Formosa 900 – Cycling 900 km around Taiwan in 9 days without prior experience

JUAN MARTINEZ

January 12, 2017

Formosa 900 – Cycling 900 km around Taiwan in 9 days without prior experience

9 days and an average of 100 km a day. The Formosa 900 is the perfect challenge for those who like cycling and want to explore Taiwan differently.

Each morning I had to take one or two ibuprofen pills before breakfast. The pain in my back was basically killing me and I was definitely not in the mood of riding a bicycle. Still, the day was just starting and the route was at least 90 km – something my travel partners called an easy day. Still, for someone who didn’t prepare himself at all for this challenge, the Formosa 900 in Taiwan really pushed my limits. The rewards for this torture: finishing one of the most incredible experiences I had in my life.

Teams at Formosa 900 are between 10 and 12 members plus 2 leaders
Teams at Formosa 900 are between 10 and 12 members plus 2 leaders

Taiwan’s cycling culture

Every year the Taiwan Tourism Bureau in partnership with the Taiwan Cyclist Association and Giant – the largest bicycle company in the world – celebrate the Taiwan Cycling Festival, an event that attracts bicycle lovers from all over world to travel around the country and not only explore some of the most diverse landscapes and regions this country has to offer, but also to ride on one of the most beautiful and largest bike roads in Asia. Events go from day trips to the Sun Moon Lake, a location very close to Taipei City to more challenging routes like the Taiwan KOM Challenge, where cyclists from all over the world compete to climb from 0 to 3275 m in only 105 km – a challenge that even attracts cyclists from professional teams like Sky or Giant-Alpecin.

However, the main event at the Taiwan Cycling Festival is probably the Formosa 900, a round-island tour covering more than 900 km in only 9 days. Teams from all over the world can submit their application and get the chance to see Taiwan from a completely new perspective.

The Taiwan Tourism Bureau put me on that list with another 15 young travelers from all over the world. From adventure travel bloggers to young journalists. Our team represented more than 8 different countries and all levels of experience – an adventure that could go very wrong or become a lifetime experience.

Coastal view of the main road in western Taiwan
Coastal view of the main road in western Taiwan

A goal for those who dream about big goals

With several months of preparation and practically zero experience in long bicycle trips, I knew it was in my hands how well prepared could I go to Taiwan and cycle the Formosa 900.

I could have prepared myself every day properly and travel fit enough to not have any difficulties at all in each leg. However, I though it could be a nice motivational story to simply go to Taiwan and cycle without any proper experience. We all hear these stories about common people who quit their jobs and cycled half a world or conquered some extraordinary mountain. To me, cycling at the Formosa 900 was a good way to prove that cycling long distances without experience could be possible.

In the months before I decided to take the bicycle for grocery shopping, to the bank, main train station and other places where I usually take a metro. However, these were basically only baby steps in comparison to the 900 km in 9 days I was about to cover. During weekends I also cycled slightly longer routes (20-25km) so I could get used to longer distances – still just peanuts in comparison to the distances we covered at the Formosa 900

What do I need to buy for long cycling trips:

While cycling shirts are very comfortable for long trips, normal sport t-shirts would be fine as well. Cycling shorts are necessary for these long day trips to avoid unnecessary pain, the same goes for cycling gloves. Painkillers would also be something you might need after a couple of days.

Read more: How to air travel with a bicycle?

Bicycles at the starting line of the Formosa 900 in Taipei
Bicycles at the starting line of the Formosa 900 in Taipei

The views at Formosa 900 are the rewards of the journey

With an average of 90 km per day and more or less 9 hours of daylight, our goal was to travel an average of 20 km an hour stopping every hour or 15km for short breaks and travel as a team during the whole route.

As we were part of an organized tour, I did not have to carry our own luggage. This made our experience way easier and comfortable. There were two vehicles carrying luggage, food and drinks. The idea was to make the trip for us as light as possible and spend rather our time enjoying the views. We also had two staff members motivating and guiding us during the whole route.

The levels of difficulty vary each day. From long and flat routes (these are the worst) to a more mountainous landscape in the western part of the country. During the Formosa 900 I was able to test many levels of difficulty and since we all cycled as a team, we were always together and helping each other.

Of course, I knew that my experience was way low that the rest of the team and although I was not the slowest one in the group, I though that if I become an obstacle for the team, I would just simply stop and not continue cycling.

Read more: 11 Photos of Taiwan from the air

Cycling the Formosa 900 in Taiwan
Although the Formosa 900 is considered for many a race, it’s more an experience in which there is no winners but memories

Can you do the Formosa 900 by yourself?

Yes you can! The route 1 takes you all around Taiwan and can be done by any traveler with a bicycle. Supermarkets are located closeby relatively often and you can plan the route, stops and pace yourself.

What happens when a member gets injured?

The staff members will take care of you and in case your bicycle is damaged or you are not able to continue the route, you can rest in one of the vans for the necessary period for you to recover.

Read more: 48 tips you should know before backpacking South East Asia

Shop in rural Taiwan
We stopped at rural shops for 15 minutes breaks.

An cycling experience to never forget

This will be an experience you will never forget and tell to your friends and family at every Christmas dinner. It’s an adventure that will show you how much you are capable of and how everything you take on can be possible. It’s a challenge for anyone who doesn’t have bicycle experience, but that will show you how strong you really are.

INSIDE TIP: Keeping your pace will help you save energy at long legs.

It will be normal to feel pain after a couple of days, but once your day route starts you will recover very quickly. Your teammates will also be a motivation for you to continue riding. Traveling as a group makes you travel faster and not get tired so easily.

Taiwan sign with the Formosa 900 International Team
Taiwan sign with the Formosa 900 International Team

How much time do I need to recover from each leg?

Each leg starts around 7 am and ends at 5 pm. This might sound like a long time, but with breaks every hour and a large lunch break, you will be able to feel comfortable traveling long distances by bicycle. Important is that you drink at least 1 liter of water per day, eat snacks and fruits every hour and avoid energy drinks – these will affect your performance after a couple of days.

Do we have time for sightseeing?

Traveling by bicycle around a country will let you see life in this place from a completely different perspective. You won´t have much time to spend in a single spot, but you will be able to see different views of Taiwanese life that you won´t see as a normal tourist  – A different type of traveling for a different perspective.

Read more: Eating at Taiwan’s only three-Michelin star restaurant

Night markets in rural Taiwan
At night, we either stayed at the hotel taking a rest or went out to explore Taiwan’s famous night markets

The best cycling routes of Asia

Taiwan has one of the best and most beautiful cycling routes in Asia. An ultimate experience for anyone looking for a new adventure completely off the beaten path.

Taiwan’s route 1 (which is cycled at the Formosa 900) is around 80% in excellent shape and if you compare it to any cycling route in Europe, you will see that there is not much difference.

There is also an incredible cycling culture in the country and everywhere you go, you will encounter cycling enthusiasts cycling around and wishing you a safe trip.

The Formosa 900 is an adventure that will take you through modern cities, local markets, large rice fields and magnificent coastlines. A new way to see a new country with completely different eyes.

Giant Adventure offers tours around Taiwan starting from 200 USD for a three day adventure up to 1000 USD for 900 km experience, a good investment for any beginner cyclist, enthusiast from all ages or an adventurer looking for something new.

Read more: 8 places in Thailand where travelers can explore its rich culture

See more about my trip to Taiwan in this video

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