Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Preparing for Two-week UP Bike Trip

Since I was a teen-ager I've dreamed about going on an extended bike trip. I did a couple of these in my late teens with a large group. And I went on a ride for a few days with a youth pastor. I remember thinking that when I was an adult I'd be able to afford to go on a trip like this. I'm finally going to do it.
I wouldn't say I can now afford it, but I'm going to do it anyway. I'm more than half-way through a six-month sabbatical, so at least I have some time to get away. I've managed to arrange for help from family members to enable me to have two-weeks on my own.
I've been cycling for a few years now. When I started my "road to fitness" I could hardly walk across the street without pain. I've slowly been able to lose weight, thanks to bariatric surgery, and to get fit, first on a treadmill and then on a bicycle. Over the past year I've gained back about 50 lbs. and am finding it incredibly difficult to do anything but maintain my current weight.
During the winter and spring I worked hard doing three or more sessions per week on the home trainer. With my Kurt Kinetic Smart Trainer, I could really enjoy most of what technology had to offer. I used Trainer Road for its structured training with high intensity intervals. Along with Zwift, I tried several other cycling apps Most recently I've been using FulGaz with its high-quality videos that match my own speed and intensity on the trainer.
I don't feel like I've done as many rides this summer as I would have liked. I've blogged about how I use a CycleTote trailer to pull behind my bike on the Cardinal Greenway Trail. I worked my way up to doing 50-mile rides. I don't know if I should subject my wife to longer times sitting in the trailer. She feels bad for me having to pull her, but I feel worse for her having to sit for so long.
I've done several long rides this summer. The longest was a 70-mile ride in which I looped south of Rt. 44, got a bit lost -- in spite of the GPS -- ended up back on Rt. 44 west of Connersville, didn't go far enough north before heading east, came back into Connersville, had to ride Rt. 1 up to Milton, ran out of water before getting back home and found a nice man who gave me three bottles of water from his refrigerator.
Over the past month I've started to feel like I've been making really good improvement. I'm not sure why that is. I've been very good about combing hard workouts with good rest and recovery. I've also been experimenting with two supplements, Resveratrol and NAD+ Cell Regenerator Nicotinamide Riboside. I have seen marked improvement in my hard efforts in Zwift. I started doing a group ride that required holding power at about two watts per kilogram. It was quite difficult for me to maintain. After about a month I've been able to maintain about 2.5 watts per kilogram (at the same weight). I did a Functional Threshold Power test and had raised my FTP to 290. What I don't know if I can do is sustain daily rides of 50+ miles for two weeks (with two weekend days off in between).
My preparations started with buying a new bike in the spring 2018. After doing some research I found a great deal online for a Diamondback Century 2. It's designed for endurance riding and came with the Shimano Ultegra groupset and hydraulic disc brakes. I've really liked riding it: feels very responsive, shifts smoothly, and braking is quick, strong, and reliable.
I've been reading a great deal about bike touring and watching many YouTube videos. Since I plan to stay at campgrounds on my two-week bike trip across the upper peninsula of Michigan, I've been trying to learn about camping as well. Still, this will all be a new experience for me.
I've purchased camping equipment: a tent, sleeping bag, mat, and pillow; small, portable stove for butane/propane and cooking pots and implements (mainly for eating dinner and breakfast); a head lamp. For carrying what I need, I have a Topeak top tube bag, Topeak 15L backloader bag, and the Ibera bike rack with pannier bags. I feel like I still need some extra room up front for daily items. Because I seem to run out of water while riding, I've purchased a system for adding two more bottle cages to the bike (maybe front forks). I've bought a heavy-duty (I didn't realize how think 12mm is) security cable for locking my bike frame and wheels. I'm also putting on two new tires and going tubeless. The tires are 700 x 38 and are designed for both road and off-road riding. One thing I had to do with my new bike was replace the rear wheel with a stronger rim with more spokes (HED Belgium). It has held up well, even riding on some gravel roads. Today I will be preparing the rims for tubeless and putting on the new tires with sealant inside. I hope this helps me to greatly reduce the problem of flats and worrying about carrying enough tubes and patches.
When I get all of my camping gear, I'm going to start just by setting up the tent in the backyard and sleeping overnight. Then I'm going to take a couple of overnight bike rides to campgrounds within 50-75 miles away. That way I can do a few "shakedown" trips to get some experience and see what I need to do or learn more about.
My plan is to drive to Gaylord, Michigan, to bring my wife to her sister's home, where she'll stay for the two weeks. Gaylord is a trailhead for a trail that goes up to the bridge. I've mapped out my route with Garmin Connect and loaded the routes to my Garmin Edge 810. I think I might redo these routes with Ride With GPS and use the iPhone app. I'll record the route with the Garmin but use Ride With GPS for turn-by-turn navigation, mapping, and to include information for myself about important places along the way (like places I can get pasties for lunch).
I like technology, especially integrating it with day-to-day activities that contribute to one's quality of life. I'll be using my iPhone 7 camera for social media posting and a GoPro camera for video. I'll have a Tzumi - PocketJuice 20,000 mAh Portable Charger (charge one item and charge other devices from it) and a WD - easystore® 4TB External USB 3.0 Portable Hard Drive for backing up videos from my Macbook Air laptop.
The next two weeks of the end of August I'll keep preparing for the trip. My greatest challenge (besides bears in the UP) is not the bike ride or camping but just being away from home and family. My mild social anxiety causes me to feel more comfortable at home. I've spent long periods before being away from home. It would be easy to find an reason/excuse for not doing this ride.
Why the UP? My paternal great grandfather (and great grandmother) came from Germany to the UP in the mid-19th century. They had 11 children, many of whom lived in the area near Rockland and Ontonagon, Michigan (near Lake Superior). My paternal grandfather and grandmother had ten children (two sons and eight daughters). Most of my aunts, uncles, and cousins (that I know) have moved away. Rockland, Michigan, represents my ancestral home to me. I remember visiting there as a child. My father is now 96, so it is very meaningful to me to make this trek across the UP and visit the area where my paternal ancestors lived and died (the nearby Woodlawn Cemetery is the final resting place for many of my relatives).
I plan to share this experience as much as possible through blog posts and Facebook. I read Twitter and Instagram but don't tend to use them much. I hope to create a Youtube video from the GoPro footage when I return home and as I have time.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Plans for 2018

Anyone perusing my blogspot would get the idea that my life is just a series of bike rides and six-month sabbaticals. I am at the beginning of my career-third six-month sabbatical, so I'm hoping to do some interesting things and talk about them here.
The overall theme of my blogs has to do with my reflections on the meaning and impact of my life. If you need an explanation: My last name is Seid, pronounced "side"; hence, "SeidEffect." I suppose my thought was that the mark we make on the world with our lives is often not primarily an effect of the jobs we have or even what we've aspired to do with our lives. For most of my life I've been singularly focused on trying to understand the origins and early development of Christianity. Even though I was a poor student in high school and started my adventure in higher education with a Bible institute, I managed to advance from Christian college bachelor and master degrees to eventually graduate with a Ph.D. from Brown University. My training and experience in technology, graduate work in religion, and pastoral ministry led me to my current position in supporting online education at Earlham School of Religion in Richmond, Indiana. Although I've been allowed to teach two courses per year and to have a professorial title in addition to Associate Dean, I have not been able to have much influence on students and others with my conclusions about Christian origins and Christian practice. During my last six-month sabbatical I did a great deal of work on the beginnings of a book, I began to realize I was going far too in-depth; I wouldn't be able to finish writing it, and if I did no one would want to read it except a few specialists. So I intend to try again and this time focus on the audience I care the most about, which is the average college-educated person dissatisfied with popular American Christianity and interested in a fresh way to think about Christian experience based on a focus on the literary and philosophical context of the writing of the letters of Paul and the later composition of the Gospels.
I had plenty of company along my educational and professional journey. My wife and I met when we were in the eighth grade and married after we finished at the Grand Rapids School of the Bible and Music in 1979. Over the next years as we moved from school to school we grew our family to five daughters.
As pleased as I am with what I've achieved in my life, I feel the greatest contribution we've made is our five daughters and what they are doing with their lives. Each one is unique in the way they've formed themselves and the decisions they've made about their lives. Added to our family have been sons-in-law whom I deeply respect and love. And then there has come the time of life to have grandchildren; we now have four and one on the way!
One of the most significant realizations in my life has had to do with Suann. About ten years ago she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. We've worked through the periods of getting social security disability, adjusting to diminished memory and judgment, and a failing ability to walk for any distance. For many years I appreciated the way that Suann supported my educational and professional aspirations. We took turns being the breadwinner; no one knows the extent to which she sacrificed for me and our family. My self-perception has been that God has directed the stages of my life towards some end, and Suann has been my helper: she has said as much at times. In later years I've had the thought that perhaps our roles are actually the opposite of what I've thought: God has put me here to be Suann's helper in life and the greatest effect is her impact on the people she's known and on her raising her daughters.
My older blogs tell the story of how in later life I have tried to become healthy and fit. After bariatric surgery and using a treadmill to lose nearly 200 lbs., I have rediscovered my love of riding a bike. I use a trainer and computer programs throughout the winter to train for the bike-riding months. Besides going out for bike rides around Indiana and Ohio, we are having fun using a bike trailer designed for adults with disabilities. Here is a brief video showing me setting up the bike trailer.

One of my greatest struggles in life other than obesity is a kind of introversion and social anxiety. I'm very much of a "home body." It takes great mental effort to overcome anxious feelings when leaving the house. I can do it; I've even been able to leave home for three months to live in Bethlehem. But in the time before walking out my front door to go on a bike ride my mind is consumed with thoughts about what I look like and what people will think. It matters little that most of the time I see very few people in my neighborhood and traffic is very minimal along the country roads. While I share my joy of going for a long bike ride, the greater effort will have been just leaving home. What has really helped me is that it is far easier to take Suann to go for a ride on the trail. If I can't get out for a solo ride early in the morning, I can always go to the trail with Suann. She doesn't understand how much she is helping me and often expresses her frustration of me having to pull her. I try to tell her I like doing it, it helps me to get stronger, and I actually don't have a sensation of it being more difficult to ride pulling the trailer.
I do plan to make regular road trips around the Richmond, Indiana, area. I want to add to those rides a few times when I drive to an area a few hours away and do a loop around an interesting area. For example, south of Brookville, where there more hills and forested areas; and a loop through the Hoosier National Forest. I also want to take Suann to other bike trails. There is a long bike trail near us in Ohio, the Little Miami bike trail. Also, Suann's sister and brother-in-law live in Gaylord, Michigan, which is a trail head for a long series of great bike trails. And my father is living in Grand Haven, Michigan, where there is a long trail that goes through the village where Suann and I grew up. My dream ride is to try bike camping across the upper peninsula of Michigan: I would start from north of the bridge and ride a southerly route across to Rockland, where my father's family are from, and Ontonagon; and then ride back across a northerly route to my starting point. I've plotted 50-75 mile days and can do the ride in two weeks.
I have many other personal and professional plans for the next six months. I have some friends, who are also Quakers and avid cyclists, and we've talked about starting a podcast about cycling and spirituality. We should try to sell our house and move into a place that will be better for Suann. At least I need to do more work around our home.
I'm excited about the prospects of the next six months. I plan to contribute regular blogs here as well as create videos for my Seid Trips Youtube channel. More to come.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Seid Trips: Two Reservoir Ride

I knew through the week that the weather looked good for a Saturday ride. It's been a long time since I went out for an "epic" ride. Some time ago I plotted out a ride that would take me to someplace new and scenic. I decided to do that ride. Friday evening I prepped my bike. I got my clothes laid out along with the arm and leg warmers and a light jacket and put together the drinks and food I wanted to take with me. I got up Saturday morning ready to ride.
It was a bit cool, maybe in the high 40s when I started out. I felt good; I expected to feel a little tight and tired for the first ten miles. By then I start to warm up and can enjoy the ride. I traveled north on Round Barn Road, going under the 70 freeway overpass, and proceeding to SR 35. I then took that west to cross Route 1. At that point I began traveling on small, country roads. Each new segment seemed to be smaller and more pot-holed. After some miles making my way NW, to my surprise my GPS told me to make a left -- on to a gravel road. I wanted adventure! I must have traveled five or ten miles on gravel roads before getting back to paved roads and highways.
It was great to finally reach the first lake, Summit Lake Reservoir. The road bisected the easternmost part of the lake so that I had water on either side. When I reached the second reservoir, Prairie Creek Reservoir, I could tell it was much more of a recreational area with parks, beaches, and marinas.
I took in the scenery as I made my way around the northern tip of the lake and returned to the south to travel the western shores of the two reservoirs. I stopped at one point to have a rest and something to eat. I posted a selfie to FaceBook and then took a picture of my bike against the beauty of the lake and the sky.
At about the 70-mile point my legs began to cramp. I stopped along the highway (SR 38) just west of Hagerstown to rest a bit. I tried shaking and stretching. When I got back on the bike, my leg muscles would cramp again. I finally thought I should call family in case I just couldn't keep going. No answer. No answer. No answer. I kept trying to get back on the road. I walked my bike a few hundred yards to the top of the ascent. I got back on and began turning my legs a bit as I coasted. A little more and just a bit of twinging. I was in Hagerstown when my daughter tried calling. I sent her the text message through Siri: "I am in Hagerstown. I am doing ok."
I made it all the way home. I told my daughter I was glad no one answered their phones. I really wanted to be able to finish my ride. I didn't give up. 91 miles. A bit short of a century. But I planned for the adventure and not for the number of miles.
I remember thinking as I rode under 70. They call it a freeway. But riding my bike under my own power to go where I want to go is more of a free way to travel.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Seid Trips - Sharing the Ride Along the Trail

When I was a teen-ager, living in the tiny western Michigan village of New Era, Michigan, I had an unreciprocated crush on a girl who lived on the other side of the tracks. We went to school together; we went to church together; and together we had in common that our fathers were leaders in the small, independent Bible church. One would be hard-pressed to say who ran the church: Her father, the chair of the board, or mine, the pastor. Perhaps even more influential were our mothers, who were in the basement, molding the minds and hearts of the next generation.
Childhood church, father was pastor
On any given Saturday we would be around the church and parsonage helping our respective fathers. I might be mowing the parsonage lawn or even at the church printing off the Sunday bulletin on the mimeograph machine and neatly folding them to be handed out the next day. I knew that she would be across the street at the church, and I hoped to catch a glimpse of her or even run into her.
High School, Looking Cool
I remember one Saturday in particular. I was getting ready to go ride my new bike around the country roads leading out toward Lake Michigan. My Huffy Independence, as you can imagine, was red, white, and blue-themed. This was before the time of bicycle helmets. I was wearing my brother's cool beret. Red, white, and blue, of course. At the time I was wearing large tear-drop shaped glasses. I suppose I was going for a Peter Fonda, Easy Rider look. I guess I didn't pull it off very well. I rode across the street to stop and talk with my dream-girl. I don't remember what she said, but I know my pride was hurt, and I felt as goofy as I must have looked. Fast-forward about 40 years later and she's now been my partner in life for nearly that long. Suann has been nothing but supportive of my bike riding and my goofy outfits.
For the past year Suann has listened to me talk about bike-riding. Not once has she questioned the purchase of yet another cycling kit. She has never asked me to stay home on a weekend day rather than leave for a three to five hour bike ride. I know when I stumble through the front door, pushing my bike inside and starting to remove the sunglasses, the helmet, and sweat-soaked lycra, she's there to greet me with, "Did you have a good ride?" I try my best to share my experience with her, grateful that she makes me feel so good about the time and expense I spend on my hobby even though it's not something I can really share with her.
It's one of those odd coincidences of life. In a drawer of an end-table sits a college term paper Suann wrote a long time ago. Her topic was Multiple Sclerosis. Many years later she would be diagnosed with that debilitating disease. It's made her a bit forgetful. She doesn't always make the best decisions about what to do or how to do it. I've taken over most of the household chores such as laundry and washing dishes. Suann still walks, though with a wide-stance and a halting gait. After a few blocks her left leg refuses to work properly; a minute's-rest and she can proceed. She loves to be outside. In the fall she wants to pick up leaves for craft projects she can no longer do. In the summer she wants to pick all of our flowers to enjoy inside leaving our flowerbeds bloomless. Before the snow has barely melted in the spring she begs -- and bugs -- to buy plants to pot for the front porch, though in recent years they wilt and die before summer has ended.
I've been trying to find ways to share my bike riding with Suann. Garmin has a Live Event feature that will show on a map on their website the location of the rider with the GPS device. A few times I've taken Suann for a ride in the car and have either retraced my steps or "reccied" a new route. I've taken a few pictures with my iPhone and now have started to create videos I can share with her. But it still hasn't seemed to be enough.
I got the idea to look for some kind of trailer to pull behind the bike. We have a great rail trail nearby. We finally decided to buy a Cycletote special needs adult-sized bike trailer. It came this past week, and I spent the evening figuring out how to put it together: I only had to take it back apart and put it together correctly a few times and only stripped one bolt. Yesterday we went for our first ride.
For the first time, it was a pretty good experience. After a few tries I figured out how to take it apart enough to make it compact. I cleaned out the trunk of the car only to discover it won't fit in the trunk. Suann suggested the back seat; sure enough it did slide in without too much trouble. Other than one of the tires being a little low on air and that we couldn't figure out how to get our expensive Terrano-X bike-to-bike communication device to work, we had a great time.
Cardinal Greenway rail trail, small segment
We had to go out from the city of Richmond to find a trail head where the barriers were wide enough for the trailer to pass through. I hardly felt a difference in pulling the trailer. It actually felt like a good training tool: Chris Froome, 2015 Tour de France winner, describes his early years in South Africa without mountains to climb and training by riding with his brakes depressed creating greater resistance. A few times I got us up to 20 mph. The trail is very nice, though with some recent winds there were small branches strewn along the pavement. The trees and fields are still brown and bare. The sun was trying to get us into the 60s, but the breeze could be cool, especially on the return leg of the trip heading into the ESE wind.
My bike, Suann's "chariot"
We had a great time together; the next time will be even better. We'll figure out a way to make Suann a little more comfortable in the seat. We'll figure out what buttons to press to get our helmet-attached communication devices to work properly so we can talk to each other during the ride. I'll get better at setting-up and taking-down. Once we get to know our local trail, we'll start thinking about trips to explore other trails. New adventures await as we share the ride together.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Seid Trips - Zwift Mountain Climb

More than ten years ago I had a standard stationary exercise bike. A tension roller would press down on the thick rubber wheel to increase the resistance. I tried to make use of it, but it was a horrible experience. I found online a company in the UK that had developed a game-like interface that could turn an exercise bike into a virtual world of riding the bike through an imaginary world. It wasn't very engaging and after some time I eventually lost interest.
When I started cycling in the spring of 2015, I became aware of the new types of trainers you could use with bikes. It was June before I finally decided to buy a Kurt Kinetic Road Machine 2.0 Fluid Trainer. I suspect we must have been having some rainy days, and I missed being able to get on the bike. Meanwhile, I also discovered a new online resource for cycling called Zwift. Finally, someone had created a virtual world for cyclists that rivaled popular video games. With a bike on a trainer using a tiny ANT+ dongle and a speed sensor (and optional cadence and heart rate sensors), you could enter a virtual world of cycling roads around an imaginary island along with hundreds of other cyclists from around the world. As with many other computer games, you design your avatar and your equipment from a variety of options.
The genius of this game-play is that there are very subtle ways in which riders are motivated to work hard. Natural competitiveness makes many of us want to speed up, either to keep from being passed, to stay with another rider, or to catch up and pass another rider. Although "smart" trainers make going up (and down) hills more realistic by controlling the resistance, "dumb" trainers provide a similar effect because a rider begins to go faster in order to counter slowing down. The faster one goes, the greater the resistance. Because one begins to hear the sounds of slowing down and sees the slower movement, there is a natural reaction to maintain speed and to begin to rider harder.
Map and Elevation Chart of Mountain Climb
There are segments of the course that are timed, usually a sprint segment or a KOM (King of the Mountain) segment up a hill. Again, one feels the impulse to try to do better than before. Even when I plan just to do a recovery ride, I get pulled in to riding hard up a hill or sprinting for a personal record.
At first there was just a circuit around Watopia. Before the world championship race in 2015 held in Richmond, Virginia, Zwift opened up the virtual 2015 Road World Championship Course. In 2016 Zwift began charging about $10 a month. They began adding some new routes along with interesting new features along the route. This past week they opened an exciting new route that imitates the alpine mountain climbs well-known from races like the Tour de France.

I've been creating videos from my rides, so I decided to do a screen capture of a Zwift ride and include video of me riding on my trainer. I chose the mountain climb just to see what it was like. The video is about an hour. The audio of me talking is very faint. I don't expect anyone to watch the whole thing and listen to every word I say. I hope you find it a bit interesting.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Suffering: An Easter Homily on Cycling

I can't help noticing the ways in which my renewed interest in cycling is informed by my decades of study in early Christianity. My worlds collided about a year ago when I heard references to a cycle race. My study of ancient rhetoric included a Greek term for hortatory language called paraenesis. I kept thinking of that word when I heard references on podcasts to the classic race held in early March. It took me a few days to realize that they were using the French pronunciation to talk about the race that goes from the city of Paris to the city of Nice in France, Paris-Nice.
A theme that cycling and the Christian religion have in common is suffering. Not only do cyclists refer to the room in which they set up their bike on a trainer as the "pain cave," but a company producing training videos for cycling calls themselves The Sufferfest and uses the metaphor of being from the country of Sufferlandria. What cycling and Christianity have in common is the possibility of the misconception about the role of suffering.
As Easter approaches many people think of the joy of spring and the new life in evidence all around us: baby animals such as chicks and lambs, early sprouting perennials like the Easter Lily. Some of these same people also think about the dark days of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday leading up to Easter.These are dark days of suffering and pain. This has led most Christians to think that it was the suffering itself that was redemptive as a payment for sin, a bloody act that exchanged one's life for the lives of many. For others it seems like an abhorrent teaching and a violent act that could not be the divine plan of a loving God.
In my view this understanding of New Testament teaching misunderstands the context of the language about death within the Hellenistic world of early Christianity. The focus should not be on the depth of the suffering and pain but the endurance and commitment of the person experiencing hardship. I like to illustrate the context with the text that best exhibits the Hellenistic influence on early Jewish and Christian texts of the Second Temple period, the document known as Fourth Maccabees. Put simply, the tyrant Antiochus attempts to force Jews to give up their allegiance to their tradition and teachings and perform sacrilegious acts in the temple. A mother and her seven sons one by one undergo suffering and torment but remain faithful.The aged priest Eleazar does the same. The author praises them with athletic imagery:
"Truly the contest in which they were engaged was divine, for on that day virtue gave the awards and tested them for their endurance. The prize was immortality in endless life. Eleazar was the first contestant, the mother of the seven sons entered the competition, and the brothers contended. The tyrant was the antagonist, and the world and the human race were the spectators. Reverence for God was victor and gave the crown to its own athletes. Who did not admire the athletes of the divine legislation? Who were not amazed? The tyrant himself and all his council marveled at their endurance, because of which they now stand before the divine throne and live the life of eternal blessedness" (4 Macc 17:11-18 NRS).
This Hellenistic concept of the death of the innocent hero being beneficial, salvific, redemptive for others is carried through in New Testament texts. The book of Hebrews, which I argue displays some influence from the Maccabean literature, uses similar language to describe the death of Jesus.
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God" (Heb 12:1-2 NRS).
Paul's letter to the Philippians encourages the recipients to act consistently and faithfully in the same self-sacrificial way to their friends as Jesus did for others. Fourth Maccabees reads, "They vindicated their nation, looking to God and enduring torture even to death" (4 Macc 17:10). Paul uses the same Greek phrase: "And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death-- even death on a cross" (Phi 2:7-8 NRS). Again, with athletic imagery, the encouragement is to endure the suffering for the greater good it brings about.
"I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus" (Phi 3:10-14 NRS).
I don't suggest cyclists stop talking about the "holy water" -- another metaphor from The Sufferfest -- produced by suffering on the bike. I just want us to be clear that we are not advocating pain for the sake of pain itself. Just experiencing the pain is not the goal. We shouldn't glamorize suffering for its own sake. We know that what we're doing is training our bodies to tolerate the pain of lactic acid in our muscles and to improve the body's ability to perform. We call them "endurance athletes" not masochistic athletes. Maybe some do. The real focus is on our ability to endure the stress and pain of the ride and remain committed to the efficacy of our experience. The Sufferfest group does refer to this with their acronym IWBMATTKYT, "I will beat my ass today to kick yours tomorrow." We seek to improve and make progress toward a goal of being as fit and strong as a human can be. There's something divine about that.
One cyclist whose story has intrigued me is Evelyn Stevens, currently a cyclist with the powerful women's cycling team Boels-Dolmans. A few weeks ago my wife and I watched live-streaming video as Evie attempted to break the world hour record. Stevens described the effort as an "athletic meditation on suffering" ("Final Countdown for Evelyn Stevens Hour Record Attempt," Zipp News, Feb. 26, 2016). Her coach used vaguely biblical language, "She started with a full cup of energy, and she was pouring the last drops out in the last laps" (Caley Fretz, "Stevens sets new hour record mark," Velonews, Feb. 27, 2016). I hate to admit that halfway through I fell asleep in my recliner. When I awoke to Evie in her last moments of anguish, I couldn't help but be reminded of Jesus' words to Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane, when Jesus became committed to undergo the impending torture, to drink the cup of suffering, "Could you not watch one hour" (Mark 14:37)?
Without the positive results that are brought about because of enduring being pushed to our limits, suffering would just be masochistic. The degree to which we value those outcomes determines the extent to which we can treat suffering as something worth enduring. For some people the objective is to be faster and stronger than anyone else. The result may be to go farther than we could before. Our competition may just be with our own bodies: We want to overcome the limits of what our mind and our muscles set for us and experience the joy of breaking barriers. It may actually be redemptive. Some people undertake extreme events like the Leadville 100 to honor a friend who died of cancer. Some ride or race in events to raise money to fight diseases like cancer, diabetes, Parkinson's Disease, or Multiple Sclerosis. Or to provide durable bikes in African countries so that people can get to jobs, school, or stores more easily and with less time (World Bicycle Relief). Whether we do it for our own development or for the good of others and society as a whole, the only way to overcome our natural limitations is to increase our ability to endure our own suffering. It makes not only that special event a day of celebration but the dark days of suffering to be a form of joy as well.

Attitudes about Cycling I've Encountered

I've had my own thoughts about cyclists over the years. I can get irritated seeing cyclists traveling down the middle of the street, riding on the sidewalk, or doing other precarious and dangerous things. When a colleague came into the office wearing his kit -- the memory seared into my brain is of tight, white shorts -- I had to wait several years before I could even think about pulling on the lycra. Yet, I have heard comments from other people about cyclists that have struck me as odd.

Wearing Sports Attire

When I mentioned in a group that I had taken up cycling, I happened later to be in a one-on-one setting for a conversation -- in the restroom. He said to me, with a smirk on his face, something like, "So you wear the lycra shorts when you ride your bike?" I sheepishly replied, "Yes." The conversation has stuck with me. I've tried to imagine the conversation taking place in the context of other sports. "I play on a baseball team." "Oh, do you wear a baseball uniform?" "I like to go skiing." "Oh, do you like to wear warm, water-resistant clothing when you ski?" "I enjoy a sport." "Oh, do you wear appropriate clothing designed for your sport and that is the traditional clothing associated with that sport?" In most every sport there is a uniform associated with the sport. Baseball, basketball, tennis, and soccer/football have customary clothing that is not essential to the playing of the sport (other than the shoes), but it's still acceptable, if not expected, that athletes or mere sporting enthusiasts will most likely don the traditional costume of the activity. In other cases, such as American football, swimming, or hockey, participants wear uniforms not only as part of tradition but also because the clothing permits the wearer to perform well in the activity and protects them during training and events.
Cycling is no different. The light and tight-fitting fabric of lycra or polyester blends has the necessary characteristics needed for the sport: It's aerodynamic in the wind, moisture is wicked away and quick drying, and it adds the least amount to the weight of the athlete. The "chamois" in the shorts provides padding for the comfort of the rider on the saddle and causes less chafing in one's more sensitive regions. The jersey has three pockets in the back that allow one to carry some necessary items for nutrition or bike repair. The helmet, of course, provides some measure of protection for the head. The shoes help the rider to have a full circle of pedaling and keep the feet from slipping off the pedals.
So why do people think cyclists are silly for wearing the clothing and equipment suited for the sport? I can tell you, when I went out for football my senior year in high school, I was quite happy to be wearing the football equipment and proud to wear the football jersey of my 1976 undefeated team at Shelby High School.

Hunched over Cyclists

Another comment I've heard about cyclists is that they ride hunched over and don't see the scenery around them. I can understand it may look that way. I don't tend to ride much in the drops. There are times when the headwind can be so strong you feel like you're constantly going up hill. I try to hunch over and get as aerodynamic as I can. It does help. In some ways the sorest part of my body after a long ride is my neck from craning up. I haven't tried to work on that yet, but I'm sure there are exercises and stretches I can be doing to alleviate that pain.
My experience over the past year of reading about cycling and listening to podcasts is that most cyclists are outside riding their bikes because they want to be close to nature, to propel themselves through forests or farm land, mountains or meadows, and through deserts or drenching rain. Like hikers they want to experience the multi-faceted world around them but a bit faster and still under their own power, a perfect combination of human and machine.
Here are some examples. The Global Cycling Network, an excellent vlogging group on Youtube, have a regular feature on social media of showing images people share of their bikes in the foreground of incredible vistas from around the world. Pro cyclists most often share images on social media not of themselves but of the incredible places they ride during training or visit during off-days during an event. The rather unique Youtube channel The Col Collective is less about how one rides up the iconic mountains of professional cycling than it is about the beauty and experience of the settings one can have so up-close and personal while riding the bike.

Sharing the Road

I've been fortunate not to have very many unpleasant encounters with motorists who dislike sharing the road with cyclists. I did have someone yell to me "Nice stop!" when I went through a stop sign rather than unclip, come to a full stop, only to have the right of way to proceed first anyway. I now come to a full stop at intersections when cars are anywhere near and always at red lights. On another occasion a pick-up truck driver narrowly crossed a highway in front of me and just laughed at my gesticulations of outrage (no, not that one). At times vehicles will come up behind me and suddenly floor their vehicles and take off down the road. I have no idea what that's about. I read and hear stories about motorists who dislike/hate cyclists and attack them in one way or another. The idea seems to be that the roads are there only for motorists.
It surprised me to learn that surfaced roads came about because of cycling in the first place. While most cyclists are also tax-paying motorists in the US, apparently fuel tax and vehicle fees only pay a fraction of the costs of road maintenance. In the US the governmental agency responsible for roads includes bicyclists as its constituency. The mission of the Department of Transportation includes bicyclists and pedestrians. There is no reason for motorists to think they rule the road and cyclists should just pedal around the park. The incidences of road rage involving cyclists or cases where tacks have been strewn along roads or barbed-wire stretched across a cycling path should make us sit up and recognize that we need to foster a greater sense of cooperation when it comes to sharing the road.
Cycling isn't unique in the misconceptions and biases people can have. It may be one of the most mild cases when we compare it to racism, nationalism, misogyny, or other forms of aggression and violence against people different than ourselves. But for some of us it is a daily concern and contributes to decline in enthusiasm for getting out on the road and even to the deaths of some cyclists who happened to encounter distracted drivers or motorists with murderous intents.