What is it about Taiwan that keeps cyclists going back for more?

We spoke to Gary MacGowan, a Pedal Taiwan stalwart and seasoned member of the Dulwich Paragon Cycling Club, about what makes Taiwan the perfect location for a trip and some of his favourite memories there

Pedal Taiwan: Remind us, how many times have you been to Taiwan with us?

Gary: I’ve been around three or four times, and each time I’ve been able to experience a different side of the country.

Pedal Taiwan: Remind us, how many times have you been to Taiwan with us?

Gary: I’ve been around three or four times, and each time I’ve been able to experience a different side of the country.

PT: What first drew you to Taiwan?

Taiwan has had a reputation amongst roadies for a long time for having the longest single climb in the world, which is really quite special. I’ve now ridden in about 115 countries around the world, but there’s nothing quite like the Taroko gorge route – the longest fully tarmacked climb in the world – it’s a challenge that doesn’t really exist anywhere else.

PT: …and what keeps you coming back?

It’s a combination of things, really. You’ve got the culture of the country, you’ve got the food and the sights to see, but also all the riding, which is challenging and it gives you that feeling of reward.
It also helps that as riders, we feel fully supported to cycle how we want to and that’s something you guys do really well. 

PT: What first drew you to Taiwan?

Taiwan has had a reputation amongst roadies for a long time for having the longest single climb in the world, which is really quite special. I’ve now ridden in about 115 countries around the world, but there’s nothing quite like the Taroko gorge route – the longest fully tarmacked climb in the world – it’s a challenge that doesn’t really exist anywhere else.

PT: …and what keeps you coming back?

It’s a combination of things, really. You’ve got the culture of the country, you’ve got the food and the sights to see, but also all the riding, which is challenging and it gives you that feeling of reward.
It also helps that as riders, we feel fully supported to cycle how we want to and that’s something you guys do really well. 

Image showing view of Eternal Spring Shrine in distance, surrounded by picturesque waterfalls
A stunning view of the Eternal Spring Shrine, seen from the Taroko Gorge cycling route

Pedal Taiwan: Remind us, how many times have you been to Taiwan with us?

Gary: I’ve been around three or four times, and each time I’ve been able to experience a different side of the country.

PT: What first drew you to Taiwan?

Taiwan has had a reputation amongst roadies for a long time for having the longest single climb in the world, which is really quite special. I’ve now ridden in about 115 countries around the world, but there’s nothing quite like the Taroko gorge route – the longest fully tarmacked climb in the world – it’s a challenge that doesn’t really exist anywhere else.

PT: …and what keeps you coming back?

It’s a combination of things, really. You’ve got the culture of the country, you’ve got the food and the sights to see, but also all the riding, which is challenging and it gives you that feeling of reward.
It also helps that as riders, we feel fully supported to cycle how we want to and that’s something you guys do really well. 

PT: Let’s talk about the riding – what is it about Taiwan that makes it great for cyclists?

One thing about Taiwan westerners don’t really expect is just how ideal the country is for cycling – great roads, beautiful scenery and a great cycling culture. 
People are very friendly towards cyclists over there, which makes us all feel really comfortable about riding on the road because you don’t really get that in England, where motorists tend to be a lot more aggressive.

 

PT: That’s true. There’s a lot more understanding towards cyclists as a result of how embedded cycling is in the culture over there.

Speaking of culture though, we can’t not mention Taiwanese food. Do you have a favourite dish?

Gary: The food is incredible, I can’t choose just one!
When I first decided to go, our tour guide, Rob, just kept banging on about how Taiwan had the best food in the world, but then when we got there, it actually was!

 

PT: A lot of people worry when they travel somewhere unfamiliar about dietary requirements. As a vegan, what’s your take on this?

Gary: I’ve been vegan for 30 odd years, and can say pretty confidently that the food in Taiwan is top-class. People tend to think that all those fake vegan meats are a new thing, but the Chinese have been doing it for a few thousand years since one of the Emperors turned Buddhist.

I remember one night, we went to a vegan restaurant with a bunch of meat-eaters and they were just so confused by how it all tasted so amazing – they couldn’t tell the difference!

PT: You’ve mentioned a little bit about how supportive we are on tour, could you say a few words to big us up a little more?

Gary: (Laughs) You guys are great!

I could pile heaps of praise onto the tour guides, Frank, James and Rob, but aside from them being so fantastic and knowledgeable, it’s also the flexibility you give to the riders. 

I’m really into ultra-distance riding, which is not for everybody. Some people in my club wanted to spend time in the evening exploring or grabbing a drink, but the flexibility was there for riders who wanted to spend more time doing the ultra-distance stuff. 
I remember I did 320km from the Sun Moon Lake down to Kenting, and then 140km the day after and had a blast doing it.

People have different riding styles and preferences – these tours are great because they’re so flexible.

Happy cyclists from the Dulwich Paragon cycling club pose for a family photo near Jiu Fen in Taiwan

PT: And finally, what’s one thing you want people to know if they’ve never been to Taiwan?

Gary: Nobody really quite realises how stunningly beautiful Taiwan is until they actually set foot there.

The forests and coastline are beautiful, the villages are gorgeous to ride through, the mountains are absolutely spectacular and there’s some incredible bird life.

We tend to think of Taiwan as a big manufacturing hub (if we even think about it at all!), but it’s just so much more. You don’t realise it until you go there and experience it for yourself, really.

Happy cyclists from the Dulwich Paragon cycling club pose for a family photo near Jiu Fen in Taiwan
Gary with his fellow cyclists from the Dulwich Paragon Cycle Club during their tour

PT: And finally, what’s one thing you want people to know if they’ve never been to Taiwan?

Gary: Nobody really quite realises how stunningly beautiful Taiwan is until they actually set foot there.

The forests and coastline are beautiful, the villages are gorgeous to ride through, the mountains are absolutely spectacular and there’s some incredible bird life.

We tend to think of Taiwan as a big manufacturing hub (if we even think about it at all!), but it’s just so much more. You don’t realise it until you go there and experience it for yourself, really.

For more information on what our tours look like, head on over to our Tours page – we cater for all groups and are experienced in hosting cycle club training camps.