SLOW LIFE IN HIGH GEAR

Taiwan’s fervent cycling culture has helped to craft the island’s 21st- century image of healthy, green living. We explore the story behind the sport’s rise and the vistas that await riders台灣盛行的單車文化加強了寶島在本世紀的健康綠生、 色 活形象。我們前往索探掀起單車風潮的緣由,以及靜待單車客發掘的醉人美景

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How Taiwan’s cycling culture has crafted its image of healthy, green living

慢活與御風而行

台灣的單車文化突顯健康、綠色生活的形象

IN THE REMOTE mountains of southern Taiwan, those tackling Cycling Route 1 experience something between exhilaration and expiration as they approach the Shouka summit. Having just passed tiny communities huddled in the foothills near the coast, cyclists subject themselves to a calf-tightening test as acute hairpin bends lead uphill into the forested hillside.

Route 1 is a 970-kilometre trail that circumnavigates the entire island of Taiwan. And the Shouka summit is one of the highest points on the route, reaching 500 metres. It’s no cinch for even the fittest of athletes, but for amateurs who flock to Taiwan to sample one of Asia’s premier long- distance biking challenges, the climb is an ordeal, with the loneliness known only too well to longdistance cyclists.

Except, if you are pedalling in Taiwan, you are rarely truly alone, given its status as one of the most bicycle- orientated places on the planet. Indeed, the island has become almost as famous for its cycling culture as for its night market cuisine and National Palace Museum, which houses the world’s finest hoard of Chinese imperial treasures.

It was a businessman named King Liu who started the cycling movement. The founder of Giant, a home- grown bicycle manufacturer that is now the largest in the world, Liu helped to foment an islandwide passion for pedal-powered travel.

‘Cycling makes people healthy and joyous,’ says Liu. ‘ Therefore, it makes me proud that Giant has such a powerful global brand and that Taiwan has become such a popular destination for international cyclists.’

Nowadays, Taiwan’s status as the region’s most bike-friendly place is beyond dispute. In the capital, Taipei, authorities have legalised cycling on 500 kilometres of city centre pavement. A bike sharing system, YouBike, spearheaded by Giant in cooperation with Taipei city government, has been rolled out in other hubs around Taiwan. And outside the big cities, an extensive network of cycle routes totalling over 4,500 kilometres makes skin-tight spandex and hi-vis bike gear as ubiquitous as dumpling shops and 7- Eleven stores.

Nevertheless, it took some time for Taiwan’s emergence as a paradise for cyclists to move through the gears. Wheels were initially set in motion in the 1980s with the rise of Giant. An abundance of affordable bikes put bums on saddles during a period when the country’s economic growth saw it evolve from a

來到台灣南部的偏遠山嶺,單車客正在征服環島一號線。壽攻的在 卡 頂 一刻,眾人雖累得氣喘吁吁,卻按捺不住興奮

的心情。他們挑戰腿部肌肉的極限,沿著蜿蜒的上斜路段,途經臨海山麓的小部落,向鬱鬱蔥蔥的山坡進發。

環島一號線全長970公里,環台是 繞灣主島的單車徑路線,而高500米的壽卡頂峰則是路線其中一個最高點。即使是身體素質 頂尖的運動員,攻頂亦殊不容易,然而對於一窩蜂來到台灣,挑亞戰洲長途單車之旅的餘業 人士而言,登山簡直就是煎熬的磨難,還得承受無盡的孤獨感。

不過,在台灣騎單車其實不會真正感到孤獨,因為這裡是全球其中一個單車普率及 最高的地區。事實上,台灣單車文化的知名度,幾乎可媲美當地的夜市美食,以及展出不少全球最珍貴中國宮廷瑰寶的立國 故宮博物。院

帶動台灣單車運動風潮的人非劉金標莫屬。他創辦的本土單車品牌「捷安特」,隸屬於巨大集團旗下,現已躍升為全球最大的單車製造廠,而他更一手推動了台灣的單車旅行熱潮。

他表示︰「騎單車使人健康快樂。因此當『捷安特』成為影響力如此深遠的際國 品牌,而台灣又成為全球單車客嚮往的熱門地點時,都令我引以為榮。」

台灣現時無疑是亞洲區內最適合騎單車的地區。首都台市北 政府已在市區開闢全長達500公里可供單車合法駛行

work-all-hours culture to one with a greater emphasis on health and leisure.

By the 1990s, Taiwan’s reputation for its bicycles was growing because it was pumping out billions of dollars worth of bikes for export. At that stage, cycling on the island was still mainly the preserve of school kids, eccentric hobbyists and elderly men piloting squeaky one-speeds.

The decisive shift in Taiwan’s relationship with cycling – from consumer product to lifestyle choice – came just over a decade ago. First there was the 2006 movie Island Etude, which follows the adventures of a hearing-impaired college student as he sets off on a cycling trip around the island. Its vivid portrayal of Taiwan’s rich culture and incredible scenery struck a chord with its native audience, prompting them to take to two wheels and embark on their own island odyssey.

Even more significant was Liu’s own round-island tour, which he undertook in 2007 at the ripe old age of 72. The 15- day ride has become the stuff of folklore in Taiwan, turning the business executive – who was not previously a cyclist – into one of Taiwan’s most vocal proponents of the cycling lifestyle.

‘ The movie and King Liu’s ride around the island helped embed the notion of the huandao (island circuit) as a rite of passage in the Taiwanese psyche,’ says Simon

Foster of Grasshopper Adventures, which specialises in bespoke biking itineraries on the island’s rugged, mountainous eastern side. ‘Spectacular coastal and mountain scenery, well-maintained but little-used rural roads, extensive investment in cycling infrastructure, and the fact that the island is the world’s biggest bike manufacturer have created the perfect conditions for Taiwan to achieve its goal of becoming Asia’s cycling kingdom.’

It’s not just local riders who have come to appreciate Taiwan as a biking destination. Cyclists who travel to Taiwan to tackle the round-island circuit and the many other routes do so for the incredible food, like-minded people and scenic sites such as the marble-walled Taroko Gorge, the 3,952-metre-high Yushan mountain and serene Sun Moon Lake.

And there are the smaller pleasures: the long rushes downhill that mitigate the teeth-clenching climbs; the clink of cold bottles of Taiwan Beer as they touch down on the table at the end of another long day.

All good things must reach a conclusion, and such is the case with the round-island route. In fact, as cyclists twist and climb up the Beiyi Highway between Yilan and Taipei – a road notorious for its hairpin bends – many contemplate hitching a lift and vow never to mount a bike again.

After one last uphill grind from the teagrowing town of Pingling, the homeward stretch awaits – a long glide down the mountain and back to the bright lights of the big city. The aches and pains will come later, but full circle in Taiwan feels so good.

的道路。至於「捷安特」牽頭與台北市政府合辦的共享單車計劃「YouBike微笑單車」,亦已於台灣其他縣推市 出。大城市以外也設有總長逾4,500公里的單車徑網絡,造就了售賣運動緊身褲和反光單車裝備的店舖如雨後春筍,餃與 子店和便利店一樣隨處可見。

不過,台灣演成變 單車客堂天 並非一朝一夕的事情。隨著「捷安特」於上世紀80年代崛起,單車開在始 台灣普及。當時市場推量出大 平價,單車 社會文化亦因經濟,增長 從拼命工作變更成 注重健康和休生閒活促,更使 多民眾騎單車。

到了90年代,台灣的單車出口總值已達到數以十億美元計,單車天堂的美譽不脛而走。但當時的單車主要仍然是學童、少數單車愛好者及老人家的代步 工具,騎的還是吱吱作響的單速車。

大十約 多年前,單車在台灣的角色有了重大轉變,從消費品演變成一生種活型態的選擇。首先是一部於2006年上映的電影《練習曲》,劇情描述一位聽障大學生騎單車環島的經歷。電影鮮明地呈現台灣豐富的文化和令人讚嘆的自然風光,深深觸動了台灣觀眾,驅使他們騎單車展開自己的環島歷險。

而劉金標在2007年以歲72 高齡單騎環島的壯舉,更在社會引起巨大迴響。他這趟15天旅程儼然成為台灣的民間傳奇,亦令這位原先不是單車客集的 團董事長,搖身變成台灣其中一位倡少單車生活的代表人物。

Grasshopper Adventures旅社門行專為客遊 設計台東單車行程,領帶 他們挑戰崎嶇不平的多地山 勢。任職這間行旅社的Simon Foster表示:「這部電影和劉金標的壯舉,在台灣人心坎埋下了環島夢種的 子,現在不少人將環島單車之旅視作成年禮。壯觀秀麗的山水風光、交通流量稀疏但狀況良好的郊區道路、大規模投資建設的單車基建,以及擁有全 球最大的單車生產商,足證台灣已具備成為亞洲單車王國絕的 佳條。件 」

現在不僅當地的單車客視台灣為騎單車勝地,許多單車客專前亦 誠 來台灣,挑戰環島單車徑及其他路線,同時為地當 美、食 志趣相投的單車客,以及太魯閣的大理石峽谷、海拔3,952米的玉山和清幽的日月潭等而景點 來。

當然,單車環島遊還蘊藏了無數小確幸︰咬緊牙關踩踏板上斜坡後,衝下山的快感,以及完成一天辛苦行程之後,大家一屁坐股 到桌邊,用冰凍的台灣啤酒瓶互碰的清脆聲響結漫來 束 長的一天。

天下無不散之筳席,環島路線亦不例外。事實上,當不少單車客沿銜接宜蘭和台北的北宜公路(以急彎而聞名)蜿蜒而上時,腦海都曾閃過搭便車的念頭,並發誓再也不騎單車了。

征服了茶鄉坪林最後段一 上坡路,終點已近在前我眼 , 們騎車滑下長斜坡,回到萬家燈火的大城市。酸痛不久自會找上門,但此刻一圓環台夢的感覺的確無與倫比。

台灣 的單 車文 化可 說是 由「 捷安 特」 創辦人帶動 TAIW AN LARG FOUN ELY DEROF OWES ITS BICYC CYCL LE MAN ING UFAC CULT TURE URETO R GIAN THE T

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