It’s not a stretch to say that Taiwan is the single most important location in all of cycling. Say what you want about the Wallers-Arenberg forest, the Col du Galibier, Lake Como, the Mur du Grammont or even Girona, Taiwan is the place without which cycling in its many forms would come to a halt, screech or no.

The Yangmingshan Flower Clock

Increasingly, bikes and parts are made in China, Vietnam and Singapore, but many, if not most, of those factories are operated by companies that are based in Taiwan. For all the power that the product managers of the big American bike companies seem to wield, the real power resides here.

I found this tiny temple (it’s about the size of a dog house) atop one of the climbs within Yangmingshin National Park.

I’ve been invited by the Taiwanese bicycle trade association TAITRA for a few days of the Taipei show and than a tour of the island—by bike of course—from north (Taipei) to south (Tainan).

After my visit to the Taipei Show, I’ll be sticking around for a few more days of factory visits that I have lined up. And because a few of my proposed visits got shot down after my time here was already booked, this is your opportunity to make a request. If there’s a factory you’ve wanted to read about the inner workings of, make a request in the comments. I can’t remotely guarantee I’ll get in the door, but if they here that avid cyclists want to know more about Brand Y, it might just help.

Looking back into Taipei from the park.

After arriving yesterday, I assembled my bike and headed north out of Taipei to Yangmingshan National Park. I could see the mountains in the distance and the map clearly indicated switchbacks, so there wasn’t much else to do. It was that or sleep at 2:00 in the afternoon. Damn jet lag.

I feel a bit like Hunter Thompson, reporting on something about which I know nothing. I didn’t know the national park existed before my trip, never read a thing about it before locating it on the map, and haven’t had time enough to read up on it since returning to the hotel. It is, however, a kind of journalism (and I use that term in the loosest possible sense) that reflects what our day-to-day experience of the world is. Journalism is meant to inform us on all those things we’d have missed otherwise, but like I said, this wasn’t ever really part of the itinerary.

My defense is that without taking off, half-cocked, into the hinterlands of an island I barely know, I’d have missed out on this.

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  1. Jonathan Biddle

    I lived in Taipei for almost eight years – and it might not look like it but it’s some of the best riding in the world out of that city – imagine the craziest Kings Ridge side-road detour, but for hundreds of miles down the island, descending through tea plantations and through the back door of temples, insense smacking you in the face. I live in San Francisco right now and ride in your neck of the woods regularly – but I miss Taipei.

    The mountain biking is steep, technical, slippery and a constant skills session. It’s quite amazing.

    If you want any recommended routes or people to ride with, shoot me a mail.

  2. Andrew

    I got to do two rides when I was there last October, with a local. Around the Hualien area, and then Taroko the next day. Unreal. I’d love love love to go back. Just bought a Giant Revolt Advanced 0, somewhat as a “Taiwan souvenir”

    1. Author

      I’ve got both a hard-sided S&S case and the soft-sided one. The soft-sided one is handy because it has some give to it for fitting everything in. Things like a bigger head tube, wider rear triangle, wider rear hub and a couple of other details I’m not clear on have made the Airheart a bit tough to fit in the hard case. The key here is that the Airheart has S&S couplers that allow me to pack it into a case that isn’t oversized.

  3. John Knowlton

    Try to get to the Trek factory. Find the guy who puts that endearing creak in their press-fit bottom brackets. Then give him a noogie!

    1. Nik

      Maybe it’s better to find the guy who spec’ed the press-fit BB in the design of the frame. Then … tell him he’s not a nice person.

  4. Carine

    Around the outside of the Chiang Kai-shek memorial is a park. There are areas where smooth, round pebbles are set into the ground. Little old ladies walk walk up & down these rectangular foot torture areas without wincing. Dare you to kick off your shoes & do same. 🙂 Enjoy Taipei Padraig!

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