Denny Lee

Cycling in Kaohsiung (高雄) Tips and Routes

Before I delve into cycling in Kaohsiung, I first wanted to provide some background on cycling and Taiwan. This particular topic is worthy of its own blog series, so I will attempt to make this less verbose. Succinctly, Taiwan is a crucial cog globally for medium and high-end cycling components.

Over 80% of all medium to high end bicycles and bike components are made in Taiwan or in Taiwanese owned factories in China and Vietnam

This includes the products and parts from the brands like Colnago, Specialized, Giant, Merida, Bianchi, BMC, Cervelo, Zipp, 3T, FSA. Every major and minor brand’s product is either entirely manufactured by Taiwanese owned factories or uses components and sub assemblies made by Taiwanese owned factories.

Based in Taichung, Giant is the world’s largest bicycle manufacturer, and Merida, based in Yuanlin City, is the second largest bicycle manufacturer. Refer to【About Taiwan】Two World Famous Taiwanese Bicycle Brands – Giant & Merida, if you want to dive deeper.

Because of this, the entire island’s infrastructure is quickly becoming bicycle-friendly. This includes wide bicycle lanes and walking trails throughout the cities. There are also convenient YouBikes located next to bike paths and tourist attractions.

Heads up on Apple and Google Maps

Before we dive into this, it is important to note that Apple Maps and Google Maps are not up to date even in major cities in Taiwan. They often will not have the latest information on the best bike paths. Note: I forgot to bring my Garmin Edge, so perhaps I could have avoided these issues if I had brought it.

  • Apple Maps had very few cycling (and transit routes) available and often suggested suboptimal routes if it did at all.
  • Google Maps has more cycling suggestions, but many of them are suboptimal. For example:
    • Creating routes to areas that are clearly hiking trails only. For example, Google Maps tried to direct me to cycle up the stairs of Shou Shan Hiking Trail (柴山登山步道)
    • Guide to roads that have been closed off or private.
    • Directing me to cycle through a military base – twice.

I provide you these tips not to scare you but to share my mistakes. Stick to it as the cycling here is definitely worth it!

From this point forward, please note that I will be talking about cycling from the standpoint of a Seattle-based gravel cyclist riding on the roads and trails in Kaohsiung.

Cycling to 台灣獼猴保護區, Cijin Island and back

When I got my road bike working, my first instinct was to search for the closest tallest hill in Kaohsiung (高雄). This happens to be the 台灣獼猴保護區 nature preserve, which contains both Shoushan Zoo and the National Sun Yat-Sen University (NSYSU) campus. NSYSU is one of the six national research universities in Taiwan. There are many cyclists that hit this district in the mornings and on the weekends, as this is the closest hill to downtown Kaohsiung.

Are you worried that you don’t have enough water when cycling? No worries; there are usually vending machines with water, soda, and iced coffee available. Most of the bicycle paths near the NSYSU campus, Love River, and night markets all have vending machines. The prices are reasonable as well.

Here is the Strava link for this route, which starts from downtown Kaohsiung up to the nature preserve, back down through the NSYSU campus, across the ferry to Cijin Island, and back.

Strava route from downtown Kaohsiung, Taiwan to the nature preserve and ferry ride to Cijin island and back.
Strava route from downtown Kaohsiung to the nature preserve and ferry ride to Cijin island and back.

From downtown Kaohsiung to 台灣獼猴保護區 (nature preserve)

Along the boardwalk

From downtown Kaohsiung, you can avoid most cars and scooters by cycling along the harborfront with a view of the Kaohsiung Music Center and cutting through the Pier-2 Arts district, You can cycle along the boardwalk (there are bike paths there) or via the parallel roads.

This is all flat, so a quick tip is that you can cycle through Xiziwan Tunnel (Old Shoushan Cave) so you can cut through the NSYSU campus to get to the nature preserve faster by going along the cobblestone road through campus that is parallel to Lianhai Road.

Now the climbing begins!

At the end of that cobblestone road, you will initially turn left on Lianhai Road and let the climbing begin! Initially, you’ll cut through the upper part of the NSYSU campus. After the lookout view (pictured below), it’s still all hills – just be careful in these sections because there are a lot of macaques that live in the area. Finally, you’ll hit an incline with a wall and ocean on the left and houses on the right (when going north up the hill). Then, you will hit a bus stop area next to a gigantic Buddhist temple sign. If you look at the Strava map, you’ll notice the upper left is a small fork – this is where you are. Both have significant inclines, but both prematurely terminate as they go through private residences. Nevertheless, many cyclists and runners do both the left and right forks because of these steeper inclines.

Taking the ferry to Cijin Island

After the two forks, cycle back down Lianhai Road and follow the road, and it will take you to the ferry terminal. As these are lightly used major roads, the map apps will optimally take you there.

A view of Cijin ferry terminal to Cijin Island in Kaohsiung, Taiwan
A view of Cijin ferry terminal to Cijin Island

It’s a nice break, and the breeze of the water should cool you down from the hard cycling.

Note that the terminals have their own scooter lanes, so cyclists should join that line. There are YoYo card terminals specific for cyclists, so use those sensors to cycle on board.

A view of downtown Kaohsiung, Taiwan from the Cijin Island ferry
A view of downtown Kaohsiung from the Cijin Island ferry

To avoid the bustle of all of the scooters lining up to get off via ramp, head to the bow or stern of the ferry. You can get both great views, like the preceding view of downtown Kaohsiung, and not compete for scooters for space.

To fort or not to fort…that is the question

Horrible Shakespearean puns aside, the tallest hill on Cijin Island is Mount Cihou and has Cihou Fort and Kaohsiung Lighthouse. The entrance to Mount Cihou splits left to Cihou Fort and right to Kaohsiung Lighthouse. The left path is easier than the right path, but both are steep.

I took the easier path up to Cihou Fort and explored the fort and its views. It was then a quick stroll with my bike up the walking path to Kaohsiung Lighthouse. The path from the lighthouse is really steep in either direction. But it has the benefit of many beautiful views.

View of Shoushan National Natural Park from Kaohsiung Lighthouse path
View of Shoushan National Natural Park from Kaohsiung Lighthouse path

While Kaohsiung Lighthouse officially opens at 9 a.m., it often does not open until 10 a.m. So don’t get here too early!

Cycling around Cijin Island

With all of the hills, here’s the relaxing part of the ride. A relaxing way to do this is to circle around Mount Cihou around the beachfront path to Cihou Tunnel.

Cycling on the beachfront path around the base of Mount Cihou toward Cihou Tunnel
Cycling on the beachfront path around the base of Mount Cihou toward the Cihou Tunnel

The rest of the island is mostly flat, and there are plenty of paths along the beach. So you can use this time to help recover.

The paths along the west side of the island are rolling and relaxing. Backtrack on the paths or cut back on the main roadways to return downtown via the Cijin Island ferry. If you’re cycling later in the day, another option is to take the Zhong Zhou Ferry to Qianzhan Ferry Station.

Additional Tips

Some additional tips when cycling in Taiwan:

  • As noted earlier, there are YouBikes located in each major city along bike paths. You need a local phone number and a YoYo card to pay for them.
  • Most of the mass rapid transit (MRT) systems in major cities allow bikes on them.
  • But, you typically need a folding bike or pack it in a bike bag.
  • The MRT maps will tell you which entrance to use.
  • There are also specific cars on the subway that allow bikes.
  • The same rules apply to Taiwan’s High-Speed Rail (HSR) system and major cities’ light rail or tram systems.
  • There are many bike rental locations in all major cities in Taiwan. If you are unsure of which one, Giant bike stores also rent various bikes at Giant Adventure Taiwan rental.

Enjoy and happy cycling!

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