I want to do a bike tour around the west and maybe east of Taiwan. This is something I wanted to do for a very long time already but I never really looked into it. This October 2014 I want to do it with a friend.
The plan is to go everywhere by bike, starting in Taipeh. One of the awesome sceneries we want to see is the taroko gorge of course. Other than that we will be spontaneous as both of us have no idea what else is worth visiting. Preferably something with a good view for taking nice scenery pictures or where the locals are even more welcoming. Maybe a good restaurant somewhere?
I have many questions regarding this adventure and I hope you guys can help me.
Getting a suitable bike.
Living in germany, I thought about buying a trekking bike in Taiwan so I dont need to bring one in an airplane. As I am 185cm tall I was wondering if it is even possible to buy a bike with a 56-60cm frame. Also it should be at least made of Aluminium though I would also buy a carbon one it its affordable. Do you know any shop in or around Taipeh which may sell sth like that? I think id go up to 1200 EUR (thats apx. 48000 NT). Will already bring my Abus lock and bike helmet from home with me.
Are there suggestions or a map of already existing bike tours we could cycle after? Preferably sth with hotels on the side though Id be comfortable in bringing a small tent and camp outside. Is it possible to camp anywhere in Taiwan? What are the places to look out especially (e.g. no gangsters or dangerous wildlife). is bike2taiwan.net/ any good?
What should I get. Or should I even need one? e.g. insurance for the bike or myself
Pro: you get an amazing bike for 40% less than in Europe
Cons: it’s very hard to walk in a store and find 'European/American person sized" bikes.
Do you plan on making loaded or light touring? If you need a rack then forget carbon, but if you plan on travelling light you can get a good Giant/Merida/Fuji bike with carbon frame and Tiagra/105 components well within your budget.
If you need a rack, then my choice would probably be a Giant Defy 3 (under 20k ntd after in store discount), a very well regarded frame. Unfortunately Giant doesn’t list frame of your required size in their website, so I don’t know if you could find one.
Merida makes bikes up to 59cm. If you don’t need a rack, the Race or Ride line from Merida is very good. If you do need a rack then look at their Speeder line with flat bars, very comfortable for your back on longer rides.
A cool bike is the KHS Alpine, biggest size on their website is 54 though, maybe a bit small for you.
I’d suggest to stick with Taiwanese companies to get an amazing deal on a great bike, and if you contact the flagship store of Merida, Giant, Khs or even Fuji they’ll tell you what’s available, different sizes etc.
Giant, Merida, Khs and Fuji have all their bikes listed on their websites, along with specs, weight, size and price, so you can get a good idea of what’s available.
I did this same trip last September in about the same amount of time (one month) and with the same approach (more or less spontaneous). It was an awesome experience and you’ll probably love it too.
This forum holds a wealth of information about riding around Taiwan. Take some time to do your research. It will pay off.
I am 176 cm tall and had no trouble renting a decent bicycle from the Giant shop in Dadaocheng, Taipei. You’ll need to book a bike in advance. I didn’t get anything fancy, just a Roam 2 (which I later bought, as it feels good enough for me). If you choose to buy you should be able to get something great for that kind of money… but I haven’t any advice for you here
There are lots of maps out there and plenty of detailed intel (check Michael Turton’s blog or Taiwan In Cycles for instance). Personally, I enjoyed going with the flow and relying on Google Maps (for which the one month data plan sold at the cellular counter at the airport is all you need). Some general tips for route planning:
i) Avoid highways wherever possible. Obviously.
ii) Go counterclockwise. Vehicles ride on the right in Taiwan which means you get to have the best views along the east coast when riding south to north.
iii) Figure out whether you want to keep to the coast or the mountains on your way through western Taiwan. The western plains are, for the most part, a desolate industrial wasteland. I kept to the coast for two reasons: I meant to make a side trip to Penghu by way of the port of Budai (but missed the damn ferry) and to more or less live up to the concept of “around the island”. It was all part of the experience for me but I’d generally advise hugging the mountains on the way south; it’ll be way more interesting.
iv) Pingtung county has some of the most fantastic scenery in all Taiwan, particularly on the remote stretch of highway 26 that you will probably end up riding along. I had to rush through here because of typhoon Usagi but would have loved to have taken more time to explore the area. By the way, the first time you leave Taiwan’s convenience culture behind is when you start climbing into the mountains in Pingtung. Before that you can find convenience stores pretty much anywhere you go. After that you’ll need to stock up on necessities when the opportunity arises.
v) After Taitung you have to decide whether to ride the valley or the coast. I did half and half, crossing over the coastal mountain range at highway 30 after scoping out Sanxiantai (which is indeed pretty cool). My day of riding in the valley was deadly dull though. YMMV.
vi) You’ve got the right idea about Taroko Gorge. It is one of the most beautiful and amazing places I have ever been to. Ride at least to Tianxiang and stay the night, or maybe even two or three, and explore the area. (I recommend the China Youth Activity Hostel.)
vii) Ride the Suhua highway. Prepare for it properly and take it seriously but whatever you do… don’t skip it. Best advice I read about tackling the tunnels: wait patiently at the mouth until your energy reserves are maximized and you hear no sound at all. Then rush the tunnel. The truck drivers are pretty good about cyclists but visibility in the oldest (and narrowest) tunnels is quite terrible. Prepare to get filthy!
viii) Consider taking some side trips to the outlaying islands.
ix) Where to stay: I only booked one place in advance, and that was during mid-autumn festival in Kenting, a popular getaway at that time. If you aren’t riding during a holiday you can probably just show up wherever. There are hotels in all cities and most smaller towns. I never failed to find a place to stay and I didn’t plan much of anything from day to day. Google can be helpful if you copy down the Chinese characters for hotel, hostel, etc. Sometimes I’d take a break at the 7-Eleven near the end of a day’s riding and look up a hotel on Google Maps somewhere in the direction I was heading just so I’d have one to scout out first. If in doubt you can always find budget hotels around train stations. Beware curfews; most budget places close the shutters sometime after midnight.
x) No need to worry about gangsters. Camping is cool pretty much anywhere if you’ve got the gear. Temples and police stations usually offer cyclists a place to stay or at least setup camp, particularly on the east coast, where you will also find regular cyclist stations with air pumps and other such things. The main hazards of the road in Taiwan: dogs, both wild and domesticated. They can be really nasty so watch out.
World Nomads is what I went with. They have a good reputation, though not for small claims.
Well, that was longer than what I was going to write… good luck anyway