Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Heyaun to Nankunshan Epic

It doesn't seem so long since the last 'Tour de Wiggo' excursion to Nankunshan, and perhaps another blog entry is unwarranted.

However, hitting the hallowed reservoir roads out of Heyuan, you're reminded pretty quick just why we came back so quick. Think the Ardennes, then add some more climbs. This is interval training at it's most brutal- climb a few hundred metres, descend, repeat until dead. The profile of this ride has more spikes than your average cardiogram.

And more opportunities for a fresh chicken than you might expect also.

But we don't come for the chicken, the fish, or the Blazing nightclubs. We come to ride, and ride we did.

The tales might be limited to a kitchen stake-out protest in a bid to secure some breakfast coffee, the usual hanging out in Chinese make shift huts necking Coke and Coconut milk to keep us going...

And I guess there's the ubiquitous Chinese men inspect bicycles with quick releases that weigh less than a horse cart, though I guess we're pretty used to that by now.

But what we lost in 'adventure' we gained in actually nailing a top quality route on great roads with almost no traffic. The sort of route planning in China that only comes from a bit of experience, some mistakes, some extra Google Maps research (thanks Aron!) and a bit of luck. If you want a couple of days of road riding out of Hong Kong without getting on a plane I think you'd be hard pressed to be beat the below:


Thursday, October 11, 2012


Having been pretty much off-line from here of late, I thought I'd do a quick post on having actually seen the Shard close up, albeit briefly, during my UK visit a few weeks back. Coming from Hong Kong, the immediate height is not quite so startling as it might be to those less used to living with these sorts of buildings. But what I did find interesting, and what got me thinking a bit, was the whole way in which the tower touches the ground.

If you take a typical Hong Kong skyscraper, they tend to be quite public at their lower levels- typically linking into a very public podium, containing shops, restaurants, the MTR etc. The way they meet the actual street is another issue, typically less important (or in the case of the Bank of China, just disappointing), and more alienating to the pedestrian than all important podium level. Obviously this links into a greater podium / raised walkway urban strategy, that isn't how I believe cities as a whole should be designed, but it does have it's merits. The buildings may be tall monuments to capitalism that prey to the Gods of Mall culture, but they are accessible and they do tend to contribute to very efficient dense city living where cars are superfluous and public transport rules. Cyclists- well, you're just weird.

By contrast, the Shard has all the same adjacent components to say, IFC or ICC. It has London Bridge next door, shops and restaurants all around, and it houses, or will house, big financial institutions and a hotel at the top. But somehow, at street level, it is a very alienating building with security guards keeping you out of the lobby. You pass by to the Underground on a wind swept plaza, before battling your way past pigeons and crisp packets trying to reach the South Bank. A lot of change has happened all around, but somehow that European ideal of 'street' seems to have met it's match when confronted with such a tall building. It's impressive, but it doesn't seem to 'contribute'. It'll be interesting to see how it fares once at full operational capacity, and if that perspective changes if and when the hotel opens itself up to the public to order a Blackberry Mojito looking over London.

I'm not so sure there is such a thing as a touchy feely all encompassing mega tall skyscraper that will please everyone. The UK as a society is more used to preaching globally than to be preached at, and I'll be the first to defend the importance of street. But perhaps there are lessons to be learned from how other cities do these things- be that Hong Kong, New York, Dubai or Shanghai. I'm not saying London Bridge missed an opportunity to become the new Shibuya, but somehow it feels like it missed the opportunity to either embrace that streetscape ideal, or shunt it all together and provide an urban link away from the pigeons.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Speed of Sound

The world needs more men willing to jump out of a plane at 120,000 feet. Tentative link is he is more used to jumping off skyscrapers.