Thursday, September 29, 2005

My New Bike!

Finally, I have some time to take some pictures of my new bike. Yes, I promised myself a new carbon bike if I could complete a Sprint Tri and here it is – a stock standard 2005 Scott CR1 Team in size “XL”.

Why carbon?

Well, carbon actually makes a very good material for bicycle frames as they provide directional stiffness – the carbon fibers can be laid over in such a way as to provide varying stiffness in different directions – which in theory makes it possible to make a bicycle frame that is “stiff” (reduces power loss, improves handling) and yet “comfortable” by allowing some flex in crucial places. I say in theory because just like in car suspensions, stiffness/handling is usually the anti-thesis of comfort – a race/sports car is never as comfortable as a saloon car. Having said that, it really feels that an optimum balance between stiffness and comfort has been reached with the CR1 - it feels as comfortable as my old steel bike, but with sharper handling and faster sprints/climbs due to the much lighter weight.
In truth, another reason why I am so “fixated” on a carbon frame is that many, many years back when I was a young high school kid just getting into road racing, I would spend hours at the local bike shop drooling over the few exotic carbon bikes there, telling myself that one day I will ride one. I may never own a Ferrari, but this is one dream the Lord has graciously allowed me to fulfill! ;)

Why a Scott CR1 Team?

Once I narrowed the choice done to carbon frames, the next biggest consideration was…. budget. I soon learnt that it is cheaper to buy a “complete” bike than to try to assemble one at the local bike shop by choosing the frame, wheels, drive train, brakes, handle bars, etc, separately. In terms of drive train and brakes, I am very happy with my 17 year old Shimano 105 group, so there is really not much incentive to pay more for a pricier component group. So the criteria of carbon frame, 105 group and budget narrowed it down to either the Scott CR1 Team or the Giant Composite 3. I did briefly consider the Orbea Orca/Onix and Cervelo Soloist as well, but I found the former too expensive and the later a bit “dated” (okay, okay, truth is I could not get past the fact that the Soloist was not a carbon frame).So… between the Giant and the Scott, it basically boiled down to which local bike shop I trust for on-going support and service – I also decided to buy the bike from one of the bike shops nearby as I am too lazy to drive my bike to and from the bike shop for servicing. The local bike shop that helped “re-activate” my current old bike carries the Giant bikes, but did not inspire much confidence in the services they provided and the answers to my questions. There was one shop (Cycle Craft) that I felt most comfortable with in terms of price, quality of service and trustworthiness, and they only carried Scott, so in the end the choice was an easy one to make. As it turns out, the Scott CR1 Team costs a bit more than the Giant Composite 3, but has better wheels so in terms of cost effectiveness, they were on par – both are excellent value bikes.

Why a size “XL”?

This is a question I get quite a bit. I learnt another funny thing - bike size seems almost a religion with cyclists – it’s a very personal subject! I suppose after spending a few thousand bucks, no one wants to be told they have the wrong size. ;)
Ok, so bike frame sizing seems to be a mysterious blend of science, art, fashion and perhaps some superstitions. You will be able to find many books and websites on how to choose the right frame, but it kinda got too much for me. I am not planning to do ultra long rides and I am not a very serious racer, so I figure as long as it fits and I’m comfortable, fine and well. I basically fell back on two resources to decide my bike size – (1) My current bike size, and (2) the sizing tool on Scott only has sizes in S, M, L, XL, XXL so it was possible to find yourself in between two sizes and that’s what happened to me –I could either take a L or a XL. Most roadies in this situation would go for the smaller frame – lighter and more agile –but I decided in the end to buck the trend and go for the “XL” instead of the “L”. Why? I found the XL to be slightly closer to the measurements of (1) my current bike, and (2) sizing tool. Another reason is because I ain’t a vigorous, flexible youth anymore, and at my age, comfort rates higher than speed/agility/looks. ;) But what REALLY clinched it for me is that I felt it is what the Lord wanted me to get!

“WHAT?!?!?!” I hear you say, “Is God really interested in what size your bike is?!?!”. Well, I think so. I believe our God is not just a broad brush, high in the sky kinda God, He is a God of INFINITE love and wisdom who walks with us in our daily lives and cares about the intimate details of our lives. I truly believe that God is interested in every detail in our lives, that is part of what makes them an awesome God. Ok, there is actually a rather convoluted story behind why I believe God wants me to have a “XL”, so here goes…Following the thought process described earlier, I went to the bike store to get a “XL” but they claim that the bike is out of stock globally, as the bikes have all gone out to the bike shops that pre-ordered them earlier. Somehow, they managed to find a “L” and assured me that it would fit just fine. I also spoke to quite a few friends who all assured me that the “L” will fit. So I place my order, fork out the deposit, only to have them call me a week later to say “oops, sorry but some other bike shop beat us to getting the last size L”. I figure that perhaps it is not God’s will, so went to collect my deposit. I was also starting to think seriously about getting a Cervelo Soloist. When I was at the bike store, they offered me a triple chain ring size “L” (I ordered a double chain ring since Singapore is rather flat) for a little bit more than the agreed price. I told them “no thanks”, and rather than lose the business, the bike store was motivated to cover the costs of getting a triple chain ring and converting it to a double chain ring with no price impact to me. I was okay with that, so no change in plans.
I remember that after I got home, I sat down and prayed about it as I was feeling a little cheesed off and suspected that the bike store may not be 100% honest with me. While I was praying (more like complaining to God), it suddenly occurred to me that I should call them up to ask if they can get a “XL” triple chain ring (they seem to be in less demand than the double chain ring) instead since they are going to have to convert it anyway. Few days later, a happy bike store owner calls up to say that somehow they found a “XL” double chain ring model – win-win for all – I get the size I want and no conversion costs for them to bear! So I take this as a confirmation that the “XL” is what God wants me to have, and that’s cool by me. ;)

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

2 Lessons from Parenthood

I have been convinced for some time now that parenthood actually holds many lessons for us about God's love. Would like to share two lessons I have learnt from parenthood...

  1. When my 1st son was still a baby, I found myself fussing over him when he had every little problem - be it sleep, sickness or cuts/bruises. I also noticed the lengths we go through to prevent him from falling ill or getting hurt in anyway - physical, mental, emotional or spiritual. One only has to see the pain a bully causes to the parent of the bullied kid to see evidence of this. In this context, I was better able to appreciate God's love for me, that He allowed His only Son to step down from heaven into earth to save us. Instead of shielding His Son from the ways of the world, He sent His Son to be a sacrifice for us - to be misunderstood, humiliated, eventually physically abused and killed at our hands, just to save us! How much pain it must have caused our God to witness the persecution and torture of His Son, how much discipline it must have taken on His and His Son's behalf to not call it to an end, but to just let the abuse run its course, just so that the price for our sin may be paid in full! In fact, Jesus himself said this when he was arrested "Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?" (Matthew 26:53-54). Our God was not a powerless God even when Jesus was suffering at the hands of man. He is a powerful God who has the strength of character, discipline, and love to allow His Son to suffer at the hands of man, only because He wants us to be saved and reconciled to Him.
    Can you turn from such a God and make His sacrifice meaningless?

  2. The second episode is one that I wrote back in 2003 when my 1st son was only three. Here it is verbatim from the email I sent to my friends...
    Something to share in case it is applicable in your walk with God... Truly, our kids teach us so much about God... A few days ago, I was out for a walk with my boy on his bike in the evening, when we found a tennis ball in the bushes. It was old and dirty, but his excitement was obvious. Our 1st reaction was to celebrate finding it, and put it in his bag on the bike. However, I noticed that there were some people playing tennis upstairs and decided to take the opportunity to teach him about returning stuff we find. (At 3 yrs old, I have not had the chance to teach him that object lesson yet.) So we go up to the tennis court and sure enough it was one of their lost balls. My 3 year old was visibly sad to haveto give up the ball, but he ran up to the folks and gave them the ballanyway. Afterward, he asked me why we have to return it, and I had a great chance to explain to him how to be a blessing to others and return stuff we find. The thing is, when my little boy ran up to the folks to return the dirty old tennis ball, with the sad look on his little face to have to let it go, I felt at that moment that I could give him a BIG hug and buy him all the tennis balls in the world - I did give him a big hug, and later when we got home, I couldn't resist opening up a whole new tube of tennis balls for him (3 new tennis balls)! That was when it dawned on me that if I feel so good about my son doing that,God must feel a similar way when we do the right thing.

    Do you have a dirty old tennis ball in your life that God wants you to give up? It may be hard to do, but the joy it gives our Father is tangible and very real, and probably a lot stronger than whatever I felt with my son. Who knows? You just might get 3 new tennis balls in return!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

What's Christianity About?

So what's the deal? What is Christianity about and why do Christians behave the way they do?

The Lord reminded me recently (thru a sermon on Sunday) that Christianity is first and foremost about having a RELATIONSHIP with God. When Jesus prayed with his disciples for the last time before he was crucified, he revealed this
"Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent." (John 17:3)

So, Christianity is really not about being good, reading the bible, praying daily, going to church, etc... Instead, it is about knowing God and having a loving relationship with Him. All these other practices come as we react naturally to the relationship that we have with God. They can may sometimes be used as a measure of whether we truly love God, but they do not define what being a Christian means. E.g. a measure of loving God is how much love we show others. ("Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love." 1 John 4:8)

Too many people say "All religion teaches people to be good, so they are all good and all the same." Well, the bible says differently, it fact the bible is very clear that our God is a jealous God (Exodus 20:5, Exodus 34:14, Deuteronomy 4:24, Deuteronomy 5:9, Deuteronomy 6:15). Surely our God is not a petty God, so why is He a jealous God? Part of it may be what gets lost in translation, but jealousy is very closely linked to having a passionate relationship with someone. It is impossible to be passionate about someone without feeling some level of jealousy, and God loves us so much, has so much passion for us, that He is actually jealous for us. Think of the girl/boy of your first love, and how you wished she/he would be jealous for you, and perhaps how jealous you felt when she/he was intimate with someone else. Young children sometimes feel jealous when their parents shift their attention to other kids or other people around them, and the reverse is true when our kids grow up and find us a little less "cool". I think the jealousy referred here is something like that.

The bible also tells us that we were made to worship God - i.e. to have a personal relationship with God - our maker, our father, our friend. When Jesus was asked how can one be saved in Luke 10:25-37, and when he was asked which is the greatest commandment in Matthew 22:34-40, his answer was the same - to love God and to love one another. How are we to love God? With all our heart and with all our soul and with all our strength and with all our mind (Deuteronomy 6:5)! This indicates that love is not an emotion we feel, it is not the warm fuzzy feeling, the butterflies in the stomach, etc. It is instead an exercise of our will to love and honour God with our body, mind and soul, and to do so requires an Intentional process of applying Discipline to our actions, our thoughts and our emotions. We have been made to love God, which means having a meaningful, passionate relationship with Him, and until this is so, we cannot find rest and peace - hence the importance of practicing Intentional Discipleship in our lives.

"He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty." Psalms 91:1