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Cycling Taiwan: Your Planning Guide for a Whole Island Loop

By Contributed content 5 November 2018

Fancy paying a trip to Taiwan and experiencing the island in a whole new light? Adventurous bloggers Seth and Julia from For Something More are here to help by giving us the lowdown on how to plan, implement, and most importantly, enjoy yourself while cycling around Taiwan.

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Cyclin in Taiwan route map

Planning Your Priorities

Both literally and figuratively, there is no single best way to cycle around Taiwan. The 900km (560 mile) route we crafted was based on our own unique priorities. It’s our hope that once you get to the end of this guide, you will have all the information and inspiration you need to craft your own off-the-beaten-track adventure of cycling in Taiwan. Here is what we prioritised.

Looping Around the Entire Island

First and foremost, we wanted to make a full loop around the entire island of Taiwan. We also wanted to start with the less scenic, more industrial west coast and end with the more scenic, nature-filled east coast. Consequently, we started in Taipei, and then cycled in a counterclockwise loop around the country. It is completely possible to loop the country in a clockwise fashion or in just about any way you like.

A Strict Timeframe 

We had about three weeks to complete our trip. We wanted a few days at the end, back in Taipei, to rest and recover. So, we planned to complete the loop in a total of 15 days which included 5 rest days. In other words, we were on our bikes for 10 of those 15 days. Then, for five of those days we were resting and/or exploring sites along the way. After we completed the loop and were back in Taipei, we spent 3.5 days relaxing.

Physically Exerting Ourselves

Part of what we love about adventure travel is that it requires us to physically exert ourselves and have a great workout. This was something we definitely wanted from our trip. We planned to ride, on average, 100km each day. This was a distance we knew would be challenging, yet feasible. We knew this because of some prior biking experience we have had, however, it’s also important to keep in mind that we did no training before this trip. When we got on our bikes in Taipei, our legs were completely untrained – at least in terms of biking. We were pretty green starting out in Taipei.

Do Some Field Testing First

When you craft your own travel experience of cycling in Taiwan, we suggest you get on a bike at home and do some field testing first. Find out what distance will be appropriately challenging for you, ride some flats, ride some hills, ride some downhills, and then make an educated guess. And for the sake of your legs and butt (saddle crotch is a real pain), air on the lower side when it comes to planning your daily mileage. For the first week, we felt exhausted after cycling 100km each day, however, by the second week we were getting stronger. Thus cycling 100km/day was leaving us feeling tired, but with plenty of energy to explore our destination in the afternoons.

Avoid the Heat of the Day

Since we were cycling in Taiwan in July, another priority was cycling during the coolest hours of the day. To that end, we usually woke up at 5.30am, and were cycling by 6am. From 6 to 9am, it was usually quite cool, and in that time, we were usually able to complete 40 to 60km. By the second week of our trip, we were finishing our 100km/day by 1.30pm, thus we had plenty of time to explore and relax in the afternoons. If you’re keen to sweat, then cycling Taiwan in the summer is fine. If however, you’d like a cooler experience, consider going in the winter months. The chart below can help you plan the perfect time for your trip.

Cycling in Taiwan

Avoiding Main Roads (When Possible)

Our desire to avoid main roads also shaped our trip in some very interesting ways. On most occasions, choosing smaller side roads was a GREAT choice. Consequently, we cycled through Taiwan’s beautiful agricultural areas. We pedaled through rice fields, pineapple fields, grape vineyards, mango groves, banana forests, and even some dragon fruit groves too. The side roads also often took us through quaint villages, by obscure temples and past charmingly simple countryside eateries. Admittedly, the side roads were not as well maintained, however they were much less busy and much more scenic and interesting.

A Word of Caution 

As we learned the hard way, it's really important to scrutinise your entire route ahead of time. On one occasion when we decided to choose the side roads, it did not NOT go very well and we ended up struggling to walk and cycle along a small hiking trail which cut through a wall of jungle, which we hadn't properly researched on the Galileo App.Regardless, on the app we could see that the trail in front of us branched out into three separate paths, and all of them apparently led back to the road we wanted to get to. We took a gamble and decided to try two of the three trails, but they both led us to a dead end. Flirting with getting severely dehydrated in about 33C/91F heat and 90% humidity that day, with not much water on hand, we seriously considered riding back up the the 10km hill to find some houses to refill our water. However, in a last ditch effort to avoid that 10km beast of an uphill, we tried the third branch of the hiking trails, which thankfully, took us out to the road.In spite of getting lost in the jungle with our bikes, we still highly recommend taking the smaller side roads by using the the Galileo App. Doing so will almost certainly kick up the interesting-factor on your cycling in Taiwan experience. Just make sure you scrutinise your entire route ahead of time. In our entire 900km experience of cycling in Taiwan, Galileo only lead us astray this one time. Nevertheless, it was one time too many!

How to Get There

When we were cycling in Taiwan, we rented our bikes, started cycling, and ended cycling in Taipei. That meant for us, “getting there” entailed flying to Taoyuan International Airport (TPE). Then we used the Taoyuan Airport MRT Train to get into Taipei. Then, we took the Taipei Metro to the bike shop. And once at the shop, we rented our bikes at the Giant – Taipei Xinzhuang Store. If you do plan on renting bikes, then click here to find out more.

The Best Time To Go

No matter when you choose to cycle in Taiwan, there will be pros and cons. We went in the middle of July and had a FANTASTIC time. However, the most common time to do this trip is in the cooler months, roughly from October to March.

Summer Months: The Pros and Cons

Something we loved about cycling around Taiwan in July is that we seldom encountered other cyclist traffic. For the majority of our days, we were the only people on the roads cycling. Maybe we were the only ones crazy enough to be cycling in the intense heat. Regardless, biking in Taiwan in the summer helped us avoid a lot of bicycle traffic and crowds. In addition, this allowed us to make the most of our days, as the summer days simply have more daylight hours than winter ones, meaning we woke up early, and were able to get in a few hours each day of cool early morning riding on nearly empty roads. Then we would arrive in the early afternoon at our guesthouse/hotel(see Where to Stay). We also had no problem securing rental bikes unlike in the cooler months when rentals are often completely sold out.The obvious and major con of cycling in Taiwan in the summer is the heat. Admittedly, it was quite hot (30C-34C/86F-93F) each day. It certainly did not keep us from enjoying ourselves, however, we would have preferred cooler weather. With that said, if you don’t like the heat, you might want to wait to do this trip in the cooler months. Although we never got rained on during the entirety of our trip, the summer months are indeed the more wet ones. Truthfully, we were very lucky to never experience any rain. If indeed you do plan to cycle around Taiwan in the summer months, make sure you have some rain gear with you (read more on that).

Fall/Winter Months: The Pros and Cons

The most obvious pro of cycling in Taiwan in the winter months is that it will be quite cool. Instead of worrying about dehydration and sunburn, you’ll likely be comfortably cool at all times. You might even be inclined to wear wind protecting layers to keep yourself warm. Another pro would be the increased camaraderie from other bikers. For us, traveling is just as much about the people as it is the places, so while we were glad to avoid cyclist traffic, we were a bit bummed that we didn’t meet many other cyclists along the way. As the fall foliage is spectacular in Taiwan, this could be yet another reason to opt to cycle in Taiwan in the cooler months.The cooler fall/winter months are the most popular ones for cycling in Taiwan. Thus, you will likely experience more crowdedness on the roads and accommodations. You may also have more difficulty renting bicycles. Since the days are shorter in the fall and winter, you will have less daylight hours to use each day, thus you might need to cycle further each day or take more days to complete the loop. Also, you will likely only have a few hours to explore each destination before it gets dark. Ultimately, there is no single best way to cycle around Taiwan. We did it in the less-popular summer time, and we had a brilliant experience, but we know other people who have done it in the cooler winter months, and they too had a brilliant time. You know yourself (and your schedule) best.

What Gear To Take

We packed our panniers right at the bike shop. They let us store our backpacks in their shop too. The type of bike adventure you plan to craft will determine the type of gear you will need. We were essentially light touring – bringing only what we could fit in two small panniers and staying at guesthouses/hotels, so we didn’t need too much gear. Broadly speaking we each brought:
  • Two pairs of bike clothes (This allowed us to wear one pair while we washed and then dried (on the back of our bike) the other pair.)
  • One pair of “semi-dress clothes” (We used these mostly in Taipei to go out to dinner in the evening.)
  • One pair of day hiking clothes (We used these when we were day hiking on our biking-rest days.)
  • Rain gear (Rain pants and a raincoat have myriad uses, so we seldom travel without them.)

We seldom travel without our raincoats or rainpants. Given the increased chance of windchill factor when biking, we definitely brought them with us when we were cycling in Taiwan. We recommend the Male Raincoat Option and Female Raincoat Option.

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