Cycling drug of choice for ex-addicts as they gear up for Hong Kong Cyclothon

They are also guides for biking tours under programme We-Cycle which trains former drug abusers

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 September, 2016, 8:01am
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 September, 2016, 8:01am

Tsim Sha Tsui was where Leung Kwok-man took his first sniff of paint thinner 21 years ago, but now he has come full circle to start another journey – campaigning against drug abuse.

Leung, together with six other former drug addicts from Hong Kong Lutheran Social Service’s Cheer Lutheran Centre, will join Cyclothon, a 50km biking competition in Tsim Sha Tsui next Sunday.

He and his peers are part of the first and only former drug abuser group among the 4,600 participants in the second cycling festival on September 25, organised by The Hong Kong Tourism Board.

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“I want to challenge myself,” 36 year-old Leung, who stopped taking drugs seven years ago, said.

Teammate Dennis Cheung Pak-shun said they had a two-fold purpose in participating in the race. “We are joining the cycling race to promote healthy living and a bike[culture] among ourselves,” he said. “But [we also want to show] people former drug addicts can live healthy lives and be useful members of society when ... given the chance.”

Members of Leung’s group are all qualified guides for biking tours under a programme called We-Cycle, set up to train former drug addicts.

The competition will be a challenging one compared with the 15km bike tours that they offer for free to Hongkongers to visit historical and ecological sites in Sheung Shui. Leung, who works as a soy sauce deliveryman during the week, has led more than 10 touring groups since the government-sponsored programme was set up two years ago.

He said being a tour guide had given meaning to his life after he quit using drugs. “This is no longer a difficult story to tell because I have got used to sharing it with biking tour participants,” he said.

Like the 59 other former drug users trained as tour guides over the last two years, Leung does not reveal his doping history until the four-hour tour is done.

He said participants often responded by saying they were impressed by how “normal” and knowledgeable the guides had been throughout the tours.

“[Being a guide] has now became an important part of my life because I feel that I am doing something to fight against society’s stereotypes towards people like myself,” Leung said.

Cheung, who is in charge of the programme, proposed the tour guides take their biking experience to the next level when he learnt of the biggest cycling event in Hong Kong. “I expect all of us to finish the race in 2.5 hours,” he said. “But we will all be waiting for [one another] to cross the finishing line together.”

As the final week for Cyclothon approaches, Leung has been trying to go on a cleaner diet – which means keeping his favourite satay beef noodles out of his usual breakfast menu. “It is hard to say which one is more difficult to quit – noodles or drugs,” he said. “But I will stop eating it; I want to complete the ride.”