rider on a hardtail MTB, then a group of 3 on folding bikes tryin' to take on the mountain near the bottom (they were wearing polos and khakis, btw). Gave them fair warning, but all just smiled and said thanks.

We were near hypothermia by the time we got back to the 7-Eleven and proceeded to down 2 large hot cocoas each...finally gaining control over fingers. Before we got to the 2nd cup, that lone MTB rider joined us...the mountain and its elements got to him =P

Moral of the story: taking down 風櫃嘴 & fury of the elements is definitely hard mode, and requires at least raw power and a touch of insanity.

Good thing I have plenty of both!

P.S. No pictures for this entry, since we didn't wanna harm the camera. Mebbe tomorrow though! Planned is a long coastal ride with rolling hills.


  1. Marcel, great to hear you and the bike (and, oh yeah, family) made it safely to TW. Great ride it sounds like -- in a twisted way. You didn't say but I will assume you spent a *lot* of time in 39/26 :). Keep up the posts and I'll keep reading

  2. lol yea, i was switching between standing & sitting gears at 39/26