When you decide to go on a bicycle travel trip, for a long period of time or not, you kind of face the same old fears that when you decided to go backpacking for the first time… ‘How do I pack my bag in a smart way’, ‘which itinerary should I follow’, ‘which gear should I buy’, ‘how could I avoid selling my kidneys to replenish my bank account’, and the same old ‘how do I stay alive while travelling the world?’ (yeah, I did ask myself that one more than once), in other words how to achieve your traveling goals, and in that case, on a bicycle…?
After my 4 days cycling adventure in the East Rift Valley, I gathered here my knowledge as to get an awesome, more or less worries-free adventure on the East Coast of Taiwan! By extension, most of those tips are valid in other countries, but this post is mainly focusing on the cycling experience in Taiwan, which is definitely a great place to start your first bicycle trip!
GETTING READY FOR A CYCLING TRIP IN TAIWAN
(ESPECIALLY ON THE EAST COAST)
WHEN TO GO?
You could basically cycle around Taiwan all year round, however, it can be really (REALLY) hot in Taiwan sometimes, especially in Summer (from June to September). If you want to avoid the heat and the blazing sun as much as possible, it’s better to plan to cycle from October to March, in Autumn and Winter time. Those times can be quite rainy though, so better pack smart with waterproof clothes and protect your luggage.
I cycled for 4 days in May, and it was SO hot. I tried my best to wake up early and cycle mostly on mornings, and already around 10 – 11 am, the heat started to be unbearable. However, I have to admit that the morning sun was astonishing in the mountains!
WHICH ROAD SHOULD I TAKE?
- HUALIEN TO TAITUNG OR TAITUNG TO HUALIEN?
If you’re planning to cycle the East Rift Valley (Road 9 or 193) it doesn’t matter that much. But if you’d like to cycle the coast, I’d recommend cycling from Hualien to Taitung (on Road 11) because usually, the coastal wind blows from North to South, which means the wind would be blowing with you and not against you. As I already experienced cycling on the East Coast against the wind, I can assure you that you really don’t want that.
- Cycling the East Rift Valley: Road 197 & 193 or Road 9:
The Road 9 is the main road and the main cycling road through the East Rift Valley. It’s passing through main cities such as Chishang, Yuli, Fenglin, etc. However, this road is busy with traffic and many trucks, and not that well shaded with trees. I cycled on Road 9 on my last day, from Guangfu to Hualien and I didn’t really enjoy it. There were not that many beautiful sights, the road was a bit boring, and I had to put my surgical mask to prevent me from breathing the gas pollution coming from the cars.
As for Roads 197 (from Taitung to Chishang) and 193 (from Yuli to Hualien), there are secondary roads, often recommended by cyclists. These roads are swinging by the West side of the Coastal Mountain Range, so it can be quite hilly, a lot of going uphill and downhill, but all manageable for beginners. The road takes you to little aboriginal villages, farming lands with pineapple and rice fields. There are also trees almost all the way: that’s pure bliss.
Another thing to consider about the East Rift Valley is that it’s where the train stations are. Which means that if you have any trouble, you can just hop on a train with your bicycle to skip a part of the road or go straight to your destination.
- Cycling the East Coast: Road 11
As I said before, it’s better to cycle this road from Hualien to Taitung so you’ll have the Coastal Wind with you. Road 11 is a wonderful stretch of road, that I explored a few times already on buses and scooters. It’s making its way in between the Coastal Mountain Range and the Ocean, passing by little villages, and some interesting sights such as Shitiping, Sanxiantai bridge, Baxian Caves, etc.
- East Coast and East Rift Valley Combination: Road 11/Road 30/Road 193
This combination will allow you to get the most of both Roads, cycling Road 11 from Taitung to Ningbu so you’ll see Dulan, Sanxiantai, and Chenggong, then cross the mountains on Road 30 from Ningbu to Yuli and make your way on Road 193 from Yuli to Hualien. There are a lot of combinations possible if you feel like you can manage crossing the mountains: Road 30 from Ningbu to Yuli, Road 23 from Donghe to Fuli, Road 64 from Jingpu to Ruisui, Road 11bis from Fengbin to Guangfu.
- Cycle a loop: Hualien – Taitung through Road 11 and come back to Hualien through Roads 197 & 193.
This option will allow you to cycle entirely the East Coast and the East Rift Valley. This way you’ll be able to return your bicycle to the place you rented it.
HOW TO RENT A BICYCLE IN TAIWAN?
Since it’s very common to cycle around Taiwan, there are bicycle rental stores called GIANT all around Taiwan. The good thing is you can rent a bicycle in one place and return it to another. That’s what most cyclists will do when they don’t own a bike.
However, I found another company doing the same on the East Coast: A sheng Bicycle Rental. The bicycles there are good quality and well maintained (they are most probably GIANT bikes) with well-inflated tyres, 9 gears and a seat as comfortable as a bike seat can be for a woman’s ass.
- A sheng Bicycle Rental Taitung – 阿勝單車台東店
http://bike.e089.com.tw/ (in Chinese)
- A sheng Bicycle Rental – Hualien – 阿勝單車出租
- A sheng Bicycle Rental – Yuli – 阿勝單車出租
Here are their rental prices:
- One Day: 600NT$
- Two Days: 1 000NT$
- Three Days: 1 300NT$
- Four Days: 1 500NT$
- Extra Days: + 200NT$
What’s included with the bike:
- one air pump
- one extra air chamber
- one helmet
- one locker
- two side-bags for your luggage
- two little bags in the front for things like phone, camera, wallet, etc.
- a water bottle holder
- an Odometer
- one front light and one rear light
WHAT TO BRING IN MY BACKPACK?
The bike comes with two rear side bags, but there are not that big. And anyway, you shouldn’t bring too much with you on such a little journey: I’d recommend no more than 4kg in any case (because you will have to carry that stuff while cycling uphill and believe me, you WILL feel the weight of your stuff and those occasions!)
Here’s a basic list of things you should definitely bring with you on a bicycle trip:
- Water (at least one bottle)
- Cycling clothes and gloves (I insist on the gloves since I got a massive sunburn on my hands on my first day) and at least one long sleeve shirt because of the sun/cold
- Sunglasses & Sunscreen
- Comfy clothes to put on after your well-deserved shower every evening
- Vaseline & Tiger Balm – Vaseline for your butt and tights which will get irritated and the Tiger Balm to soothe your legs muscles
- Food & snacks (in case you’re in the middle of nowhere without any 7/11 around– I always bring nuts and fruits with me)
- Rainproof gear (to protect yourself but also your luggage!)
- Some Kleenex or some rags (more environment-friendly) to wipe off the grease out of your hands in case you have a technical issue
- Your phone and/or a GPS and/or a Map of the East Coast (so you won’t get lost)
- A camera, a travel journal, or anything to keep track of your journey
- A surgical mask to protect yourself from the other vehicles pollution
- Your regular (but small) toiletry kit & your microfiber towel
- For my fellow girlfriends: your menstrual cup or any kind of protection you’re comfortable bicycling with (as well as some painkillers)
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKES?
Hualien is approximately 170 km from Taitung. Then it will depend on how fast you cycle, how often you want to stop and what are the weather conditions.
A lot of people manage to cycle it in two days, stopping around Yuli/Ruisui on the East Rift Valley or Chenggong/Fengbing on the East Coast.
It took me twice that time, not only because I’m not used to cycling long distances, but also because I liked to make detours and stop on the way. Not to mention the rain showed up every day around 2 pm.
GOOD TO KNOW
You’ll find a lot of resting stops on the main roads, often in Police Stations. They usually provide drinking water and free toilets. Otherwise, it’s quite easy to find convenient shops on the way, where you can use the bathroom, buy some water and snacks. Although, in remote areas, there are fewer towns and much more aboriginal villages with no 7/11. But you’ll most likely find local convenient shops nonetheless. Be also aware that temples often provide drinking water and bathroom as well.
- ON MY WAY – TAITUNG
Sherry is so welcoming that this place felt like home to me. The place is located right next to the train station and is so comfortable: breakfast included, bike rental, little lotions, toothpaste, soaps etc at disposal. Everything and more to enjoy a few days in Taitung.
- GIFT BOX HOSTEL – CHISHANG
Don’t come here if you don’t like pets. The owners have two cats and one dog roaming around. The place is cosy and comfy and the hosts super helpful.
- BLISS INN 1719 – YULI
My friend Joan opened this really cosy hostel a few months back, her kindness and the environment will make you want to stay and explore Yuli a little bit more. The rooftop is huge with an astonishing view over the famous red Yuli bridge. I already mentioned my stay here (as well as stuff to do in Yuli and my Walami Trail adventure)
- WAGALIGONG – DULAN
A hostel with a hippy atmosphere and surfer’s vibes, with a nice staff, possibility to take surfing lessons, kayak tours, and the 1st floor turn into a bar/restaurant at night.
- WORLD INN – HUALIEN
My favourite hostel (obviously) in Hualien: you can read about it here.
While planning my trip or looking for information, I relied on the Cycloscope blog. This couple is cycling around the world and they spent quite some time in Taiwan. Their articles provide all the info you need about bike rental, cycling all around Taiwan as well as useful tips for beginners wanting to hit the road on a two wheels adventure.
- Everything you need to know to cycle around Taiwan – the typical post that calmed down my anxieties and helped me prepare my trip, this very post is well inspired on that one.
- Bike Rental in Taiwan – Here you’ll find all the addresses of the bicycle renting places around Taiwan.
- How to travel by bicycle: A beginner’s guide to start bike touring – The perfect post for beginners!
The map found on the website hualien-adventures.com is also pretty useful to give you an idea of the different routes, activities and amenities you can find on the East Coast!
I hope this post provided you with all the useful information that you need to prepare your bicycle trip!
If you’re still unsure about something, don’t hesitate to contact any tourist office or the staff at your hostel, or even ask me any question!
Have a great bicycle adventure in Taiwan and don’t forget to pack loads of water to handle the heat!