A while later, Lu came to the home to teach the boys to ride personally. To further encourage the boys, Huang, then 62 years old, declared he would learn to ride as well. “If I, an old man, can do it, then you can too,” he told them. After one month of consistent practice, not only Huang but all the boys had learned to ride the unicycles.
Slowly, the new riders increased their mileage: First they rode 5 kilometers, then 10, then 50. Then Huang decided to do something that might have seemed a little crazy. He determined to take 30 boys on a grueling 1,000-km (621-mile) ride that summer to circle the island of Taiwan in 20 days.
As the boys trained, news of the trip spread and a film crew showed up to make a documentary of the adventure. Cameras followed the boys, ages 7 to 20, as they rode their unicycles in a line, arms outstretched, on the shoulder of busy roads, with a medical van and pace cars rolling alongside. Bystanders cheered as they passed. The boys sometimes tumbled off the unicycles—once even getting into a multi-unicycle pileup—but Lu and Huang encouraged them to get back up and keep going.
At one point, the boys took on the challenge of a 5-mile uphill mountain climb on their unicycles. Remarkably, every one of them completed the ride. Afterward, a few boys refused to continue riding, saying they were too tired. Tension rose between the staff and the boys, and that night Lu told the group that if anyone wanted to leave, he should raise his hand and they would send him back immediately. The boys, some in tears, kept their heads down, but none raised their hands.
The boys kept riding—through a typhoon, their wheels zipping through puddles and their bodies struggling to keep balance against gusts of wind. Fights broke out, and one boy briefly ran away. But in the end, all 30 crossed the finish line. There, cheering crowds welcomed them and smiling police officers handed them medals and watches commemorating their accomplishment. After the trip, according to Huang, every one of the boys went back to school.
“It built up their will, their persistence, their self-confidence, and their courage,” Huang said. “If they can do the most difficult thing, there’s nothing they can’t do.”