Richard Kyle talks to Prestige about his passion for cycling, eye-opening journeys and preparations a 1,000km charity tour with Plan International.
In a time when direct human interaction has become rather limited, Richard Kyle remains a beacon of positivity. Even though I talked to him through Zoom, his smile and cheerful attitude is just as infectious. No wonder then, that many people have called him “Mr. Positive.” Kyle admits that the situation isn’t easy for anyone in this world, himself included, but trying to look at the bright side of things is what keeps him going. That, and cycling.
Yes, bicycling has become Kyle’s new hobby, with his bike becoming his new best friend and an extension himself that allows him to explore new places. More than that, cycling helps him understand himself better and even became a platform for Kyle to create real impact.
“I began cycling when the pandemic broke out and the gym where I usually go to was closed due to the lockdown,” Kyle recounts. “Then one of my friends suggested that I tried it but I was sceptical, because why would I bike in Jakarta? If I was still living in Australia or another Western country, maybe I would’ve done it earlier. But he kept persuading me because social restrictions caused the city to be not as crowded as usual and pollution levels is also unlike what it used to be. At the same time, I needed to exercise. So, I decided to give it a shot and feel for it.
“The thing is that cycling is not just jumping on a bicycle and going out,” he continues. “There is more to look and learn into. It took me several days to prepare, including having my own bike because, as you know, I have a bigger body than the average Indonesian.”
A journey of a thousand miles, the saying goes, begins with a single step. Or in this case, the first day of cycling. “The first day was unforgettable. We started from the parking area of LOT 17, SCBD, and, since I was a beginner, I was put in the middle row and told to follow the front row,” Kyle recalls. “We went around the area for about an hour and it was quite draining. When we reached the last lap in Sudirman, I was already out of breath, exhausted and thought that I couldn’t do it anymore. But to my surprise, the group yelled for another round. I started to lose control but somebody in the back told me to keep pushing and stick to the front row, because once I lose pace it will be even harder for me to get back. So, I just kept my eyes on the back wheels of the bikes in the front row. When we reached the end, everyone gave me a pat on the back and congratulated me for finishing 50km on my first day. I passed their test. One of them came over and told me that it took him six months to do the same.”
The second time was still challenging but by the third time, it was smooth cycling. “I began to enjoy the process and even gave myself an extra lap around Sudirman. It was rewarding,” Kyle points out, then goes how into how it didn’t take long for cycling to become a part of his lifestyle. “I think the scenery, the sense of adventure and the idea that we are heading to something that is eco-friendly are the things that drive me the most. Bicycles are the green machines that allow us to challenge ourselves to conquer new destinations and obstacles, whether it’s a new hill, mountain, track or road.
“What makes me love every ride is the sense of fresh air rushing across my face to keep me cool. The faster I ride, the more air pushes against me and keeps me from sweating. It’s different from, say, running or jogging which heats up your body and makes you really sweat.” Today, riding between 70 to 80km is no longer a big deal for Kyle.
“Because I live in Canggu now, my new riding ritual is to go to waterfalls,” he continues. “I start early in the morning, usually by myself, and head to Ubud which is around 35km away. The waterfall is 5km from Ubud. I spend a couple of hours there to relax before going back for breakfast then head back home.”
When I mentioned how he is now considered a trendsetter for cycling, Kyle couldn’t help but laugh. “I wouldn’t say that I’m the first one because several people did it before me, including my friend Kelly Tandiono, but after I joined, suddenly everyone I know is into cycling. But the point is, I’m happy that I can be part of this fit and healthy movement.”
And speaking of being fit and healthy, cycling has not only afforded Kyle with new adventures, but also changed his daily routine. “I’ve become more of an early sleeper and early riser because, the earlier you start, the fresher the air you get,” he elaborates. “It burns more calories, which makes fitter and leaner. I’ve learned to adapt to this cardio lifestyle after realizing that this is the best one to shape me up and help me get toned. Also, cycling inspires me to push harder and reach my next goals.”
As an avid traveller and presenter, Kyle has also found a new perspective through cycling, along with plenty of new experiences. “The essence of cycling is about exploration, being free and one with nature, which is what I felt during my trips through Java and Bali. I got the chance to explore new places that other people might have never seen before. There is also the sense that a bicycle is the most versatile and easy companion to bring you forward,” he muses. “People have come up to me and ask what I would do if I get a flat tire? And I tell them that it’s the same like with driving: you always have a spare tire.”
Kyle’s most unforgettable cycling experience so far happened in Magelang, in Central Java. “I was in the middle of touring and the hotel staff asked me if I wanted to ride around the Borobudur temple since they know someone who is a fellow cyclist and who works there,” he recounts the story. “The temple was officially closed, so I felt very honoured. Cycling around the temple in the early morning hours and see the sunrise while going around the temple grounds was simply precious. I was the only person there besides the workers who maintain the area. I can’t think of any other word besides ‘magical’ to describe the moment. It still gives me chills every time I remember that feeling.”
Ultimately, however, Kyle’s cycling journey goes beyond fitness and fun, as he will be participating in Jelajah Timur – Water For Equality charity ride organized by Plan International, which will start in the middle of November. Kyle will be cycling for 1,000 km to help raise funds through the KitaBisa platform. Donations will be used to provide access to clean water for children, especially young girls, in Nagekeo Village in East Nusa Tenggara.
“It all began when Plan International approached me to join this challenge. I was touched when I heard the stories about how girls in the village would have to walk five kilometres just to get clean water and then another five to bring it back. It breaks my heart because water is essential for our wellbeing. While I can get it easily where I live, there are still people who are struggling to fulfil their daily water needs, whether it’s for drinking, bathing, or cleaning. That’s why I decided to ride 1,000km to raise money to provide fresh and clean water. And I hope those girls won’t have to walk so far anymore and can spend their time in school.”
Based on the itinerary of Jelajah Timur – Water For Equality, Kyle will cycle around Bali for two days in November. “I’m supposed to reach the first 500km and will try to aim for more by going on a different route,” he explains. “I will bring a friend along and a team to make sure that the journey will go well. The remaining 500km will be done anywhere.” Above all else, however, Kyle is happy for the chance to do something meaningful amid trying times. “I couldn’t thank them enough for all their kindness,” he concluded. “It was enlightening to see so many people who are willing to help and it gives me extra energy to give the best that I can.”
PHOTOGRAPHY BY CLAUS SCHMIDT