Back in 2007 in Taiwan an interesting phenomenon was born. A group of seventeen Taiwanese elders, with an average age of eighty-one, set off on a motorcycle adventure ride around Taiwan with the object of seeing every part of the country.
They didn't start off as uber fit and healthy seniors who had been riding motorcycles and keeping fit all their lives - on the contrary two of them had had cancer, eight had heart disease, four had to wear hearing aids and all of them had arthritis.
They were not all erstwhile motorcyclists either, some hadn't even ridden before and had to learn in order to go on the trip.
Keep right on till the end of the road
Just in case it was still too easy, their families were not behind them either, fearing that their advanced years and in some cases, illness would make them unfit for the trip and make it a dangerous undertaking.
However - with a real 'what the hell' philosophy - they just went and did it anyway - all thirteen days and 1.178 kilometres of it. Before the off they had to undertake physical training to get fit and pass a riding test to make sure that they were as road worthy as their bikes! But they all did it and got themselves into condition to ride.
Their journey proved to be so inspirational that the The TC bank made a video ad based on their story called 'Dream Rangers' which made them celebrities in Taiwan and which gave out a message of hope to everyone young and old that it is possible to follow your dreams forever if you really want to. The ad made such an impact that it had over a million hits within a month of uploading and catapulted the Grand Riders into the public eye!
A one-off trip goes global
What started as a one-off adventure has captured the imagination of the world and the Grand Riders have become an international phenomenon - taking off particularly in the USA where over a hundred motorcyclists will travel with a group of elderly Taiwanese bikers along the California coast this summer in August from Los Angeles to San Francisco. They will make various stops along the way where there will be civic receptions for them and two showings of the documentary 'Go Grandriders (不老騎士)', a Taiwanese film by Hua Tien-hau, which documents the 1,178km motorbiking trip around Taiwan in 2007.
An elderly friendly world
Peter Starr, who is a 71-year-old cancer survivor and editor of Motorcyclist magazine, led a group of elderly US motorcyclists on a ride around Taiwan in October last year, and is planning to return in September accompanied by twenty riders from the US to make a bike trip across Taiwan from Pingtung in the south to Taichung.The goal is to arrive in Taichung on the first of October which is International Day of Older Persons, where there will be an international forum on creating an elderly-friendly environment in the city.
"This is a big responsibility but it will bring a lot of publicity and good cultural exchange."
"I think we can change the way people think about old people."
All in all the story of the Grand Riders is an exciting and unique story about the indomitable nature of the human spirit and one which is proving to be universally inspiring.
As CS Lewis said:
"You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream"
...or Hunter S Thompson:
"WOW! What a ride!"