Riding around Taiwan with our Daughter

We never really mentioned it on this website, only on our social media, but yes, we have a beautiful daughter since 2021. I’ve also been back to work full time for quite a while now, so we only have time for shorter bike trips of several weeks. Even before our daughter was born, we bought a bike trailer for our daughter and went on tour with it.

In March 2022, we tackled the Rhine Cycle Path from Koblenz to Karlsruhe and in June 2022 a tour through the Alps. The latter tour in particular was very strenuous, as we were traveling with camping gear and without an e-bike.

Yuily was very homesick for Taiwan after almost three years abroad. The country had the COVID-19 pandemic very well under control with almost no infections. However, this also meant that visits to the country were strictly controlled and a mandatory quarantine had to be made after entry. Travel home to Taiwan was thus difficult or impossible. However, the highly contagious Omicron variant also cheated its way through these measures and spread uncontrollably in the country. For us, this meant that the measures would soon be dropped, and so it was in October 2022. We were finally able to return to Taiwan!

We already knew we wanted to do another bike trip in Taiwan. We didn’t want to bring our bikes and trailers from Germany, that would be too inconvenient. Instead, we could rent bikes. Renting a trailer would also have been possible, however, I remembered the exhaustion from our Alpine tour. The alternative would be a child seat. We did our research.

If you want to rent bikes for a Taiwan round trip, you often quickly find the service of Giant. You can rent a bike including panniers at any shop and return it at another, so our first thought was to contact Giant. After a phone call, however, this option quickly was dropped, as Giant does not offer child seats or trailers, and there is no option for renting to families.

After further research, I thus came across the service of MathewBike in Taipei. They offer an extensive range of bikes and child seats and take care of the right size in advance. The bikes in the range are proper touring bikes from Taiwanese manufacturers and are maintained down to the last detail. We have thus found the right rental partner.

Already in the first kilometres it became clear that a child seat was the right decision compared to a trailer. Our daughter was immediately happy, of course she could see much more from the higher position and was also closer to us than in the trailer. But the infrastructure would also have posed problems for a trailer: For example, many cycle paths are fenced off by metal barriers to prevent motorcyclists from using them, over which we would have to lift a trailer.

We also knew that we would have to take trains a few times. I already knew from our trailer tours that this was an ordeal. Each time I had to handle both bikes at the station and jam them into lifts while Yuily pushed the trailer. I don’t think I need to mention how much easier this was with a child seat. Just like how much easier it was to manage inclines.

One big disadvantage of the child seat, however, was rain. While you can still waterproof a trailer with plastic sheets, we were practically unable to cycle in the rain with the child seat. The route planning took care of that for us: In the east of Taiwan, as always, a lot of rain was forecast, so our tour from Taipei first went westwards, where the big mountains of the island shield the rain coming from the Pacific.

Route planning was also clearly more important to me with our daughter than alone. Traffic is by far the biggest danger to a cyclist. This was also the case on our previous tours in Europe with her, and for safety reasons we tried to stay on advertised cycling routes as much as possible. In Taiwan, there is also a national cycle route, but this was absolutely not what we needed. In Europe, a cycling route ties together small, scenic and low-traffic roads and cycle paths as much as possible. The “Taiwan Cycling Route No. 1” and most of its offshoots 1-2, 1-3, 1-15 etc. outside Taipei are almost exclusively on large, four-lane national roads. Although these have a separate lane for scooters and bicycles, they are anything but beautiful and safe.

I have often wondered why this is so, and the owner of a bike shop gave me the answer: When Taiwanese take a bike tour around the island, they want to do it as quickly as possible. A meandering route through the countryside that makes detours and has many intersections is not conducive to this type of cyclist, travelling with a road bike, as little luggage as possible and aerodynamic clothing. For families like us, however, these cycling routes are not only ugly but also dangerous, as the traffic in Taiwan is unfortunately not one of the most considerate and motor scooters often speed past you far too fast and too closely.

Fortunately, the concept of a cycle route as they exist in Europe has been very well understood in Taiwan for local cycle routes. The local cycle routes in Taipei, which run along the city’s rivers, are excellently developed and you can cycle through the entire metropolis of 7 million inhabitants without ever coming into contact with motorised traffic. But the counties of Hsinchu and Miaoli also have a considerable network of local cycle routes along the coast, mostly linking small roads. In the city of Taichung, the difference between local and national cycling routes was particularly stark: the local route runs along a gently meandering river on a road without traffic, while the national route to the west runs straight on National Road 3, with insane traffic, lots of traffic lights and noisy scooters.

Even where no local cycling routes exist, I have often been able to create our own without any problems. In Taiwan, absolutely every road is paved, even the smallest farm roads through the rice fields. However, it is almost impossible to get a route planner app to take them into account – because it simply recognises that the national road has a bike lane and tries to send us along it. Only the Maps.me app has consistently given me a good route via the small farm tracks – but only when I was looking for the route for pedestrians. South of Taichung, where the land is mostly flat, this was very useful. It gets you as far as Fangliao in the south – though we took a train until then to get more of the south and east due to time constraints.

From here on, the mountains that reach the sea in the extreme south and east of the island do not allow for flat side roads. So here, unfortunately, there are still some sections where we cycled between the four-lane traffic and the guardrail, especially the Daren-Zhiben section – so we skipped this one again by train. North of there, secondary roads become common again, the East Rift Valley is flat enough up to the city of Hualien and there are many nice local cycle paths, which are always preferable to the official route along National Road 9.

Unfortunately, we only made it as far as Chishang in the east and had to take a train back to Taipei from there as we were running out of time. Our daughter absolutely enjoyed this bike tour and was all in all happier than in the trailer – only sleeping didn’t work so well on the child seat, of course.

We didn’t have any camping gear with us this time, so we stayed in paid accommodation or friends homes. We always found them via the hotel search on Google Maps, most of them could be booked online, for others Yuily made a quick call. Prices have ranged from 1200-2500 NTD (about 35-70 €) for a comfortable, spacious room and a safe place for our bikes. There is accommodation in most places, but not all – we were surprised right at the beginning of our tour that there was no accommodation in Bali, a suburb of Taipei on the coast!

In terms of food, of course, we never had to worry. Taiwan has by some standards the highest density of restaurants in the world, most of them very cheap and always very tasty. Unfortunately, the menus are mostly in Chinese only. For me, one solution to this was to take a photo of the menu and upload it to the Google Translator app. Often enough, I could at least get a general idea of what was on the menu. But even if you prefer to buy groceries, there are mini-markets like 7-11 everywhere.

All in all, can I recommend a bike tour in Taiwan with a baby? Yes, if you do some route planning and avoid the national bike routes outside Taipei. According to my research, you can only get a rental bike with a child seat from MathewBike – they can also help with route planning. We are already looking forward to our next tour in Taiwan with them!

More photos from this tour can be found on our Facebook-Page.