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I’m learning to ride a bike. Don’t get me wrong, I learned when I was young. I even broke my arm when I was five. Now if you know how to ride a bike, or don’t ever have intention of riding one again, don’t write this story off. Some of the things I’m learning can be applied to everyone.

Shortly after I spent more money on a bike and supporting equipment then any one Dutch person could hardly stomach, I had a friend tell me I should mountain bike. This of course, would take a second bike, and another Dutch fortune. I broke open the vault about a year later, and now I also own a mountain bike.

My sons are pretty sure I’m too old to mountain bike, and Rhonda awaits my call each time I go to make sure I’m off the trail and not severely injured. By the way, please don’t anyone share this article with her. This is just between us.

First you have to understand mountain biking. Mountain biking is not done on nice wide smooth paved trails. It’s done on narrow, rutty, irregular paths where you squeeze between trees, fly through streams, and come close to big drop offs. It’s exciting, you enjoy the beauty of nature, and its great exercise. So here goes, here are some of those lessons:

Keep your eye on the path and the path ahead.

The path is ever changing. New trees are fallen over the trail, felled by beaver or storm. New tree roots, rocks, or ruts are exposed by the rain. The trail may be slippery due to the dew (Hey, isn’t that a soda commercial?). You have to pay attention to the path right in front of you, because even a small obstacle can trip you up if you look away, or take your hand off the handlebars to wipe your brow.

You also need to glance at the path ahead. Need to shift to make that next hill? Need to brake for that steep slope down the mountain?

Life’s like that too isn’t it? Ever changing with new obstacles, dangers, opportunities, and adventures. Keep your eye on the path and the path ahead.

Take obstacles head on.

I’ve learned that hitting that rut or tree branch directly at ninety degrees is often better than trying to avoid it. The glancing blows are sure to cause a crash.

Life’s like that too isn’t it? Not addressing conflicts and problems, or pretending they’re not there usually leads to far worse results, doesn’t it?

Don’t get in a rut. Sometimes you need to blaze your own trail.

My favorite trail is 7 miles long and 8" wide. 1000's of bike trips have warn that path pretty deep, and the most frustrating falls are when I hit the sides of that rut in a seemingly simple spot in the trail.

I may not have been on the right path as a teenager. Sometimes it's best not to follow the path everyone else is on. Sometimes you need to make your own path and blaze a new trail.

Don’t lose momentum.

I’ve learned in mountain biking, the climb uphill is much easier if I don’t clutch my brakes going downhill. You see, in mountain biking, to keep your feet on the pedals you have to clip them in. It’s critical to have enough speed and power to climb that next hill because one of the most common ways to fall is not having enough momentum.

Don’t ride those brakes, sometimes you need to take on challenges full speed to make sure you don’t lose the momentum. Trying to climb the next hill without it is exhausting and dangerous.

Don’t spin you wheels.

It can be dangerous when those wheels start to slip. That's the time to put your full weight and power into it.

Don’t become paralized and motionless by the clutter and debris life's challenges bring your way. Power through them.

Take time to enjoy the view

One of the best things about mountain biking are being in God's magnigicent creation; The view from the hilltop meadow, or the deer and turkey who don't seem anxious to get out of my way. I guess I should rememeber it's their home not mine.

Focusing on the challenges of life can be discouraging. Sometimes I need to stop to take notice of all the blessings; a great spouse, wonderful children, healthy grandchildren, wonderful friends, a great church ........

You’re going to fall

It’s inevitable. So, when you do, get up, and get back on that bike. As you ride on, just thank God you weren’t hurt worse, and ask him for safety on the rest of the path. When you get home, put a Band-Aid on it, and try not to let your wife see you limp.

Recently my sister Lisa found herself on a really tough trail. She’s faced other challenges in life, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised how she handled this one.

This spring she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She saw our dad and many other loved ones die of cancer. She’s a nurse, and is well aware of how tough a road cancer is for even those who conquer it.

Of course, her and her husband Bob shed a couple of tears, but in no time at all she decided she was going to take cancer head on. She was going to get back up, and beat this thing with a positive attitude and the brakes off. It hasn’t been easy. She is sick and tired, but keeps a cheerful attitude, and enjoys working when she’s able. She is about two thirds of the way through her treatment, and I’m excited for her to finish soon. Her and her husband Bob are going to join us on our April river cruise in Europe.

If you want to learn how to mountain bike, I’ll hook you up with someone. I’m really not that good. If you want to learn how to take on life’s challenges, give me a call. I’ll give you Lisa’s number.

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