King Liu, the charismatic elder statesman of Giant Bicycle Company has a love for bicycle riding and a passion to transform Taiwan into a “cycling paradise.” No longer content with simply owning and operating the world’s largest bicycling company at 77 years old, he has become a dedicated proponent of bicycling for physical, spiritual and environmental reasons.
I was among a group of journalists who recently had the opportunity to spend more than an hour in a personal and often funny interview session with Mr. Liu at his company headquarters in Taichung, Taiwan. He told us he wanted to focus on questions related to his passion for cycling, not on business. Company business was for his president, Tony Lo, to handle.
King Liu started his company in 1972. He and his partners thought naming the company after the Taiwan Giants, the first Taiwanese little league team to win the world championships, would be lucky. He has spent almost 40 years building Giant into a manufacturing, research and technological powerhouse, producing over 5 million bikes per year. Now he is in the transformative process of molding Giant’s corporate culture in line with his passion for makingTaiwan a cycling paradise. He has already begun accomplishing this goal by immersing his executives and managers into the cycling way of life, causing them to realize how bicycling changes a person.
How is he doing this? By reshaping the way his top people think about bicycles. They go on rides. Long rides. Multi-day, bad weather rides. Bike rides that are life changing. Bike rides that challenge the rider in ways they have not been challenged before. In doing so, he believes it transforms the individual and ultimately, corporate culture. They are no longer businessmen whose sole purpose is growing the bottom line. They are now “cyclists” with an understanding of what that means and how it changes the way they think about the world.
Taiwan is already a leader in world bicycle production, and at the vanguard of high technology applications, notably bringing carbon fiber bikes to the high-end marketplace, according to Giant’s President, Tony Lo. Giant’s carbon fiber facilities are among the best in the world, producing its own and many other name bicycles. Giant is a fully vertically integrated company, not only in manufacturing, but including branded components, worldwide marketing and sales. There is momentum to expand exclusive Giant bike stores, as well as to increase “partnership” relationships with bike shops in the United States to carry the Giant brand.
Going beyond the production and supply processes, Chairman King Liu now seeks to make Taiwan a leader in world class cycling by offering touring adventures, sponsoring racing at all levels, and promoting Taiwan as a cycling paradise.Taiwan is a very bike friendly country, with miles of wide bicycle lanes, specially remodeled trains to carry bicycles, bicycle hotels and specially designed bikeways to many of the country’s national parks and attractions.
King Liu is no couch potato advocate with a dream. He’s an activist, demonstrating to the world how important it is to him to remain healthy and active through bike riding. In the last few years he has led a 900 mile ride around Taiwan; 1,000 miles from Beijing to Shanghai, China; and over 600 miles in Holland.
Giant’s CEO, King Liu, at 77 years young is fully energized by bike riding and promoting cycling in his country. The cycling lifestyle can make even a successful company founder feel like a cycling champion when finishing a big ride. This is evidenced when, with great pride, King Liu raises his bike over his head as a mark of personal satisfaction and achievement that is cycling’s reward.