Is Taiwan the Cycling Capitol of Asia?


Taiwan looks as if it were designed as a paradise for cyclists. Offering unparalleled scenery, challenging terrain, and amenities for weary riders, the island nation draws more and more visitors from across the globe each year.

“There aren’t many places in the world where you can ride along the coast, then (travel a short distance to) climb an 11,000-foot mountain,” said Nate Schickel, a frequent visitor to the island nation.

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Where to go

The famed Cycling Route No. 1 might be the best way to experience Taiwan cycling culture firsthand, taking riders about 1,200 kilometers around the island, following the breathtakingly scenic coast. Riders pass numerous historic temples and villages, take in gorgeous gardens and lakes, and, of course, travel up multiple mountains.

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Courtesy of Taiwan Tourism

“Most of (Cycling Route No.1 ) is either protected bike lanes or ample sized bike lanes,” said Brian Hemsworth, an avid cyclist who rode much of the route last year.

The food is great. The people are wonderful. And the riding is amazing!

“The southeastern side of Taiwan was among my favorite parts of the ride. Protected bike paths through rice paddies and lush green valley were postcard perfect. But my best day was the mountain pass on Highway 9, crossing from the east coast to the west coast at the southern end of the island. A great climb, a great descent, and stunning views along the way.”

The eastern side of the country is a bit more rugged than the densely populated west coast, but still abound with food and lodging options. Most visitors find 12 days is more than enough time to ride the entire route, while still enjoying the stops along the way.

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Sun Moon Lake Cycling Path

Courtesy of Taiwan Tourism

Sun Moon Lake is also a must visit. Considered one of the most beautiful bike trails in the world, this approximately 10-mile path winds around the largest natural lake in Taiwan through groves of red cherry blossoms. Take a slight detour to visit Wen Wu Temple, a large, intricately designed sanctuary with views of the impossibly blue lake. Only 16 miles away, Jiji Bike Trail in Nantou County offers a similar pedal through nature. Riders will pass through the so-called green tunnel, a nearly three-mile stretch of 1,000 Cinnamomum Camphora trees that were originally planted in 1933.

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Jiji Bike Trail

Courtesy of Taiwan Tourism

Cyclists flying into Taipei find riding the 6-mile Tamsui Golden Shore Bike Path a great way to ease into a multiday cycling adventure. An easy pedal through a popular Taipei tourist district, riders can shake out the jetlag while experiencing the picturesque wharf and numerous dining options.

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Tamshui Golden Shore Bike Path

Courtesy of Taiwan Tourism

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Infrastructure

If you’ll be spending more time off the bike than on while riding around Taipei or one of the other major cities, consider taking advantage of the local bike-share system. YouBikes stations can be found on most streets, and riders are charged for every half hour in the saddle. Visitors can use the same EasyCard they use for the public transit system.

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Courtesy of Taiwan Tourism

Given the number of bicycle manufacturers located in Taiwan – Giant Bicycles, the largest bike manufacturer in the world, is headquartered here – expect to see plenty of both local and international cyclists on the latest equipment. People who weren’t able to bring their own bike can rent one from nearly 300 Giant stores throughout the country. Unfortunately, the site doesn’t have an English option yet, so you may need to use auto-translate.

Taking a cue from the popular cycling routes in Europe, Taiwan has its share of bike hotels, where guests can find a maintenance room where they can wash and repair their creaky steeds, then rest themselves.

Big events

The best time to visit might be in the fall, when the humidity drops and the country hosts the Taiwan Cycling Fest each October and November. The highlight could be the Formosa 900, which uses basically the same template as Cycling Route No. 1, with dozens of teams pedaling nearly 900 kilometers over 9 days. So which is better?

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Courtesy of Taiwan Tourism

“Formosa 900 is a cycling event that happens annually, whereas Cycling Route No. 1 will always be there for you to explore”, said Brad Shih, Director of Taiwan Tourism Bureau’s Los Angeles Office. “Both are wonderful opportunities to experience the beauty of Taiwan on two wheels. If you wish to go around the island at your own pace, doing Cycling Route No. 1 might be more appropriate. Want to meet fellow cyclists and do it as a team? Then joining Formosa 900 would be the way to go.”

Held at the same time as the Taiwan Cycling Fest, the Sun Moon Lake Cycling, Music, and Fireworks Festival is a great pairing of local beauty, wonderful sounds, and spectacular nighttime entertainment.

Looking to push yourself even more? Tackle the Taiwan KOM Challenge, where riders climb more than 11,000 brutal feet over 69 miles. Both amateur and World Tour riders suffer on this beautiful, switchback-filled climb up Taroko Mountain, generally considered one of the hardest in the world. Grades in the last 10 miles can hit 20 percent and last for what seems like an eternity.

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Courtesy of Taiwan Tourism

Throughout the country, more than 200 peaks surpass 10,000-feet in height, making Taiwan a climber’s dream. No matter what time of year you visit, be sure to pack arm warmers or a jacket. While temperatures routinely exceed 86 degrees from June through August, you’ll likely encounter bitter cold and maybe even snow atop many of the high mountains.

Making plans

If you’d rather focus on riding and leave the planning to someone else, multiple outfitters – Giant Adventure, My Taiwan Tour, Panagoe Professional Cycling Tour, and Lion Travel – offer guided or self-guided tours.


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