(Not really) riding Taipei

I recently decided to pay a visit to Taipei. To start with, I’d spoken with my friend Jeff (of Factory Five). He has a habit of asking me to join him in whatever travels he may be undertaking. There’s always a rationale along with it, in this case the visit coincided with the Taipei Cycle Show, a bicycling exhibition I’d yet to visit. The other motivation was simpler: Taipei, and Taiwan in general, is an awesome place to visit with many a good friend to spend time with.

In preparation for the trip, I discovered it would be raining. In a last-minute change of plans, I scrapped the idea of taking my bike along in lieu of borrowing a buddy’s. The forecast was accurate, meaning it rained most of the time, so there ended up being very little riding. Oh well, there’s always next time. Needless to say, it was still worth it.

I managed to squeeze in one, brief afternoon of riding. After a soggy first couple days, myself, one of my oldest fixie friends, Jeremy, and my newest fixie friend, Tai, hatched a plan. The best laid plans of mice and men. Frequent coffee stops and the slow-mo pace of holiday travelers meant a later-than-usual start.

Tai and I met up mid-afternoon to collect the bikes we would be borrowing. Both bikes belonged, coincidentally, to a mutual friend of ours. Even more coincidentally, both bikes had also been built by myself and Tai. It’s a small world, when two fledgling bike builders happen to sell a custom bike to the same dude.

The bike Tai had built for our friend was obviously a nicer machine than the one I’d built. A lugged single speed frame with stainless steel couplers, the frame had that enduring quality, and featured all the trimmings of a bike intended for regular use. To top it off, it had a clean Peptobismol pink paint job. Tai being from Australia, and the bike glowing with both sass and class, my mind put two-and-two together and I faithfully dubbed her: Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

Acting like dummies with no clue what we were doing, we set into getting the bike sorted out for riding. We needed a 15mm cone wrench to get at the pedals on Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, so we headed over to the nearby bike boutique, Nabiis. This was the first waylay. The shop’s got some good eye candy and the wrench was fun to chat with. We had time to kill (not really).

Once Jeremy showed up, we took on the next part of the plan: To actually go for a ride. Before doing so, though, we needed to get our munch on so we popped by the neighborhood Family Mart. For those of you who haven’t traveled in Taiwan, the country is saturated with convenience stores like Family Mart and 7-11. Based on the Japanese model of offering killer food, snacks, drinks and ice cream, they are the go-to, cheap-eats spot.

Bellies satisfied, we finally got going, nearly. We stopped to tweak bikes. We stopped to make sure we knew where we were going, then got wholly sucked into rush hour traffic. Our original aim to take on a climb in the hills north of town was slipping out of our reach. As we crept toward the outer edge of Taipei, we settled into cruising a length of trail the ran along a river, separating us from our original destination.

Having walked around most of the week, to get the legs spinning at all was nice. The day’s shop visit had been fun, too. It’s always nice getting a feel for what a bike community is like in a city (this would be cemented later, with another visit to Kendo, another small-batch bike builder in Taipei).

Riding through the dark and back towards city center to meet with friends, I realized I couldn’t ask for much more. Any riding is better than none at all.

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