In January 2018, over 60 local and foreign cyclists from Epic Cyclist – a nonprofit group that combines a passion for cycling with helping the less fortunate – took part in the annual KDF Millennium Ride, a Kidney Dialysis Foundation event to raise money for underprivileged dialysis patients. Beginning in Southern Thailand and ending in Singapore, the five-day ride spanned 1,200 kilometres – a challenging feat, indeed.
Filipino expat Juan Paolo Gonzales was first introduced to Epic Cyclist and the KDF Millennium ride through a friend in 2014, and has been active with the cause ever since.
Tell us more about Epic Cyclist.
It’s made up solely of volunteers – ordinary people with regular jobs. We have both male and female cyclists of various ages – one of them is 64! Throughout the years, the volunteers have devoted personal time to visit the patients at the dialysis centres. Despite their suffering, these patients always greet us with smiles. That’s when I know that the hours, the aches and the sweat we’ve poured into the rides are all worth it.
When and how did you originally get into cycling?
I picked up cycling when I was 10, but stopped at 13 because of an injury. After moving to Singapore, I started cycling again when a friend asked me to join him on a ride in Bukit Timah. The beauty and serenity of the trails in Singapore motivated me to pick up cycling again as a hobby. I saw it as a great way to spend some time in nature, and incorporate exercise into my lifestyle. After about six months of cycling on bike trails, I transitioned to road cycling for speed, and to cover more distance.
What other kinds of fitness do you do?
Other than cycling, I squeeze cardio and core exercises into my regime.
What do you love most about this form of fitness?
In terms of physical health, cycling keeps me in top shape, and enhances my coordination skills and reflexes. From a mental health perspective, it gives me a chance to connect with nature, which helps free me from stress. Socially, it’s a great way to develop unexpected friendships; I get the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life. In fact, it was through these new friendships that I found out about Epic Cyclist. This was your fourth year participating in the KDF Millennium Ride.
What inspired you to participate originally?
There were two reasons that spurred me on to get involved – the challenging distance and the great cause. I know how fortunate I am as a healthy individual. I understand that kidney patients have mobility limitations and are often burdened with financial concerns. Through the KDF Millennium Ride, I’m able to help those in need.
What did you do to prepare this year?
Cycling is often my mode of transportation. I make it a point to cycle to and from work at least three times a week. Nearing the date of the ride, I also trained before or after work on my indoor bike trainer. What were the biggest challenges you faced during the ride? Definitely the distance! The ride from Thailand to Singapore spans a total of 1,200 kilometres, which is 200 kilometres more than previous KDF Millennium Rides. Also, over the course of the five days, the 64 participating volunteers had to brave scorching heat and thundery showers. The third day was the toughest, as we had to cover over 300 kilometres within the day – we started at 6am and ended at 11pm. The lack of sleep was another a key challenge!
What’s your advice to people looking to get into cycling?
I’d say, good going! It’s a sport that one can enjoy alone or with friends and family. I’m a husband and father, and cycling has become a way of spending family time with my loved ones. For new cyclists, a key point to remember is to always follow the traffic rules – safety comes first!
Any more rides planned?
The KDF Millennium Ride 2019, of course! It will be my fifth KDF ride. I’m also looking forward to participating in other overseas rides.
The KDF Millennium Ride 2019 is happening from 10 to 14 January. To make a donation, head to kdf.give.asia/campaign/mride2019.
To learn more about Epic Cyclist, visit facebook.com/the.epic.ride.
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This article first appeared in the April 2018 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase a copy or subscribe so you never miss an issue!