Author Rick Charette
Photo Taipei Cycle, Taiwan Scene, Tourism Bureau, Republic of China (Taiwan)
Living near the banks of the Tamsui River, I’ve reacquired the passion for cycling that brought me so much joy during my teenage years. The first-rate Taipei Riverside Bikeway system spans well over 100km, looping right around the city. Connecting with the riverside pathways in neighboring jurisdictions, you can breeze up to the Tamsui River’s mouth on the north coast, all the way south to historic Daxi (大溪) town, and deep-east along the Xindian River all the way up to the Bitan Scenic Area (碧潭風景區).
One of the off-the-cycling-path highlights for cyclists in Taiwan each year is Taipei Cycle, one of the world’s great cycling trade shows, held at Taipei Nangang Exhibition Center Hall 1 and Hall 2 (TaiNEX 1 and 2) and attended by all the world’s big-name brands. Responding to COVID realities, it is now a hybrid physical show and a virtual happening, Taipei Cycle DigitalGo. The bricks-and-mortar emporium ran from March 22 to 25, with an incredible 3000-plus booths; the online section runs from March 22 to April 7.
The physical marketplace, always awhirl with professional buyers, media, and general-public enthusiasts abuzz around the exhibitor booths and special-event locations, presents everything you could dream of — from finished regular bikes, e-bikes, and cargo bikes to frames and parts to repair equipment, on to accessories and apparel, and on to camping equipment, fitness equipment including stationery bikes, and bike-tour services. This year’s five key themes were heavily eco-oriented: Sustainable Moves, Dynamic Lifestyle, Digital Connections, Vibrant Innovations, and Resilient Supply Chain.
The “Let’s Go For A Fun Ride!” Pavilion – Biking the Idyllic East Rift Valley
High-quality cycling experiences await you wherever you travel on Taiwan’s main island or its many offshore islands, but if a cycling nirvana can be said to exist here it is the East Coast region – Hualien and Taitung counties – and specifically the 180km-long East Rift Valley (花東縱谷), affectionately dubbed the “Emerald Paradise” in Chinese. This is a region of long, meandering, well-paved roads and quiet traffic. The north-south coastal highway delivers you through a Hawaii-like experience. The main East Rift Valley highway and, at the base of the Coastal Mountain Range, famed-among-island-cyclists County Route 193 transport you through a painting-like canvas of neat farm fields where bright pastel colors are cultivated.
One of the biggest attractions at this year’s Taipei Cycle was the Let’s Go For A Fun Ride! theme pavilion set up by the East Rift Valley National Scenic Area Administration, along with the nation’s 12 other national scenic areas and the organizers of the annual Taiwan KOM (“King of the Mountain”) Challenge, a renowned international-competition ride up through the East Coast’s magnificent Taroko Gorge (太魯閣). The national scenic areas are overseen by the central government’s Tourism Bureau. The pavilion was heavy on high-tech experiences enabling visitors to magically cycle anywhere they wished to explore in Taiwan, right on the spot.
With Run Run Bicycle you hopped on a bike for a 3-minute “Rouvy” virtual-cycling touring session. With the VR Experience you got to don VR glasses to experience your choice of Taiwan cycling routes. And with AR Snap & Share you could choose any iconic Taiwan landmarks desired as backdrop – projected on a large screen – for photo sharing on social media. Teams from the East Rift Valley and all other NSAs were on hand to provide info on their respective regions, especially in regard to cycle-trip planning.
Two of the most in-demand destinations for these experiences among pavilion visitors were the dedicated East Rift Valley bike routes at the farm-country towns of Guanshan (關山) and Chishang (池上). These are among Taiwan’s most popular cycle routes with the general public. The towns, not far from each other, are in wonderfully beautiful settings in a narrow rift valley section, with the mountains of ranges close in on west and east and the long routes meandering through fields of intense painter’s-palette hues – rich greens of rice paddies, brilliant yellows of rapeseed plots, etc. Guanshan’s was Taiwan’s first-ever cyclist-dedicated bikeway (opened 1997), kicking off the modern “Taiwan, Bicycle Kingdom” (自行車王國) phenomenon. Prior to that time the term celebrated Taiwan’s international prowess in bike manufacturing – today it’s used to refer to the love for cycling the population has developed. At Taipei Cycle the country’s two long-reigning cycle-maker kings, Giant and Merida, had large king-sized dueling stands facing each other near the Let’s Go For A Fun Ride! pavilion.
Other Most Popular Show Highlights – Outdoor Demo, Outdoor Taipei, Taipei Cycle Ride Together, Taipei Cycle d&I Awards Pavilion
Both the trade-show pros and the general public loved the Outdoor Demo area, located right beside Hall 1. Bike-maker booths lined a track that had been set up, and you could choose any of the regular, electric, and cargo bikes on display for a test spin. Adding to the spirit of fun were a food truck, refreshment stands, and both piped and live music.
The Outdoor Taipei zone was directly across from the Outdoor Demo attraction, beside Hall 2. The focus in this area was on-road/off-road cycling and camping adventures. A small and easy off-road track was set up (with short wood-plank, gravel, etc. sections) on which you could test-ride off-road bikes. Tents of types aplenty were also set up, including vehicle-rooftop tents, along with other equipment such as vehicle-mount bike racks, for visitors to test out. Party-style refreshment stands and piped music were also provided here.
Like the first two attractions, the Taipei Cycle Ride Together was a new feature introduced this edition. Held on the fair’s third day, March 24, this was a multi-hour guided group ride for trade-show pros. Introducing them to many iconic city sights, the main goal was promotion of future Taipei/Taiwan tourism.
Each year, pretty much every single show attendee visits the Taipei Cycle d&i awards Pavilion, found right inside the main Hall 1 entrance. A prestigious panel of industry leading lights filters the best of the show’s best in five categories: Bicycles, Parts and components, Cycling accessories, E-bikes, and Smart cycling services. This year, in keeping with the show’s eco-protection themes a new Gold Award – Green Prize was added, which went to the French firm Gouach for an eco-design e-bike battery. My own vote, however, goes to Taiwan’s Acer Gadget for its Acer e-Kinekt BD 3, a nifty desk/stationary bike combo that lets you power your workstation using kinetic energy. I’ve found the replacement for my current long-in-the-tooth stationary bike. Hey, every little bit counts – for both the climate and your waistline!
Taiwan on two wheels – there’s no better road to in-depth understanding of this land and its people. See you down the road – and just maybe that’ll be in the East Rift Valley!