For over ten years the face of Bikes for Humanity was its founder and lead volunteer, the unique and amazing Steven Kung. The organization began as Community Exchange Cycle Tours, dedicated to using bicycles to create community. Inspired by his experiences of touring around the world, Steven wanted to replicate the feelings of welcoming and collaboration he felt when arriving in a new town on his bike. In single moments friends are made and someone in a position to help lends assistance to someone in need of it.
From this original idea have come a series of spaces hosting free mechanics classes for the community, and hundreds of group rides between friends who were strangers moments before–bike moves of everything essential to a bike shop to dozens of Sunday Parkways and other events, to a group ride up the Historic Columbia Highway featured in this movie about Portland bike culture from almost a decade ago:
Since Steven has retired from the organization in September, he has ridden his bike west from Portland, south along 101 through the redwood forests, the Bay Area, Monterey and Big Sur, on through southern California to Ensenada, Baja California, back to Los Angeles, and on a plane with his bike to Taiwan to see family and enjoy the holiday season.
Cycling in Taiwan as he describes it sounds amazing. Touring on bike is safe and common there, with a network of bike infrastructure surrounding the whole island.
He met fellow cyclists such as Mr. Yu, “who was traveling with only a nap sack on his back going in the same direction, and he rode with me for many hours. He had started riding south that day at 12AM from Tauyuan, and met me after he had ridden continuously for 120 miles. He then decided he would ride past his own destination and accompany me until I reached mine that day, bought me lunch and beverages along the way, and help me find lodging for the night, before he turned around to ride back home.”
Steven’s finding his philosophy to hold true, it seems: bikes bringing people together, breaking down barriers, and encouraging those who can help to give to others. Mr. Yu sounded like an incredible character, as Steven continues to describe him.
Mr. Yu rode extra 75 miles beyond his original route that day for a total of 220 miles over 21 hours continuously!! For the 6 hours or so he was with me, he drank only a small bottle of Coke and a cup of green bean smoothie, ate no food, smoked 4 cigarettes (lit them while riding), and did not visibly sweat. Turns out he is 11 days older than me (52 yo in Jan. 2015), and has been doing this type of endurance recreational riding for years. He has just rode from his house to visit his mom in Tauyuan 145 miles north the same weekend and was on his way back home so he can go back to work Monday morning. He was very impressed with all the luggage I was carrying, and I was floored with his physical endurance. Without him riding along side me, I probably would have not ridden the full 100 miles and stopped much earlier. (He was actually trying to encourage me and ride with me 30 miles more to reach Kaohsiung so I can arrive at my mom’s home the same night! It would have taken another 3 hours, but I was already exhausted obviously. If we had done that, it meant he would have ridden 280 miles for more than 26 hours straight when he got home; he was fully capable of doing that from what I saw.)