Shalom to all:
I thought it would be nice in this my first official blog to explain the background of my email moniker, RidinRebbe.
It dates way back to when I first established my AOL account. In the old days, screen names could be no longer than 10 characters. I wanted to incorporate in my screen name two important passions in my life, my rabbinate and my bicycling. Hence, “Ridin” for my bicycling and “Rebbe,” this means teacher & rabbi, for my rabbinate. However, being limited to 10 characters, I had to sacrifice the “g” in the word “riding.”
Bicycling has been an extremely important facet of my life since 1985. I had been a runner, but after completing the 1984 Marine Corp Marathon, Washington, DC, I suffered a stress injury to my left heal and had to stop running for an extended period of time. A good friend suggested that I try cycling during my recovery period. So, spring of 1985, I got back on a bicycle the first time since I was 12 years-old. Over the last 25 years, except for a 2 year period from 1988 – 1990 when I suffered a major cycling accident with multiple fractures and other injuries, I became an avid cyclist.
As a result of the 1988 accident, I had to change the type of bicycle that I rode. I used to ride a beautiful Bianchi celeste green road bike; it was totaled in the accident. However, due to the injuries to my upper back, I could no longer maintain comfortably the drop position on the road bike bars. I then went to the more upright bar configuration of a hybrid-bike (somewhere between a road bike & a mountain bike is a hybrid). I was able to return to riding, but after a moderate ride of 20 – 25 miles, I was in severe discomfort from the pounding of the road. Another friend then suggested that I try a recumbent bicycle; he said it was like “riding a rocket-powered lawn chair on two wheels.” He was right, and I bought my first recumbent in 1993, a P-38 Lightening built by Tim Brummer of Lightening Cycle Dynamics, Lompoc, CA. Tim is a former aeronautics engineer who became a builder or recumbent bikes and he names each of his bikes after airplanes. My current configuration is the F-40, which is a fully-faired recumbent (all you see is my head). The fully-faired configuration gives greatly improved aerodynamics, which translates into great speed.
There is one major disadvantage to a recumbent, mainly the ability to climb hills. I am unable to come off the saddle/seat and stand up to attack a hill, therefore, I need to drop gears and maintain cadence. Most riders of road bikes can easily beat me up a hill, but wow, coming down, I blow right past them.
My general schedule for riding is short lunch time rides during the week, except on Mondays, which is my day off when I will do much longer distances, up to 100 – 120 miles during the peak riding season. I will also try to get a moderate ride in on Sunday afternoons, schedule permitting. During the prime riding season, late spring through October, I will ride, weather & schedule permitting, 6 days a week. During the winter, I consider myself blessed if I can ride outside 1 – 3 days a week. The only day I never ride is Shabbat – my legs do need a true day of rest!
My greatest accomplishment as a cyclist was to do a cross-country ride during the summer of 2004; it was done as a charitable fundraiser. To the best of my knowledge, I am the only rabbi to have ever done so, if not the only clergy person (do so while in the clergy). Perhaps more on that great adventure in a future blog…
I cycle for many reasons and cardio is a prime one (not to brag, but my resting pulse is in the low 40’s). It is also my only method of weight control. My only real vice is eating; I have a sweet tooth. With the amount that I ride, I should be 30lbs lighter! I also ride for psychological purposes. The ride becomes my self-therapy, my release and my time for free-flowing thoughts. I also channel competitive, type-A behavior traits in to a safe outlet through cycling. I am often asked, what do I think about when I ride. Like my most cyclists, thoughts tend to be focused on the ride itself: the course, terrain, weather, pace, how the legs feel, etc. And, there is ample opportunity for my thoughts to turn to other matters. I often develop sermonic or programmatic ideas. One of my prime sources for inspiration often comes from billboards that I pass at much slower rate of speed than when traveling by car. For example, during yesterdays lunch time ride (I’m so glad the weather has improved, I have to force myself to go to the gym during the harsher winter days), I began to develop some thoughts about this week’s Torah portion, Vayikra, the beginning of the Book of Leviticus. To learn more about these thoughts, I invite you to join me for Shabbat morning services, this Saturday, March 20th, at 9:30 AM, Temple Beth Ahm Yisrael, Springfield, NJ. And, if you are so inclined, I lead a pre-Shabbat service guided meditation at 8:55 AM, and you are welcome to stay for the Kiddush luncheon that follows the service.