Taiwan Excellence and Enthusiam

1

by Byron on Oct 15, 2012 at 10:33 AM

Bike Tunnel

Taipei’s Bike Tunnel

I was just in Taipei on a group trip with other bike industry folks. The visit was sponsored by the Taiwan Government to promote excellence in manufacturing. TAITRA is a trade organization that covers all types of factories and vendors there, including the bike, and they were our host.

New hat

My new hat represents the two, no three, cultures: bike, American, Taiwanese.

We saw examples of manufacturing excellence at Giant and Ming, but the biggest takeaway from this trip to Taiwan is the enthusiasm. Being a maker is what’s cool in the States. “Maker” is a geek-codified word to describe entrepreneurship and those that make and sell products on Etsy, Kickstarter, and in booths at Maker Faires. In every nook and cranny across an entire country, people are selling and hustling something. From a pack of tea to a new ABS system for bikes, Taiwanese are makers, and their National pastime is the bike.

Taiwan is the center of the bike universe with a strong gravitational pull for a bike blogger like myself. In my bike-blogging travels, never seen so many shiny, happy people that wanted their photographs taken. People riding to work in Amsterdam are on task, traveling to and fro and not just enjoying themselves on a new bike path. In the few years I’ve traveled there to Taiwan, I’ve seen the first bike path, then more along the river, and now there’s one that replaces an old rail line.

I don’t know if any magazine rates paths, but Taiwan’s have to rank as the best in the world. They’re well designed, thought out, and include art. They’re not cheezy with Chinglish either, just a pleasure to ride on while enjoying the time without scooters or cars buzzing you. I was so impressed, I shot a thousand photos while there and an hour of video. During this week, I’ll publish those and share more from the trip.

making wheels

Wheels being made, by hand and tensioned by machine

Pulleys and wheels

Pulleys and wheels

Again, what I want to express is that Taiwan makes bikes, all by hand and by people named Chin, Lin, and Tsai. There’s an American-centric viewpoint expressed in the term “handbuilt,” and the show that promotes what’s really craft building. I’ve been to the biggest bike company, a billion dollar one, and seen them produce bikes like Ford used to make cars. Giant is best in class too, manufacturing the high-end brand names you either ride now or covet. My point is that we seem to think, whether deliberately or just from being uninformed, that bike culture is European/American, white, and based in a few urbanized cities.

a container

Containers of bikes

In truth, Taiwan has embraced the bike and the culture—and that includes tall bikes and fixes. Have a look at the photos I’ve processed so far. There’s much more to come and movies, too. My view was just broadened about where/how bikes get made and who rides them.

tall

Tall bikes too

I’m back in Seattle and waking up from jet lag, but I’m more enchanted than ever by the bike.

Fixed

TPE Fixed

Carlton Reid shot the photos of me in the tunnel and wearing my new hat.

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Comments: 1

Great write up Byron..

As I’ve mentioned to Carlton before, I go every year to Taiwan for a month or two and ride the paths and mountains. Totally agree with your findings. I can ride 50 miles a day, for day after day. The hours fly by without having to worry about the traffic.  I’d go out with my brother-in-law at 5am and ride and ride, him on a mountain bike with sandals and my on my road bike.

Even riding on the roads, there is an understanding between roads users and not the aggressive behaviour we get in the UK - even from the mad bus drivers and insane beetle-nut chewing, chain smoking lorry drivers.

Loved your description on the podcast of enthusiasm and joy people have for just riding. You hit the nail on the head. There isn’t the level of elitism we get here or in the US over what kit you have or how fast you ride. Sure some people take it more seriously than others but the underlying Taiwanese culture comes through.

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