The coronavirus boom is the latest chapter in a renaissance for Taiwan’s bike industry.
The self-ruled island had for years been the world’s number-one bike producer until the 1990s, when mainland China’s economic reforms saw firms — including many Taiwanese manufacturers — take advantage of a vast, cheap labor force.
But while Chinese factories continue to play a dominant role in terms of sheer numbers, Taiwan production is bouncing back, especially when it comes to higher-quality models and in the rapidly growing electric bike market.
Last year, Taiwan exported $1.36 billion in non-electric bicycles, down from $1.5 billion the year before.
But electric bike production is soaring.
In 2019, electric bike exports totaled $863 million, up from $377 million in 2018, with most heading to Europe.
Export of electric bikes from January to April this year reached a record high of $301 million, up 23.6 percent from the same period last year.
And the bikes made in Taiwanese factories tend to be higher quality models that fetch a higher price.
Tu says she hopes the pandemic will help encourage people to adopt bikes as a form of transport long after the threat of the virus has receded, something many European governments are keen on.
“While riding bicycles, you can have fresh air… you cannot be too close otherwise you will crash,” she laughed. “So it is natural social distancing.”
by Amber WANG / Sean CHANG
PICTURES BY SAM YEH/afp