It took a while longer to finally talk about this adventure. Okay, so it’s not just a while but a goddamn while. The bike ride happened last November…or was it October? The fact that I couldn’t recall exactly when says a lot.
I think the reason why it was unusually hard for me to post this was because the adventure didn’t turn out as expected. If you’ve been reading me (coz you’re bored? haha) for a while now, you’d know that I post my adventures soon as I get them done. That’s partly because I want to write them fresh from memory, with feelings. Hehe. But this time, the feelings weren’t exactly as ecstatic as my previous ones.
It was approximately 70 kilometers, done in around 7 hours…and it took me about 7 days to recover afterwards. Yup, feel free to whisper “weak.” When I got home, the familiar rush of adrenaline was there. I could feel endorphins lighting up my being. But the following day, boundless energy slowly turned into creeping exhaustion.
I think by the 2nd day, my body gave up pretending it’s fine and I took a sick leave from work. I didn’t have fever, but my body pain ached as if it’s got bad flu. I just wanted to curl up in bed for 24 hours straight, if only my head would not throb from hunger and my body screamed for a hot bath. The only thing that didn’t change that week was my appetite, hehe.
But my body wanted to lash out at me for biking 70 freaking kilometers. I remember staring blankly at some movie playing on TV, while stuffing my mouth with Ruffles.
And my butt. Where do we even start with that hell. The pain made butt tasks a punishment. I was almost certain it’s bruised. It’s like I hazed myself. Whatdaef.
To repeat or not to repeat
The answer is…YES. Yup, as crazy as the whole experience was, I still want to challenge myself to go further. I want to reach a 100 kilometers of biking, but perhaps staying overnight (out of Taipei) would be an added arsenal to my survival kit.
Honestly, after all the preparations I made, I still missed a few important ones. And those things made me realize that I kinda miscalculated this tour despite being more prepared this time than the first time I tried it. I think the first time was more successful mostly because adrenaline rush was 100% on my side.
Lessons from this bike tour
1. Train yourself a week before the ride.– I overestimated my capacity on the saddle. I thought I could last for 8 hours straight just because I did it before. Not just once, but a couple of times. But I realized that in those moments, adrenaline fueled me because the paths were something I discovered for the first time. This Taipei-Taoyuan path isn’t exactly new to me. The only way I could complete it successfully this time, with as little injury as possible, was if I trained for it a couple of weeks before. Unfortunately, the most I actually did was try to reach half of the tour a day before and, well, bike when I could the week before. Those just weren’t enough.
Based from experience, I need a week to retrain my body back on the saddle. Then it would take another week to get back into that biking groove. I call it a groove because it becomes part of my life that I automatically do it every other day.
It’s never easy to bike great distances without training. The training should also be in increasing difficulty, starting from an hour then more, to help your body adjust to the speed and distance you can cover within the amount of time you can comfortably bike.
2. Time is the most important consideration when biking. – Experience taught me that the key to enjoying biking is to know how long you can do it. It gets trickier if you are planning a round-trip tour. Distance is nice, but in reality, it’s time that tells you how much your body can take. In my case, I can go for 8 hours max on the road before I’m sure my body would have to stop. And once it does, it’s gonna rest for a very long time. Like 8-10 hours kinda long time.
Speaking of rest and hours, it is a must to pace yourself and keep track of your body every fifteen minutes on the saddle. In my case, I make quick 5-minute stops every 30 minutes to drink some water and stretch. If I feel like my energy’s dropping a bit or my stomach grumbles from the ride, I eat some. If I am going to a new path for the first time, I give myself a maximum of 2 hours to see how far I can go with the ride. 2 hours is the average time I can comfortably ride on my saddle, with quick 5-minute breaks every 30 minutes. Sometimes, I forego a 5-minute break if I feel that my body’s still pretty much fueled to cover some distance.
3. What you take in matters. – Eating and drinking are crucial parts of a ride. The night before a ride, I allow myself to have a heavy meal. On the day of the ride, I eat a light snack before getting on the saddle. By light I mean just some ham-and-cheese sandwich with a cup of black coffee—no cream, no sugar. I also eat a banana, if I can, before the ride.
During ride breaks, I munch on salted crackers or eat a banana. My snack pack for a ride consists of: 2 pieces of salt crackers, 3 pieces of banana, a pack of nuts, a sandwich. I don’t need to eat all these. I keep them as my food options if I get hungry on the road. Eat too much carbs and you risk getting too sleepy or bloated while biking.
As for hydration, I learned through this ride that energy drinks suck—literally and figuratively. I made the mistake of buying some ion water and it didn’t quench my thirst nor boost my energy. I ended up drinking more of it and getting some light headache towards the end of my ride. When I finally switched back to water, I got the rehydration and energy boost I so needed. Keep in mind though, drink water it in sips and don’t gulp it at one go.
And of course, I learned that taking in as much scenic appreciation as I can also does wonders to my mental strength. It’s actually one of the main reasons why I love biking in Taiwan. I don’t think I’ll find what I see here elsewhere. I let myself marvel at the scenes and slow down to enjoy what’s there in front of me.
4. Start on high gear then lower it down later. – Shifting gears is an important skill to learn if you really want to bike. It’s the reason why I also don’t really see myself owning a fixie. I think it also creates a sense of discipline because gears do not just help me finish my intended route but also help me care for my knees and calves. The last thing you want to have during a ride are painful traitorous cramps.
In this ride, I was careful to pace myself accordingly. This meant that I started out in the third gear and let bikers pass by without taking it against my biking ego. Haha. A few minutes later, as I feel my legs get used to the rhythm and seem to want more resistance, I moved on to the 4th then pace…then finally, steadied myself on the 5th on a flat surface. At some point, I would feel the need to kick it up another notch so I would move on up to 6th gear.
To help my legs prevent serious cramping, I also switch between the big and small chainrings, opposite their respective gears, to switch between using the front and back muscles on my calves. I also made it a point to switch to the 3rd gear again, regardless if I’m already on the 7th, if I need to go uphill. This way, I can successfully climb up without straining my calves.
Biking is a sport that I love because, for me, the benefits are holistic. It brings me happiness because of the adventures and the new sights I see. At the same time, it motivates me to eat right because I want to keep myself as light and comfortable as possible to do more long distance rides. Despite the weeklong recovery period that I had to endure, I think the lessons learned still make the experience more worth it than ever. Also, I observed that I biked more responsibly in this route. I took note of the time, made a mental note of how much I ate and drank, did more stretches along the way, and most of all, remembered to smile when passing by fellow bikers.
It’s just unfortunate that I never completed this Taoyuan route by reaching the Old Town. Why? Because I thought this sign warned of snakes ahead.
But as it turns out, when I showed this sign to a colleague, she said it’s just telling me to be careful of the winding road ahead.
Next time, I think, I better train for more courage as well. 😛