The latest report from our Far East Correspondent, Response:
As I have said before, cycling in HK is very limited unless you want to ride in the streets while fighting fast tight traffic with half blind and overworked bus and taxi drivers gunning for you. So, I was searching online for good trails to ride. I met cyclist cat who told me about a river trail from Tai Wai to Tai Po that sounded interesting.
We agreed to meet up at 11:00 am at the train station. I would have preferred to meet much earlier, as it get HOT and humid in the afternoons. Taking a bike on the train is a genuine pain in the ass. Some fucking genius decided that requiring cyclists to take off their front wheel while in the train station was best for everybody. However, my buddy assured me that I could avoid the bike transporting hassle by renting a decent bike in Tai Wai…
I arrived and called my contact and he was still in bed, so instead of getting mad that half of my day was wasted, I just started walking around the town looking for a bike to rent. As I passed an alley way I heard in Cantonese “Hey fat guy, get a bike!”, as a group of kids playfully grabbed me by the arms shoved me towards a garage door roll up style bike shop.
Apparently the kids were better at getting customers than closing the deal. I stood there patiently waiting for someone to get a bike for me. The kids were entertaining themselves, making rude nicknames for people as they passed. A wedding procession was unfortunate enough to pass by the bike alley on their way to the church. The boys started dry humping each other and jokingly offered hand jobs to best man and his bros. No one wants to fight when wearing a rented tux.
Finally, a Middle Eastern kid came from the back for the garage with a newish white “GTA” 26inch MTB with a freshly re-welded bottom bracket and a mile long seat post for me. They glanced at my passport, took my $60 HKD (about 8 bucks US) and sent me on my way. They had also given me the option of ditching the bike at my destination in Tai Po for an additional $10HKD. That’s kind cool.
So I got out on the river trail, it was beautiful. The double lane bike path was line with trees. It is very smooth and flat and immaculately maintained, like riding in a park. The contrast of the river and high rise apartments against the giant rolling green hills was pretty cool.
However, the trail was sort of crowded and chaotic. The safe speed limit was probably 15 mph.It’s a trip to see adults on bicycles with training wheels. At least those folks were willing to admit that they needed training wheels as there were plenty folks that rode like they still needed them. I have to keep in mind that most HK people don’t get much practice because riding bikes is not a common thing here.
The abundance of slow moving unskilled riders combined with the occasional idiots going way too fast mixed with joggers using the bike lane for running(despite the fact that there is a sidewalk wider than the bike lane right next to it) made the cruise a little less relaxing.
After putting on a few miles, it started to rain like a mofo. I circled back to a shelter I has just passed. It was a beautiful high canopy like a circus ten and low rise bleachers right on the river trail. Since it was Sunday, there were dozens of cute little Philippine housekeepers there, relaxing enjoying their day off. The girls were playing cards, joking around and napping on blankets. I knew from experience that this was a good sign since it meant that there had to be a bathroom and a 711 nearby.
I locked up my piley rental and scored a few tall boys and a bag of chips. I found a nice place to sit and relax and snack with a view as I waited for the rain to stop. I sipped my beer and watched the clumsy procession of wet cyclists. There was a chorus of chatter and giggles from the maids behind me. Probably 99% of the bikes were rentals similar to mine. You would see a lot of these mini road bikes that they love here. I think the look ridiculous, but the spandex weasel suit wearing guys really dig them. There were also lots of pretty young girls wearing jean shorts while wobbling down the path on their clicking and squeaking rental bikes.
After about an hour, the rain let up and I headed out. I approached an underpass and thought I caught a glimpse of a sign that said no bikes. When I got to the other side, I saw a sign that said “steep road, cyclist must dismount”. I looked at the underpass. It looked like any underpass I had ever seen. Not too steep, not too long. Then I noticed that there was a 6 man emergency medical team that was stationed at the other side of the overpass. I rolled up and chatted with them. They told me that underpasses are extremely dangerous because the downhill creates “high speeds” and it’s not uncommon for folks to lose control of their bikes and end up in the hospital. I understood what they were telling me, but I could not believe that this little underpass was so dangerous. Considering the overall average lack of cycling skills, I suppose that they are justified in making people walk.
I rode on until a dance party broke out. There was a 50’s something crowd singing and dancing at a little shady spot near the river. Dancers spilled out into the bike lane. I stopped and watch them enjoying themselves for a while. There was no alcohol, but the folks were high on music and were having a great time.
I got to Tai Po an easy hour or so later. I stopped by a local diner and shared a small round table with 6 other cyclists. I ordered up a heaping plate of fried rice and a tall cold bottle of beer. I looked at the boys next sitting next to me in their various team jerseys. They looked beat. Sunburned, dehydrated and wiped. I asked them how their ride was. They told me they had ridden all the way from Tai Wai, the same ride I had just made. They were worried that they were too tired to make it back. I was wondering to myself if there was an alternate route with some hills and a 50km loop because the way I had came was a flat mellow cake walk, but these boys looked genuinely bonked.
I finished up at the diner then dumped my bike at the rental shop. The rental boys barely acknowledged the return of their bike. I guess they care about the bike even less than I did. However, the bike served me well. Since the trail was flat, I had only used the rear friction shifter once in the beginning to find a good cruising gear. The crappy front suspension worked great on the smooth path, like a Cadillac baby.
When I was out on the river trail, I had noticed some good looking trails headed off into the hills. I think Pistol Pete will be back soon. We will have to do some exploring.