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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Fit For Cyclists: Buying A Car For Our Bikes

As many of my readers are well aware, I am often coming in with ride reports detailing lengthy one day rides to seemingly far off places.

I had never intended to be an endurance or distance rider. I really had never anticipated going much further beyond the greater Taichung area. The only problem being my own curiosity, my addiction to improvement, and my love for Taiwan's great diversity in geography, color and culture.

I also didn't own a car.

It was by sheer necessity that I had to ride from Taichung out to any far off place I wanted to visit. I had no other choice. I guess there are trains and busses, but really nothing as direct as an automobile. And I was fine with that.

Like a lot of cyclists, I harbor no deep love for cars. I sometimes even resent them.

My history with cars is as follows:

1988 VW Scirocco 16 v: The engine made it a thrill to drive and it spoiled my perception of how a car should drive. It was also a prime example of Volkswagon's ongoing evolution on how to fuck up a wiring harness. It was a maintenance nightmare. It was also partially eaten up by thieves what I was in college. WHAT A DISASTER! I sold it for $800 for my ticket to Taiwan.

1973 VW Beetle: I needed wheels and it cost $1000. I drove this while I waited for the insurance to go down on my Scirocco.

2005 Nissan X-Trail: After moving to Taiwan and getting married we bought this light SUV to haul bikes and things up to the mountains. Lots of space in the back. You could camp out in it is you needed to. It was hard to drive and to park in the city. We believe our Nissan salesman arranged to have it stolen so he could collect a kickback from the thieves and then make commission on the replacement vehicle once the insurance came through. There is some circumstantial evidence to suggest this was the case.

So I think it might be fair to say that I really hate owning a car.

Now that we have a little girl on the way, the time has come to rejoin the ranks of drivers clogging the streets. *sigh*

This time we were a little more prepared and decided we needed to find a small car for city driving, but with enough space to haul at least one bike and one baby... along with two adults.

Yes, the bicycle figured prominently into our purchase. It may have been the overriding factor. We found we were looking for a car to fit our bikes.

We looked at the Toyota Yaris, which was small and could fit one bike with the seats folded down, but it seemed like there wasn't much space for a stroller in the back once the seats were up.

We checked the Mitsubishi Colt Plus, which is roomy and cheap, but a little too "cheap".

There was the little Mazda M2, which means M 2 small... and the Nissan Tiida (but I hate Nissan).

Then we found the Honda Fit.

The Honda Fit wasn't even on my radar. We went in to the dealer and I was blown away by the car. I have never seen so much space hollowed out in such a small car. When I saw how the rear seats could not only fold down, but also lift up to open the middle... I was ecstatic. You could put a couple bikes in there. It feels quick and tight in the turns. Fun car.

The rear compartment can probably fit a bike with the wheels removed and still have some space. I guess the car has a total of 57 cubic feet of storage. The car is only 10cm longer than the Yaris, so it is easy to parallel park.

Then came the moment of truth. I had to see how many bikes could fit in the back of the FIT.

... and....

It appears you could get three or four bikes into the back of the car without removing the wheels. That is amazing. What a perfect little car for city dwelling cyclists.

After comparing the different Honda dealers around Taichung, we settled on the Honda of Beitun, near Tanzi. Our salesperson was no nonsense and gave us the lowest price up front with only a little dickering left for "extras". We were originally quoted NT680,000 from the first dealer, who declared he would not be making any money off the deal... after playing the Taiwan car dealer calculator game, where they produce a large calculator and punch numbers to arrive at the preferred price. Of course the lowest price has already been set by the sales manager, but the customer likes to feel that the price has some sort of mathematical basis and it gives the appearance that the salesperson has no control over the number that pops up on the calculator screen. We settled with out dealer at NT640,000 and some change including all the "extras" or "gifts" that are priced at an inflated rate and used to increase the sales price for the sales person.

If you think you might be looking for a small car to fit your bikes in, give the Honda Fit a look. I am totally impressed and I am looking forward to getting out to ride parts that were inaccessible for a one day ride.

Salesperson: Ms. Li
Dealer: Honda of Beitun Dist.
Address: No. 433號, 北屯路, Beitun District - 04-2241-7758
Ask for Ms. Li... she was really great....
and the only other car dealer I like is Mr. Greg Nelson of Doxon Toyota/Scion.


  1. I almost spit my coffee out when I saw how much space there was in this car. I have seen Fits over here but until this article came out, I never knew you could fit a whole bike in without any disassembly. Amazing car!

  2. Hi Andrew,
    Sorry to go grumpy on you, but it's called a ROOF RACK. Yakima makes the best, fork mounts are the only ones to have. Your car should carry as many bikes as you have seat belts (+1 if you plan to race cross). I'll send you a pic of me driving home from Crested Butte in '06 w/ 5 bikes and 4 extra wheelsets all strapped ON TOP of our '99 Golf. Granted, you have more low clearance parking garages to deal with than I do.
    ps, loved the Wuling Challenge write up, I'm still angling to get back over and ride.

  3. Yakima is my choice of roof rack as they work really great... and it is where my father and grandfather were born.

    Still, without shelling out for the extra dough... and considering our building has a low ceiling parking garage, it is nice to just throw and go.

    The Golf is a great little car to fir bikes in as well. They just cost an arm and a leg in Taiwan. It is really hard to justify car prices in Taiwan when you are used to the American price. We paid $USD6000 more for our car than if we had bought it in the USA. The Golf is NTD 1.0 to 1.2 million.

  4. So you succumbed to a car.
    Does Taiwan offer good interurban public transportation? I did read of the sinking new rail line for the bullet train..

  5. Yep! With baby on the way we bit the bullet. Public transportation in Taipei is pretty good. In other cities not so good. The car will be used sparingly. Right now my wife is using it to get to work. As a pregnant woman she doesn't want to be out in traffic with a baby.