Category Archives: Bicycles

I Get Interesting Gigs (Follow Alana)

Follow AlanaI get interesting gigs here in Taiwan, and since I already can tell this is going to be a series I’ve decided to go with the format “I Get Interesting Gigs” (Name of Gig in ellipses, in this case Follow Alana). I can already tell the little SEO / Readability widget is going to bitch about this. Fine. Every time I look at that damned thing, Henry Miller’s ghost dies a little more.   But read on if you like. Or skip right down to the videos, if you’re more visually inclined.

A few months back I got an email through my day job at MyTaiwanTour from a production company here in Taiwan that does a TV program called Follow Alana.

The long and short of it was that they wanted me to act as on-camera tour guide to the host, a beautiful and charming young woman called Alana who’s made a name for herself here in Taiwan doing a travel program despite the fact that Alana, who is technically speaking Taiwanese, can neither speak nor understand Chinese.

There are sound medical reasons for Alana’s uniquw state of being, and clicking here will open up a new browser window for the story I did about her for Taiwan Scene Magazine (the aforementioned day job) that’ll explain everything.

Suffice to say, she’s an interesting person.

I was initially too busy to do take the gig, so there wound up being a lot of back and forth. One of the things Alana’s production company was interested in using me for (besides I assume my good looks) was my expertise in Taiwan as a writer and my experience cycling around the island. There was some back and forth through email. I threw out a few ideas, they through out a few ideas, and in the end they decided me that they wanted to use me for their show in which Alana goes to Hsinchu. This turned out to kind of make sense, because while Hsinchu isn’t exactly the first place that comes to mind when I think of Bicycling in Taiwan, It was one of the first places in Taiwan where I lived for any length of time, so even though this was way back in the 1990’s, I can make the claim to know the place.

So after some more back and forth and trying to align schedules, we set a date to head down to Hsinchu to film the show for a Saturday in March. The day turned out to be unusually chilly for spring in Taiwan, chilly enough to warrant both of us dressing for the weather. Alana wearing a puffy sort of ski jacket, and me being the apparently excellent boyfriend I am, wearing my girlfriend’s hand-knit woolen pink hat with pigtail tassels, along with a long-sleeve black shirt and purple sweatshirt vest.

As we got closer to Hsinchu, the weather turned uglier, and by the time we arrived there a cold rain was falling. The director made the call to film the segment out of sequence.

Whereas in the episode we ride around exploring coastal Hsinchu before stopping off after lunch at a factory making traditional rice noodles for an impromptu cooking lesson, in reality we did the noodle part first.

Josambro and Alana View the Noodles

Viewing the Noodles

A good time was had by all, everything came out fine, and I learned that making rice noodles from scratch was way more complicated an endeavor than you might imagine.

But when we finished the noodle segment, even though it was still early afternoon, the weather was still pretty foul. Filming the cycling sequence just wasn’t going to happen that day. The production team asked me if I was willing to come back to do it later in the week, and being already committed, I said sure.

A few days later I got a text saying that the shoot had been rescheduled for Wednesday, and that it was vitally important that I wear exactly the same clothing as I’d worn on Saturday.

This is where it gets interesting, because on Wednesday morning  I left my Taipei apartment wearing the same sweatshirt and ski hat combination under full tropical sunshine at like 7:30 AM. By the time we got to Hsinchu, it was somewhere in the neighborhood of eighty degrees Fahrenheit.

Follow Alana Josambro

I met up with Alana on the coast, where we would start off by picking up a few bicycles for basically a half-day of cycling along the ocean. It was definitely no longer puffy ski-type jacket and woolen hat weather, yet to maintain appearances, we had no choice but to shoot all of our scenes that day wearing the same clothes we’d worn inside the noodle factory.

Josambro cycling with Alana

Cycling in the shade with Alana

We wound up cycling under the hot sun in ski wear into the early afternoon, when we switched to kite flying. (I’d brought my own kite, about which I am extremely proud.)

Shooting a travel segment isn’t exactly what you might imagine; it isn’t like we were just doing our own thing while being filmed. There was a whole lot of “Ride up that hill again, but this time tell Alana about the Mangroves” and “Let’s try riding that road again, only this time you need to be on Alana’s right side so we get a better shot.

For Alana (a stone-cold professional) it was just another day at the office.  For me, not so much. Every time we stopped to get new directions, I took off the knit hat and unzipped the sweatshirt. The production crew were pretty cool about it.

A few days ago I got two files from the production company, the first a promo that’s currently running on Taiwan TV for the segment:

And the second a four-minute clip they cut together for me:

The full show will be on YouTube at some point, and I’ll post a link.

Taiwan: from Bike Kingdom to Cyclist’s Paradise

One of two articles generated from my recent Taiwan trip, sponsored by the Taiwan Trade Association.  Story begins here, click link to follow on to Topics Magazine, wherein lies the original in its digital glory (with photos):

Taiwan: from Bike Kingdom to Cyclist’s Paradise

“Ni Fengle!” (You’re crazy!)

I remember fondly those words, spoken by my Taiwanese landlady Ms. Yeh on hearing my plan to cycle to Taipei from our shared home in Shuangshi, a small town on the outskirts of the Hsinchu Science Park. She’d never seen a man clad head to toe in skin-tight spandex and apparently found my costume shocking.  But Ms. Yeh was not alone in thinking me mad. Ours was a small town, and as the strange foreign transplant I was often Shuangshi’s unofficial source of entertainment. Before I’d gotten past the betel nut stand marking the town’s edge, several neighbors had come out to wish me well on my journey, with more than a few casually dropping a derogatory comment about the helmet.

It was Spring 1995, and while Taiwan was being called The Bicycle Kingdom…

(continue reading here)

48 Hours Around Taiwan – Travel Journalism By Bicycle

Cycling in Taiwan

Taken somewhere on the road from our 2015 Taiwan cycling tour.

48 Hours Around Formosa – Travel Journalism by Bicycle


My most recent travel journalism article – with many excellent photos -just came out in Road Bike Action Magazine.

It began with a countdown: San…er…yi…

And with an air horn’s blast they were off, 186 cyclists determined to test the upper limits of their endurance by riding close to 1000 kilometers in 48 near sleepless hours. They came from both sides of the Taiwan Straits, with a couple of European riders thrown in for good measure. If pre-race chatter was anything to go by, there was little in the way of cross-strait tension in the air. Whether from Beijing or Taipei, Shanghai or Kaohsiung, each knew they’d be facing the common enemies of pain, cramping and sheer exhaustion as they attempted to ride the perimeter of Taiwan. What would differ from rider to rider would be their own inner voices. Whether it told them jia you! (keep going!) more often than ...bu neng! (…cannot!) would make all the difference.

(Continue reading at Road Bike Action)

 

Two in the morning…

   …on tour bus with a number of the cyclists who have dropped out of the 48 hour marathon ride around  Taiwan. Like them, I am pretty much beyond exhaustion at this point, having woken up this morning jetlagged at 3 AM, and been on the move all day following this marathon 48 endurance slog, 980 km of fun.   Very few photos that are uploadable from my phone, as I have largely been focused on shooting high resolution photos for a possible photo essay for outside.com. An interesting combination of lenses, angles and camera settings, and hopefully some good timing will make some of the photos good enough to show.

 In the meantime, some numbers of interest:
Number of cyclists starting the ride 14 hours and roughly 400 km ago: approximately 200 (have been unable to get a verified account from race organizers who are busy with other things at this point).

 Number of cyclists checked in at first meal break at Zhunan, 3.5 hours and 119 km after start: 89. (for this reason I am dubious about the first number, and less there were just a bunch of people who signed up just to ride the first hundred or so kilometers.)

Number of cyclists still competing at Mailiao rest stop, 140 km and 4 hours later: 49.

Number of cyclists leaving the checkpoint following the 30 minute break in Tainan, 110 km and 4 hours later: 36.

The number for cyclists I just got from the tour organizers. Time and distance is from the route guide, and may not be 100% accurate as I am far past the point of being able to do simple math, with or without a calculator. 

 

48-hour Taiwan Cycle Marathon – Taiwan Journalism

Cycling in Taiwan

Co-leading a tour around Taiwan with Bicycle Adventures, October 2015.. This shot taken in the Rift Valley.

48-hour Taiwan Cycle Marathon – Taiwan Journalism


The Taiwan Cycling Marathon is a tenacious 1000 kilometer slog around the perimeter of the leaf-shaped subtropical island. The race draws 150 of the crème de la crème of the Asian cycling scene to Taiwan each year.



I had to be aggressive from the start, literally leaping over my seatmate on flight 31 from Vancouver. We’d both spotted the empty row of seats to the right at about the same time, but I’d been slightly quicker. She was from Shanghai, and I needed to stretch out and sleep more than she did. I needed to bank the rest desperately for the race, 48 hours around Taiwan.

The race was a marathon, the second year it was to run, bringing 150 of the crème de la crème of the Asian cycling scene for a tenacious 1000 kilometer slog around the perimeter of the leaf-shaped subtropical island, and, having scored a place on a team’s support vehicle I was committed, specifically to somehow being as close to several places simultaneously as possible. Yes, the Taiwan Trade Association had invited me, sprung for a fine hotel close to the convention center with a generous meal stipend in exchange for which I’d be writing up the show itself, four days of the finest, latest and shiniest in the bicycle kingdom.

But there was the matter of the race itself, which was, as these things go, connected with the show in the ethereal way that connections often exist in Taiwan. The race would start at the Cycle show mid-way through the first day before taking off in a sprint to circle the island. And somehow I’d be following it, while at the same time maintaining something of a presence at the show itself, or at least showing up with enough energy 48 hours later, which would be midway through the third day of a four day event, to cover the final day and a half of the event.

So the reader can understand why I jumped with great aggression at the chance for a halfway normal night’s sleep on the plane, risking the stigma of rudeness to do so.

After a brief rest and brilliant breakfast at the Proverbs Hotel in Taipei, I headed out to Nangang to start work, attending the opening ceremony for the show. In the midst of listening to a presentation, leather-clad arms grabbed me from behind. It was Vicki, with whom I worked last year, and who was now expecting me to ride shotgun for the increasingly detrimental to my sanity 48-hour race around the island. She pulled me away from the main convention over to the north entrance, where some riders had already gathered for the pre-race laying out of rules, about which I’ll write with greater clarity when I’m back from the race, which kicks off in 3 hours.

Off to the convention center for a few hours of business journalism before being sucked southward in a whirlwind of extreme marathon sports journalism, followed by what promises to be an extremely disheveled return to the Taipei Cycling Show for another day and a half of business journalism. I should have been born twins. Follow this spot. Tell your friends.

Hengchaun Wall Taiwan

On the wall in Hengchuan

 

 

 

 

Image

Taiwan Bike Chain

I just like this image…heading out in T-5 hours!

Once more into the breach!

Packing, mostly clothes and granola bars. Seriously, is there any need to pack a raincoat when every 7-11 in the country sells ’em for a buck? Weather looks fine, and there’s always an umbrella around.

Heading to the Taipei International Cycle Show with what promises to be a manic 48-hours mid show to cover the 48-hour race around Taiwan.

Do I have enough Cliff bars? My buddy Simon will be racing, and I’ve promised to bring a bunch of chocolate sea-salt & nut bars from America.

How many pairs of underwear do I need? Why must I chronically overpack?

Check this spot for coverage; if you can’t wait, check out some of my reportage from the 2012 show here.

Aside

Packing and otherwise getting stuff together in preparation for my upcoming trip to the 2016 Taipei Cycle Expo, once again a guest of the very gracious folks at the Taiwan Trade Association (TAITRA for short). Need to head out to … Continue reading