It is not common to find an Asian metropolis, that is truly cycling friendly, but Taipei is one. The flood prone river banks of the city have been left undeveloped and instead they are filled with car free cycling paths, baseball fields, dragon boat jetties, coffee shops…well you get it. It is perfectly feasible to do a really long endurance ride on virtually flat terrain, with no cars in the largest city on the mountainous island of Taiwan. That said, flat rides are not only available along the rivers, you can ride up along the North coast, clockwise or anti-clockwise, just make sure to check the weather forecast.
Let me share a small secret. Filtered water is provided free of charge in all police and fire stations across the island. A few also have a floor pump. On a recent ride along the North coast, we were treated to oranges by the police officers in a station before heading off. I know this sounds unreal, but it is true. Bikes are also allowed on the MRT network, making Taipei super-convenient.
Aiming to describe all possible routes around Taipei would be a multi year project, so let me instead focus on one popular meeting point and four great climbs.
7-Eleven has got all of Taiwan hooked on convenience. The franchise is all over the island and provides a great place for cyclists to grab a bite, use the ATM, go to the toilet or pick up the laundry from your last ride. One of the most popular meeting points for cyclists in Taipei is 7-Eleven just opposite the National Palace Museum on section 2 of Zhi Shan Road. If you show up there with your bike anytime between 6 or 8 on a Saturday or Sunday you are bound to find a group-ride
FengGuiZui (10.7k, 585m ascent)
The ride up to FengGuiZui Lookout is one of the most popular mid-week rides in Tapei. From 7-Eleven (NPM) it is just short of 11k, with a gentle climb along winding mountain roads with less (but not zero) traffic.
This is also a favourite hang out for photographers, as Steve and I found out. Don't hesitate to stop for a chat as they are usually happy to send you a few pictures of you looking great...or not.
At the top of the climb you have the option to continue down to the river or down to the coastal town of WanLi.
“Balaka” to Mt. Datun (12.5k, 837m ascent)
This is one of at least four popular routes up to the YangMing Mountain. You can ride along the bicycle path from Taipei to DanSui and then ascend the mountain from the west. The climb from the Police station along route 101 is one of Taipei’s most beautiful. During the hot summer months, the canopy of leaves provides some much appreciated shade from the scorching sun. The last few kilometers up to Mt. Datun is car free but punchy. The view from the top though is amazing and will make it worth the effort.
YangJin Road (18k, 800m ascent)
This segment is long (18k) and as hard as you want it to be. The route will get you up the YangMing Mountain from the East. It starts at yet another 7-Eleven in JinShan and will take you up another 800 meters to, guess what…yes another stunning view point at XiaoGuanYin Car Park.
This climb is featured on the YangMingShan KOM, so if you have Strava ambitions, there will be no shortage of targets to aim for.
Wulai (31k, 819m ascent)
From the outskirts of XinDian just south of Taipei, this ride will take you up a winding road along a river, passing stunning waterfalls and spa towns to the sleepy village of Fushan. Stopping in WuLai on the way down for a cup of coffee is very civilized.
There are a few cycling groups in Taiwan easily accessible to foreigners. I sometimes ride with Yangmingshan Cycling Club. A great and welcoming bunch. If you're on Facebook, you can find them there.
Get onto Strava and build you own loop, or have a look at some of mine and if you run out of gas, just aim for a police station or a 7-Eleven. I will follow up with another blog on routes outside of Taipei, so please stay tuned.