NAME: King Liu
King Liu wasn’t the first cyclist to circle Taiwan, but he is one of the most celebrated. The founder of Giant Bicycles undertook a 15-day journey last year at age of 73. The nation’s media paid attention and his tour has inspired the rest of the A-Team to follow his lead this week.
Since stepping back from day-to-day activities at Giant, Liu has been one of Taiwan’s leading cycling advocates, urging government agencies to build bike paths and promote the sport’s health benefits.
Liu said a popular Taiwan movie encouraged him to make the trip. The movie, “Island Etude,” became a hit last year. The story is about a strong-willed young man who makes the tour with a guitar strapped to his back.
The movie inspired many Taiwan cyclists, including the country’s president-elect, Ma Ying-jeou. Ma, last year, completed a 400-mile campaign trip on bicycle up Taiwan’s populated Western side. It was on his ride that he “happened” to meet up with King Liu during his tour. Ma also visited Merida’s factory. At the time, Ma told reporters he had been inspired by “Island Etude” and had wanted to see Taiwan’s natural beauty for himself.
The island tour is becoming so popular that the Taiwan Cyclist Foundation sponsors an annual ride. Last year’s event attracted nearly 150 cyclists from 14 countries. Taiwan’s Ministry of Economic Affairs now offers a certificate to those who complete the 1,000-kilometer (620-mile) circuit.
But few riders can match King Liu’s age and his industry background.
As a young man, Liu was a jack-of-all-trades who eventually joined the family eel farming business. But a typhoon wiped it out and in 1973 Liu entered the bicycle business.
He and his partners thought building bikes would be simple, but Liu soon discovered it was much harder than it seemed. The engineer slowly refined the quality of Giant’s original bikes, and hired Tony Lo to handle sales and marketing. Along the way, Liu and Giant fostered the growth of a network of parts and accessories suppliers, many of them now industry leaders.
The company he started also grew into its name, which Liu chose even though he had only 38 employees. Today, Giant is a giant in the industry—the world’s largest bike manufacturer is on track to surpass $1 billion in revenues this year.