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Cycling Taiwan: why it is a bicycle touring paradise

Alia Parker's picture
Heike Pirngruber bicycle touring in Taiwan. Cycle Traveller

Taiwan has been working hard to cement its name as a popular bicycle touring destination, luring cyclists with its towering mountains, quiet beaches and scenic roads. What's more, the locals are keen cyclists themselves, making it a haven for those who like to get about on two wheels. So what's it like to ride?

Who better to ask than global bike traveller Heike Pirngruber, who recently rode through Taiwan on her adventure from Germany to Australia. Heike has racked up well over 25,000km on the bike so far, cycling through Europe and Asia. We last caught up with her in February 2014 when she filled us in on how much she loved cycling in Iran (Cultural awakening: feeling like a celebrity in Iran). Here's what she had to say about Taiwan:

CT: What general route did you take in Taiwan?

Bicycle Touring Tarkoko Gorge Taiwan by Heike Pirngruber. Cycle TravellerHP: At first I cycled along the East Coast. I visited the famous Taroko Gorge, then cycled further south passing pretty beaches and little fishing villages until I reached the turn off to Route 193, which leads back up north.

Route 193 has completely different scenery to the East Coast, crossing rice paddies, farm land and cute villages. To the western side you have a view to a scenic mountain range. It's a quiet and wonderful route to cycle.

I also spent time in the mountains. The Northern Cross Route goes up to 3200m and is a beautiful, quiet road, with lots of bends and diverse scenery.

CT: Did you enjoy it?

HP: Taiwan was amazing. People are incredibly friendly, helpful and hospitable. The food is delicious. It is one of the safest places on earth, which gave me the opportunity to camp anywhere I liked, even in a park in Taipei. The scenery is lovely. Cars are used to cyclists, therefore they are the nicest drivers of all the countries I cycled in Asia.

In Taiwan, everything revolves around cycling. Road biking is a popular sport and not a single day passed without seeing a big group of local cyclists. Everyone is incredibly friendly and very open minded and curious to have a chat. I loved Taiwan. It felt like paradise!

CT: The Taiwanese government is trying to promote bicycle tourism. Do you notice these efforts while cycling there?

HP: Taiwan is a bikers paradise. There are lots of bike routes sign posted across the island and some paths were especially built for cyclists. I even came across a bike path which was made of wooden ladders: a board walk for kilometers right along the beach. It was just sensational.

Bicycle touring the Taiwan coast by Heike Pirngruber. Cycle TravellerYou can fill up your water bottles at each police station and they also provide tools and a pump. They usually gave me fruit or even lunch, and at some spots I was invited to stay for the night. Just look for the sign “Cyclists Rest Stop”, which you find very often.

The only thing they haven't done is signpost a route for long-distance cyclists. Most of the bike ways loop around a city or a township, but I also enjoyed them a lot because they always lead you to nice spots. But even when I wasn't cycling on a bike path, it was a lot of fun because the roads always have a lane for cyclists – some even as wide as the ones for cars. Biking is a big thing in Taiwan and people loved me just because I am a cyclist.

CT: What was the scenery like?

HP: Scenery is really nice. I wouldn’t say it is the best or the most of anything, no, I know there are more scenic areas around the planet. But it didn’t bother me – the scenery was lovely enough to enjoy every single day – no dull routes! Even the cities were attractive with little temples everywhere. No pollution, no dirt, lots of little places to eat delicious Taiwanese food, and 7 Eleven stores on every corner where you can even check your blood pressure too see if your training was efficient!

CT: And the locals?

HP: The people are the highlight of the country. They give you a smile where ever you are. They will help you as much as they can. No aggression, no problems at all. They are polite and willing to understand what you like to have. Some speak English, not many, but that was never a real barrier. Taiwanese know how to smile, to make you happy and they want to make sure you will love every day you are there.

Bike path in Taiwan. Bicycle Touring Taiwan by Heike Pirngruber. Cycle TravellerCT: Money wise, how affordable is food and accommodation in Taiwan?

HP: I don’t know how expensive the accommodation is, because I never paid for accommodation. Instead I camped everywhere I wanted. At visitor centers, police stations, fire departments, school yards, at the beach, at lookout spots. I didn’t hide myself, no, I was very welcome to stay. Sometimes I was even spoilt with some food, a shower or a laundry service.

The food is delicious and very affordable. There is really no need to cook for yourself, even in the mountains you can find places where they can serve delicious dumplings or a tasty soup. I didn’t cook for myself once.

About Heike

Heike Pirngruber is from Germany and is currently cycling the world solo. You can follow her adventures on her blog PushBikeGirl.com or on her facebook page.

Images: Photos of cycling in Taiwan by Heike Pirngruber. 1. Taroko Gorge. 2. The road along the East Coast. 3. Bike path through the rice paddies.

Comments

I am actually busy editing our trip across Taiwan to make into a TV show about bicycle touring and finding surf on the island.

We found that it was an amazing place to cycle and camp anywhere.

The show should be available to download at the end of this year. You can keep upto date at eat sleep surf facebook page.

Cheers
Dylan

Alia Parker's picture

We're looking forward to seeing it Dylan. Give us a heads up when it's ready.

Hey Alia

Better late than never, our Taiwan cycling and surfing TV show is online and can be downloaded. We cycled the entire length of Taiwan looking for surf. This tv show will give you a really good insight into the country and how it is to cycle there.

http://www.eatsleepsurf.com.au/store/eatsleepsurf-taiwan-tv-series/

Cheers Dylan

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