World-class cycle touring in Taiwan
Text by Chris Ganeff Translated by Ann Lee
Photos by ak, Free Parable, Pete Marozzi & Rob Fawcett
For most foreign visitors, learning that Taiwan offers some of the most scenic, enjoyable and accessible bicycle touring in the world comes as a shock.
Living in the city, it is sometimes hard to imagine that Taiwan is anything more than scooters, 7-11s and high-rise apartments. Outside the city, however, Taiwan teems with natural beauty.
Experiencing this beauty on a bicycle is visceral--there's a feeling that you can't get in a bus, car or even motorcycle. On a bicycle you become part of the landscape. While passing slowly and unobtrusively, it is far easier to connect with a country's land and its people.
Getting out there can seem a bit daunting at first, but it is easier than you think. You just need to know where to start.
Ensuring a proper fit is the most important aspect of choosing the right bicycle. With that in mind, there are two options to finding something suitable.
The first is to bring your bike with you when you come to Taiwan. Some airlines, like Cathay Pacific, allow you to bring your bike as checked luggage at no extra charge, provided it is properly packed. This is a good option for taller individuals because it is difficult to find larger bikes in Taiwan.
Your second option is to buy a bicycle locally. You can pick up mid-range mountain bikes suitable for touring for around NT$8,000 to 15,000 at any of the growing number of stores around the island.
On day trips, a light backpack is probably enough for anything you may need to bring along. On overnight trips, you will need bicycle bags (panniers) for your bike. These hang off either side of a rear-mounted rack. Inside them you should have extra clothes, a spare inner tube and pump, as well as a few basic tools.
Luckily, cycle touring doesn't require a lot of specific clothing. It is a good idea to wear a pair of cycling shorts (those tight, spandex padded ones) but over them you can wear clothes you would usually go hiking in. Synthetic fibers are best and remember to bring a rain jacket and enough extra clothes when heading into the mountains. Helmets are a must.
Taiwan offers something for everyone.
Shorter rides are a good idea for beginners. Cycling around the Hengchun Peninsula is a great place to start; there, a day's ride can end with a little beach relaxation.
Taiwan is packed with high mountains and blessed with a breathtaking eastern coastline. Here, more experienced riders can choose from a number of more difficult, multi-day routes. Highlights include quiet roads, friendly people and, quite often, a soak in a natural hot springs to end the day.
Those living in Tainan and Kaohsiung can cycle to Taitung City in two to four days on the South Cross-Island Highway. The coastal highway route between Taitung and Hualien can be done in two days, but you could spend much more time exploring this area.
Chou Meng-gui, known to most as A-Gui, is a household name among Taiwanese cyclists. A-Gui is the author of "The Routes 2", a comprehensive guide to the best cycling routes in Taiwan.
A-Gui recently started a new bicycle touring company called The Routes Live, which runs guided cycling tours every weekend for Taiwanese and foreign clients.
The company also has a fleet of brand-new bicycles and can accommodate large groups.
His routes combine beautiful locations with cultural experiences and are a culmination of years of exploration in Taiwan by bicycle. A tour with A-Gui is a great way to learn more about Taiwan and to get a taste of cycle touring.
Top Shops in Southern Taiwan
(All shops listed have English-speaking staf)
1. John's Craft Cyclist's Bike Shop
(contact Justin Wang)
(07) 336-0734, 0931-747-428;
77, SiWei 4th Rd, Lingya District
2. Giant Bicycles Flagship Store
82, ErSheng 1st Rd, Qianzhen District
3. Free Glede Merida Bicycle Shop
847, JiuRu 1st Rd; (07) 394-3886
1. Cowboy's Bike Shop
11, YungFu Rd, Sec 2, 1F
This article is meant as a general guide to bicycle touring in Taiwan. Please do your own research and be sure of your own skill level before heading off on a bicycle trip. It is also advisable to check weather conditions, especially before heading into the mountains.