Next time a religious leader offers to bless or otherwise provide divine protection for your bicycle, let them do it.
Or do it yourself. Say prayers. Burn incense. Sacrifice a goat. String garlic on the spokes. Do whatever it takes to purge the evil bicycle demons.
Blessings work. I have learned this the hard way.
Last year, Team Youth Impact and I had our bicycles blessed at Ogden's Elim Lutheran Church before the MS-150 bicycle tour. If you're seeking a religion that has clout, the Lutherans do something right, because we had no flat tires or significant mechanical difficulties on last year's ride.
This year, for a variety of scheduling and weather reasons, we were not able to get our bikes blessed. Result?
Flat tires abounded. Half a dozen tubes deflated for no good reason. One tube, no kidding, committed suicide after I patched it.
It was not just our tires. Brakes grabbed, cables stretched, gears wobbled, chains flopped, and one wheel rim went so far out of kilter it resembled a potato chip.
We expect a certain level of mechanical challenge with bicycles built from a boneyard of donated junkers. But when one of the adults' hand-built personal machines, with new rims and tires, turned three inner tubes into unpatchable Swiss cheese in two days, we knew we were in trouble.
Being cursed is discouraging when you are steering a team of teen riders through a two-day bicycle tour, which is what I was doing Saturday and Sunday. A handful of wonderful friends and I took six kids from Youth Impact to the MS-150, a two-day bicycle tour of Cache County.
You, dear readers, made this possible.
You donated more than $7,200 to sponsor those kids and two staff members from Youth Impact, an inner-city youth program in Ogden. The Stewart Education Foundation was a wonderful help, but the bulk of the funds came from readers of this column who deluged me with checks of $10, $20 and up.
How far up? Several of you should get naming rights to one of the kids.
All the money goes to the Multiple Sclerosis Society's Utah chapter for research and programs. To earn slots on the team, the kids did months of training rides, got their hands greasy fixing bikes and learned road skills that will keep them alive as they cycle through life.
The training showed. All six did 40 miles on Saturday. Four were alive enough to do it again Sunday.
Eighty miles is a lot, but even at the end, those kids sailed along, fresh as daisies as they drafted behind most of the adults at a peppy 17 miles per hour.
Where was I, their fearless captain?
Struggling to keep up and failing miserably. The term is "leading from the rear," usually a mile or so.
I blame the same demons who were flattening our tires.
They didn't puncture my tubes. Instead, they hung an invisible anchor off my rear axle. I sweated and strained, but I was pedaling through peanut butter the whole way.
So next year, if not sooner, I'm getting my bike blessed, putting a rosary in my seat pack and sprinkling my tires with holy water.
I'll also tuck a medal of Our Lady of Ghisallo next to that dependable patron saint of travelers, St. Christopher.
Who is Our Lady of Ghisallo? The patron saint of cyclists, of course.