I thought to save some money I'd buy a folding bicycle in Taiwan. What a headache! I have read posts by other foreigners (mostly Singaporeans) who have done exactly this - but they were bike nerds and spoke at least one variety of Chinese.
I skipped the capital of Taipei and went more or less straight to a small city on the East coast. Big mistake. I presumed Dahon would be a popular brand in Taiwan. Wrong. Yes, I know now that they are an AMERICAN company, but don't they manufacture in Taiwan and PRC? I figured biking would be a popular leisure activity here. Sort of - it might be for the middle- class out on bike trails for a Sunday afternoon. But, transportation? No. There doesn't appear to be a bicycle sub-culture as in a significant minority of people 20-45 in Vancouver, Canada. The small city has many bicyclists - all students and workers and retired men in rusty beaters. A small minority of those are folders (invariably cheap Chinese off brands).
I have not seen ONE premium folding bike in one week.
But that's not the real challenge. The big problems are...
1. I don't speak Chinese
2. Dahon Taiwan will not tell me where the biggest selection of Dahon bikes is in a retail store in Taiwan (I have asked multiple times - they respond with the contact info for local bike shops that would take me a week and $500 to scout out.
3. I am not familiar with the cities of Taiwan
So, I am lost here and failing to buy a bicycle - the whole point of my trip. Grrrr..
The news I read on several websites of a "flagship store" in Taichung where one could test ride bikes is according to the Taiwan distributor Acme is no longer existing. Or perhaps they are forbidden by some company policy to encourage foreigners to buy here. I find it all very odd.
Here is the news that got me excited...
I tried two of the numbers Dahon's Taiwan distributor emailed me. One there were language problems. At another a young man spoke some English and said he would call me back. Both sounded perplexed and uncertain whether they even carried the line let alone the model.
As must be clear by now I have absolutely no idea how the bicycle trade works. What I expect is based on my experiences as a kid in the sixties at Cap's Bicycles in Vancouver. You walk into a bike shop, you point to a bike, try it on for size and if you like it you pay the man and wheel it out if the store.
Save your time and buy from your local bike shop in your home country.