MT. BIKING AND THE CHURCH
by Michael Barker
I love mt. biking. I love being Mormon.
I woke up at 4:30 a.m.. Got dressed and hopped into my truck. My 2005 Santa Cruz Blur classic (that’s for all you mt. bike geeks) was already on the hitch- rack. It was still dark when I pulled out of my driveway and headed to the trail head.
At 5:30 a.m. I took my bike off the rack, put my helmet on and started the climb up the fire road. The sun was jut peeking over the hills. Click, click, click, I changed gears as I ascended up the mountain. My legs ached. I was barely awake, let alone my body. Breathing heavier. The cold air burned my lungs. I stood up for a while as I pedaled, pedaled, pedaled. Click, click, click – I shifted my gears again. I shifted my body weight around while in my bike’s cockpit to maintain traction; there is lots of gravel on this road, so it’s easy to lose traction.
After about forty-five minutes of climbing, I was ready to descend on one of my favorite pieces of single-track. It’s called Chuck’s Chips. No idea how it got that name. It’s an unmarked trail up in the Wagner Creek area of Talent, Oregon. Before the descent, I put on a warmer pair of gloves and some arm-warmers. It was still pretty chilly. I then let out a lot of air form my tires.
When I climb, I put a lot of air in my tires. It makes them harder and thus, they roll easier as I push up the mountain. However, when you descend, super-hard tires are no good. This is something that many novices to the sport haven’t realized. You see, if you let some of that air out, more tire comes in contact with the dirt, so the tire grips better as you are haulin’ down the trail. The softer tire also allows it to conform to the varying terrain of rocks. This translates into a faster, funner ride. If the tire is left hard, you will just bounce like crazy. Sometimes that can be dangerous as you might bounce right off the trail. A softer tire grips better and conforms better to the terrain.
Down I went. Click, click, click. I could feel the crunch of leaves and pine needles under my tires. I pedaled faster and faster. Took the jump. Silence as I sailed through the air. Smiled. I am ten years-old again. This is a great ride.
When we come into some of the more unsavory aspects of LDS Church history, we have a few options.
1) We can ignore them. Deny they happened. We can be ostrich-like and bury our heads in the sand. We can remain rigid.
Dr. Phillip Barlow once said:
“If you can’t inquire honestly, earnestly, passionately, but humbly, thoughtfully, and be within the fold, then you are either going to end up outside the fold, as a certain number of people are, or your faith is going to be brittle and ostrich-like.”
2) We can accept this new knowledge but because of our rigidity, leave the Church. As one of my friends astutely pointed out to me, “Black and white thinkers that leave the Church just become white and black thinkers.” I will say there are people who leave the Church, that in my mind, do it for very valid and honest reasons. I have family and friends that simply do not fit the description I have just given. And you know what? They are still good people.
3) We can be flexible. Wc can bend and shift as we try to accommodate the new information. My wife quoted Bruce Lee to me the other day:
“Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind.”
To put it a different way, Dr. Adam Miller, a philosopher, said:
“…If I’m bent on the Church’s history turning out to match my version of it in a certain kind of way, the problem there isn’t that Church’s history doesn’t match up with my version of it. The problem is, how invested I am in my version of everything, not just that; not just Church stuff either…that’s just a particular example of a general problem that I as a human being am suffering from and we have to be able to let go of that – not just for church, but for anything; to allow things to shift. Let them be what they are without my demanding upfront that they be a certain way…”
I find my descents down the trails to be much more enjoyable with my tires softer, more flexible, and less rigid. I can go faster and corner harder. I find it easier to stay on the trail and I don’t bounce around as much. It does suck though if I let too much air out of the tire and it rolls side-to-side as I corner, or if I pinch-flat on a sharp rock. Determining how much air to let out takes practice and also the advice of others that have ridden for a long time.
Now, there are those that don’t like to mountain bike. I should honor their choice. They prefer to ride on super-hard tires while on their road bikes. You see them walk into the Starbucks all spandexed-out, their cleats on the bottom of their shoes making that dang tapping sound. “Yes, I would like a latte please…with soy milk please.” Whatever…give my a break. Seriously, who wants to be a “roadie”, as we mountain bikers call them? Spandex matching their tops. Riding along in a straight line on the road. Rigid.
I’ll be mountain biking for a long time I think. I’ll be Mormon for a long time too…click, click, breath, legs burning…let some air out of the tires….now the fun starts.
So, I don’t mountain bike (the idea of it scares the crap out of me). BUT, I do trail run. And since I read this post this morning, I’ve been thinking all day about how this analogy also applies to what I’ve learned in the last couple of years about barefoot running shoes vs. the regular kind. Last fall I got my first pair of minimalist trail running shoes and the difference was remarkable. My runs became more engaging and enjoyable, even when on the road. I could feel the trail under my feet and navigate the rocky terrain so much better. Not to mention there were less aches and pains of the body in general, because my feet were able to properly guide me over the terrain. Barefoot running actually reduces the risk of injury. People think those comfy, padded, super supportive shoes are keeping their feet safe, but it turns out they are keeping their feet week. When switching to barefoot shoes runners will often have sore feet for a few weeks, discovering muscles they didn’t even know their feet had.
I think stripping away the comfy and “supportive” padding in my approach to the church and the gospel has helped me to exercise muscles I didn’t know I had. And it has helped me to navigate terrain that otherwise would have caused injury.
So, that was a really long comment just meant to say: yeah, I get this.
I’m scared to barefoot run… Oh wait I don’t run.
nice mike. i only wish i were with you.
Amen, Mike. And “fun” is a great way to describe it – ideological flexibility can be thrilling.
I also get a kick out of the fact that you’ve found a way to allegorize/metaphorize mountain-biking. In my experience it seems it’s an age-old Mormon tradition to make and find sermons in day-to-day quotidiana…much like the crafting of art, poetry. Sermon-making can be a beautiful way of anchoring oneself to the world.
Been trail-running a lot lately. And I agree – I can’t fathom the “roadies”.
How refreshing are you!! Wow that sounded like a little bromance is brewing…Great post dude.
What if I do both MTB and Road….
What does that make me?….
Your email shows up when you leave a comment you goof-nut.
Those socks are legit.
I would agree with Paul…those socks are legit. Did your daughters get them for your Bday or did you raid Cathy’s drawer?
Would your bending and shifting allow for Sunday-go-a-ridin’? 😉
Dig those electric socks!
Well done, Mike! I love this post. And the principle of flexibility and holding fast over the rough spots. It reminds me of a concept/quote from Memoirs of a Geisha — “Adversity is like a strong wind. . . tears away from us all but the things that cannot be torn, so that afterward we see ourselves as we really are, and not merely as we might like to be.”
I believe that finding and accepting truth in this life is essential to our spritual survival. Painful and scary at times, but essential. Whatever truth may be illuminated along our journey, it is all for the best. “For the word of the Lord is truth, and whatsoever is truth is light, and whatsoever is light is Spirit, even the Spirit of Jesus Christ.” D&C 84:45
Well, until you became juvenile in your disparaging, stigmatizing comments about roadies.
Mountain biking I enjoy, Riding 100 miles on the road I love.
The church is filled with people like you. “If you don’t dress like me, don’t do what I do, if you don’t act like me, I will marginalize you.”
Some people like to ride on the trail, some on the road. Some people like to run on the trail, some on the road. Some people like to sit on the couch and watch American Idol.
As Thomas Jefferson said: “But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”
Pogo was right: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
I’m sorry you did not pick up on the tongue and cheek comment. If you look up above at Chuck’s comment, well, Chuck is one of my best friends that road races and with whom I mt. bike…Come on man.