Life lessons from the bike

After debating for months, I signed up for, and rode in a four day, 310 mile charity bike ride last week.  It was an unforgettable experience, and along the way I learned some valuable life lessons.

Here are some of my key takeaways from Ride Allegheny 2019:

Community is critical.

I was enthusiastically welcomed into a new “fraternity” or community.  Veteran riders offered encouragement and advice.  Fellow rookie riders shared our concerns, questions, and growing knowledge about the ride.  Rest stops and evenings provided a chance to share life together over food and drink (drinking seemed to be very important for quite a few riders).  And the ability to ride with others provided encouragement and motivation during the long hours in the saddle each day.

Community is a fundamental human need.  We’re created for community, and when we experience it, we’re closer to a flourishing life.  Without it, we’re going to shrivel on the ride called life.

Preparation isn’t everything.

It’s good to be prepared, and the ride organizers provided plenty of instructions ahead of time.  But you can’t prepare for everything.  You can’t eliminate every unknown or risk.  We had a few riders crash out.  Some taken away by ambulance.  There were bikes that broke down along the way.  Some riders had to abandon.  I had problems with muscle cramping despite training and more.  It’s good to prepare.  And it’s also good to know how to improvise.  That’s where some of our best learning and stories come from!

Most of us like to be prepared for life.  But there will be unknowns and surprises.  That’s when we’re forced to lean harder into God, the only truly predictable part of this life.  We improvise with one hand while holding tightly to God with the other.

You can only control yourself.

With 130 plus riders on a narrow trail, there are times when you have to navigate traffic.  I tried to hang out with riders who were reliable and predictable, but ultimately the only rider I can control is myself.  This is why I almost crashed out in the last 25 feet of the ride as a fellow rider slowed and swerved right across my path.

Control is a major life issue for many of us. We want to control the situation and people around us.  But no one around you wants to be controlled.  And they will push back if you try.  Instead, focus on controlling yourself, including your thoughts, your emotions, your tongue, and your reactions.  It may not be easy, but at least it’s possible.

Focus makes a difference.

By the third day I was sore and my legs were not interested in pedaling for another 90 miles.  For the first few hours of that day I rode mostly in silence, as I was focused on what wasn’t working well.  I thought about how sore I was, and how far I had to go.  It was only after lunch that I finally decided to put on a high-energy playlist on my headphones and let the music crank.  I was immediately able to ride better, stronger, and longer!  Suddenly my focus was OFF my own misery, and onto something better!

I’m reminded of the old hymn, “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.”  There’s a line in that song that goes, “And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.”  When my focus is on God and what he’s doing, then the stuff of this world fades somewhat.  I’m not suggesting we pretend we live in a different world, only that we learn to focus beyond just this world, and learn to see God, and see what he sees around us.  Focus on something better.

Community, preparation, control, and focus.  Some life lessons from the saddle of a bicycle on a ride from Pittsburgh to DC.  What about you?  What life lessons are you learning as you take on the next challenge?

-Pastor Mark


Posted on October 11, 2019, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. One of my life lessons came from motorcycling. It’s something called target fixation. Basically, you will go wherever you are looking. If you look far ahead at where you want to go (especially going into a curve or a turn), you will wind up going there without problems. If you look at the curb or the side of the road, that’s where you will end up. Same thing with my walk with God – if I keep my eyes fixed on Jesus, I will remain on the right path. When my focus strays to one side or the other, bad things tend to happen.

  2. Thank you for sharing, Pastor Mark. And congratulations on completing such a challenging ride!

  3. Was Charlie Harrington part of the group?

    • Maybe. There were 130 plus riders. Is he a veteran of the ride?

      • He was one of the founders, I think. He was the boy’s orthodontist and use to mention this ride when there were 5 or 6 of them who use to participate. Great guy. office off of 28 down the road from QOHS.

  4. I think he is no longer riding, but was at the picnic at the finish

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