'Superhero' retirees to ride the storm

Profile of three retirees,aged 73, 72, 65, who will ride from Bangkok to Singapore to raise money for maids whose families were affected by Typhoon Haiyan.

SINGAPORE- They donned masks, squeezed into tights and even strapped on capes to promote the longest ride of their lives: cycling over 2,000km from Bangkok to Singapore.

Their mission is to save the world, or at least a tiny sliver of it, by raising $300,000 for Filipinos in Singapore whose families were left destitute and homeless by Typhoon Haiyan.

But lean and mean these superheroes are not. The self-styled "Three Musketeers" have pot bellies, silver hair and wrinkled skin.

They are also far from fit. By their own accounts, these retired grandfathers are plagued with ailments such as clogged arteries and hypertension.

"The journey won't be easy for three old men like us. But we hope that Singaporeans will be touched by us," they told The Straits Times.

The trio want to be known only by the name of their bike brands GT, Seven and Giant, as they said the cycling trip is not for self-promotion. But they promise to reveal their identities if they manage to hit their fund-raising target.

They will be handing out fliers to promote their trip in churches and among friends today.

Their journey, which will start on Feb 17, will take at least three weeks and see them traversing the east coasts of Thailand and Malaysia.

They will bear the costs for airfare, food and accommodation, which will be around $2,000 each. But they welcome sponsors in kind for isotonic drinks and other items such as medicated plasters.

They will also be travelling on their own without vehicular support, using Google maps on their mobile phones for navigation.

Said Mr "Seven", 72: "We may get lost and the trip may take longer than three weeks. But I'm sure we will manage."

The biggest challenges, they predicted, would be the hot weather and overcoming physical exertion. They are also aware that southern Thailand may be unsafe because of militants in the area.

To prepare for the trip, they are cycling 30km to 50km every day, and will do cycling trips in Malaysia, Batam and Bintan over the next few weeks. But they will not be riding with their capes, they said, which they had put on for festive publicity.

The thought of helping needy Filipinos will keep the trio, who do long-haul cycling trips in Malaysia a few times a year, going. Their interest was piqued after reading in The Straits Times that migrant workers group Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (Home) was planning to raise funds for Filipino maids in Singapore whose families were affected by the typhoon last month.

Mr "Giant", 73, said: "We were moved by the stories of the devastation and suffering in the Philippines and wanted to do our part to help."

Home's chief executive Bridget Tan said she was touched by their enthusiasm. She came up with the name for the charity drive, "Ride The Storm".

"These are three elderly gentlemen who are willing to put in their sweat and time to help those in need. I am truly touched by their lion hearts."

She said Filipinos in Singapore whose families are affected by the typhoon can approach Home. All donations will go to them. Donors can go to Home's website http://home.org.sg for details on how to donate. Home's volunteers will also be selling T-shirts at $25 each to raise money.

Said Mr "GT", 65: "This is a big adventure for us. We will do all it takes to make this trip a success."

Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.