Bike, gears, SIM cards, cash, where to go, what to do it’s all here….
For the full VIP Taiwan KOM Challenge experience, book a tour through my Taiwan KOM Tours! Full for the October 2023 tour but taking reservations for next year’s spring, summer and October KOM editions.
BIKE / KOM DAY STUFF
1. Bike gearing: Compact crank at the front and 32 or 34 teeth for the largest sprocket at the back is more than highly recommended! Kind of vital, actually. Also you’ll need front and rear lights, compulsory for the KOM event. There are several tunnels along the route and though generally well lit, if for any reason the power is out inside a tunnel, you will need the lights. A rear light also aids riders close behind you in these tunnels to judge distance from your back wheel.
It does get a tad steep…
Image by @paolopennimartelli
2. Cycling kit: Aside from warm weather clothing, it is advisable to also bring: gilet or rain jacket, arm warmers, under vest/ under shirt, ‘spring’ gloves. You likely will need none of this but at times the higher altitudes can be chilly, and if it does rain – especially on KOM day – a drop of even 2-3 degrees, plus the effort needed at altitude, can give you the chills.
3. Non-cycling kit: The end of October is warm / hot in the day, especially as we go south, and in the evening a light sweater / jacket can come in handy. Also remember please that you will very likely be glad to have warm clothing immediately after the KOM, and a wool hat can come in useful to retain warmth if you’ve gotten cold on the climb.
4. Gels / Hydration mix: For KOM race day, there are feed stations (bananas and water available – sometimes cookies), but I’d say having 4-6 gels minimum should do, more of course if you down a lot of them. Hydration mixes / tablets, you can get them here at certain bike stores, but not all, and you don’t want to be running around Taipei trying to find essentials. I recommend bringing these with you. The convenience stores here do have some pretty good sports drinks and all of them serve warm sweet potatoes, but certainly for race day, bring what you are likely to consume.
Unless you have a team van registered for the event, the feed stations will be the only spots to refill your bidons. Please do your best – ie don’t do this! – not to yell at the staff at the refuelling stations, demanding water or food. The staff are always excellent and very willing to help, but no one really likes to be shouted at…
On race day you will drop off your Taiwan KOM dry-bag (supplied by the organisers) into a truck at the start line, that you later can retrieve at the finish. In here you should pack your warm clothes for after the race and any food or drinks you might want.
There are noodles of some variety available up there too, but you might want chocolate, chips, a soft drink etc.
5. Internet / SIM cards: All the Taiwanese telephone companies are good, their prices are more or less exactly the same. For 5G unlimited for 10 days it’s about $1000NT, about $30 US, for 4G unlimited for 10 days about $20. The airport is the best place to do this, quick and easy and they should set it up for you, if you are arriving before 8am there should still be a place or two open – if not, you can get a travel SIM at any of the stores in Taipei.
If you don’t intend to be online a lot, there is good wi-fi to be had at 7-11 and Family Mart convenience stores, all restaurants, cafes and hotels.
6. Plugs: Remember to bring an adaptor if needed. Also if you are going to be charging your phone. laptop, bike, bike computer, GoPro etc, I recommend bringing a multi plug extension, may come in handy when you have 2 hotel plug sockets and 8 things to charge.
7. Money: Best to change either in your own country though the airport – Taoyuan – has (last time I was there, three weeks ago) a 24-hr exchange booth. 99% of stores, cafes and bars take cards too (not convenience stores though) and digital payment systems are all over too.
8. Safety: Taiwan is very safe in terms of walking around a city after dark, there’s very little petty crime (pickpocketing, bag thieving), and you can leave a bike outside a convenience store for 5 minutes and I’d say 99.9999% of the time it’ll be fine, but these things do happen, if very rarely, so I’d recommend a light bike lock just in case.
9. Cultural Stuff: A trip to a night market should definitely be on your list of things to do, some great (and some *special*) foods on offer – stinky tofu anyone? – great for taking photos and getting into the vibe of the city. Just about any night market in Taipei will be good, some are smaller and more local, for example Rahoe Night Market – renowned for its food – some are huge, such as Shilin Night Market, which still has a traditional feel, or Ximen, which feels like it could almost be in Tokyo, with more brand stores.
Huashan Creative Park is a nice spot to relax of an afternoon, with some good restaurants, cool buildings and an art cinema. Taipei 101 is popular, if you like crowds, with it’s high-end stores and observation floor. The famous dumpling spot, Din Tai Fung, has a branch there but you have to reserve ahead of time to be sure you’re not waiting too long.
In Hualien, the town nearby the start of the KOM, the night market is very good, with local aboriginal delicacies to be had. There are over half a million aboriginal people in Taiwan, with some 16 tribes.
The Amis tribe make up the largest indigenous group in Taiwan, with a population of over 210,000.
10. Taroko Gorge: Yes, you will be cycling up through the gorge during the event and you might get out there to recce the first 25-20km the day before the race, but I really recommend taking an extra day to get out there and to explore the area a little deeper. There are some great short hikes that you can do through winding ravines alongside emerald rivers, and some tougher ones too along little ridges on the sides of cliffs, if you have the nerve! The gorge is an area of stunning natural beauty, truly. Taxis can take you out from Hualien for half days or full days and are relatively inexpensive.
Thanks for reading, hope you have a great trip in Taiwan and all the best for the KOM – if you see me there, come say hello!