Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Bicycling Craze Expands

Everyone's on a bicycle these days, including your trusty writer, and companies are starting to notice the possibilities. The Taipei Times reported today:
Giant chairman King Liu (劉金標) and China Airlines (CAL) chairman Philip Wei (魏幸雄) attended the ceremony yesterday morning to sign the agreement.

Janice Lai (賴瑟珍), Tourism Bureau director-general, attended the ceremony as a special guest and said the government had budgeted about NT$700 million (US$21 million) to expand the nation’s bicycle routes. A majority of the funding will be dedicated to construction along the east coast, where bikers can enjoy spectacular views and quality bike tours.

Giant president John Ho (何守仁) said both companies had exchanged thoughts on the proposal of tracking the kilometers that bikers travel in Taiwan and converting them to flight mileage on CAL’s membership cards. CAL, however, had not yet decided whether to implement the plan, Ho said.

Giant also said it was also in the process of applying with the Ministry of Transportation and Communications for an official license to operate a travel agency that offers bike tour services.

In related news, the Taiwan Railway Administration and the Northeast and Ilan Coast National Scenic Area Administration are jointly promoting a cruise train service that allows travelers to tour around the nation’s northeast coast with bicycles.
Bicycle train cruises! Mileage for bike riding! Bicycle tours! Lots of potential here.

Giant, a globally famous bicycle maker, already has a great program profiled by my friend Jeff Miller on his blog a while back.
Giant Bicycles Corporation (捷安特), Taiwan's largest bicycle designer, builder and retailer, offers a highly attractive rental program (自行車租賃) to encourage more Taiwanese to take multi-day cycling trips across the island. The program lets you choose from two mid-range (NT$20,000 / US$650) bicycles [Great Journey 1 and CRX-2] and comes with a saddle bag and support kit that includes basic cycle accoutrements (air pump, tool kit, flashlight, lock, etc.).
You can rent for as little as $1000 a day. If you don't want to rent, you can easily ship your bicycle by rail to any major station on the island. Today I shipped mine to Hualien from Taichung ($445), arriving tomorrow. A friend of mine is picking it up Friday -- he merely needs to show ID. No charge for letting it sit in the station baggage area overnight either. To take advantage of this system, take the bike to the baggage services area of the station, and fill out a couple of forms. "Don't need the address of the sender or receiver!" my wife and I were told, "just fill in the phone number!" The formal informality of Taiwan is one of its most endearing traits -- it's like shipping a bike across a small town....

UPDATE: If shipping through the baggage services, the bike can be shipped as is. No need to disassemble it and bag it.

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8 comments:

Anonymous said...

For anyone interested in cycling around Taiwan there are a few things to think about.

1) Bike theft is a blight upon the island. Thieves steal all kinds of bikes, not just the new ones. The steel is more valuable as scrap as the construction boom in China sapped the steel market. For the aluminum and carbon fiber bikes they are often stripped and sold. Bike thieves have gotten very good at their craft. With many in the industry they understand what they can do with bike parts.

2) Invest in a quality helmet. There is no guarantee the helmets sold at Carrefour have passed the rigorous testing in place in other countries. Many "certification" badges are counterfeit. Also, Taiwanese drivers do not see you and may take offense if you give an auditory or visual warning that they are endangering your life, and you may invite an assault (face issues) by warning them to slow or yield for you. Sad, but true.

3) Bike paths may be as dangerous as the roadways. Many cyclists on bike paths are not regular riders and do not follow the regular safety protocols.

4) Betel nut stands make wonderful places to hydrate.

5) Get a bicycle that fits properly. Most shops are good, but some Taiwanese retailers have been known to push an ill fitting bike, to make the sale rather than order a proper fitting bike. A poor fit can be hazardous to your health and result in a less than pleasurable experience.

6) Many places are not bike friendly. My gym will not allow me to take my bike inside and therefore I can not ride to a work out. The alternative is to leave it unattended outside. Most outdoor bike racks are front wheel racks and the easiest to steal a bike from. See Number 1.

7) Taiwan has some of the best riding I have ever seen. AWESOME!

8) Get some cool biking duds and people will take you a little more seriously on the road. Something about Taiwanese digging a uniform.

9) Cycling is highly addictive. Enter at your own risk.

Ride and Smile

Todd said...

When shipping a bike on the rail do you have to dismantle and bag it or can you just simply give it to them as is?

MJ Klein said...

not to mention that Taiwan has a 3rd world stray dog problem. that issue needs to be dealt with seriously, if we're ever going to have a sustainable bicycle tourist trade going. being chased and bitten by stray dogs isn't what i consider to be a fun pastime.

Michael Turton said...

As is, just wheel it up to the baggage services!

Jeremy said...

There are limited train services where you can show up at the station and just put your bike on the train as is. But you pay double price and for example from Hualien to Taidong or vice versa there is only one train a day - a chu kuang hau. It stops at every station. I think there is an even slower train, the blue pu tong hau which all take bikes.

Anonymous said...

I have done the round-Taiwan trip and would not recommend Taiwan for bicycling. The main problem is safety. The government's idea of a bicycle lane is permission for bicyclists to ride along the side of the road, while truckers cruise by yelling "jia you!"

I wish they would put some money into creating the equivalent of the USA's "Appalachian Trail" from north to south along the mountains. I mean for hiking, not vehicles of any kind. That would be much more enjoyable IMHO.

Stefan said...

These ideas will probably do a lot more for tourism than the whole "Chinese tourists" initiative.

Feiren said...

You can take your bike disassembled in a bag on any train that does not have reserved seating.

As for stray dogs, I agree they are a nuisance, but in 15 years of riding in Taiwan, I have never been bitten. Most turn in terror with a good shout. Keep a few rocks in your pocket if you are really worried about this.