Get high on two wheels

Get high on two wheels

"Shut up, legs," I muttered as yet another steep incline on Yangmingshan National Park showed itself. Poor anguished quads.

It was the first leg of the cycling expedition, and we were barely halfway to the top of Yangmingshan.

The plan over the next three days, was to cycle from Wanli district to Keelung, board the Superstar Aquarius cruise ship to Ishigaki Island, then ride from Ishigaki port to the beaches of Kabirawan Bay. Total mileage: 105km.

Fortunately, it was just the itinerary that looked intimidating. The programme allowed everyone to ride at his or her own pace. Ultimately, that made 105km achievable - even for leisure cyclists.

For a first timer, attempting a long distance overseas ride, a trip like that teaches you a few things.

Lesson 1: Cycling and food make the best social glue

Strangers though we were at the start, the shared experience of cycling bonded us.

That camaraderie truly made riding more enjoyable. Every so often during the ride - up Yangmingshan, from Wanli to Keelung, Ishigaki port to Kabirawan - there was always someone who would ask: "Hey, are you all right?"

The seasoned cyclists in the group would volunteer tips on seat height, gear combination, cycling techniques. Words of encouragement from another cyclist are priceless on that uphill climb.

The sumptuous Taiwanese food made for good social glue, too. It's hard not to be friendly and filled with good cheer when you are served the freshest seafood near every meal: sashimi, steamed fish, steamed tiger prawns and shellfish.

Lesson 2: No shame in stopping - remember to signal

I stopped many times on the way up Yangmingshan, but it wasn't a bad thing.

I snapped pictures, fully appreciated how fresh the air was and how beautiful the landscape was, that's something that's a little tough to do.

Enjoying the view was easier with the Ishigaki Island ride which had fewer inclines. Plus, we were also blessed with sunshine and sea breeze, en route to Kabiwaran.

Lesson 3: Downhill is sweet - just stay alert

While the Yangmingshan ride - 20km uphill with 800m elevation - was the toughest, going downhill was simply sweet. Glee best describes how we felt.

The wind in your face, the relief in your thighs and the thrill of speeding - we felt like conquerors after the two-hour ascent.

"Going downhill, damn shiok, right?" yelled Andrew, one of the cyclists in the group, as he passed me on the way down.

It was - until I took a tumble at a steep turn.

As I learnt from the more seasoned riders later, there's technique involved in riding downhill.

That entails keeping your weight on the outside pedal, butt off the seat post, feathering your brakes - and don't go too fast.

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