The long road
Biking in Hainan is great in some places. There is a road north of Wenchang, for example, that was repaved solely for the Tour of Hainan. That road is very easy to ride fast on. It was paved a. for the event and b. because there aren’t many trucks on that road to quickly make the road condition poor again.
This time in Hainan, I took roads travelled mostly by trucks carrying farm products, motorbikes with families, and local bicyclists riding bikes that are likely older than me. Sometimes pictures I took indicated a fairly smooth road, but when I ride around 100km a day, I feel every rut in the road. The front suspension actually seemed to absorb some of my effort rather than make things more comfortable. For better comfort, I’d need rear suspension.
Of course, for suspension to be properly calibrated, there has to be some idea of how much weight is hanging over the rear wheel. That amount varies wildly. I usually started the day with 5 liters of water in my bags and fruits from the local market. The weight was enough to make the rear wheel feel like it was going to break off at the wrong moment. At the end of the day, running on empty, the performance of the bike improved considerably.
I usually rode fairly slowly (compared to my speeds within cities). Part of that is because of accidents that block the road or livestock crossing the road, and part of it is because if I rode fast it just sped up pain increase from all the bumps on the road. My behind was black and blue not too far into the trip. It is only fully recovered now.
Like some long car trips, I had to stop for food. Fruit was great for instant energy, but I needed a longer term source of energy that would keep me full. Mainly the keeping full part, since most of the cooked food wasn’t great from a nutritional perspective. This lunch, for example, is completely filler:
Going up and down over hills increases feelings of progress, but there were markers almost every tenth of a kilometer to let me know exactly how little progress I made.
Dongfang was a nice break in my ride around the western part of Hainan. The roads were very smooth. Streetlights were strong and began about 10km away from the actual city. Since I arrived without a working headlight, this was helpful. I also appreciated the fact it would help other vehicles see me better.
Nonetheless, during the daytime, there is still a significant visibility problem. Many signs are hidden by overgrown plants. Hainan is in the tropics, so it doesn’t take long for this situation to occur. Many times I had to stop straight under a sign to be able to see what information it contained.
The road after Dongfang and before Yacheng was the worst quality-wise. It started out being bumpy and sandy. Barracades were placed near bridges dating back to the first five years of the People’s Republic of China, to limit the number of cars on the bridges. Too many cars would exceed the weight limit. What usually happened is that it slowed cars from exiting the other end of the bridge, so the bridge was holding more weight than it otherwise would have.
Later on, the road often intersected the newly built (opened last year) railroad. In places where the road crossed over the railroad, a nice bridge was built. The road leading up to the bridge was never paved. If the road happened to be close enough to the railroad while running parallel, the road was often paved only on one side, with the other being sand. The kilometer markers disappeared in places the railroad forced modifications to the road.
After Yacheng, the road surface became smooth. There was also road construction. One side of the road was closed off, but bikes were allowed to ride through the construction area, separate from the cars that had to battle it out for supremacy on the roard. It was interesting to look at long metal fences obviously taken down from other construction projects and reconstructed out of order. It is almost a challenge – how many Chinese characters can you create given the character components visible on this part of the fence?