I got myself a new bike. It’s a Fat Tire bike–one of those with 4.8 inch motorcycle-like tires. It’s designed for going over bumpy or rocky or soft terrain. It’s definitely not built for speed. It’s kind of the SUV of bicycles.
I’d had my eye on bikes like this for a while because I live in the perfect place to ride it. There are rocky beaches and mountain trails in the summer. There are snowy roads and snowmachine trails in the winter. Plus I know some folks in the community that ride them and it would be fun to ride with some of them every once in a while.
Fat Tire biking is a very different thing than the road biking I’ve been doing the last seven years or so. Road bikes are designed for maximum speed. They are designed to go straight and fast. They put all of your energy into the pedal and so there are no shocks and there is no bounce to the tires. (Road bikes can have about 100 pounds per square inch [PSI] in the tires while fat tire bikes can have as low as 7 or so PSI.) On a road bike you want to avoid all of the obstacles in front of you. On a Fat Tire bike much of the fun is trying to get over or through the obstacles in front of you.
And, it’s also new to me.
This can make it somewhat challenging.
And in the two weeks I’ve had my bike I’ve already had two noteworthy spills.
The first spill was out on the Old Iditarod Trail out of Seward. It’s pretty flat but it’s very wet. There are three creek crossings and lots of standing water on the trail, with some of the puddles of muddy water being deeper than others. I was out riding with a friend and I went down in one of the puddles, the whole bike falling in and my phone getting soaked. I wasn’t hurt but the phone needed a lot of TLC to dry out and get cleaned back into working order. The buddy I was with was able to help with the bike and phone to minimize the water damage. The only thing that was hurt was my pride — and really, I don’t have much of that to begin with.
Then, yesterday, I went with a different friend up the Lost Lake Trail out of Seward. It’s a mountain trail with about 2000 feet of elevation gain over 5+ miles. The weather was perfect. It was about 30 degrees but sunny. From the forecast it looked like it was going to turn to wet and windy today (which it did) and it might be the last and only time we’d be able to get up that height this year.
But part of the trail is bumpy, narrow, and with a drop off on one side. This is where I had trouble…and it was on the way up and not the way down. On the way up there is not much momentum and it seems like the bumps toss you around more. Whatever the case, my front wheel ended off the edge and, very quickly, the bike and I tumbled down about 20 feet over rocks and pricker plants (don’t know what kind). My head was fine. My hands were scraped up from trying to grab things on the way down. And I could tell I hit my chest pretty hard.
My friend, who was behind me a bit, dropped his bike and ran to help. He climbed down, helped me get my bike up through the bushes to the trail, and then had me sit and check myself out. I was sore, but OK. And, after a tentative start, we headed back up the trail for another 3 miles or so to where we could look down on Lost Lake and ride some of the great smooth trails at the top.
I was OK.
I’m pretty sore today. But I’m OK.
And, in each of these cases, it was clear to me why I ride with someone. I ride with someone because this is all new to me and I really don’t know know what I’m doing yet — how the bike handles, which path through creeks and up hills I should take. I ride with someone because I, frankly, don’t know where I’m going on some of the trails around here. There are folks who have a lot more experience than I. I ride with someone because there are still bears around — and just last week I heard from an experienced rider how he came upon a brown bear and two cubs. I ride with someone because there’s someone there to help when I fall. I ride with someone because, frankly, I like having company and having fun with others and it’s great to sit on the bikes at the top of a long climb, have a snack together, and share the view.
So, if I bike with someone else why would I try to do discipleship alone?
There are some parallels here. If we journey in faith with others we have someone to show us the way and help us get around obstacles. If we journey in faith with others we have an extra person for protection — if not from bears then from another “Enemy.” If we journey in faith with others there can be someone there for us when we fall, when we get into trouble, and when we get hurt. And, when we get to our proverbial mountaintop, we have someone to share that with–and maybe even break bread with.
Our Scripture is not without its verses showing us our need for others on our journey. Take Hebrews 10:24-25 as an example:
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
I’m writing this part here just after spending time in a covenant group — a small gathering of pastors where we check in with each other, spiritually. They, outside of those in the congregations I serve, are a few of my fellow travellers.
I’m not in this alone.
I’m “riding” with someone.