Steady Grinding  
GT In Taiwan

Text by Jeff Ludwig / Photos by Jeff Zielinski 

There’s nothing like a BMX trip to start off the year, especially one on the opposite side of the world! GT Bicycles set us up with the trip of a lifetime to explore and ride nearly the entire island of Taiwan. The crew consisted of legends Brian Kachinsky and Rob Wise, the Cali shred technician Albert Mercado, the young buck Michigan homie Chase Krolicki, the east coast street dogs Dan Conway and myself, followed by Ben Ward as team captain, and the super chill dudes from RideBMX Jeff Z. and Zach Krejmas. Our wildly diverse team had no problem having some serious fun finding ways to grind, bunny-hop and trick the unsuspecting spots in the streets of Taiwan.

It all began straight after an 18-hour flight from NYC to Taipei. Once the crew assembled after a few more hours hanging out at the airport, we piled into two vans and it was on. We drove to our hotel, put our bikes together and hit the streets. Jet lag didn’t stop any of us from doing our thing. Right out of the gate, we were amazed by the insane spot density within the short distance that we rode. The first spot was a bank ramp covered in bathroom-tiles that led up to a pair of extra-large columns with aluminum rails at their sides. Everyone went to work. Not long after that, the rain came to end the party, so we made our way back to the hotel.

The next morning proved to me that GT wasn’t screwing around with making sure that we were absolutely comfortable. To say the least, the breakfast buffet held the most luxurious, delectable food selection I had ever witnessed in my 28 years of life. For example, there was a real honey comb dripping honey into a bowl for your tea and there was a marshmallow roasting station with chocolate dipping sauce. Enough said. After everyone stuffed their faces we hit the streets to look for spots, but everything was still wet and it started to rain again. So, we piled back into the vans and met up with a local shredder named Allen Liu (@allenliutw) who brought us to a skatepark situated underneath a bridge. Chase basically introduced himself to the GT team by destroying the park while animal rights activists were holding a protest just outside the gate.

Allen is a real smart dude who works in the BMX industry and holds down all the spots on the entire island. There’s a good chance he probably had something to do with the logistics of the components that are on your bike. We learned a lot about Taiwanese culture from Allen. Did you know that it’s disrespectful to stick your chopsticks into your rice while you’re not eating? Neither did Rob Wise. The Taiwanese culture is pretty interesting compared to ours at home in the states. The convenience store 7-11 pretty much rules the world over there. Of course, you can get your normal supplies like brown boiled eggs, spicy squid chips and orange hotdogs, but you can also pay off your traffic tickets, have the cashier call a taxi and you can renew your drivers license. Not many people speak English to the fullest extent, but pointing and drawing pictures helps ease the language barrier. I found myself drawing a picture of a mosquito to get some bug spray and an auxiliary cord so we can blast Chase’s favorite band, Black Sabbath—or was it Ozzy?

That night we met Allen’s riding friends, who taught us all the fun things to say in Mandarin. One guy was a wild dude named Wallrider (@wall.rider) and the other was a work-hard-play-hard type of guy called Monkey (@ihbmxmonkey). Wallrider got his name because he was the first guy in his crew to learn how to wallride. I don’t remember how Monkey got his name, but he stands firm on only drinking whiskey, no beer. Speaking of beer, we met a guy called Beer. Seems that all the BMX dudes out there have some pretty rad nicknames. Shout out to Legend and Hotsauce!

The next few days were increasingly awesome. We drove down to another spot heavy city called Taichung, which is near the center of the island. GT came through again with another grand hotel with a beautiful breakfast buffet. No honeycombs dripping honey this time around, but there was plenty of passion fruit to keep Jeff Z. stoked. Once again the crew fueled up and hit the streets. This time we were headed to the factory where GT Bicycles were assembled. Sharon Hu warmly welcomed us into the facility. She showed us some top-secret new products and then led a grand tour of the factory. Bikes were being painted, stickered and packaged on a highly efficient assembly line.They were also putting some bike parts through rigorous testing in a test chamber that pushed and pulled them to simulate crashes and normal use throughout the day. My favorite part of the factory tour was the wheel building room. I’ve never seen so many bicycle wheels in my life. There was a lady who set up the spokes on a hub, put them into a machine to get laced and finally a man put the final touches to ensure that it was trued perfectly. The wheels were then put on a hook and belt system that wrapped around the first and second floor to be put on a bike later on down the line. Amazing! Sharon treated us to a lunch and we were back to doing what we do best. Thanks for the hospitality!

Once we stepped outside from the air-conditioned office, we were warmed up and ready to roll. Thanks to the unique Taiwanese architecture,the crew picked up a few more clips in short moments after hopping out from the vans. Albert got mauled working on a wall ride to invert but somehow managed to keep riding throughout the trip. Chase nabbed an awesome crankarm grind-to-hop-over on the only steel rail in the country. And Dan, Rob and myself set off to look for spots. Only rounding a few corners gets you lost in the scooter heavy streets of these cities. Just an FYI: if you manage to find WiFi, open your map application before you leave so the GPS continues to track your movements. Towards the end of the day we all assembled again to have a very fancy dinner with Sharon. We ate so many dumplings to the point where we could barely move!

Still motivated after dinner, the crew set off into the night to capture more footage. We found a spot that looked like a giant metal taco with a slippery cheese grater surface. Both Jeff’s on the trip got flat tires riding it. Ben saved the day by making the trip back to the hotel to get tubes while we hid from security guards around the corner. Once the tubes were air’d, we split up. Half the crew went back to the hotel and the other half continued to explore. The streets were ours at this point. Once the sun goes down, traffic dies down significantly and spots are clear of dawdlers. Dan and Rob spotted a gnarly wall-rail set up to get busy on, but by this time, the sun was about to rise and we needed to sleep.

The next day in Taichung was heavy. Another street taco was discovered but she was wide-bodied and chrome. Albert, Chase, and Brian got busy with fire while Dan, Rob and myself went searching for more goodies. Rob found an insane gap over a whole assortment of planter boxes situated near one of the busiest intersections in the city. Watching Rob ride and attempting to understand the way he views the world can literally make you reconsider spot identification logistics. In other words, this dude’s a savage. Brian is another calculated guy with a well-trained eye for unique setups and grind opportunities. Apparently Taiwan wasn’t prepared for BK’s fakie wallride-to-switch backward icepick grind, so they brought a news camera crew to secretly document the insanity. Later on that day, Allen, Monkey and Wallride surprised us and premiered our big debut on the Taiwanese national televised news.

The day wasn’t over until Dan Conway said so. Before the sunset, we all agreed to eat some good ol’ American food at Fridays and regroup afterward for the bangers. The spot was a square wall-rail that Rob and Dan found the day before. Jeff Z. and Zach set up their cameras and the homies prepped their phones in slow-motion mode. Rob achieved an NBD award for doing an insane move that you’ll have to wait to see when the GT video drops, but a Rob Wise NBD… you know it’s gonna be good! Then, just when we thought we’d seen it all, Dan pulled another NBD with an X-up grind with the end of his handlebar grinding the top of the wall while going down. It was crazy and of course, we celebrated heavily.

When we woke up, we began another awesome day. This time we were riding the brand new old-school style GT Heritage cruiser bikes through the streets of Taiwan. Albert, BK and I got to ride chrome and purple 26” GT Performers. Chase, Rob, and Dan got to ride yellow 29” GT Pro Performers. Ripping these bikes around the city was a blast. They helped us slow down a bit, relax and enjoy the scenery. We also went really fast, bunny-hopped and tricked the scenery too!

Kaohsiung was our final destination city in Taiwan. We stayed in one of the tallest buildings in the country with a panoramic view of the shipping ports that export goods around the world. Allen, Wallride and Monkey also came with us for the adventure and introduced us to another cool shredder named Robin Sloot (@robinsloot). Robin is originally from the states and came to Taiwan to teach English while working on his Master of Art in Psychology. The spots he brought us to did not disappoint the crew one bit. We also got to eat traditional Taiwanese cuisine at a small crammed restaurant that sat us at big round tables and seemingly never stopped bringing food.

After riding until the very last minute, we piled into the vans and made the trek back up the island into Taichung to catch a high-speed train to the airport. Within the next 20 hours I was back driving in the congested streets of Jersey with another country knocked off the bucket list. GT Bicycles came through with the trip of a lifetime and Ben Ward’s ability to develop a stellar team provided us with nothing but good times and banger clips. Thank you GT Bicycles!

CAPTIONS: (In order of appearance) 

•The only thing more rare than a spot like this is a fufanu sighting. Rob Wise combining the two is like catching a glimpse of Bigfoot.

•This pebble faced piece of tranny looks like spot that could exist in Philly—Dan Conway sure rode it as if it did.

•The Albert Mercado silhouette.

•Dan brings the noise to a tranquil park with some pegs on bricks/rail action.

•Albert and Dan both came close to loosing a nipple while in Taiwan.

•Chase Krolicki, stretching out on a rainy day.

•Scooters are a way of life in urban Taiwan.

•Rain or shine, first day of the trip, we were in the streets and psyched.

•Jeff “With Glasses” Ludwig came to Taiwan ready to get busy looking for spots and Taiwan kept him busy every day and night. Precarious peg placement on a perforated metal taco. 

•Roadside religion.

•Blood stained pants and a dirtied shirt… Brian Kachinsky fought a battle for this fakie wallride-to-backward oppo ice down the rail.

•When a flat rail clip counts… Dan with the old faithful x-up grind.

•A lady practicing the flute, a dude eating lunch (while creeping on the flute lady), and a kid from Michigan doing a footjam downside whip on a giant wedge… just another day in the park.

•Simply gapping out to tire ride on this ledge is a feat in itself, the manual on the otherhand… that’s what separates Rob Wise from us mortal human beings.  

•When you take one of the most raw street riders New Jersey has ever bred and let him loose in Taiwan, this is what happens—crook down a concrete ledge the same width as his metal pegs. Jeff Ludwig is the man.

•Brian manuals what might be the most over built rail of all time with a giant metal spider looming in the background.

•Doing a curved wall-to-grind is like a right of passage for San Diego BMX riders, Albert Mercado, feeling right at home, minus the abundance of burritos.

•What’s the craziest thing you ever did on your bike at like 1AM in a foreign country? Rob Wise did a fakie transfer off a slide to backward grind down a concrete ledge-to-180…

•It doesn’t matter how many times you see Albert fold his bike over, it’s always going to get the same “what the fuck” reaction. Feeble up a brick ledge to what the fuck!

•What is this strange configuration? What purpose does it serve? Why was this park like a mile long and littered with spots? Taichung, where it’s hard not to find spots…

•We got kicked out of this public park earlier in the day so we did a stealth mission a few hours later. And once the camera crew was ready, without any fuss, one-looks, or run-ups, Jeff pedaled around the edge of the park to his starting spot, then unwaveringly fired out this gap-to-smith.