A Cycling Adventure in Taiwan Offers A Unique Tour of the Island
Love biking, but hate that Southern California cycling infrastructure is, frankly, severely lacking? Tired of riding the L.A. River route again and again, mixing it up in sparse bike lanes and having nowhere to journey? Then pack a helmet and bike shorts and head to Taiwan, where cycling is a unique and wonderful way to explore.
Biking and Taiwan have longstanding roots. During the road bicycle boom of the 1970s, many frames shipped worldwide were produced in Taiwan, and they became well-known for their light, strong frames. Soon after, the Giant Bicycle Company began production of their own bicycles in addition to creating frames for other manufacturers, and the rest is history.
The Taiwanese government, seeing the impact that biking was having both worldwide and in their own country, decided to invest heavily in bicycle infrastructure. In addition, the culture of bicycling became larger and more mainstream - it seemed that everyone in Taiwan was exploring by bicycle. And why not? With a temperate climate, endless coastline, and beautiful mountains and lakes to surmount or circumnavigate, Taiwan is tailor-made for cycle-based adventure. This year, take a much-needed respite from lockdown and “homebody body” and explore Taiwan on two wheels.
Cycling Route No. 1
The crown jewel of Taiwan’s biking infrastructure, the nearly 600 mile - three-quarters of the length of California’s coast - Cycling Route No. 1 is a must-ride for any biking tourist. The route, completed in 2015, circumnavigates the island, passing through ultra-modern cityscapes, pristine tropical coastline, and mountain passes. While it’s a 9- to 12-day challenge to complete the entire route, the beauty of Cycling Route No. 1 is it can be started and ended anywhere, allowing you to choose your own adventure - city, country or a mix of both - during your visit.
Renting a bicycle is an easy and affordable alternative to lugging and reassembling a frame across the ocean. Most major cities - and many smaller ones - have hubs that will outfit a cyclist for a casual day trip or a multi-night adventure. Cycling Route No. 1 features incredible amounts of infrastructure as well - rest areas every 20km (about 12.5 miles), links to city routes and scenic bypasses, and safe, dedicated bike lanes when in city traffic.
The details of infrastructure aside - the route and its beautiful scenery are what draw so many to ride. From climbing through cloud-capped mountains, still fresh from a summer sprinkle to pedaling along the Pacific Ocean or taking in the stunning heights of Taipei’s skyscrapers, the ride is an unforgettable experience.
Sun Moon Lake
Looking to head inland with a bike, or simply love to take in cycling culture? Taiwan’s beautiful, ancient Sun Moon Lake is the answer. The largest body of water in Taiwan, the lake is home to indigenous peoples, classic Eastern architecture and temples, and unsurpassed scenic beauty. In short, it’s perfect for exploring on a bicycle.
Heading out on a fog-hazed morning gives way to sunny afternoons and beautiful lake and mountain views. Stopping at any of the charming towns along the lakeside offers a rest, great food, and fascinating history - relics from Taiwan’s original inhabitants and the island’s history abound.
The route offers challenges and leisure in equal measure. Pulling up over the crest of a mountain pass in Puli Township affords gorgeous views of Sun Moon Lake, while the Shuili Shui’an Bikeway offers a leisurely pedal under natural shade.
Tour de Taiwan
Unsure of where to start? Tourism Taiwan recommends themed tours. These biking adventures, from simple day routes to multiple-day excursions, are highlighted on their website to allow travelers to narrow down routes and not become overwhelmed by options. For example, the Golden Mountain and Sea Route, a day trip, takes riders through a tunnel and onward toward several stunning ecosystems, including the stunning LaiLai coastline and its wave-cut platforms.
Or ride the two-day Ride to the Mountains, a challenging route passing through the Xinwei Forest Park and its natural shade all the way up to the Maolin Scenic Area and its beautiful river-cut gorges.
Itching to get rolling? Visit taiwanbike.235.xcom.tw for information and inspiration.