Taiwan cycle chic; where a smile is in style

I've already written how a passion for bicycles seems to underpin the cycling businesses and manufacturing in The Bicycle Kingdom.  But the most potent impression I took away from my trip to Taiwan was not garnered from a factory tour, or an executive meeting, but from a bike ride on a packed and popular trail near Taichung.  Young people, old people, whole entire families were out riding bikes and, in short, their enthusiasm for the free-wheeling fun of just riding a bike will remain with me for a very long time.

Now That's What I Call A Bike Path!

My tour of Taiwan coincided with a national holiday, meaning the factories and bicycle businesses were closed.  The sun was shining and it seemed the whole island and its wife had chosen to take to the Dongfeng Greenway, an extensive converted railway path first opened in 1991, in Taichung County.  The Greenway zips riders through rice paddies, over rivers on great railway bridges and under mountains through disused rail tunnels.  A host of small businesses - from bicycle hire to food stalls - have grown up around the trail which is wide, smooth, well lit, and signposted (Sustrans, take note!).  Music filled the air as entire families on monster tandems scooted by with radios mounted on the handlebars.  Teenagers stopped to take photos and to waive to each other.  Mums with babies balanced in bike baskets peddled past with a nod and waive.  Nobody cared what kind of bike anyone else was riding, and there was no sense of elitism (or high vis or helmets) in the air; instead the focus and emphasis was entirely on having a good time, on having fun.


As the sun was setting the fields surrounding the path turned golden, and early evening light streamed through the trees.  I must have shot a couple of hundred photos, and if I could have bottled the feel-good atmosphere and taken it home with me, I would have!  How nice that my most enduring memory of a visit to a country are the smiles that I was greeted with and the happy atmosphere of people enjoying riding a bike.




Thanks for a great time, Taiwan, I can't wait to come visit again!

ibikelondon experienced Taiwan at the invitation of TAITRA - the Taiwan External Trade Development Council - on its first ever bike bloggers tour.

Share |


Christina said...

Thanks for such a nice article! Lots of serious cyclists (myself included) sometimes get annoyed with the bike paths- but you're right, it's great to see so many people out and enjoying bikes.

Paul M said...

I recall that Taiwan is home to some of the most celebrated mass manufacturers of bicycle, notably Dahon and Giant. Dahon does models in four styles, urban utility, urban performance, road, and MTB, but the unifying feature is that they all fold.

Having seen a couple of blogposts quite recently mulling over the challenges of keeping a bike in a London flat with no external parking (or none safe enough to use) it strikes me that there must be untapped potential for folders. You don’t have to splash out north of a grand for a Brompton or Birdy, and in any case apartment living doesn’t really require the origami fold of the Brompton – that really comes in handy for everyday train commuting which must explain why so many City types spill off the train at Waterloo and unfold one on the platform.

Dahon’s range covers relatively cheap through to quite pricey (the Ios comes in at around £1,250), wheel sizes from 16 to 26, hub or derailleur gears, with/without mudguards. It doesn’t look like much of the range are available through British retailers but certainly I saw one, the Ciao, which comes with 20” wheels, a very low step-through frame, Sturmey 5 speed, mudguards etc and a simple fold-in-half for about £500. Or if you are feeling flush the Ios has an Alfine hub and disc brakes as well as a slightly larger 24” wheel.

When you see what these guys can produce, and the innovation in their designs, you do wonder why so many people buy cheap supermarket tat which gets abandoned in the garden shed in no time because it is so unpleasant to use?

David Arditti said...

Yes that path does look a heck of a lot better than the typical Sustrans quality level. For example, though the railway bed on which the Bath to Bristol path is based looks to be about as wide as the one here, the actual cycle path is less than half the width, and the surface is not as good. And that's the "flagship" Sustrans path. It's frustrating that even the best UK cycle paths are so far behind.

Sarah -Editor@theoffice-uk said...

There's no doubt that cycling - as most other sports - is an extremely useful and fun activity.