The First Ride

I’m sharing some excerpts from my in-progress manuscript about Rich’s Ride. You can check out previous posts here.

Here’s the story of my very first handcycle ride.

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I’m not sure what I expected. I didn’t imagine an instant transformation from sedentary whiner to handcycle rock star, but I’m sure I harbored images of rolling placidly through shady neighborhood streets. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, that all those months and years of inactivity took a toll on strength and endurance. But I was entirely unprepared for the result of my initial shove on the hand grips.


Absolutely nothing. I braced against the backrest, strained with all the power in my stick-arms, and the stupid bike didn’t budge. Like I said, I don’t know what I expected, but this wasn’t the plan. In ideal conditions on a smooth, level street, I couldn’t move the bike a single inch.

If you knew my friends you would understand why I thought I was the victim of a prank. Obviously they had somehow sabotaged the bike, locked the brakes, or maybe one of them was standing behind me grabbing the wheels. Actually that would’ve been pretty funny, except that nobody was laughing. Then I remembered the shifters. Maybe I needed to select an easier gear to get started. No such luck—I was already using the easiest of the twenty-one possibilities.

So there I sat with absolutely no obstacles and no excuses. And I couldn’t budge.

I recall feeling overwhelmed and utterly discouraged. I finally took a risk, tried something new, allowed myself to get excited about the possibility of experiencing some enjoyment, and I couldn’t even begin.

Not exactly the mystical moment of Exordio Somnii.

My volunteer pit crew checked the machine, verified the gears and adjustments, and reported that I should be “GO” for lift-off. No apparent mechanical issues prevented me from blasting into the new frontier. Clearly the problem was the bike’s inadequate propulsion system.

I’ve since determined that I enjoy cycling precisely because passenger is also the engine. Beyond a certain point, better equipment can’t take you faster or farther. Better riding requires a better “me.” For better or worse, Exordio Somnii marked the moment I finally had to acknowledge that “me” needed a lot of work!

As simplistic as it sounds, sometimes the only way to begin is to get moving. So one of my friends gave me a shove and I rolled off on my initial handcycle adventure. I coasted along, testing steering and brakes, and noticed for the first time that my familiar street actually wasn’t perfectly flat. The slight slope allowed me to cruise along, crank a few times, and regain a bit of shattered confidence. I felt the breeze on my face and allowed myself to savor the incredible sense of motion and independence. Handcycling was really cool!

I reached the end of the block, managed to turn around, and faced a harsh cycling reality: downhill in one direction means uphill in the other. The nearly imperceptible decline that allowed an easy first attempt now confronted me as a suburban Kilimanjaro, and old habit reminded me that I’d surely fail. If I couldn’t crank downhill without help, how could I possibly get back to my friends at the top of the mountain?

What’s the point of even attempting the impossible? I should have just quit and waited for my buddies who already walked toward me. In that moment I discovered a principle that’s sustained and encouraged me in dozens of “impossible” situations, a principle that became a foundation beneath the dream.

Hope changes what’s possible.

Most of us underestimate our capabilities. We settle for less because we mistakenly invest in our own inability. We don’t even approach our capacity because we don’t believe.

As my friends walked down the street to save me, I placed my hands on the cranks once again. I braced, pushed, and a miracle occurred.

I rolled forward!

My halting movement certainly didn’t threaten any world records, unless there’s a mark for slowest ride ever. It wasn’t smooth and it wasn’t pretty. But my rescuers stopped and applauded as I cranked past them and back to my starting point.

Maybe you think I’m exaggerating by classifying my painfully slow journey up an insignificant incline as a miracle. I disagree. Just a few moments earlier I absolutely could not move the bike. I strained and pushed as hard as I could and couldn’t roll a single inch. Cranking the bike was literally impossible. Now I rolled past cheering supporters and actually used the brake to stop. In the tick of a clock I accomplished the impossible. When something that can’t happen occurs, you find yourself in the presence of the miraculous.

Did that one-block ride make me magically stronger? Of course not. Sitting at the bottom of that imperceptible rise, I was still the weak, out-of-shape, stick-armed guy who tried and failed to move the bike. God didn’t infuse my skinny shoulders with some sort of spiritual power.

I wasn’t stronger, but something had changed. That simple excursion along one unremarkable neighborhood street inspired faith. I actually believed I could do it, and that belief changed everything. That’s called HOPE—an expectation based on faith. God placed me in a situation that helped me discover hope and allowed me to breach an impenetrable barrier. What seemed physically impossible became merely difficult.

HOPE changes what’s possible.

By any definition, that’s a miracle.

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If you’re in the Fort Collins area, I hope you’ll plan to join us at Timberline Church on Wednesday, January 18th, at 7:00 pm. Along with Pastor Dick Foth we’ll share stories and insights and talk about dreaming God-sized dreams.

Please leave a comment here.


3 thoughts on “The First Ride

  1. Maggie Martin - January 30, 2012

    Very good post.Much thanks again. Really Cool.

  2. Jeannette - January 9, 2012

    Looking forward to seeing you on the 18th! Becky, would love to get together if you have time. Have a wonderful week.
    Jeannette Gaiter

  3. Change — Bouncing Back - January 9, 2012

    […] My problem ss the “perceiving” part. Last week I posted a story over at Rich’s Ride called The First Ride. Here’s  my take on the lesson from that simple event. Life mostly doesn’t consist of dramatic […]

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