The Taiwan KOM Challenge in Taiwan is an iconic, closed-road hill climbing race that takes place in October each year. The Taiwan KOM route takes riders from sea level to the roof of Taiwan, more than 3,000 metres above sea level.

Taiwan KOM’s course is over the Wuling Pass climb, which is one of the longest bike climbs in the world. This event is most definitely one for the mountain goats!

But it’s not all about the climbing as the route also offers up a visual feast. Think sheer marble walls hundreds of metres high, bright red bridges crossing surging mountain rivers, rocky tunnels hewn by hand and serpentine, switchback laden roads.

In this article, Landy Hsu from the organising team at Taiwan KOM, shares the inside story on the event, including its highlights, the course and profile, how fit you need to be, what to eat and tons more!

This guide provides an overview of the event that is due to take place on 27 October 2023. Please read the rules, entry conditions and information on the official website if you want to take part. In the event of any discrepancy between this guide and information on the official website, please rely on the official website.

As ever, check current travel information and advice. For visitors from the UK, the UK government travel information pages are here.

1. Overview of the Taiwan KOM Challenge

Taiwan KOM is an annual closed-road cycling race held (as you’d expect!) in Taiwan. KOM stands for “King of the Mountain,” and the 105 km race is known for its gruelling climb from sea level at Hualien up the Taroko Gorge to Wuling Pass, which reaches an elevation of 3,275 metres (10,745 feet).

The race attracts both amateur and professional cyclists from around the world. It is considered one of the toughest cycling races in the world, and completing the climb is seen as a major achievement for cyclists.

Taiwan KOM has been running since 2012 (with a few years off for Covid) and is held on the last Friday of every October. In 2023, Taiwan KOM launched a new event: 2023 The Road to Taiwan KOM – Summer, held on 26 June 2023. This event is a more relaxed version of the Taiwan KOM, with an extended 9 hour cut-off. There’s more information on this below.

2. Why was the event created?

Taiwan KOM was originally known as the Taroko Hill Climb, organised by the Taiwan Cyclist Federation (TCF).

The Taiwan Tourism Administration (TTA) quickly realised the beauty of the route and its power to promote Taiwan’s incredible cycling, and partnered with TCF to help promote it.

TTA sees Taiwan KOM as the spotlight in its Taiwan Cycling Festival series. 

TTA and TCF would like to keep aiming to increasing the awareness of “Visiting Taiwan – by cycling” to the world.

3. What are the highlights of Taiwan KOM?

Completing it! There’s nothing like the feeling of making it to the end of the 105 km hill climb cycling challenge from zero (sea level) to 3,275m within the cut off!

The high point on the course is the top of Taiwan’s highest mountain, Mount Wuling, so it’s also satisfying to know that you’ve cycled to Taiwan’s highest point.

The route on the way up is unforgettable: expect towering marble cliffs, deep canyons, crystal-clear rivers, atmospheric hanging cloud and lush green forests. Try to remember to look up and enjoy your spectacular surroundings!

The Taiwan KOM attracts some big names in pro cycling. Falling in October just after the end of the competitive racing season, riders such as Cadel Evans, Vincenzo Nibali, Marianne Vos and Emma Pooley have ridden it. The opportunity to rub shoulders with world-tour level cyclists is pretty special. And even if you don’t get lucky enough to catch sight of a pro, chances are you’ll get to know some Taiwanese riders and leave having made friends with cyclists from all over the world (in 2019 more than 67% entries were from countries around the world).

Finally, if you tack on a few days in Taiwan either side of the race, you’ll also have the opportunity to experience the special local culture and cuisine. More ideas for this below.

4. Explain the profile of the Taiwan KOM route

Below are the route map and route profile and gradients for the Taiwan KOM Challenge route.

Taiwan KOM route map

 

The route basically follows Taiwan’s No.8 highway, which is one of the most scenic roads in Taiwan.

It starts at the city of Hualien on the east coast of Taiwan and finishes at the peak of Wuling in the Central Mountain Range. The route starts at sea level and climbs to an elevation of 3,275 metres over a distance of 105 kilometres. Along the way, cyclists tackle steep gradients, hairpin turns, and stunning scenery, including the Taroko Gorge and the Hehuan Mountain Range.

As you can see from the Taiwan KOM challenge profile, when entering the final “Paradise road” (the last 10 kilometres from Dayuling to Wuling, with a maximum steepness of up to 27% gradient!), the real fight for the KOM begins!

5. How long does it take to complete the Taiwan KOM?

The results are on the event website (check the Results tab along the top). You can find the 2021 Taiwan KOM result here and the 2022 Taiwan KOM results here.

As you can see from the Taiwan KOM challenge results, the quickest riders of 2022 completed the event in just over 2 hours! However please note that in 2022, the event was sadly cut short due to typhoon damage which destroyed part of the road

In 2021, the quickest riders completed it in just over 3.5 hours.

The fastest ever man completed the full route in 3:19:54.04 (Vincenzo Nibali in 2017). The fastest ever woman completed it in 3:52:35.51 (Emma Pooley in 2017).

The usual cut off for the event is 6.5 hours (and note that everyone receives the same start time – more details in section 13 below).

6. How fit do you have to be to take part?

Anyone aged 16 or above may register for the Taiwan KOM Challenge event. However, given the Taiwan KOM route profile, good fitness and hill climbing experience is strongly recommended. This is not an event to be undertaken lightly. Do your training and be race fit on the day!

Riders are categorised by age. The male categories are 5 year groupings from 16 to 60 years old. The two female categories are below 30 years old and above 30 years old.

On registration, riders can select the elite category if they would like. The elite category includes professional teams, both local and overseas, competing to finish the race within four hours. It man even include some World Tour pros at the end of their international racing calendar.

However, it’s not just extremely fit racing cyclists that take part.  Many challenge-level cyclists also battle to complete the event within the 6.5 hour cut-off.

At the end of the day, it’s not the speed that matters, it’s completing this unforgettable event.

If you are looking for training programs for the event, Taiwan Cycling Federation also provide different cycling training consultation and programs purposely coordinated for different levels of fitness and outcomes for Taiwan KOM. There’s more information here.

7. Do you have tips for planing your nutrition?

The organisers have feed stations as below. Dayuling is also a checkpoint. All riders who do not pass Dayuling by 12:30 are asked to stop racing. Their time will not be recorded and their event insurance also terminates at this stage.

Water, energy food as well as places to stay warm are available there.

Feed zone

 

Xibao Xinbaiyang Bilu Sacred Tree Guanyuan Dayuling Wuling
Distance /km 46.1 64.8 79.4 90.7 94.9 105
Altitude /m 915 1644 2150 2374 2565 3275

 

Of course, we also suggest riders bring their own supplies. It’s worth bearing in mind that gels and other on-bike nutrition are not easy to buy in Hualien. Also there are very few shops along the KOM route.

8. What kit choices do you recommend?

Given the high mountains and possibility for low temperatures and changeable conditions, we always recommend that riders bring warm and waterproof clothing for the event.

Bike lighting are obligatory for use in the tunnels. Be aware that there aren’t just one or two tunnels, there are countless tunnels on the route. Some are short (just five metres or so), others are more than 1 kilometre (in these, there will be illumination but you need your own lights too!

9. What support is there on the KOM route?

The food and drink provision is as described above.

The peloton (usually comprised of those targeting overall/category trophies) is followed by a commissaire car and there is one neutral vehicle carrying spare wheels for the peloton.

Other riders need to be self-sufficient in terms of mechanical issues.

Private support cars are not allowed.

There is a broom wagon that follows the last riders.

First aid kits are available at all feeding stations. Ambulances are also stationed on the route.

10. What’s the best place to stay before and after Taiwan KOM?

Registration

Riders need to arrive at the event help desk at the race hotel on Thursday afternoon for event check-in, pre-event briefing, latest weather conditions and route condition updates. There’s also the opportunity to visit our sponsors’ booths and chat with other participants and the spotlight riders.

The race hotel is usually the Parkview Hotel Hualien, but in 2023 it is still to be confirmed. We expect that participants will be able to easily access the hotel from downtown Hualien.

Event start

Since the event starts early on Friday morning at the start (Qixingtan beachside park), it’s a good idea to spend Thursday night in Hualien City. Hualien’s downtown hotels are within 10-km access to the starting point.

Event finish

On the race day at the mountain top, participants may take either their own vehicles to leave Wuling, or the event transportation service (reservation needed and you can also book transport for non-cycling companions as part of the registration process).

Note that participants are not allowed to cycle back down the KOM route after the race.

11. Can people hire bikes for Taiwan KOM?

Local rental shops cater mostly for leisure cyclists; these bikes are not suitable for this event.

If you need to hire a race bike, feel free to contact us in advance and we will do our best to help.

12. How should cyclists get to the event?

You can either fly to TPE (Taoyuan International Airport) or TSA (Taipei Sungshan Airpot). Direct flights from the UK to Taipei are available with several airlines, including British Airways, China Airlines, and EVA Air.

From the airport, you can then take the train or drive to Hualien. There is also the option of booking event transportation from Taipei Main Station to Hualien. If going by rail, bicycles that are packed in bike boxes should be treated as luggage.

The journey from Taipei to Hualien by train takes around 2-3 hours.

13. What tips would you give someone wanting to enter Taiwan KOM?

More information

Our official website shares all the information about the event, including all latest updates.

For further requirements like training consultation, technical issues or additional tour program coordination feel free to talk to the Taiwan KOM team at service@cyclist.org.tw and we will do our best to help.

Taiwan KOM Spring and Taiwan KOM Summer

For those riders not able to visit the KOM route in October, or those who are more focused on enjoying the scenery, the Taiwan KOM Challenge has been extended into a series. We’ve added two rides in spring and in summer.

The start/finish points are the same, the route and astonishing scenery are also the same, the difference is that we’ve extended the cut-off time from 6.5 hours (in the October race) to 9 hours.

It is also a good chance for riders as a self-test or training before they really go in October.

The start

All riders start at the same start and ride the warm-up section together. The Taiwan KOM Challenge event always starts from Qixingtan Beachside Park at 06:00.

The first 18 kilometres are a neutral/warm-up section with pace car and chief commissaire car control. After the neutral section, once permission is given from the chief commissaire, the “flying start” flag will be waived, and the office time calculation starts then (normally it will be around 06:38). All riders will be regarded a same time of start being 06:38, whether they pass the flying start point at 06:38 or later.

Kit

Consider bringing your climbing wheels and have a think about your gearing (perhaps a 50-34 crankset and possibly a 11-32 cassette?). This is one long hill climb!

Altitude

Be aware that Taiwan KOM happens at altitude. Do your research beforehand and consider whether you want to take some altitude sickness medication with you in case.

Road closures

The road is only closed for event on the event day, and the traffic control will be finished upon the closure of the event (normally 14:00).

Temperatures

Bring the right kit for both hot weather and cooler weather: average temperatures in October are around 20~25 degree C in Hualien by the beach and 0~5 degree in Wuling. Also, on the mountain top, the weather changes quickly, especially in the afternoon.

Tunnels

Remember to expect these and bring your lights!

Bag drop

Before the start, riders may hand over their day bag with items they need on the mountain top, and the bags will be carried by the organiser to the finish area

Cultural differences

Taiwanese riders are often more expressive than western cyclists. Don’t be surprised if you hear and see riders expressing their pain rather than doing the strong and silent thing!

Travel advisories

Taiwan’s general crime rate is low, and the people are friendly and welcoming to tourists. However, as with any destination, it is important to exercise caution and common sense. Petty theft can occur in crowded areas, so it is recommended to keep an eye on your belongings. Additionally, it is important to stay up-to-date on any travel advisories or warnings issued by your country’s government. It is also important to check for any travel restrictions or visa requirements before planning your trip.

Covid

Taiwan lifted Covid restrictions in October 2022 and so international cyclists are welcome to come and cycle around Taiwan and experience its beauty for themselves. Face masks are not required while cycling or doing sports, though they are currently required in other settings; check before you travel.

14. What is there to do before/after the event?

Before or after the event, you may be looking for some more casual road riding.

Taiwan is perfect for this – more than 90% of its area comprises mountains and hills but they are all very accessible – you can may access them  within half a day, from every city in Taiwan. The east of Taiwan, no matter the nature, the culture or the people, provides an incredibly welcoming environment for cyclists.

If this sounds tempting, Taiwan Cycling Federation can provide customised tour package programs for before/after the event. There’s more information, here.

You can also read more about cycling and visiting Taiwan in our overview of Taiwan for cyclists and article on cycling Taiwan’s cycling route 1.

15. How do you enter?

The detailed event information fort the October Taiwan KOM is usually announced in late May or early June each year, with Taiwan KOM race dates announced in advance of this.

By visiting the official website you can get all necessary information to register and find out more.

If you have any questions, you can check out the Taiwan KOM Facebook page. If you leave a message on the Facebook page, the customer service team will be in touch.

 

A big thank you to Landy Hsu and the organisers of Taiwan KOM for their support in creating this article. We hope it helps you decide whether Taiwan KOM is for you!

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Landy Hsu is the Planning and International Communications Supervisor of Taiwan Cyclist Federation (TCF). Landy says, “I joined TCF in 2015. Since then I have been part of the Taiwan KOM Challenge event organising team, with particular responsibility for international/media communication affairs.”

Last Reviewed: 20 June 2023

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2 Responses to “Taiwan KOM Challenge: what you need to know”

  1. How are the roads along the Taiwan KOM route?
    I am contemplating on what type of tires I will use. If it’s paved all the way then maybe I can use racing tires with less puncture resistance.

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