After five days in the mountains, our return to Taipei is a shock to the system. With car and motorcycle clogged roads everywhere you turn, I can suddenly see why the people of Taiwan find it such a challenging prospect to pick up a bike and ride through the city.
The hints of change can also be seen however, many tourists ride around of YouBikes, the rental bikes that King Liu, Giant and the Taiwanese government have implemented, and brand new cycle paths run down the side of the busiest roads.
As we cycle through the city centre and to our final destination, people still look with interest at our uniformed bike group, we’re cycling the same route the King Liu did only a couple of years ago and that image must be coming to their minds. Its certainly changing general attitudes, since his cycle tour the amount of recreational cycling in the country has shot up, overtaking China’s rate, which is also growing. From coasts, to mountains, to winding roads and little villages, it seems that the locals of this nation island are just beginning to explore this territory by bike, its an exciting time to see.
Taiwan’s pristine landscape and remote corners have interested international bike tourers for decades and conquering my own relative lack of bike experience showed me exactly what this island has to offer. What it most showed me however, was how young the Taiwanese road cycling culture really is, from cycle commuting to climbing its mountains at the weekend, the shift in local thinking is palpable. King Liu got on a bike to show people that it can be done and it seems that people listened.
Now King Liu has announced his retirement at the start of next year, as he steps down from his role at Giant. While his bigger legacy is in business, the most obvious one for now will be in cycle culture. Giant has started the island’s first official cycle tour company and recently, the government named their route as”Cycle Route Number One”, linking its paths and marking the route with signs. Cycling is quickly becoming a lifestyle choice for the island’s inhabitants.
As we leave Taiwan and head home, one thing is clear to us. The Bicycle Kingdom is back.
Find out more about Giant’s cycling tours around Taiwan here.