Zam 5: The Story of One Freerider
From the city to the jungle, and even the "badlands" of Taiwan, it looks like Richard "Gaspi" Gasperotti had one hell of an adventure. A well-established trail network may be a bit absent in the country, but there's good riding if you know where to look.—FredLikesTrikes
The word "Zam" comes from Mongolian language and literally means "a journey." After the missions to New Mexico and Sardinia, we decided to look closer at the freeriding spots in Taiwan, which is considered a country that produces most of the high-quality mountain bikes in the world. Hereby, the Zam 5 mission emerged. With the European freerider Richard Gaspi Gasperotti in the lead, our crew travelled the island criss-crossing it almost twice. The suitable trails are only a few so far and it was really hard to find good spots. Only sometimes we succeeded. In this photo story, you can see the (almost) same situations as seen from Gaspi’s view caught on his GoPro and taken by Adam’s Canon EOS 5DS R camera.
In the Rice Paddy
It seems that Rice is planted just about anywhere that somebody has some space. They are mixed in with city buildings, they’re spread throughout more rural areas, in fact, they’re just about everywhere. Gaspi tackles one of the water channels leading to the rice paddy nearby Hualien, which is eastern Taiwan's second largest city.
In the Moon Worlds
Gaspi’s rolling down the slope in so-called Moon Worlds near Kaohsiung County. The Americans call this type of landscape "badlands," but to the Taiwanese, they're more like the surface of the moon: "Lunar World," as they call them. These strange landscapes of barren clay soil eroded into bizarre knife-edge ridges, sharp pinnacles and graceful, curved arcs are a strangely beautiful and surreal element of the landscape in parts of Northern Kaohsiung and Southern Tainan Counties. Contrary to our expectations, the most of the slopes were too steep to ride with impenetrable bush at their bottom.
Taiwan is a great place for cycling - but rather on the road bikes. There is a sophisticated network of cycle paths around the island. Also, you can take one of the well-paved roads leading from the sea level up to more than 3,000 meters. However, there’s still a lot of work ahead before Taiwan becomes a reasonable place for mountain biking. This is one of the very few manmade jump trails, which we found only with a kindly guidance of the Taichung biking crew. Thank you very much, guys!
Close to the Sky
Yushan National Park contains over thirty peaks more than 3,000 meters in elevation, and two-thirds of the area within the park is above 2,000 meters. The elevation difference in the park is 3,600 meters, and there are many canyons, cliffs, and valleys.
In the Heat Over the Zengwen Dam
Zam is always about searching for the big freeriding spots. It was very hard to find them in Taiwan, but when we did so, Gaspi didn’t hesitate a second to push his bike on top even at the hot midday sun as here over the creek running through a valley to the Zengwen Dam.
Taipei in the Background
This view of Taipei is well-known to every biker who visited Taiwan’s capital. Right here on this plateau ends the famous bike trail from Five Finger Mountain.
Through Areca Palms Plantation
What looks like a trail running through the palm grove is a trail deep inside of plantation of areca palms, which grow in much of the tropical Pacific, Asia, and parts of East Africa. Their fruits called betel nuts are used in a manner similar to the Western use of tobacco or caffeine. The effects are described as alertness, increased stamina, a sense of well-being, euphoria, and salivation.
The Suspension Bridge in Taroko Park
While wheeling over the suspension bridge, Gaspi is approaching the gate of the Hsiang-Te temple in Taroko National Park. The temple is named after the Buddhist monk who prayed for the safety of the workmen as they built the Central Cross-Island Highway. The park covers 1200 sq km and rises from sea level in the east to over 3700m further west. In fact, Taroko is 90% mountainous with 27 peaks over 3000m. Almost all the bio-geographical zones in Taiwan are represented here, providing a sanctuary for half the island's plant and animal species.
Down the Mountains
Heading south we discovered an exposed slope which took Gaspi about 30 minutes to climb and get ready to ride. As we showed locals the photos to find out if there are some similar spots around, they just didn’t catch our intention. It was difficult to explain someone rides down such a terrain deliberately.
Taipei’s Most Famous Trail
Five Fingers Mountain bike trail is fine in dry weather but as soon as the rain comes, in some parts, it can change into a difficult downhill track.
Text // Photo: Adam Marsal
Camera // Cut: Marty Smolik
Holiday Man: Lukas Jusko
Clown: Richard Gaspi Gasperotti