There are innumerable essays written by bicyclists trying to explain their passion. Those who do not share the obsession do not understand, and we feel compelled to help them. These explanations also tend to strike chords with cycling fellows, binding us together and validating, in some small way, things we do that defy logic, reason, and sometimes good old-fashioned common sense. It is as if convincing ourselves makes it so. The explosion of web logs has allowed this practice to proliferate, and more than a few such essays can be found in the archives of this blog. Here is one more to toss on the stack.
Recently, I’ve discovered a new answer for myself to the question, “Why the bicycle?” The fundamental answer has to do with the rewards that come from something done well. It became apparent to me while reflecting on the observation that, really, it is the only thing I do well. I’ve had more noble aspirations to be skilled in other important areas of life. I’ve sought to be a loving husband, a responsible father, and a leader in my church. Unfortunately, well-intentioned individuals have made me quite aware that I am deficient in those areas. I once thought of myself as one who had special insight to offer in those areas, and that with diligence I might be an effective leader. I now see the high standards of accomplishment and appreciate where I really stand.
It is discouraging to realize this. I suppose it must be like an athlete who is cut from the team. He is forced to the realization that he has reached the limit of his athletic potential and must find another life pursuit. Before the cut, he sees himself as able to offer a unique and special contribution to the team. Then, well-intentioned others produce the facts, and reality crushes the spirit. He adjusts, of course, and so can I. The knowledge of God’s grace and the forgiveness of those around me help speed the transition. There are other ways to serve and contribute.
Riding the bicycle, however, encourages. The stakes are low, to be sure, but every effort is rewarded. There is no falling short. There is no criticism by well-intentioned others. If I choose to stand and grind, downshift while sitting and spin, or stop all together and have a snack, I will make it up the hill. Whatever choice I make will be right one, will serve the need, and will be appreciated immensely. When the hill top is reached and the valley is in view, I can bask in the satisfaction of a job done very well.
Let’s not make more of it than what is. The bicycle is an escape. It is a coping mechanism. It is recreation and refreshment to the soul. The more important issues of life, of loving and serving, are those that warrant our devotion, in spite of the disappointments that sometimes come with them. We must see ourselves as we really are, find our place, and do our part to meet the needs around us. We can’t all lead. Some of us have more humble roles, and when our pride is bruised, riding the bicycle can encourage and we can heal.