The Taiwan Bicycle
Manufacturing Industry Review

The Bust after the Cycling Boom – Where Utility Intersects With “Lycra Chic”

Glenn Reeves

Yes, lycra “chic”. Read on . . .

Today’s post goes well with two others that have just appeared on bicycle culture. The first is Andrew’s reflections on the Tour de Fat, and Amsterdamize’s thoughts on cycling stereotypes. Marc points to the variation in bicycles and cycling styles in the Netherlands just in case outside observers have the idea that everything is quite uniform. As in everything, variability is the rule.

After two weeks that have seen periods of quite heavy rain, this past weekend was shaping up to be great for cycling. Due to the summer heat, Taiwan cycling takes place either early in the morning, or throughout the evening. (It fades away during the winter “cold”). You’ll often find large groups cycling through the city and a little beyond its outskirts during these periods of the day.

Saturday morning, however, was a surprise. Hardly anyone was out and about apart from a few of the habitual road ‘warriors’‘ who always take the opportunity no matter what (almost…typhoons excepted), and venture much further afield. There was probably less than one dozen cyclists heading up to Taichung’s Da Keng scenic area camping ground, one of the most popular cycling routes-10km from the city center, involving a moderate climb. What a change from last year, when every weekend would see hordes of cyclists literally clogging the roads on the way to the top.

bicycle frames, bicycle design
View to the South halfway up the Da Keng climb

But, come Sunday, what a reverse. It was last summer all over again. The 7-11 located at the gateway to the scenic area on Tai Yuan Rd. was a parking lot for all manner of cyclists, occasional or habitual, whichever the case may be, although I suspect the majority would have “occasional”.

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Parking lot on 7-11's north side

Thinking of general classifications, this is all about recreational cycling, with some crossover to utility cycling. And we are mainly talking lycra, which in this context is all about being fashionable. “Lycra” fashionable you say??

bicycle frames, bicycle components
"I think I need a road bike . . ."

Yes indeed. Pearl Izumi is popular.

folding bicycle

Dressed up against the sun with a KHS folding bike that will do for short commutes around town as well as the occasional weekend trip up the “hill”.

bicycle components

Ready to tackle the hill.

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And if 7-11 cuisine is not for you, there is the traditional breakfast stand right next door.

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Waiting for friends . . . ah, there they are, behind you Sir!–a gentleman on one of Giant’s recent releases.

But not to be outdone: one of the meanest machines in the parking lot.

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Maximus Meanus Machinus

Now having done the climb and passed through some lovely countryside on the way. . .

It speaks for itself

. . . you arrive at the top. There are often tour buses parking here during the day, but not this early, fortunately.

With this (inconsistent) return to cycling boom-time volumes, the road-side cycling stall is even here. Just the one though. Last year there were two.

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And if you don’t happen to have GPS, no problem:

Returning to the city, not far away from Da Keng’s relative serenity  is an urban motor vehicle-based commuter culture. . .

. . . carving a path through the city–Taichung’s Eastern by-pass.

But this urban cultural scene is also heavily bicycle dependent. Utility cycling is an essential part of this city’s cultural landscape adding to its variation, as a reflection of its internal variation.

Recycling collection on bicycle

Recycling by bicycle is an endless activity. “Where the &$%*% did I drop that…”, says the man using particularly crude Taiwanese.

And when you really look around, there are some charming get-around-town rigs located just everywhere, many aging gracefully. This one is both chained and U-locked–it is very close to someone’s heart!

More popular with the younger people is the very common store-bought low end commuter. These do the job. Normally these are found parked in groups. I suspect the owner is not too far away.

But when it comes to a strong commuting bicycle culture, Taipei really takes the cake. In some parts of town, bicycles are the only way to get around.

MRT station bike parking racks
It's about getting the job done

Negotiating large intersections all in a day’s work.

All I think I can say about the fizzling of the cycling boom is that it has created a much larger group of occasional, recreational cyclists as its legacy. I would suspect that many bicycles bought during the boom are lying idle. But there is still a sizable amount of people who have become once-weekly, or maybe twice-monthly cyclists. Whatever the case, they are the beneficiaries of an enhanced lifestyle, that much is for sure.

Another thing is that utility cycling continues to be a vital factor in the transportation equation, particularly in urban areas. It is increasingly intersecting with the recreational movement, although the two spheres are still some distance apart.

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