Motorcycle touring

I decided to start a dedicated thread instead of poaching other peoples’!

As some of you know, I’m a very enthusiastic (the unkind would say obsessive) motorcycle tourer and get out on the bike in the hills and mountains most weekends. Despite my lack of experience, I also like talking about mechanical bits and bobs I really have no knowledge about.

Threads I have ‘poached’; … c&start=60 … sc&start=0

I am unfeasibly happy to hear from anyone who has an interest in motorcycle touring here.

I’ll kick things off by replying to Michael’s reply to me on this thread; … sc&start=0

Because we were short of time, we took the no. 9 provincial highway. Thanks for the tip on the 199. Looks good on the map and I hope to try it sometime. The 9 itself was not bad; some nice sweeping curves.

[quote=“Michael J Botti”]2-stroke philosophy is simple; Use good oils, stick to your powerband (You know a little about bikes I see) and rebuild often.[/quote]By rebuild you mean engine rebuild? How many times have you had that done? Did you have to run it in slowly for 1000km each time? I had to do that after I had the FZ’s engine rebuilt and it was a killer. I was just going up to the hills after work most days trying to get those kms on the clock.

[quote=“Michael J Botti”]But there’s no way an FZ is going to outpower an RZX under any circumstance. It’s a simple matter of torque vs displacement and the FZ doesn’t have enough of either, allthough granted it’s probably a less frantic ride (a bigger back sprocket can only do so much). The RZX’s seat is a fair bit larger as well, and doesn’t have that pelvis busting tank.[/quote]You’re right about power. You probably have to change gear a bit more often to keep the speed up but your bike has much more power than mine. I have a gel saddle and use the aforementioned haemorrhoid cushion on long journeys. I have a top box fitted on to a welded framework at the back and the passenger can lean on that, but the back seat is still a bit narrow.

[quote=“Michael J Botti”]
I agree with you wholeheartedly that most of the RZR’s and X’s are breathing their last gasps, but that is not so much a reliability issue as it is a lack of knowledge on how to properly maintain a motorcycle. You have no idea how many foreigners I’ve seen over the years broken down in the middle of nowhere, simply because they’ve not taken care of their bikes.[/quote]
My friend’s scooter has bent front forks, bald tyres and worn-out brakes but he insists it’s ok for getting around on. At least he rides it slowly though. You mentioned getting out of town and doing something- I have invited this friend out on numerous occasions but he always says its ‘not his thing’. I think the only places he’s been (in over a year) apart from the three big cities are Danshui and Kending.

[quote=“Michael J Botti”]…be careful out there! [/quote]It amazes me that a lot of foreigners are quite happy to ride drunk, without a licence or valid insurance and with a 200NT helmet when they probably wouldn’t dream of doing such a thing ‘back home’, where the roads are probably much safer. I know some US states don’t have helmet laws but if you read accident statistics by far the most important thing to do is to wear a helmet; a full-face model is best.

[quote=“Michael J Botti”]PS: The last round the Island trip I did by bike was so long ago the only thing you had to wear on your head was a bandana! How do you smoke with a helmet on? Maybe I have been here too long…[/quote]Hmmmm… think you might have been. Wearing a helmet isn’t as much fun as not wearing one, but it’s a whole lot nicer than having your head caved in. No matter how well you ride, there still can be unexpected situations.

[quote=“Michael J Botti”]Your highway 7 shot from Chiaoshi to Lishan is indeed a nice ride, up a beautiful valley and then steep switchbacks all the way past Wuling farm into Lishan[/quote]I’m looking forward to that. That valley looks really long.

That latter itinerary sounds very good. I hadn’t thought of doing that. I assumed that we’d make the long trip round Hehuanshan-Wushe-Puli-Taichung, which is nice enough but I don’t mind if I don’t do it again for a while.

Quite a few people have recommended going into the hills north of Taipei such as the Yangminshan area and Beitou. Is it worth doing that? I’d certainly like to visit Chiufen (Jiufen) as well.

[quote=“Michael J Botti”]Chance to ride in the mountains again? Hmm, if the wife says ok and it’s not a diving weekend…hell yes! Keep in touch OK?[/quote]Sounds great. I hope at least you can join us when we’re up north.

Hope there are enough of us out there to keep this thread going…

Yep, I meant rebuilding the engine, top end anyway. Two strokes tend not to last as long as 4-strokes simply because it’s so busy in there. 1,000km for the break-in is pretty standard, running your engine up a mountain before your piston rings have seated is a definite no-no! The reason that so many rebuilds fail, especially here, is that they give you no details (other than go slow for 1,000km) on how to break in your motor. Over the last 13 years, I have rebuilt my engine at least ten times and changed 4 different heads.

The secret to a good break-in is simple. You want to slowly torque the engine where you can access it’s powerband without stressing your new rings. Simple right? The easiest way to do this is to only let your engine go in it’s powerband in 3rd gear and then only slowly. Then upshift into a high enough gear that the engine is doing almost nothing in order to let all of those minute peices of metal wash down to the bottom of the engine. This alternating stress, coast routine should be done for at least 300km before you take a passenger or head for the hills. In all honesty though, 80% of your ring-seating is done in the first 50km, the rest is for reliablilty…it’s even possible to underrev to the point where the rings will ‘glaze’ and fail to seal! The result will be a motor that is way underpowered and has no powerband to speak of. If you break it in hard, it will run like a bat out of hell for about 40% of it’s normal life span and then keel over.

The sad fact is that the vast majority of arrivals to Taiwan have never ridden a motorcycle, hence the scooter preference. It seems a rite of passage here to have some sort of limb-deforming accident! The worst part is that they want to ride like the locals, who have had a lifetime of experience and that kooky Taiwanese 6th sense that lets them survive life-threatening situations. “That guy just turned out in front of me!” is a saying I hear alot when visiting someone in the emergency room.

I have no excuse for riding without a helmet in the old days, always wore one in the states. But there’s something about having the wind fly through your hair…Damn!

Would have recommended Yangmingshan 15 years ago, but now it’s so crowded on the weekends that you’d be too busy dodging cars to enjoy it. There are a few backroads up there though that still might be worth checking out…

Jung-hen opening again? That would be so cool, as the Puli-Huehuanshan route is really getting too built up to be enjoyable, by motorcycle or any other way for that matter. Was up there in June and was astounded by the post 9/21 development. What a mess! The ride down to Hualien fantastic as always though, too bad I was in my truck.

Jiufen is worth a visit. You can access it via the mountain road (Taipei-Fulong) I mentioned before. Almost needs to be done on a semi-shitty day to appreciate it’s beauty though as it’s one of those misty mountain-top kind of places. On the road up there, you have (on a clear day) an amazing view of the entire north-east coast, from Yehliu to Suao and also Kweishan Dao.

If you guys are heading up north by bike, by all means let me know…I’ll do my damndest to join up…You’ll be passing close by my place, I live on a mountain top myself. Stop in!

If you can tell me how to do the map thing (computer idiot, sorry) I can put some of these backroads to paper for your enjoyment.

Happy riding

Reading what you wrote, I think the way I broke it in was adequate though not ideal. Eric the mechanic put non-synthetic oil in as he said it would help the piston rings seat. He told me not to go over about 6-7000 rpm. Of course I had it at 7000 more often than 6! After almost 900km I pleaded with him to let me ride it normally. He said OK and replaced the oil with decent synthetic. Seems to be going fine now, at about 3000km.

Referring back to what I wrote in the other thread, I still think that scooters, particularly small, quick steering ones, are ideal for Taiwan’s cities. I have a Dio 50 and, in town, it’s so much less stressful than riding the FZ. It steers like lightning and the brakes, though both drums, stop such a light bike plenty quick enough. When you have 100 metres between some stoplights, the automatic gearbox is less fuss. I can put my helmet under the seat and because the scooter’s only worth about 10,000, I wouldn’t wouldn’t be losing so much if it were stolen.

Of course geared, large-wheeled motorcycles are superior out of town.

Pulling out in front of people is the no.1 bad driving habit here. Learning to anticipate this is the no.1 defensive riding practice.

No.2 (not actually the main 2, it’s the 2 with one of those characters added; the one that looks like a square tennis racket) Provincial Highway, the one going right through Yangminshan National Park, still seems like the only way through to the north coast if we want to avoid spending time on the less interesting north-west. Maybe we can time it so we go up in the week.

I’m not sure when this trip will be but that sounds great. Do you live close to the no.2 highway? (I realise you’ll probably want to answer this by private message rather than on a public message board).

I use a 1-volume road map of Taiwan, scale 1:90,000. For those who are interested the cover color is red. It’s the most convenient one I’ve found for actually using on the road. For sheer detail, though, I’m thinking of buying the north Taiwan volume of a 2-volume set, at 1:50,000. If you like maps, this one is great; it also has larger scale maps in the back with excellent coloring; one group of these pages is for elevation and I think the other is for vegetation. The downside is the price; 2000NT for each volume!

Back to those backroads; I can see that that no.2something highway goes north almost to the edge of Taipei City, where it turns east and a branch road, the 101, goes north west. In between and to the north of these two roads are a spiderweb of little roads going to the coast. I realise you probably can’t do much with this description but maybe somebody else can help out.

I haven’t found a useable road map on the internet.


I live in Yangmei, which is about 20km south of the CKS Airport. If you are heading north by motorcycle, you will pass my house regardless whether you are on the 1 or 3 (Would highly recommend the 3).

As for all of the spider roads leading off the two heading over the mountains and to the coast, I can safely say I have done them all. I lived in Tamshui many years ago and had access to all of these local Yangmingshan twisties. I can certainly point you in the right direction for this journey, and maybe join you if the timing is right.

Anyway, maybe we should continue this discussion via email, unless there are others out there planning motorcycle tours as well. Would love to hear from more of you out there hitting the mountain roads, especially those of you that have bitten the bullet and purchased real bikes.

Would also be very interested to hear from anyone who has taken the big-bike class…Anyone?

The main roads of Yangmingshan are certainly crowded in the weekends, but there’s dozens of others that don’t have so much traffic.


Watch this space for info from our very own LazyMF, who, along with Jeremy the English bike repair/maintenance/rental guy, has big plans for their place that includes a banner on Forumosa, some kind of touring club, and all kinds of other interesting stuff.
Stop in, get your bike fixed up PROPERLY – no really, they’ll even look at things that aren’t broken (!!!) – have a coffee, buy a used book, and enjoy a plate of Jody’s excellent swordfish with rosemary home fries.
Drive up Hsinhai Rd past Taida in the direction of the tunnel. Cross Jilung Rd. and turn left at the first set of lights. Jeremy’s place is about two shops in on the right-hand side (he’s not open in the mornings).

Hold on:

I’m 42 years old and don’t look anything like Burt (good or bad?) for some people the motorcycle bug bites harder that’s all. I think the main reason that I still enjoy it so much is that I don’t use it for daily transportation. I think riding a motorcycle here in the winter would really suck and turn many people off to longer road trips!

An English speaking mechanic that is competent and serves seafood? Shit, sign me up…And why isn’t this guy on here giving advice? I can’t even imagine how many frustrated people are out there getting their bikes/scooters serviced by incompetent fools. Maybe this guy could jump on with more than directions to his shop. Basic maintenence tips, troubleshooting for folks that don’t live in Taipei, and maybe most important of all how to find a decent mechanic!

I’m really convinced that Taiwan is way underrated for adventure travelers. A motorcycle touring company in Taiwan could have some real potential…Wish him the best of luck! :sunglasses:

I’ve found winter trips to be fine. It’s the dry season, which makes for better road conditions. Thermal underwear is cheap here if you feel the need.

I’ll certainly be interested to look at Sandman’s friend Jeremy’s website when it’s up. When I started going to the hills by motorcycle a year ago, it seemed like nobody else was doing the same thing. I gradually met some Taiwanese people who had done or were doing it as students, and now I’m starting to hear about a few foreigners as well. It’s obvious that some people, such as Michael, must have been doing it for quite a while, but still when you say to many Taiwanese people that you went to such and such a place by motorcycle, they seem amazed or concerned.

For those of us in central Taiwan, I’ll mention Eric again. He’s done certified training and is a Yamaha specialist. Like Jeremy, he’s good on regular maintenance and does a thorough, conscientious job. He’s into getting bikes to perform as well as they can and to be reliable and long-lasting. He keeps up with innovations - he recently bought a machine for making nitrogen to put in tyres because it’s better (makes them last longer, reduces chance of a blowout).
His English is not bad, but I recommend going to see him personally rather than talking about technical stuff on the phone. Directions for getting to his place here;


Just out of curiosity, how long have you been here? Other than the last two years, Taiwan winters have been the most depressing thing I’ve ever seen. I mention this because the last two winters have been really mild and dry. This is not the norm. (will say Taichung winter weather is better than up north)

I was not talking so much about road trips per se, more like the average city commuter schlogging to work when it’s 10C and raining. The first time my wife and I went to Haulien back in 89, it rained the whole way down. Yuck! Despite my imported rain gear we were soaked to the bone. Ended up putting the bike on a train and flying home. Every rain drenched km I kept saying to myself “why didn’t I drive?” Maybe I am just a fair-weather riding wimp!

I can recommend a couple of competent mechanics in Taoyuan County but none of them speak English. But if you see this thread and are having a problem with your ride, I will be happy to help get it sorted out for you.

Double ten coming up…Maybe road trip time?

Still, to this day, when you tell a local you’ve been around the Island by motorcycle, the response is shock. However, last year about 20 Lau-wai’s made the journey from Jungli to Kenting and back again, including one young woman on a 50cc scooter with a dog!

People are doing it, but not nearly as many as you’d think…I have a friend here who has been in Taiwan slightly longer than myself. He has yet to go to Kenting or Hualien for that matter! It’s so sad.

Does your mechanic have seafood?

[quote=“Michael J Botti”]Just out of curiosity, how long have you been here? Other than the last two years, Taiwan winters have been the most depressing thing I’ve ever seen. I mention this because the last two winters have been really mild and dry. This is not the norm. (will say Taichung (Taizhong) winter weather is better than up north)[/quote]I’ve been here coming up for two years. The Taiwanese weather gods must be putting on a good show with their winters especially for me!

[quote=“Michael J Botti”]I was not talking so much about road trips per se, more like the average city commuter schlogging to work when it’s 10C and raining. The first time my wife and I went to Haulien back in 89, it rained the whole way down. Yuck! Despite my imported rain gear we were soaked to the bone. Ended up putting the bike on a train and flying home. Every rain drenched km I kept saying to myself “why didn’t I drive?” Maybe I am just a fair-weather riding wimp![/quote]I don’t mind the cold but the rain is not nice;it gets in my Cat boots and in the back roads in Taichung county it washes fine topsoil onto the road, making the surface marginally better than an ice rink. From mid-July to mid-September, it rained every Sunday afternoon in the hills. I’ll have to copy the Taiwanese and start getting up early.

I’ve had worse before though- I rode a Honda C50 30 miles a day getting to work and back throughout an English winter. I had to borrow a pair of woolly stockings from my girlfriend at the time.

[quote=“Michael J Botti”]I can recommend a couple of competent mechanics in Taoyuan County but none of them speak English. But if you see this thread and are having a problem with your ride, I will be happy to help get it sorted out for you.[/quote]Nice of you to offer that help to people.

[quote=“Michael J Botti”]Does your mechanic have seafood?[/quote]That’s a regrettable omission on his part. Nitrogen machine but no seafood.

[quote=“Michael J Botti”]Double ten coming up…Maybe road trip time?[/quote]Exactly what I was thinking. Have you ever been (or has anyone else been) to Kuanwu (Guanwu) in the Shei-Pa (Xueba) National Park? Robert Storey has good things to say about it in the Lonely Planet guide. It’s not too far from Taichung as the crow flies, but to get there I’d need to go north until level with Hsinchu, turn east for a bit and then go on the Kuanwu road south into the national park.

I was thinking of going right through from Taichung to Kuanwu on the Friday, going for walks around there Saturday daytime then heading to Hsinchu Saturday late afternoon/early evening. On Sunday morning I would get up reasonably early and bike to Shitoushan, that pretty hill with a lot of temples on it on the Hsinchu/Miaoli border. Having gone up and down that, I would have earned lunch at a decent restaurant I know just beside the long bridge at Nanjuang (Nanzhuang). That would leave time for a nice leisurely ride south through that area, giving my pillion passenger (if I can persuade one along for all the trip or just the Hsinchu-Taichung bit) a great view of the river to the right of the road.

Don’t know if all that will happen but it’s what I’m thinking at the moment. Want to come along for the Kuanwu bit?

It’s amazing what can be achieved. Bikers in the UK would think a 400 was a bit small for touring, then you’ve got someone going to Kending on a 50.

I see more and more legal big-bike riders around, with their yellow plates. Why do most of them seem to go for 750 or 1000cc bikes? On the vast majority of Taiwan’s bikeable roads (not freeways of course) you don’t need that much power, and the weight will make them harder to handle. I can’t think of anything worse than trying to get a big shiny new BMW around Taiwanese city streets, either.

A 400 would suit me fine but even 250s are still very expensive at the moment. Plus, if what is written on the ‘Bigger Bikes’ thread ( … c&start=60 ) is right, foreigners have to retake the big bike test every year.

I checked out Poagao’s account of renting a Honda Hornet 250 for a trip to Danshui, (under ‘Tuesday, July 22’ on this page;

I was reading stuff about the Hornet and I came across a similar bike, the Honda Jade 250, which seems to be a bit more practical for longer trips and some touring. It has the same engine as the Hornet, and also has front and rear disk brakes. The riding position and the saddle look more comfortable for both the rider and pillion. The exhaust pipe doesn’t jut up like the Hornet’s does, so there’s more space to fit saddle bags or pannier boxes. It has a centre stand, which I don’t believe the Hornet has, which makes it easier and quicker to do some maintenance jobs, and gives more stability when parked. Another possible virtue is that the back tyre is a more normal size (the Hornet’s is massive) which would save money and anyway with normal riding I don’t think you’d need such a massive tyre.

Pics and specs for the Jade can be found here;

Like the Hornet, it’s made in Japan. Has anybody seen one of these Jades or anything else like it for sale in Taiwan? It’s out of my financial league now but I’d be interested to know.

Our (Jeremy’s) website won’t be up for a little while yet, but we’re working on it… slowly. There’s just too much going on to get much of a chance to sit down and fix a website up. Anyway, as Sandman said, pop in anytime after 12pm for a coffee and a chat.

To answer your question Michael, Jeremy, like most mechanics I imagine, isn’t really a ‘computer’ kind of guy. Since opening up shop here, foreign and local interest in the place has been increasing steadily. However, having only been open for just over 2 months now, the capital still isn’t there to hire Taiwanese help, so we’re all constantly busy. I’ve posted information and directions on Forumosa before, but will do it again below. Anyway, we’re always happy to have people in the shop, so as I said, come in and have a chat about whatever (it would be better if your bike needed work done to it though :stuck_out_tongue: ).

#4, Lane 157, Section 3 Xinhai Rd., Taipei. Coming from Gongguan, go up Jilong Rd to the Jilong/Xinhai intersection, turn right into Xinhai, and then do one of those extended left hand turns into the first (only) intersection you see before the Xinhai tunnel approach. There’s a big yellow sign with the characters ’

Great thread guys!!
Just posting to say thanks for a positive and educational thread. Keep up the good work. Unfortunately, I don’t have the knowledge, nor the equipment to add anything. At the moment I’m riding a motorized weasel (i.e. scooter).

I’ll add my recommendation to all the “Jeremy is wonderful” stuff that is appearing here. Great guy!

Does anyone have a good suggestion for getting a decent set of paniers? Not the tacky plastic box variety, nor the leather saddlebag thing either. Where to go, how much to pay? I might even go as far as a box on the back too.

Sandman suggested to me that I make this thread ‘sticky’ to keep it near the top of the travel forum so people could easily access it. I see that some kind moderator has already done that.

I’m happy to see that people feel this is a useful thread; I certainly think motorcycle touring is a great way to see Taiwan.

In the interests of keeping things going and encouraging new posters, I will give guanxi points to new posters on this thread, provided of course they have something at least vaguely relevant to say or ask. For those who don’t know, guanxi points are a kind of virtual currency on this forum that enable you to do things like have an avatar (the picture to the left of the message) or have signature text automatically attached to every post you make.
Double guanxi for beginning members of Forumosa, say within their first ten posts!

I would like to think that this thread was a kind of ‘rainbow nation’ and that people who had all kinds of motorized two-wheel transport could get useful info and feel emboldened to take to the hills. Michael posted earlier about the woman who rode a 50cc to Kending with her dog, and I’ve seen scooters up on Hehuanshan at 3000 metres plus. Even cyclists could join in, although I must admit to being jealous of anyone who can ride comfortably for more than half an hour up Taiwan’s hills!

Maoman, of the scooters I’ve seen at Hehuanshan, several were Yamaha Majesties. What’s the farthest you’ve taken your Majesty?

Possible topics for future discussion;
Recommended routes, nice destinations and questions on these
Motorcycle maintenance and aftermarket add-ons
Safe riding tips
Protective apparel- recommendations and questions
Models of motorcycle and scooter

Not sure about panniers; you could try one of the shops that specialises in big bikes, but they wouldn’t be cheap.

You can get a decent Taiwan-made lockable top box for between 1-2000NT. Some of them have contoured cushioning for the pillion passenger to lean back on; of course you’d have to make sure that the mounting to the bike was strong. Some of them have a red brake light you can wire up - that would be an extra safety feature, especially since a top box is at car drivers’ eye level. I’m sticking some retro-reflective stickers onto my top box. Retro-reflective material is that really shiny stuff that shows up very brightly in other vehicles’ headlights.

Has anyone found any more info on these Honda Jade bikes that Josax mentioned? Would be a fantastic way to skirt around so many of the big bike restrictions…249cc (I’m liking that number more and more). My poor RZX, although looking and running great, is now the product of 4 different motorcyles! I’ve got 2 frames, 4 engines 1 fairing and hundreds of no longer availible parts just to keep my baby running!..A fresh new 250 sounds really nice to me! Find it Joe if you can! Buy two, get a discount right? :wink: Don’t worry, they must have a payment plan. (I’ll need it too!) Joesax, you keep that FZ for about 2 more years and you’ll be doing the junkyard shuffle as well!

Have heard so many good things about Jeremy that a short jaunt to Taipei may be on order…Any place to park my 4x4? (lived around there a million years ago and parking was a pain back then!)

Went out for a sweet ride on Sunday. From my place out past Shrmen dam and on up to the Northern-cross Island highway for about 70K…Nice, nice day :smiley:

Now if Jeremy could just find me a decent truck mechanic…

I’m embarrassed to say it, but I have done almost NO recreational touring on my bike. I got the Majesty 250 to make my commute a little faster and safer. I have several private students up on Yangmingshan, though, and it is a pleasure to be doing 80km/h going uphill. I could never do that on my 125 Majesty. I really should do a trip, though. I just got new Dunlops (the original tires were complete shite, as per usual with Yamaha Taiwan), and I finally feel “sure-footed”. The 250 Majesty is also supremely comfortable, and has loads of storage space.

that four stroke 250cc mopeds(Yamaha Majesty, Suzuki Skywave, Kymco Ego/Dink) climb Yangmingshan’s Yang De Da Dao with ease at 80+kmph, they can be beat in an uphill race by any lightly tuned 135-150cc two stroke screamer.

250cc bikes/mopeds are a great way to skirt the expensive licensing and tax requirements that come with big bike ownership. plus the plates are the same as any old 125, not the ostentatious yellow plates. u can safely park your ride on the side of the street and not have to worry that every male that passes by is seriously considering key-ing ur bike out of jealousy.

i take my 250 kymco through the backroads of yangmingshan quite often. on Yang De Da Dao, i can usually pull 80-120 uphill on the straightest sections, passing even the fastest of cars. I often do wonder what a fat tired 600cc+ bike could do tho’… Ocassionally i race against an RZR(135?) two stroke that beats me by a good 10-15kph on the clocks, i suppose his top speed uphill is about 135-140…wow.

one of the best drives heads up YMS, drive all the way thru to Jin Shan, round the north coast at Shi Men, then come back towards Taipei through Dan Shui. Overall a very nice scenic route, uncomplicated as well. About 2 hours total. An alternative is to make a right at Jinshan, and head out to Keelung, returning on the same road heading towards Shi Men and Dan Shui. This is 3+ hours of riding, make sure ur bike is comfortable…and watch out for speed traps…i usually just tail the local college kids and drive at whatever speed they can get away with…