Taiwan by bike

In January of this year, my girlfriend (at the time) and I took a little over 2 weeks to cycle Taiwan. This is my brief recount of the experience. I hope there is some useful information here for anyone planning to do a similar thing. I promised a nice Taiwanese woman that I would write this post to convey the beauty of Taiwan, so here we are.

Why Taiwan?

Perhaps not the most obvious choice, Taiwan was on my radar as a good place to ride. I think a local bike mechanic had mentioned it once. Initially, we researched Japan, but it would have been too cold in January. Being further south Taiwan revealed itself as a good option. I then learnt there was an abundance of good food and Taiwan seemed like a good balance between interesting and not too unhinged for our end-of-year holiday.

Arrival at the Airport

We landed in Taipei early in the morning and I remember looking at the furniture and infrastructure of the airport and being reminded of the little I’d seen of China.

We organised some phone sims from the Chunghwa Telecom booth (the best option it seemed after a quick bit of research). I got a 15-day sim with unlimited data and it wasn’t too expensive, either.

Here we discovered that English wasn’t going to be very useful in Taiwan. We could certainly get by in the airport, but it was clear already that the Taiwanese are not so keen on speaking English – and fair enough! Google translate helped us out a lot.

I won a prize at the airport: an accommodation voucher to the value of $250 AUD. I had to sign up for this competition prior online. I managed to win, convincing Sarah the whole thing was indeed not a scam. This got us several nights of accommodation in Taipei, which was cool!

We then got a taxi to our accomodation in the city.


We stepped out of the taxi in the somewhat seedy Wanhua district at about 7 in the morning. The ladies of the night were still out and about, and the city was only just waking up. It was too early to check in, so we decided to track down some breakfast.

Nervously we sat down at a humble street-side stall and signalled for two of whatever was on offer. Two bowls of watery ginger soup with chunks of fish arrived, accompanied with a gruff explanation of surprising accuracy: “Sea Bass”. This chef knew how to craft a good broth and the watery Sea Bass soup warmed our hearts as we sat there in the cold, watching the world wake up. It was an exciting moment everything was foreign and new.

Taipei was amazing. We had heaps of fun exploring the sights, hooning through the traffic on our bikes, and eating a lot. The place has a great buzz, there are many neighbourhoods to explore and some fun nightlife. 3am noodle soups. It’s not hard to have a good time here and I was glad we took the time to acclimatise at the beginning of our trip spending three nights in total.

Where to stay in Taipei? I wouldn’t get hung up on the district you’re staying in in Taipei. Anywhere close to an MRT (metro train) will serve you well. From my perspective it’s all interesting.

The People

The Taiwanese are very trusting. It’s an incredibly safe place to travel and theft is rare, even in the bigger cities. We left our bikes unlocked and unattended on many occasions which felt unnatural coming from Australia. These wonderfully natured people are some of the most kind and generous I’ve met. We were often shouted lunch by strangers or given gifts. The hospitality and generosity of the Taiwanese folk was incredible.

My previous experience of Asia had largely been coloured by countries like Thailand in the south-east region where they are perhaps a bit more extraverted and happier to dish out a compliment on one’s striking beauty, but the Taiwanese had their own thing going on and we weren’t destined to draw much attention. I do love being silly with the locals, but the upside of this less tourist-centric dynamic is that you don’t feel like you’ve got the letters ‘ATM’ tattooed on your forehead.

The rough plan

The plan was to land in Taipei and soak it up for three nights, then cycle clockwise around the top of the country, climb through the mountains for a bit, then down the east coast. The philosophy: go with the flow and take ‘er easy. We weren’t trying to get anywhere in a hurry, this was no man-vs-mountain type affair.

Bikes and gear

My steel-horse was happy to be abroad, eager for the open road. I assembled it in a tightly packed hotel room as Sarah went to pick up her rented bicycle from a place we’d highly recommend called Matthewbike in Shilin. I am a tall unit (at 6’5”) and am glad I didn’t rent a bike in Taiwan for that reason.

As most of Taiwan is well paved, we both opted for a road bike / basic touring type setup with panniers on the back and a bit of gear on the handlebars or frame bag.

We took a lightweight tent and carried sleeping gear, too, camping about 5 nights in total. My approach to packing was pretty minimal. I had two panniers with me on carry-on luggage and the 20kg bike box in the hold on the plane. You need a lot less clothing than you think, but of course you want to be warm and dry in winter and to have all the basics covered. I think I was smelling a lot of the time, but I was okay with that and so was Sarah.

This video helped me decide what to pack.

Did you know? You can figure out how much luggage weighs by standing on bodyweight scales and holding the item in question. Thanks, Dad, for teaching me that.


I was able to fit my bike into any non-sedan type taxi when needing to get to and from the airport, by putting the back seats down. Don’t try and take your bike on the MRT, they will hunt you down with a tape measure in hand and ask you to leave the station promptly due to carrying oversize luggage. Not much room for bending the rules in Taiwan.

Important note: We took a regional train at one point later in the trip and weren’t allowed to board unless both bikes were partially deconstructed and put into bike bags. Bear this in mind if travelling by regional train. We had a chaotic experience trying to source bike bags at the last-minute and jamming our oversized bikes into them with the help of a local bike-wallah. Pretty crazy and in my opinion a silly rule. With a few minutes to spare we boarded to the train with our bikes spilling out of these flimsy bike bags and all was well.

The route

We had a loose route mapped going clockwise from Taipei but were happy to adjust the plan to suit our energy levels, health, or the weather. The go with the flow approach seemed to be a good way of approaching things and in hindsight I really enjoyed some of our unplanned rest days and deviations from the goal of covering distance on the route.

Check out details of the route on Komoot.

Pro tip: If you are riding Taiwan and beginning to plan, consider the direction of the prevailing winds during the time of your visit. My mate got this wrong and apparently spent a lot of time battling headwinds.


An example of one of these unplanned stops was a camping spot we found on google maps which was in the mountains right by some natural hot springs. We arrived about 4pm after a long day’s ride with a bottle of Sake on hand and soaked in these springs for hours (see Bongbong Hot Springs). As the sun went down, locals set up little lamps and it was a truely magical atmosphere.

We spent a lot of time in Onsens and hotsprings. Some of the cities like Beitou and Jiaoxi have them as a focus for tourists and it being winter, we took the liberty to luxuriate. The public hotsprings in Beitou were a slightly confronting but enjoyable experience where you really get a sense of the culture that exists around public bathing.

The mountains in Taiwan were amazing. Most of it is mountainous and we decided to climb 2500m over the course of a few days and come down through the extra-spectacular Taroko gorge, which is definitely worth visiting. It was a tough slog riding uphill for so long, especially in winter when often wet and freezing, but the journey was exhilarating and was a worthwhile adventure.

– Freezing my fingers off.

– Enjoying the descent through the beautiful Taroko. Never seen anything like it.


There were too many moments along the way to outline in detail, but overall we had a great trip. The cities had a great buzz and the countryside was stunning. We did some epic hill climbs and saw some of the most beautiful scenery I’d ever seen. There’s an assortment of amazing food everywhere and even when caught short, the many 7-11 stores had us covered.

We only made it about two thirds of the way around our intended route before catching a train back to Taipei from Taitung. The weather was pretty chilly for most of the time but it warmed up the further south we went, the intensity of the journey dropping as we hit the eastern coastal routes which were often flatter than the interior.

In hindsight, the challenging riding up in the mountains and the unplanned rest days spent relaxing in smaller cities in the north were a highlight. Hopefully this post gives you a feel for the country and encourages you to check it out. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask.

– Nice spot by the coast on one of the last nights.