US motorcyclists to tour island

EASY RIDERS::Inspired by a YouTube film depicting a bike tour by elderly Taiwanese, film producer Peter Starr has brought a group to carry out their own round-island trip

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

Tue, Oct 16, 2012 - Page 3

Encouraged by the story of elderly Taiwanese motorcycle enthusiasts, a group of elderly US motorcyclists are scheduled to embark on their own road trip from Greater Taichung today.

The trip was organized by Hongdao Senior Citizens Welfare Foundation, which helped 17 senior Taiwanese — whose average age was 81 — fulfill their dream of completing an around-the-island motorcycle tour five years ago.

The 13-day trip was turned into a 90-minute long documentary called Go Grandriders (不老騎士), which is now being screened at theaters nationwide.

Foundation representative Wu Su-fen (吳素芬) said there are 10 motorcycle enthusiasts from the US this time, and five of them are aged 65 or over. The foundation scheduled a meeting of the two groups of riders yesterday.

The foundation said US film producer Peter Starr — one of the grand riders from the US — had facilitated the trip. He first discovered the story of Taiwan’s grand riders through a bank commercial on YouTube, which led to his visit to the nation in October last year.

He penned a story for Motorcyclist Magazine and received overwhelming responses from other motorcycle enthusiasts. The international version of grand riders was thus formed, the foundation said.

Like their Taiwanese counterparts, some of grand riders from the US have health issues. Starr and another teammate, Ham Busack, for example, have both recovered from cancer. They were touched by how the elderly motorcycle riders in Taiwan overcame their health problems and completed the road trip.

Gerald Larson, 79, is a US Air Force veteran who was stationed at an air force base in Greater Tainan. He said his passion for large motorcycles had been reignited after seeing the story of Taiwan’s “grand riders.”

Nine of the 17 Taiwanese “grand riders” are to accompany the visitors at the start of their road trip, including 94-year-old Chu Miao-kuei (朱妙貴), the oldest rider, who was looking forward to riding along with friends from the US.

“We can all ride motorcycles together and we will not get old. That’s great,” Chu said.

Seventy-five-year-old English teacher Chang Hong-dao (張弘道) said that he began studying English 60 years ago because he wanted to know how the US had become a strong nation so that Taiwan would not be bullied by other nations. It did not occur to him that what he accomplished 60 years later would be followed by Americans. He said that he hoped that there would be “grand riders” [like them] in every country around the world.

The riders are set to visit Alishan, Sun Moon Lake, Hualien, Yilan and return to Taipei on Monday next week.

They are to watch the documentary Go Grandriders on Monday night and are scheduled to return to the US on Tuesday.