Login Login with Facebook Register

Road Cycling Trip in Taipei 台北

Posted June 15, 2016 06:04PM by Skye in the Cycling Forum

Skye
Skye Skye Nott
@TheStaminist   Skye Nott Staminist.com
Location: Vancouver, Canada
Joined: 2 years ago   Posts: 493

I recently spent a few weeks in Taiwan and I really wanted to do some cycling while I was staying in Taipei (台北). I knew from previous visits that Taipei was surrounded on three sides by rolling hills and mountains, and that they were covered with winding country roads that looked ideal for some road biking adventures, but other than that had no idea how to get out riding. I had ruled out bringing my own bike, as the baggage fees are substantial and I didn't want to haul a bike bag around the country while we were traveling.

First, I needed to see if there were any dedicated bicycle routes in Taipei. If you've been to Taiwan before, you know that the mix of cars, little blue trucks, and millions of scooters can make for a pretty hectic environment, and especially being in a foreign country with signs I can't read, I was keen to find some more sedate route options. I went to Taipei on Google Maps and turned on the cycling layer, nothing there - not uncommon, as Google Maps doesn't seem to have cycling route info for a lot of countries outside of North America and Europe. Luckily, OpenCycleMap (part of the OpenStreetMap project) showed a big network of bike paths along the rivers!

(what's even better is there's an OSM layer for route planning on RideWithGPS, but more about that later)



Click to view OSM Cycle Map of Taipei


After a bit of searching, I discovered something about Taipei that had completely eluded me on previous visits. Taipei is located in a river basin, and there are a number of large rivers cutting through the city. During the monsoon season, these rivers can swell and to mitigate the flood risk, buffer zones and large walls have been constructed along all the rivers through the city. These riverside green zones have recently been cleaned up, removing a lot of illegal structures, industrial garbage, and converting them into parks, paths, and ecological reserves for many kinds of birds. And all of these riverside parks have bike paths, forming a big connected network that would be fun to ride and provide safe, fast access to the edges of the cities and the hills beyond.

(There is an emerging environmental consciousness in Taiwan that is great to see developing - it is a beautiful tropical island, too often ruined by pollution and garbage)



The guides said that these riverside bikeways and parks be accessed through "evacuation gates" but I wasn't sure what those were so I did some more searching. I found this blog post which answered my question and got me even more excited to explore:

Quote
Synapticism
The city inside the wall and the great riverside beyond feel like completely different worlds. Inside is endless urban sprawl, crowded concrete high-rises, hot and noisy streets. Cross through a break in the wall and you will discover an almost limitless expanse of open space along the Tamsui river and its many tributaries. The riverside park isn’t wild or natural by any means—but it is certainly vibrant and green, a refuge from the bleak Taipei cityscape.

I also downloaded several large PDF maps from the Taipei Travel website, which contain a lot of useful information.



Download Taipei City Cycling Map PDF


So, now that I had an idea of where I wanted to ride, it was time to figure out how to rent a bike. That's in the next section below.

If you have any questions, or if you found any of this information useful, please post a comment below.


Webmaster - Staminist.com

Attachments

OSM Taipei Bike Paths.jpg 63.2 KB open | download
Taipei River Bikeway Park.jpg 73.2 KB open | download
Taipei Cycling Map.jpg 71.2 KB open | download

Skye
Skye Skye Nott
@TheStaminist   Skye Nott Staminist.com
Location: Vancouver, Canada
Joined: 2 years ago   Posts: 493

Renting a bike in Taipei

The first thing I found was Taipei's city bike share program called YouBike which was launched in 2009. However, since they are heavy 3 speed city bikes, it isn't really appropriate for the kind of road cycling that I wanted to do. They do seem like a good option for getting around the city; there are lots of stations (160+), and the city has installed separated bike paths along a lot of major roads. You can check out a bike using your MRT EasyCard, however it seems you need a local phone number in order to register your EasyCard for use with the YouBike system. As a foreign visitor, I never figured out how to get that working, but the MRT (subway) system is so good I never really felt the need.

The next option I looked at was the Taipei Riverside bike rentals network. While I was researching the river side cycling path system, I discovered there were rental locations at different points. The list of rental locations, opening hours, and rules can be found here: Taipei Riverside Bike Rental

Note that as a foreign visitor, you will need to leave a piece of ID (probably passport) and NT$2,000 as a deposit (about $60 USD) until the bike is returned (although apparently some locations may or may not require one or the other, or the deposit amount may be different). At first I thought this would be a great option, but on further research I suspected that all the bikes they rent are hybrid/touring style bikes (straight mountain bike style handlebars, instead of drop-handlebars on a road bike) which is not what I wanted. Later when I rode by the rental locations, the bikes they had out on display seemed to confirm this assumption, but I didn't go into any of the rental locations (usually found in converted shipping containers) to confirm what kind of bikes they offer.

I mention this option because it might work for other people, it's very inexpensive (NT$350 per day for the best bikes, about $11 USD) and would be a good option if you're only sticking to the flat riverside bikeways, taking a one way scenic trip to the zoo, going to one of the bird watching areas, that kind of thing.

But, I was looking for a proper drop-bar road bike, so my search continued. I knew that the mega-brand Giant was based in Taiwan (actually almost all mid and high end bikes and components are made in Taiwan) so I figured the huge network of Giant stores would probably offer some kind of rental - I had heard that they rented touring bikes that you could use to cycling across the island, which was getting closer to the kind of bike I wanted. Here's a few links I dug up (expat blogs are full of useful information):


The Giant Bicycles website listed lots of stores and dealers in the area around where I was staying in Taipei, but unfortunately I got no response to any of the emails I sent (in English). I found one Giant store that was across the street from the Dadaocheng Wharf "evacuation gate #9" access point to the riverside bikeways, so it seemed like a good place to start. I loaded it up on Google Streetview (so useful!) and here's what I found:



Three bike shops in a row, and another around the corner! It's quite common in Taiwan for shops of a similar kind to "cluster" in an area, so I figured if one didn't rent bikes, at least there were other options. From right to left in the photo above of the end of Minsheng W Rd (there's also a big Riverside Bike Rental at the wharf)

  1. Evacuation Gate #9 at Dadaocheng Wharf
  2. Giant Bicycles Dadaocheng
  3. Perate Co Bike shop
  4. Attaque Weifull Dadaocheng
  5. And around the corner, a store that carried Fuji bikes but was closed

A few days after landing in Taipei, getting settled in, and seeing a few sights, I gathered up my cycling gear (the usual roadie clothes, garmin & mount, lights, some basic tools) and headed to the Giant Dadaocheng store. My first guess worked out, they had good road bikes for rent!

Most stores in Taiwan open late, and close late. Unfortunately this also applies to bicycle shops, the Giant Dadaocheng store's hours were 10am to 10pm so I couldn't take advantage of waking up at the crack of dawn from the jet lag and getting some rides in while traffic was quiet. I'm only 180cm tall (5'10) but most of their bikes were too small. They did have a TCR in large, which appear to have never been cleaned and had some very old tires, but shifted and worked well enough. The store manager spoke perfect English, he took my Canadian passport as deposit, and the rate was NT$150 per hour to a daily max of NT$1000 (about $31 USD per day), expensive by Taiwan standards but reasonably priced to me.

I'll describe my rides and add photos in the next post. On the first ride, I rented the Giant TCR, on the second ride the TCR was already rented so I ended up on a brand new Giant Propel in size small for the same rate, which was a bit cramped but fit surprisingly well for the day. For the third ride, both the TCR and the Propel were both rented out already, so I went next door to Perate and rented a Felt F85 for just NT$100/hour.

If you have any questions, or if you found any of this information useful, please post a comment below.

Attachments

Dadaocheng Minsheng Bicycle Shops.jpg 33.2 KB open | download
Taipei Bike Rental Giant TCR.jpg 100.3 KB open | download
Taipei Bike Rental Giant TCR.jpg
Taipei Bike Rental Giant Propel.jpg 84.4 KB open | download
Taipei Bike Rental Giant Propel.jpg
Taipei Bike Rental Felt F85.jpg 54.8 KB open | download
Taipei Bike Rental Felt F85.jpg

Skye
Skye Skye Nott
@TheStaminist   Skye Nott Staminist.com
Location: Vancouver, Canada
Joined: 2 years ago   Posts: 493

Planning my Taipei Cycling Routes

When I go cycling in a new place, the first thing I check to find good routes is often the Strava Labs Global Heatmap.

It simply overlays the frequency of Strava rides over the map, so the brighter lines show popular routes and are a great starting point for searching for segments and rides around that area. Here's the heatmap for Taipei:



The riverside bikeways really stand out, and the roads up Yangmingshan mountain to the north and the hills between Taipei and the Feitsui Dam in the south looked promising. Most of the "Visit Taiwan" type tourist guides are aimed at very low-effort cycling, so I used the Strava Segment Explorer to find some popular segments on those roads, then looked at the activities for some of the top riders over those segments.

I followed some of the athletes currently active on those rides, and posted a few comments asking for route and rental suggestions on Strava. They were really friendly and offered advice, invited me to join them for rides (unfortunately with my schedule, I didn't get to meet anyone), and one fellow even offered to lend me a bike! Seems like a great community of roadies in Taipei, a mix of locals and expats, with some really fast guys that tear up the mountains on a regular basis.

I use a Garmin 800 cycling computer for navigation, so to create the GPX files to copy to my Garmin over USB, I use the awesome free route planning tools at RideWithGPS. Strava has route planning/GPX creation tools as well, but I prefer RideWithGPS for the simple fact that they offer loads of different map overlay types. Not only do you have street maps, but also topo maps, and the OpenCycleMap overlay (OSM Cycle) which contains way more international bike path information than Google Maps!

Here are a few of the routes I created, some way more ambitious than others. Always good to have options! Unfortunately, I didn't make it north of Taipei to do the climbs on Yangmingshan mountain on this trip, next time....

View my profile on RideWithGPS for more Taiwan and other routes I've created.

Scroll down to the next post to see the rides I did on Strava.

Beitou Yangtou Loop v3 - Tour of the south side of Yangmingshan


Yangmingshan Loop - all the way around, starting in Beitou


Tea Fields Pinglin Pingxi - monster climbing day


Fude Cemetery - and back through the city


Bitan Climb SE Feitsui - popular climb above the Feitsui resevoir

Attachments

Strava Heatmap Taipei.jpg 58.7 KB open | download

Skye
Skye Skye Nott
@TheStaminist   Skye Nott Staminist.com
Location: Vancouver, Canada
Joined: 2 years ago   Posts: 493

Cycling in Taipei - My Rides

The first ride was just to see what kind of bike I could rent from the Dadaocheng wharf area and a recon of the riverside bike paths. Coming from winter in Canada, it was taking some getting used to temps in the high 20C range with very high humidity. I rode from Dadaocheng down to Bitan, a very nice area with a covered food market, paddle boat rentals, and an old suspension bridge for pedestrians and cyclists. The river is wide and deep at Bitan and the cliffs make for beautiful jade coloured water. One great thing about Taiwan is there are little convenience stores everywhere, you can buy bottles of very inexpensive water or energy drink almost anywhere there are people.

31c time to ride

A post shared by Skye PN (@skye604) on


Bitan pit stop

A post shared by Skye PN (@skye604) on


, Canada 0
Dadaocheng to Bitan, good place to start lots of mountain roads. Not used to the heat yet.
Apr 06, 2016
1:19 pm

118 m
40.8 km

1:50:05
22.3 km/h

 
86 W avg




Now that I was more familiar with cycling in Taipei, I rode to Bitan again but continued into the hills (I think the peaks were called Shizitou & Zhitan). Very quickly I was out of the city and into the jungle, with just a few houses in the lush tropical valleys. The roads wound up the hills, often at 15% grade. A very enjoyable and sweaty ride. Almost entirely, motorists were very good about leaving me space, or being patient on the narrow hill roads until there was space to pass.

Decisions, decisions

A post shared by Skye PN (@skye604) on


Everything is jade

A post shared by Skye PN (@skye604) on


, Canada 24 18
Shizitou & Zhitan
Apr 09, 2016
11:40 am

1,354 m
87.2 km

4:51:45
17.9 km/h

 
103 W avg




From studying the Strava Labs heat map of Taipei (describe above), I could see going up and down to the Maokong tea fields was a popular route for roadies. I'd already been up in that area on the gondola from the zoo, but I wanted to give it a go on the bike. There were some crazy steep sections (upwards of 20%) that really tested my legs even with a compact chainset and 28t on the cassette. There was a great moment just when I rounded a hairpin and there was a wall of road in front of me, and the Buddhist temple on the corner started ringing their gong and playing some chants. It was a meditative effort up that grade!

On the way back I tried my first section of riding on a busy arterial road. On Taiwan roads, there's almost always space for a sort of scooter lane between the cars and traffic but I wasn't sure how the scooterists would react to having a cyclist among them. I had my Bontrager Flare tail light set to daytime mode for extra visibility, and it worked out just fine. Traffic was fast, but again the drivers and scooters were patient and I never felt like I was being passed in a dangerous manner. However, I soon turned off and rejoined the riverside bikeway system, as sucking in the truck fumes wasn't very nice.

More cycling adventures

A post shared by Skye PN (@skye604) on


A post shared by Skye PN (@skye604) on


That was a climb

A post shared by Skye PN (@skye604) on


, Canada 23 6
Well that escalated quickly
Apr 20, 2016
2:47 pm

752 m
68.3 km

3:35:39
19.0 km/h

 
98 W avg




Even though I only had time for 3 rides, I feel like I got a good taste of road cycling in Taipei, and had a great time.

There are so many rides left to do, I'm going to have to go back again soon!

If you have any questions, or if you found any of this information useful, please post a comment below.
Post a reply, start a new topic, join the conversation!

Create Account

Login   or   Login with Facebook