Wuling Pass East is one of the most epic and scenic bike climbs in the world.
The Sapien Cycling Club of Taiwan invited PJAMM Cycling to ride Wuling Pass East with them on May 11, 2019. We are extremely thankful for the invitation, and that we had the good sense to accept! Wuling Pass is now on our World Top 10 Greatest Bike Climbs -- it is THAT special. And, on the other side of the Pass are Wuling North (World’s #2 most difficult road bike climb) and Wuling West (World #13) -- after the Twin Towers of Mauna Loa/Mauna Kea, Wuling is the hardest 1-2 cycling punch in the world.
Video of Taroko Gorge (may take a few moments to load)
Located in Central Taiwan within Taroko National Park, Wuling Pass is a saddle between Mt. Hehuan’s main peak and it’s east peak. Though not the highest point in Taiwan, at 3,275 meters (about 10,745 feet) above sea level, Wuling is the highest point in Taiwan that is accessible by highway (via Highway 14). You can read more about Mt. Hehuan here.
PJAMM with members of Taipei’s Sapien Cycling Club at the start of Wuling Pass East.
Aerial drone photo - view east from 6 kilometers into the climb - Pacific Ocean in the background.
This is an extremely challenging road bike climb and the second longest in the world, behind Mauna Loa, Hawaii, USA (100.1 km/62.2 miles). Because the formula we use (FIETS) penalizes climbs that have significant descents in them, Wuling Pass East “only” ranks 77th in the world (Wuling North is #2, and Wuling West #13 -- primarily because they are shorter, steeper overall and have no meaningful descents). However, at 87.4 kilometers (54.3 miles), gaining 3,459 meters (11,349’) to a peak of 3,158 meters (10,361’) at 3.6% average grade (a mile near the top averages 10% at around 8,500’ altitude), this is a beast of a climb.
While the challenge of this climb alone justifies its inclusion on all road bike climbing bucket lists, it is Taroko Gorge that separates Wuling East from nearly all other climbs in the world. Taroko Gorge is within Taroko National Park (est. 1986; 355 square miles/227,000 acres), one of nine National Parks on the island of Taiwan. Taroko Gorge is composed of metamorphic rocks, including marble. It is the smooth polished marble walls carved by the Liwu River which is absolutely remarkable. We’ve never seen anything like it -- stunning!
There are many tunnels along this route -- probably more than we have ever encountered on a single bike climb, but it is the second longest in the world, after all . . .
TAIWAN KOM CHALLENGE
The Taiwan KOM Challenge is one of the greatest road bike climbing races in the world, and is the most significant cycling race in Asia. This race started in 2012 and begins 20 kilometers south of Taroko Gorge, in the town of Hualien, and ends at Wuling Pass (the highest paved road in Taiwan). This exceptional bike race includes 3,500 participants, is held in October each year and has a six hour time cut-off. Many professional riders, including elites such as Cadel Evans (winner Tour de France 2011) and Vincenzo Nibali (winner 2014 Tour de France, and 2010 Vuelta a España).
Elevation Profile for entire race.
Elevation Profile for final km.
Here is an email Lee Rodgers, Communications Director/Official Coach Taiwan KOM sent us on May 19, 2019 (we tried hooking up for dinner in Hualien but our schedules unfortunately did not permit that):
Here's an article I wrote in 2015 that gives some insight: https://www.pezcyclingnews.com/racing/racenews14/kom-challenge-2014/
Briefly, as of May 2019 the race has gone from less than 250 riders (with just 10 foreigners) in 2010 ('first' edition but in its true KOM form it's been on since 2012), and we had 770 riders last year with over 400 foreigners.
Top pros are coming now, Nibali, Evans, Pooley, EF-Drapa & Katusha this year, also Bigla from the women's side. We could have more than 1000 riders but have to limit the number due to safety.
We also have now the Spring and Summer sportif versions, the Spring Road tot KOM and summer edition also.
My position: I'm the Communications Director and responsible for inviting the foreign professional riders and the international media and making sure they are safe and taken care of whilst here. We are quite unique here in Asia and not far from it in the rest of the world in having equal prize money for both men and women as we fully support the development of the and encouragement of women in the sport, we have a zero tolerance with regards to doping, and Olympic committee drug testing on the day.
Lee Rogers Lee with Nicole Cooke, Olympic and World Champ turned
journo at the Taiwan KOM 2014 Challenge Presentation.
Photo: Taiwan Cyclist Federation.
Note: We disagree with the final elevation profile that suggests 27.3% for a brief segment. We had heard that the last kilometer was extremely difficult (that’s absolutely true!), and that there was a 27% section (not accurate). We paid particular attention to our Garmins as we ascended and never had readings above 13% (but, never had readings below 10%, either). To sum it up: After riding the second longest road bike climb in the world, it will feel like 27%, but in reality the average grade over the last kilometer is 11%.
Because the Fiets formula takes the starting and ending elevations for its “ascent” variable, a descent with a subsequent climb to the elevation before the descent is not factored in. Wuling Pass East has several rollers and one major descent (3.6 km/2.2 miles, 191m/626’ descent at -5.3%) which diminishes the Fiets Index for the climb. PJAMM is developing and will soon launch a modified Fiets formula which accounts for the descents in bike climbs such as Wuling East.
Also of note, there are two fun, noncompetitive rides: “The Road to Taiwan KOM - Spring” (2019 event summary) and “The Road to Taiwan KOM - Summer” (2019 event summary) events for recreational riders, or those who wish to enjoy the ride instead of race the route. The Spring KOM is held in April (it was cancelled in 2019 due to an earthquake) and the Summer KOM is in July. Instead of being pressed to finish the ride in six hours as you must for the KOM Challenge, you will have nine hours to finish the KOM spring or summer routes.
Since Wuling Pass lies within a national park, the wildlife in the area is diverse. According to Taroko National Park’s website, 152 species of birds have been recorded there, including 14 species that are unique to Taiwan. Additionally, 45 species of large mammals, including the black bear, Formosan wild boar, and the Formosan Macaque, can be seen in abundance in some of the more undisturbed areas within the park. We were lucky enough to see some Formosan Rock Monkeys playing in the trees along our route.
We encountered Formosan Rock Monkeys playing in the trees during our ride.
SOME BACKGROUND ON TAIWAN
Taiwan in relation to China.
Because of its complicated history, the cultures of Taiwan tend to be a hybrid, incorporating traditional elements of Chinese culture, as well as Japanese culture, traditional Confucianist beliefs, and Western values (Taiwan's Culture). Because of the political debate about Taiwan’s independence, there always seems to be question over whether Taiwanese culture is a distinct culture in and of itself, or whether it is simply a regional sect of Chinese culture.
Distinct from the political aspect of things, Taiwan has so much rich culture within itself. Examples of Taiwan’s rich culture include: National Palace Museum (home to over 650,000 pieces of Chinese bronze, jade, calligraphy, painting, and porcelain), and a strong musical leaning with classical artists such as violinist Cho-Liang Lin and pianist Ching-Yun Hu, in addition to a national fondness for Karaoke (Taiwan's Culture). Another unique aspect of Taiwan is its vast wildlife and national park system. Though a small country in size, Taiwan has nine national parks, each full of unique and wonderful beauty. You can learn more about Taiwan’s national parks system here.
A big thank you to our cycling friend living in Taiwan, Mark Blackburn, who invited us to join his cycling club for this climb. Without that invitation, we may never have experienced one of the greatest cycling climbs in the world.
And a huge portion of gratitude to “Jan-Hendrik Meidinger”, a Sapien Cycling Club member and manager of the Grand Hyatt Taipei. JH arranged for our lodging (the best we have ever had -- and we don’t get paid to say that, by the way), our driver (Simon), access to the Hyatt’s Grand Club Lounge (WOW!) and the exceptional buffet breakfast available each morning. We stayed at the Grand Hyatt Taipei upon arrival to Taiwan and the evening before leaving -- a perfect start and finish to our Asian Cycling Trip (Mt. Fuji, Japan; Doi Inthanon, Thailand; Wuling Pass, Taiwan).
Grand Hyatt Taipei - middle of photo.
Left to right: John, Mitch, Simon, Javier.
Simon drove us to and from the airport as well as three days on Wuling Pass -- he was AWESOME. Simon can be reached through the Grand Hyatt Taipei at 886-2-2720-1234.
PJAMM’s May, 2019 Asian Bike Climb Itinerary.
THAT’S A WRAP
We LOVE Wuling Pass!!!!!