The “Two Towers in One Day” Challenge 一日雙塔 is another popular cycling event in Taiwan held early November each year. In this event, participants need to start cycling from the northern tip of the island of Taiwan to its southern tip to cover a total of 520km within 28 hours. Two lighthouses, Fuguijiao Lighthouse and Eluanbi Lighthouse, mark the starting point and finishing point respectively, hence the name “Two Towers in One Day”.
Those who would like to try a less challenging one can instead sign up for the “Taipei to Kaohsiung in One Day” Challenge 一日北高, which will be held on the same day and cover 360km in 20 hours.
After completing the “Taipei to Kaohsiung in One Day” Challenge in 2020, I decided to take up the “Two Towers in One Day” Challenge in 2021. Unfortunately I could not make it to the finish line this time. In this post is some experience I would like to share. Please refer to this post for more information about Support, Rules and Administration.
My Plan and Strategy
28 hours is a very long stretch of time and I doubt I would be able to stay awake and keep cycling. So I had aimed to finish it in 24 hours. I believed I would be able to stay sharp and focused for that long if I had enough sleep beforehand. With this target in mind, I would need to achieve an overall average speed of 21.66km/h. To allow 4 hours for breaks, my average moving speed would need to be around 26km/h. This looked reasonable, given that there should be prevailing wind coming from the north east in the winter that would give us a push.
I used to mistake the impact of lack of fuel as tiredness when my legs went soft after cycling for around 2 hours. Then I learned from my experience last year during the “Taipei to Kaohsiung” Challenge that our legs never get tired and all I need is fuel. As long as we keep fueling our muscles by taking in carbohydrates, our legs will keep pedalling. Along the route of the “Two Towers” Challenge, there are numerous convenience stores where we can find all kinds of carbohydrates, including my favourite energy gels. Their locations are marked on the GoogleMaps in the next section of this post. Since supplies are very easy to get, I decided not to join any teams nor hire any supporting vehicles.
The Challenge starts at 00:00 Saturday (midnight). I took a day-off on Friday, booked a hotel around 2km away from the starting point with the hope to get as much sleep as possible right before the event. Participants could drop their night pack with the organizer at the starting point and it would be sent to the finishing line for collection when the participants arrive. The organizer could also help book a hotel room right next to the finish line if needed. This is what I had opted for. I could take a good rest when I finished. For the return trip, there are coaches bound for Kaohsiung HSR station. I could bag my bike, hop on one of the coaches and then take the HSR back to Taipei.
Contingency Plan: In case I needed to retire early from the Challenge, there are numerous train stations along the route. Some train stations would take my bike and send it back to Taipei for me to collect later. I could then travel like an ordinary passenger (though with filthy cycling outfits). There are also some coach stops. The tricky part is between Kaohsiung and Kenting. The population is sparser further down south and there won’t be much public transportation available in between.
The organizer suggests a route (shown in blue on Google Maps) but we are not obliged to use it. We just need to pass the four checkpoints and reach the destination within respective time limits. I had done some research and modified the route (shown in green on Google Maps) a little bit to avoid a climb (100 metres of elevation) at Houlong Township (後龍鎮) and the traffic lights in Budai Township (布袋鎮) and Kaohsiung. The segment in Taichung also has quite a few long traffic lights but I have yet to see any tips on how to bypass it.
The checkpoints and those convenience stores close to the route are marked on this map for your easy reference.
Equipments and Accessories
I used a Rikulau Master 325Ti with a 11-28T, 11-speed cassette and a compact chainring (50/34T). With a narrower range of teeth numbers (instead of 11-32/34T), the 11 steps between the gears are smaller, which is easier to get an optimal gear ratio for my tired muscles to work with approaching the end of the Challenge.
The frame is made of Titanium alloy with 3% of Aluminum and 2.5% of Vanadium, hence the name 325Ti. Although 325Ti is considered to be less stiff than a 64Ti (6% Aluminum and 4% Vanadium), I was surprised to find it much stiffer than I had expected on my first ride. It is so light and stiff that the 28-tooth cog is enough to handle all of the climbing I usually do. I have no problem climbing with my friends who use big cogs with 32 or 34 teeth on their cassettes. This bike has boosted my confidence.
A short chat with Chengnon Hsu, co-founder of Rikulau, gave me a better idea about how they achieved such an efficient bike. The titanium tubes were shaped by hydroforming to make them structurally stiff, strong and lightweight. Instead of being built with a simple round top tube and down tube, the Master 325Ti was built with round hexagonal tubes swaged to match the size and shape of the head tube and the bottom bracket shell for broader structural support.
Lights are vitally important. There are segments with no street lamps at all and there are about 18 hours in which we need to cycle in the dark. One of my friends lent me a powerful one with 1600 lumen. I did not need such a bright light but it comes with a big big battery, which proved to be a huge benefit. During the event, I only set it to half its brightness and it went on for 6 straight hours, showing no signs of exhaustion. It could probably last through the second night if I had continued with the Challenge.
I used Shimano SPD pedals (generally used on mountain bikes) because the cleats for these pedals are recessed into the shoe soles so that I can walk in them normally. I did not want to pack an extra pair of shoes for the return trip. Also, in case I could not ride on my bike, I could still walk.
The route is rather straightforward but it would be a waste of time and effort if I miss a turn. So I loaded the route into my Garmin Edge 530. Smartphones could do the job but they consume much more power and are vulnerable to rain and rattles.
It is likely to rain in winter in northern Taiwan. I have no problem cycling in the rain except I really hate it when my shoes are soaked. So I have got these velo Toze cycling shoe covers. They remind me of those latex swimming caps. It is really difficult to put them on but totally worth the trouble. I tested in the rain for more than an hour. My socks and shoes were as dry as they should be.
Electronic devices were sealed in water tight bags in case it rained.
I packed a spare inner tube, tyre patches, a tyre boot, a hand pump, a chain tool and a quick link, a multi-tool, a rim stripe. I did not pack CO2 canisters and a second inner tube because the chance of getting flat tires was not high. One insurance policy should be enough (which proved to be not quite enough).
In the few weeks before the event, I cycled more than 35 km every morning on weekdays. I had also done some long distance training when I was preparing for the “Taipei to Kaohsiung” Challenge (Ahem… last year). I believe it should be enough for me to complete the challenge.