To Plan or Not To Plan, That Is The Question (page 2) - CycleBlaze

Bicycle Travel Forum

To Plan or Not To Plan, That Is The Question (page 2)

Graham SmithTo Jeff Lee

Jeff your style of cycle tour planning is one I aspire to, but doubt I’ll ever attain. I like lists, procrastination and overthinking too much. 

Your post reminds me of a cycling friend who’s only plan on a cycle tour is to follow autumn. 

He and his wife rode out of the St John St Cycle shop in Somerset (he’d bought a new Thorn Nomad bike) and they kept cycling toward their home in Australia until they reached a Singapore by chasing autumn across Europe and Central Asia. They did minimal planning, and mostly worked the tour out en-route. Amazing.

One more theory with minimal evidence is that minimal planning tours seem to be done most effortlessly by beginning cycle tourers, and by very experienced cycle tourers. Those of us with an average amount of cycle touring experience seem to prefer more planning. 

Reply    Link    Flag
3 months ago
John SaxbyTo Graham Smith

Those of us with an average amount of cycle touring experience seem to prefer more planning.

True enough, Graham, in my experience.  Maybe it also has to do with the passage of time--with, over the years, having seen far too many awkward answers to the question, "What could possibly go wrong?"

Reply    Link    Flag
2 months ago
Graham SmithTo John Saxby

John that’s part of my problem. Over imagining possible problems or difficult circumstances to prepare and plan for. It takes me quite an effort to subdue the tendency to overdo the prep.

Part of the appeal of Taiwan is that it is an island with a highly developed bicycle industry. Surely if there is anywhere in the world to have bike problems, Taiwan would be the ideal place to have something break. Unlike the Australian outback, it should be easy to find parts and service for just about any bike model.

Reply    Link    Flag
2 months ago
John SaxbyTo Graham Smith

Taiwan would be the ideal place to have something break

Agreed, Graham.  On my first long-ish tour in Europe, up the Rhine & down the Danube, I was attacked by derailleur gremlins just N of Mainz. I thought to myself, "If I'm going to have a derailleur problem, this is the place for it." And so it proved:  left camp by 8:15, into the bike shop in Mainz by 9:00, out by 10:00, onto the train to the Danube by 11:30 :)

The comeback to the "What could possibly go wrong?" question is another question--not to be too jesuitical about it:  "What's the worst thing that could happen?" 

I've thought of a Taiwan stopover on one of our treks to Queensland, either coming or going.  Between relatively short distances, good food, and (I'd guess) ready availability of mechanical support, it seems ideal for the kind of your you're looking at.  There are hills, too!  Another Graham (Finch) might have some suggestions, if you're able to contact him.

Cheers,  John

Reply    Link    Flag
2 months ago
Graham SmithTo John Saxby

John I’ve been in contact with Graham F and he has provided some good advice, including ‘must sees’, for a Taiwan cycle tour.

One important part of the planning he mentioned are the hills, and to think ahead about how much climbing we’d like to do. For a short tour such as ours, we’ll need to choose ‘to hill, or not to hill’. It sounds as if the coastal routes are flatter, but not so interesting.

And I now recall how you and derailleurs have not always seen eye to eye. Fortunately the derailleur gods continue to treat me kindly. Touch wood the luck continues in Taiwan. We will be taking two second-hand, folding additions to the bicycle stable on this Taiwan tour. It’ll be interesting to see how they perform.

Reply    Link    Flag
2 months ago
John SaxbyTo Graham Smith

Thanks, Graham.  Sounds like you have the non-planning well in hand.  (I avoided using the p-word in my last note...)

On the matter of hills:  back in the day, I used to hang out with a guy from California when we were both in Lusaka, Zambia.  We were hiking one weekend in the Tshimanimani mountains, the spine of granite that marks the border between Zimbabwe and Mozambique (& is part of the great ridge between the Cape & the Horn of Africa).  We were sitting atop one splendid peak, just the two of us, eating our lunch and watching & listening to the eagles turning and turning in the widening gyre (thank you, Mr Yeats), and my friend said, "Ah, John, I'd be a happier man if I'd spent more time in the high places of the world."  He meant it as a compliment to the grandeur and beauty of the place where we were, but also as a slightly wistful reflection on opportunities not seized.

And on things that help you get your bike up the hills:  A couple of years ago, after encountering a derailleur gremlin spouting Queensland vowels, I took my Eclipse to Nerang Cycles on the Gold Coast.  I gave them a potted history, and they in turn fitted a Sora rear derailleur:  they reckoned that the problem was that I was using T105 (road) brifters with a Deore LX rear der, thus venturing into the bog of Shim's road/MTB incompatibility. (The Sora is a road derailleur.)  That changeover seems to have solved the recurring problems at the rear. ("'bout bloody time too, sez the chorus, after--what? 12 or 13 years?") 

Cheers,  J.

(PS:  pls say hi to Graham F next time you're in touch with him.)

Reply    Link    Flag
2 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Graham Smith

There are hills, alright.  Think of Taiwan as a giant pup tent.  It’s incredible that such a slender island peaks out at 3,000 meters down its spine.

The coastal strip on the east is really spectacular, but wet.  I thought some of the best riding on the island was in the east Rift Valley, between Hualien and Taitung.  You could really have a great small tour just biking between Hualien to Taitung and back, following the East Rift Valley one way and the coast the other.

On the west side the coastline is much drier but all quite built up, but you really don’t have to get too far from the coast before things get pretty green and wild.

A couple things to be aware of, if you haven’t seen this already.  First, there’s a stretch of the coast on the east side that is pretty much unbikeable, between Su’ao and Xincheng (north of Hualien), because of the narrow, shoulderless tunnels.

Also, there are three ‘cross island highways’ that cross the island east to west, across the mountains - highways 7, 8 and 9.  7 looks like a great ride if you have the legs, dropping into the incredible Taroko Gorge.  I think though that 8 is not really rideable, although Mr Finch of course will have better information.  I think the road has been permanently closely due to landslides.

Reply    Link    Flag
2 months ago
Graham SmithTo Scott Anderson

Scott my best intentions of ‘not planning’ are thwarted by your kind sharing of hard earned knowledge about cycle touring in Taiwan. Suddenly I find I am planning.:) 

Taroko Gorge is definitely in ‘the plan not to plan’. Graham F rates it is as a must-see, and you are also sound impressed.

‘Pup Tent’ Taiwan topography is now etched into my geographic memory bank. Tomorrow I will check the low gear on the bikes is low enough.

Thanks again Scott.   Very helpful tips.

Reply    Link    Flag
2 months ago
Graham SmithTo John Saxby

John, as you have revealed,  there’s definitely  a people factor in solving derailleur gremlins. For this forthcoming Taiwan tour, we’ve bought two second-hand, 20” wheeled folding bikes, and my good friend, cycling mate and bike mechanic Alex has refurbished both of these 2nd hand bikes. 

Alex somehow solved a gear problem in one of the folding bikes by matching a 10 speed indexed shifter to a 9 speed cassette. This solution wasn’t in a text book or online, but he worked it out. Alex is also a Rohloff fan.
His favourite personal bikes are Rohloff equipped, but he’s also a magic man at fixing non Rohloff gears. 

Reply    Link    Flag
2 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Graham Smith

He’s right, of course - Taroko is unmissable.  I’m sure it must be incredible to come in from the top and drop down, although we didn’t - the distances are pretty long between hotels and with a lot of climbing coming in from the Taipei side, and we weren’t confident about just dropping in to a remote hotel when we planned our first trip.   Instead, we biked across to the east side, caught the train down past the tunnels to Xincheng, and then biked up into the gorge from there.  We booked a room in the gorge and stayed overnight, so we were able to get far enough in to get a good look at it.

Reply    Link    Flag
2 months ago