Saturday, August 8, 2020

Strength Through Brokenness


My "summer" tires were needing replacement as they had served their purpose over the past few years. A gravel riding friend (Ryan) had a set of slightly used 29"x 3" tires to sell. A great bargain was snatched. Not a week after the new rubber was mounted on the rims I developed a flat in the rear tire. My on road repair attempts proved futile. The 65 degree+ dew point and the massive swarms of bugs provided the added frustration to my attempts. I called Ryan to rescue me, but he failed to answer the phone or texts. I resorted to calling my wife. These situations only reinforce her view that I am crazy. I pushed a flat tired bike more than a mile (bugs kept pace with me) to the agreed upon pick up point. I was hot, tired, bug bitten, and broken in many ways!

Not only are bikes currently hard to find, but parts (including some tire sizes) are scarce. The replacement tire was ordered, but estimated arrival was late September. In order to keep riding I placed my 26"x 4,25" fat tires (winter use) on the bike. The second time riding these tires I was on the North Country Trail in the Sheyenne National Grasslands. I had volunteer work to perform. The bike gets that accomplished quicker. Another rear tire failure! Air pump first aid lasted about 500 metres. After three times of this, I decided to once again push my bike. No one to the rescue as my vehicle was less than 2 miles away. Within days, two rear tire failures! The bike had been a reliable and consistent part of life and activity...until now!

With the gracious help of Chris at Paramount Sports in Fargo ND, the Pugsley is back in riding form. Two new fat tires (they were in stock), new rear cassette, new chain and I am ready for riding. Back to a reliable, sturdy and invincible 2-wheeled machine. Oh, Chris also encouraged and taught me how to do more maintenance to prevent future failures. Purchasing some tools and equipment helps me realize the bike needs attention more often than I have previously provided. 

I have heard that only the proud and arrogant believe they are unbreakable. Yet the advances in technology and design seemingly make things last forever. With the LED bulbs in the lamps and fixtures I will never have to replace another bulb. Synthetic lubricants allow new vehicles to go almost 10,000 miles between oil changes. The vaccine for COVID-19 will make the pandemic cease. All of this indicates that unbreakable may be a reality.

All of this sounds accurate, but it is deceptive and ultimately not true. Nothing is unbreakable. Everything and everyone is flawed and finally breaks. Yet that is exactly where strength and resiliency begin. I cannot control tire wear, road debris, etc. I can control my reaction to the brokenness. Pushing the bike gave me plenty of time to assess my situation. It is in those times when insight is gained. The bugs were annoying and painful, but that is what bugs do. I focused on other things and kept moving. The tips and tools which Chris provided allow me to connect with and care for my bike in new ways. I will still experience brokenness on my bike no matter how much attention I give it. My response to those situations will not wield the same impact as previous ones. I will be stronger and more thoughtful in my reactions.

Nassim Taleb in his book Antifragile, says we become better because of what we go through. We become stronger in deeper ways then if we had resisted and never been broken. Those who cannot break, cannot learn.

"And we also have joy with our troubles because we know that these troubles produce patience. And patience produces character, and character produces hope. And this hope will never disappoint us." (Romans 5.3-5   International Children's Bible)

Strength comes through accepting and responding to our brokenness. 

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