Saturday, February 18, 2017

Putting your bike on a train is often (but not always) straightforward

Some days ago I cycled from my home on the outskirts of Tainan to Chaozhou in Pingtung County (屏東縣潮州鎮). To avoid traffic, I took back roads wherever possible, yet managed to travel in a more or less straight line – except for the middle fifth, where having no option other than Highway 22 (which passes near Foguangshan) if I were to cross the Gaoping River – I was compelled to travel east rather than southeast.

According to Strava, I covered the 78.6km in just under four and a quarter hours. Not Tour de France pace, I know, but I'm proud of what I achieved, and I look forward to a few more long rides before the weather gets too hot. The elevation gain during the ride was 262m. Almost all of that, I'm sure, was accounted for a climb just north of Agongdian Reservoir, and another on Highway 22 where it goes below Freeway 10.

This isn't a route I'd claim to be especially scenic, although I did pass through some very pleasant villages once across the Gaoping River. It's just one which worked out well for me on the day. More useful for visitors to Taiwan is knowing that it's now pretty easy to take your bike on certain trains, and that some commuter trains have carriages which have been adapted for cyclists (see first and second images). However, this isn't possible at all stations. For instance, as I was reaching the end of my ride, I knew my options were limited because I could take my bike aboard at Pingtung (屏東), Xishi (西勢) or Chaozhou, but not Guilai (歸來), Linluo (麟洛) or Zhutian (竹田).

I got to Chaozhou about half an hour before the train to Tainan was scheduled to leave, and the young lady who sold me my tickets (full price for me, half-price for the bicycle – see third image) said it was imperative to be on the platform ten minutes before departure. Do bear that in mind.

And the cost? As with every form of public transport in Taiwan save forthe bullet train, impressively cheap: NTD182 for me and the bicycle, one way. That's USD5.89 or GBP4.74. 

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