With cooler temperatures and better health this past fall, I’ve been able to ride my bike a lot more. My new(ish) location makes a commute to church or work much more doable (at my old house, it was 7 miles each way to the office, now it’s more like 3.5 each way). But what has really made it possible is bike gang friends. There are friends at my church that are commuting by bike for lots of different reasons – convictions about cars, trying to live simply, it’s fun, it’s cool, it’s exercise, etc.
After several invitations over the summer, I was finally able to go ride with a ‘bike gang’, and we rode 13+ miles! (my longest ride ever, at that time). A rambling jaunt of 2 hours, with some stops for coffee, an attempt to dumpster-dive some bagels, and a stop at a friend’s house where we gathered one more person. 🙂 I hadn’t ridden with people before, and felt like I was suddenly in the tour de france – one shaky turn and I could bring down the whole pack! But it was great fun – getting to talk with my friends while riding, speeding up, slowing down, talking with different people at different times.
When the weather was really bad and I couldn’t bike commute, I went to a couple spin classes. If you’ve been to one, you know – they are SO INTENSE. There’s a lot of cycling that happens, they don’t have odometers, but I’m sure we go far. We sweat a LOT, more than I ever have on a bike gang ride. And the instructor is yelling encouragement. We ride fast, we listen to thumping music, and yes, we probably burn a ton of calories.
But I’ve been thinking – what really taught me to love biking is the bike gang rides, not the spin class. Sure, in a spin class we work out and burn more immediate calories. But for the long-term, learning to figure out what roads are good to ride, learning the practicals of locking my bike, etc, those make me a cyclist for life. Getting to learn from others, enjoy time together, and have fun… that’s really what puts me on the journey for the long haul.
In a spin class, even with friends, there’s no talking – there’s no spare air! The spin instructor isn’t going to go out to show you practicals – he/she is just yelling instructions and giving a good workout for that time period. Being in community is what shows me the joy in it, gives practicals, and encourages me to ride on my own even more.
This has parallels with the ways I think about ministry and community. The most amazing speaker in the world can tell you things, and it may feel phenomenal in the moment, but we need community for the long run. That’s not to say there’s not a place for spin classes or good speakers – but we can’t rely on that to be the only thing to keep us going. One of the many reasons I love my job is that I get to foster and encourage Christian community amongst college students – to set them up well for the long run. Here’s to more “bike gangs.”