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)
- Evacuation Gate #9 at Dadaocheng Wharf
- Giant Bicycles Dadaocheng
- Perate Co Bike shop
- Attaque Weifull Dadaocheng
- 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.