If there’s a country that “gets” biking, it’s Taiwan
Home to the Giant Bike Company and King Liu, the country’s most ardent biker, Taiwan may be the world’s biking paradise. With phenomenal bike paths, natural parks, bike hotels and even bike coffee shops, this country offers more ways to enjoy the bike than any other.
Some time ago, Taiwan made the decision to encourage biking and followed through with installations of what I consider to be the best bike paths I’ve seen anywhere. Locally, I am used to having bike lanes painted along the side of the road as an afterthought.
When the bike lanes meet a bridge or a road narrowing, guess what disappears or gets so narrow that you can’t find it? Of course, it’s the bike path that comes out second. In Taiwan, by contrast, when the path meets a stream, it gets its own bridge. They’ve even built overpasses so one can bike over the freeways. This is a country that “gets it.”
While the entire island of Taiwan is only a 1/3 larger than Maryland, it offers a multitude of riding destinations. From casual ride to exerting hill climbs, you can find whatever you are looking for in Taiwan. And if you’re visiting, you’ll find lots of bike rental shops to equip you for the ride.
All around Taiwan, you’ll find dozens of bike routes laid out with either urban or coastal routes. The routes will typically have a bike shop somewhere close for supplies or service and will take you to scenic destinations you’ll never see on a tour bus. Taipei now operates a total of 10 “supply stations” in the city’s riverside parks, where you can quench your thirst, borrow air pumps or take advantage of simple repair services, free of charge.
Want to ride in the city? You can pick up a bike in the busy Xinyi District from any of 11 YouBike rental locations where for a minimal fee you can ride a bike and only pay in 15 minute increments. As of November 2011, they already had 500 bikes available and more are planned.
Looking for more of a challenge, head for Wuling and try a hill climb. Passing beautiful mountain farms and greenery, it’s nothing but straight up – for miles and miles. The downhill is amazing, but first you’ve got to make the summit. If you’re up for it, this challenge will test your stamina.
Looking for drop-dead gorgeous scenery, you’ll want to ride the Taroko Gorge. Following the river through this amazing marble gorge, you’ll see rock face walls like none you’ve seen before. Throw in a couple wonderfully colorful temples and you’ll have a hard time deciding – take pictures or enjoy the ride? Decisions, decisions.
People so love their bikes here that hotels are starting to notice and are now providing special rooms for bikers, with special bike racks, bike washing stations and repair facilities on site. Two of the more well-known are Yoho Bike Hotel in Kenting and the in Taitung. Believe it or not, they even have a “spa” for your bike.
No time to spend the night? How about stopping for a cup of coffee? Check out Taipei’s Frog Café where you hang you bike as you enter. Inside you can relax amidst a gallery of ever changing artwork. It might be photographs of someone’s latest bike adventure or it might be a retro art display. It’ll always be something interesting as the shop’s owners are avid bikers and photographers.
Given the chance, I’d always add a two-wheel component to any travel I do. Getting on a bike and cruising the area has always been one of the highlights of most of my trips. For more information on the island of Taiwan, check their websites at http://taiwan.net.tw or http://www.go2taiwan.net/.