Motorcycles: The Best Way to Experience Taiwan

Shortly after your first mile, you’ll realize motorcycling is one of the most rewarding ways to explore Taiwan.  Dirt on the face, bugs on the teeth, and burns on the legs are reminders of unforgettable trips down the East Coast Highway or through the Central Cordillera.  But choosing the right route and navigating Chinese maps can be an overwhelming challenge for a new arrival on the island.  No wants to find themselves stranded on a road three thousand meters above sea level in the middle of the night.  Believe me, I have been there- it’s not fun.  But from my years of motorcycling experience, I have developed a hefty repertoire of Taiwan’s best motorcycle routes that should keep you from such a fate.

This stockpile of trips began when I purchased my first motorbike.  Remaining in a central Taipei garage for almost four months because I was too terrified to drive it, that hot red Yamaha did an excellent job of collecting dust instead of miles.  Eventually, I employed a friend to drive it out to a suburb of Taipei with less traffic where I practiced getting into first gear in some alleys.  A book worm by nature, getting the engine going, popping it into first gear and riding it toward open road was by far the coolest, and most dangerous thing I had ever done.  The inaugural ride took me up the back side of Yangming Mountain, and suddenly I was filled with a sense of freedom and independency I had yet to experience in Taiwan.

Passing through bamboo groves, winding around cliff edges and burning through clouds of incense billowing out from secret mountain temples, it didn’t take long to fall in love with my new wheels.  After a few kilometers, I started pushing the boundaries; leaning deeper into turns, overtaking obstacles with more bravado and deciding on the best name for my new bike gang of one.  Rebellion and all, you could say I was immediately hooked.

Over the next several years, my bike and I routinely traveled further from home.  It was on a two week long excursion, in fact, that Taiwan showed its elusive spots to me missed by most tourists.  I saw waterfalls toppling down cliff-sides, aboriginal communities hidden away from modern distractions, monkeys loitering by the roadside, and an island heartbeat too remote to make it into the guide books.  The wild road, if taken, offers up the real Taiwan.

And now this real Taiwan is something I want to show you by sharing what I consider to be the best trips done on a bike.  With journeys including all three cross-island highways, the smashing East coast, the Central Cordillera, leisurely day trips around Taipei, and all the back-roads from Keelung to Kenting, I hope to show you that nothing beats a bike trip when exploring Taiwan outside of her cities.  On these routes, attractions can often be seen on a shoestring, and this coupled with your own transport equates to more bucks remaining in your pocket.  Motorcycling, therefore, is not only one of the most encompassing ways to see the island, but one of the most affordable as well.

And with that extra cash in your pocket, you’ll be back on the road time and time again.  So let me help you plan the details of both day and extended trips.  Each time you’ll pick up new ideas and tips, but for the initial runners, I’ll share some secrets on how to manage and plan these journeys.  For instance, before you go, be prepared with a legal driver’s license and insurance.  Like most places, driving a motorcycle in Taiwan can be a dangerous hobby and accidents are a real threat.  It’s best you’re covered should the worst occur.

Yes, the risks are real, but the rewards are tenfold.  When there is nothing but you and the open stretch ahead, wind and sea spray splashing in your face, and the revs of a bike rumbling under your seat, you’ll find your passion just as I did.  Taiwan is a biker’s paradise, so fill her up, get her into top gear, and I’ll see you on the road.