Taiwan is rapidly becoming known as “The Island of Bikes”. The mountainous island has plenty of diversity in roads to offer and has been producing world famous bikes (eg. Giant) for a long time. Giant is the biggest bike manufacturer in the world based on revenue. During the past decade the attitude towards cycling next to only producing bikes has changed. What can this country offer to cyclists? In this guide you’ll find all information required to make most out of your cycling trip in or even around Taiwan.
Where to ride: pavement, bike paths or the highway?
The rules in Taiwan are simple, you can always use the main roads except when there is a signed bike path. Cycling on sidewalks without a dedicated bike lane will be fined with NT$600 so it is either on or off based on where the signs are. The country is investing heavily in building more designated bike paths in crowded areas like Taipei. Whenever you are riding in the city, look out for these lanes on the pavement. Currently, over 5000 kilometres of trails are part of the official bike network across the island.
Outside the cities it is OK to use the highways. Most of them even have a scooter and bike lane separated from the fast traffic lanes. Quality of these roads is amazing so you would be stupid not to use them. During the day the traffic is almost nonexistent outside the cities so enjoy the space you have.
Cars and other road users are used to cyclist and do take care of you. During my 9-day trip I have had only one close encounter with a car while we have ridden around 400km of roads shared with cars.
You do have to watch out: especially outside the major cities people don’t take the rules so seriously as they should. In the Southern part of the island people are much more likely to cross red lights, driving on the wrong side of the road coming straight at you with their crappy scooters or making illegal left handed turns where they are not allowed to.
Facilities on the road: look for the 7-Eleven stores
Across the relatively small country there are over 5.000 (!) 7-Eleven stores, most of them opened 24 hours a day. Next to offering all kinds of food and drinks, some of them which are located near the dedicated cycling routes have bike stations. These have pumps and maintenance gear to fix flats. They sell tubes of most common sizes and have a great variety of special energy bars. Free restrooms in over half of them! If you buy microwave meals, ask the staff to warm it up. After signing up, you can get 3 periods of 30 minutes of free wifi per day. Another thing that could come in handy: you can send packages from one 7-Eleven to another across the country.
Climate: the best time to go cycling in Taiwan
When to go cycling in Taiwan? The best time to go bike riding in Taiwan is the period between October and February. During these months temperatures are ranging between 19 and 27 degrees Celsius. The summer months are usually really hot and particular wet.
This does not mean it doesn’t rain during autumn and winter, but at least less than during summer months. October and November have the lowest amount of rainfall so these months are most popular among cyclists. Do take care of warm layers of clothing since over 300 mountains go as high as or even higher than 3.000 meters above sea level resulting in much lower temperatures. Check out yearly trends at Climate Taiwan
Connectivity: cheap 4G coverage!
Most hotels and some shops will have a public WIFI network available but the speeds are slow, as everywhere around the globe. Since the whole world is struggling with that, the Taiwan government has come up with a solution: for a small amount of money you can buy week, 2-week or even 3-week SIM card package which have unlimited 4G internet covered. Only tourists can buy these and it is definitely worth the small amount of money. Coverage in the mountains is not always good but if you are touring around the island on route #1, you’ll have a strong 4G signal 24/7. You can buy and even pre-order these simcards at the airports. Take care that you can show both your passport and a secondary proof of identity like a driving license. I paid NT$700 for a 15-day pass and had 100% coverage during my trip. More information about specific prices can be found at the following Wikia
Public transport: bike in train & bus
An extensive railway system that circles the island has trains equipped to transport bikes. So whenever you decide to skip a part or have mechanical issues, taking a train will be no problem at all in most cases. Do check if they allow folding bikes only, which can be policy on regional trains. The transportation board is trying to get more trains equipped with bike spaces. Next to that, some trains, especially in the weekend are fully booked. So be prepared for some waiting time if you haven’t booked tickets in advance. More information about the railway and for buying train tickets, go to Taiwan Railways Administration website Travelling with your bike always require a separate ticket.
Not all buses do accept bikes and usually they require your bikes to be in a bag. There are reports from people that were allowed to put their bikes on top of the other bags in the luggage compartments. I would not take the risk and not depend on any buses. Take the train instead 🙂
Where to ride in Taiwan?
There is so much choice. The website Modern Black Hand by Alan offers over 40 routes off all kinds of difficulties ranging from Easy to Off-Chart. Off-chart is defined as ultra big hill, elevation of over 3000 vertical meters and steep sections. All his route descriptions have pictures available so go to his site and prepare your trip in detail! A few ideas:
Sun Moon Lake Bikeway
CNN Travel said the “Sun Moon Lake Bikeway” is one of the most amazing bikepaths they have ever ridden. It is one of the “World’s Top Ten most beautiful bikeways” and is known for the attractive natural setting. Check out this article for more information about the atrractions around the lake: Cycling Around Taiwan’s Sun Moon Lake
Cycling route #1
The most commonly used route is cycling route #1! This 900 kilometer route circles around the whole island. Check it out on Google Maps: Taiwan Cycling Route 1 most people ride it in 5 to 15 days based on their previous cycling experience and the number of attractions the visit during their ride.
Any questions? Let me know in the comments!