Biking ‘newbies’ ready to embark on first charity ride

Wee Ling Yong doesn't have much bicycling experience, but she has plenty of drive to help others.

Wee Ling Yong doesn’t have much bicycling experience, but she has plenty of drive to help others.

Yong, who was transferred from Microsoft in Singapore to the tech giant’s U.S. headquarters in Redmond 18 months ago, never rode a bike before coming here. But next month, the Redmond resident will lead a team of three other women who will participate in the inaugural Ride Around the Sound, a bicycling benefit event for the American Lung Association.

“We thought it would be fun and it is for a good cause,” said Yong, a 42-year-old who works in the Microsoft finance department. “Hopefully we will all still be friends afterward.”

Joining Yong on team “4 Asians” will be fellow Microsofties Shau Phang, 36, and Yoshimi Kanai, 47, along with Fumiko Okuno, 38, who used to work at Microsoft, but now works at Amazon.

Yong first met Phang when they both worked at Microsoft in Singapore and the two met Kanai and Okuno, who are transplants from Microsoft in Japan, while all working together at Microsoft in Redmond.

All four of them will be participating in their first charity ride and recently got into biking and running “because the environment allows us to do that,” Yong said. “It’s healthier living here.”

In densely populated places like Singapore and Japan there is no infrastructure and space for biking, but here in the Northwest that is a different story, Yong said. Also the hot, humid weather in Asia is not conducive to biking like the temperate weather in the Northwest, Phang added.

Kanai is the most experienced rider on the team as she recently participated in the Seattle to Portland ride in July and has plans of doing the Seattle to Vancouver, British Columbia ride and the Danskin Triathlon next summer. But Yong, Phang and Okuno just recently got new bikes in preparation for the Sept. 15 Ride Around the Sound, which features different routes around the Puget and Kitsap sounds.

They call themselves “newbies” to biking, but all four women are excited about exploring uncharted scenery while helping a good cause.

Both Okuno’s and Kanai’s families have a history of lung cancer so this fundraiser hits home with them. The team members also said the Ride Around the Sound is a good opportunity for learning a new sport like bicycling.

And all of them are learning about the cliche, “no pain, no gain.”

“They are trying to kill me before the event,” Yong said with a smile.

The team members train on the their bikes about two or three times a week, logging about 50 miles per week, according to Phang, who also lives in Redmond. They are still learning the finer details of biking, like riding with cleats and proper gear shifting for hills and inclines.

“We don’t know how to change a flat tire yet,” Phang said. “That’s why we have Yoshimi. I think Yoshimi knows how to do that.”

The 4 Asians team will be traversing a 45-mile route that begins in Tacoma and continues through the scenic Kitsap Peninsula to the Bremerton ferry dock. From there, the team members take a ferry to Seattle and can bike or catch a shuttle to the finish line at South Seattle Community College (SSCC). The route features rest stops along the way with food and music awaiting the riders at the finish-line party at SSCC.

The group’s goal is to raise $500, which Microsoft will match, according to Yong.

4 Asians is one of 15 teams who will participate in the ride. So far, there are more than 150 individual riders signed up and more riders are encouraged to register at There are five different routes of varying lengths, including a 12-mile family ride around the Alki Loop in West Seattle and a full 100-mile ride that starts in Seattle and loops around to Bremerton.

“Our team is so excited to be part of Ride Around the Sound,” Yong said. “We wanted to start riding more and this ride seems like a great place to start. What could be more meaningful than to have fun while helping others who are in need? We are looking forward to fantastic ride.”

Yong said her and her teammates plan to do more charity rides in the future — that is if she can finish the Ride Around the Sound.

“As long as I survive the 45 miles, I will do more,” Yong said.