As much as I love the hustle and bustle of city life in Taipei, there is nothing better than getting out into the countryside to enjoy some fresh air and beautiful scenery. And one of the great things about being in Taipei is how easy it is to get out on a bike and explore.
The wonderful thing about cycling is that you can explore places at your own pace, you can get off the tourist map with ease and of course it’s a great way to stay in shape, not to mention you can feel like you’re doing your part to make the world a little greener!
There is all manner of cycling to be done for any level. So, what are you waiting for? Get on your bike!
YouBikes are a great place to begin. They’re great for nipping about the city and it’s a cheap way to commute. Get out on the riverside park if you haven’t done so already and enjoy the flat, well maintained paths without the worry of dealing with motorised traffic (though you will get the odd local fisherman cruising down the cycle path on a scooter). This is a great place to see some of the Taiwanese cycling culture and a good place to get practicing your ‘cycler’s nod’.
There are also options to rent or to get a bike of your own. There are Giant shops all over the place where you can pick up a reasonable road bike or hybrid for not too much money. The staff are always very helpful when it comes to things like repairs and extra gear too. Have a look on Facebook groups if you’re more interested in second-hand bikes.
One of the first cycling trips to get under your tyres is the trip from Taipei to Keelung. This is a nice easy tour along the river that will take only a few hours. Just make sure to cover up and wear sun cream as there is not a lot of shade along the route!
Soon you’ll be itching to get up in the mountains so give Yangmingshan a go. There are loads of fun little roads but be careful as there is not much in the way of cycle paths in the mountains. Pick up the cycle path near the Taipei Children’s Amusement park and head east along the river. Eventually you’ll hit Zhishan road and you can take this up into the mountains. This can get steep pretty quickly, and there can be a bit of traffic to be wary of; although there are also lots of little routes you can do when you’re up there with smaller roads to avoid heavy traffic.
If you’re looking for a bit more of a challenge the trip over to Jiaoxi might be just the ticket. This is over 60km of uphill and your legs will definitely feel it the next day!
Head towards Xindian and pick up route 9. You can stay on this road all the way through the mountains and over to the east. You won’t get too much traffic either as there is a highway that other vehicles mainly use. Be sure to take a lot of water and some snacks with you as there aren’t a lot of shops after you leave Taipei. When you get out of the city the mountains begin and they feel like they’ll never end! It’s a lot of hard work but when you finally get to the top you are rewarded with some stunning views across the east coast. There are a few vendors up here where you can enjoy a well-earned snack before you can free wheel all the way to the coast. You’ll probably need to replace your brake pads by the end of it!
If you managed a ride like the one to Jiaoxi you'll be pleased to know that you can take your bike back on public transport. You can travel with your bike on any local train without having to dismantle anything. You have to purchase your ticket at the counter to make them aware that you are taking a bike so that they can communicate this with train staff. There are usually designated areas of the platform for cyclists that are easy to find. Just be aware that you cannot take your bicycle through main station – I learnt that the hard way coming back from the east. Just make sure you check which station you can get off at.
You can take your bike on certain express trains but be sure to look up in advance which ones. If you check online, you’ll see a little bicycle symbol next to trains that you can take with your bike. For these trains you will need to remove your front wheel and use a bike bag. You can find these at Giant shops, or you could probably make a makeshift one without too much difficulty.
You can even take your bicycle on the MRT but only from certain stops.
• Wear a helmet
• Make sure you have bike lights
• Take care on roads and make sure you understand basic signs
• Take plenty of water
• Take a puncture repair kit
• Protect yourself from the sun
• Plan your routes
I actually don’t always plan my routes because I enjoy the idea of just exploring and seeing what happens. However, the danger with this is you might be out a lot longer than intended and if it’s summer you don’t want to be caught out in the sun for too long. It can also be a bit hit or miss as you can end up on some boring roads with not much to see.
Whatever you do, ride safe and enjoy yourself. Maybe one day if you have a couple of weeks to spare, you’ll be able to do a trip around the whole island!
Written by: 'E. Z. Ryder' (a version of this article originally appeared in the Shane English School Taiwan Teachers' Newsletter May 2019 edition)
Published by: Head Office