TIer Q&A: Shanghai City's Steven Zhou Cycles Across Taiwan

Texas Instruments technical sales associate Steven Zhou is anything but a couch potato. At the end of his workdays, the Shanghai City, China, based TIer and biker is either scheming his next big cycling trip, working on his fully customized bike – named “Steven’s Spirit Bike” and loaded with TI parts -- or, is out cycling. He’s a big dreamer – and a doer. His recent trip? A trek across Taiwan. Here’s his story.

 How long have you been a cyclist?

I began to ride when I was 8 years old, and the first bicycle I rode was my mom’s bike for adults -- I couldn’t even reach the cushion! But I always rode it to school, which is about three miles from my hometown, Shanghai. I had a lot of fun riding with my elementary school classmates. In high school, I took a full day to ride from my high school to my home, which was about 62 miles. I went through many parts of the city I had never walked through, and saw different people living in different ways. In 2003, I was studying at Zhejiang University, in Hangzhou. I biked from Hangzhou to Shanghai (about 111 miles) in two days. That was the first time I rode across the province in China, and that trip gave me the dream to travel around China on a bicycle.

What do you most enjoy about cycling?

Driving is too fast, walking is too slow – it is cycling that makes the trip most enjoyable! But for a meaningful trip, the destination is not my purpose. The experiences on the road, the people I meet, the sights I see – those are the best gifts. That’s why I enjoy cycling. I can stop anywhere I want and talk to everyone I meet.

S o then you decided to trek across Taiwan. How long was your solo cycling journey?

It was a total of 15 days. I spent 10 days on the way, three days of leisure time on a beach, and two days preparing in Taipei. I went alone, but it was not a lonely trip. I made a lot of friends during the journey.

I’m sure you have many great travel stories.

On this trip, I met a Taiwanese boy who had the dream of being a professional cyclist, and I gave him some suggestions on how to achieve his dream. I met a woman from Singapore who started a restaurant in a small town beside the beach, just because she loved the Pacific. And I met an Australia man who built a small castle by the beach and turned it into a small hostel. He achieved his dream of building a castle.

So what motivated you to build your own bike? 

For a biking trip, the most important things are safety, and a healthy and interesting trip. I used seven TI components for lighting, power and wireless control technology to help achieve these key issues. One of these parts was an LED flashlight with a high-power efficiency TI LED driver that would make the flashlight’s power last longer through the night. To make myself visible to other vehicles, I used a TI wireless lighting control solution and connected it to a smartphone so that  vehicles could easily see me. I also wore a watch powered by a TI microcontroller, and it detected heart rate, temperature and altitude. I could know my stats at any time.

Clearly your trip was “green” since you traveled by bicycle. But what other ways did you keep it eco-friendly?

I used a DC power generator, an old AC power generator combined with TI circuits, for powering my electronic devices, such as my cell phone, iPad and LED flashlight. This is the key part of the bike, because the power is generated by the rotation of the wheels, or by my power. Throughout the trip, I didn’t use a fixed power plug to charge any of my electronic devices.  So that’s why I call it a “green” trip.

Do you have plans for another cycling journey in the works?

Yes – I plan to make a cycling trip to the highest and biggest lake in China, Qinhai Lake, which is in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. I’m also creating a small cycling club of TIers and TI customers. We’re planning to take a trip to Tai Hu Lake, which is the biggest lake in East China. The total distance will be about 125 miles.