“Do you ever just feel like you are riding around in circles?” my co-worker jokingly asked me. “Only sometimes” I replied.
My co-worker was referring to a bicycle class I am taking at the San Diego Velodrome. The banked 333-meter outdoor track has always intrigued me. My wife and I went down there several times on Tuesday nights this past summer to watch the races and it is quite the experience. The races are free and people bring food and beers while watching cyclists ride around in circles on fixed gear bikes. It reminds me of a modern day carnival as the hipsters come out in masses to show off their own fixie creations, waxed moustaches and tattooed arms. Sipping on a beer, I almost felt bad as the athletes on the track below were racing their hearts out. Almost.
“After Ironman, I want to do this,” I leaned over to tell my wife while pointing at the track below.
Riding the banked walls of the track for the first time is quite an experience. Looking down from the corners you think you are going to slide right down. It is the strangest thing. The faster you go, the easier it is to stay up. The other adjustment for most people is riding fixed gear for the first time. There are no brakes and you can never stop pedaling. While you might think it makes it dangerous, it actually makes it safer as cyclists around you can’t just apply the brakes which would take out the riders behind them.
I love track class. It has taught me more technical skills for racing my bike, and has given me a new level of comfort in handling and sprinting. I have learned how to adjust to other riders, and how to strategically use the draft to win races. It has been a blast.
One of the biggest things I have noticed from class is the importance of the draft. Most people know a group of 4-5 cyclists can cover more distance faster than 1 or 2. This comes from the amount of time you have to recover from a hard effort in the front. The longer the line of riders, the faster you can go with less effort provided the rider in front can pull hard enough. If you are in a group of 2, each rider has to do more work in front to maintain the same level of speed a bigger pack can produce.
I know through scripture Christ emphasizes the importance of being connected to a body of believers. I believe the same velodrome draft principles are at play spiritually. You will never be as strong of a believer if you try to do it on your own. Will you reach the finish line? Sure. But the pack will get you there fresher.
I have a couple of good friends that don’t go to church. They don’t go either because they don’t believe in the institution, or because it’s not convenient for one reason or another. They have spotty epiphanies of faith, and mention God occasionally through their speech. Missing in their lives is the accountability and spiritual growth that only comes from interacting with a body of believers. I know that the ‘church’ has gained a bad reputation over time, and several books including “The Shack” have questioned the legitimacy of organized church as an avenue to God. I think that while non-church believers are indeed seeking God, they wind up being like the solo rider in track class getting lapped by the group.
I have come to realize that a group of fellow believers is important for spiritual growth. While you still have to work for the group, you have people there to help share the load of life and get you through the tough times. You will ultimately be much more successful in the things you do. As I continue to work on my velodrome track skills, I can’t help but relate the experience to the success we can gain as a body of believers.
For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”