Michael Worker took up cycling in 2020 during the first Covid-19 lockdown in Victoria. Frustrated at being cooped up in his house all the time, he wanted to get out and do something active. However, with gyms closed, he had to look for another way to exercise. So, he got out his bike . . . and he hasn’t looked back!
Within just 10 months he had achieved an incredible milestone—notching up 10,000 kilometres of cycling—with many of his rides taking him through the picturesque Dandenong Ranges east of Melbourne.
“Cycling has been really good for my mental, spiritual and physical health,” Worker says. “It helped keep me somewhat sane through the upheaval and uncertainty of the lockdowns. For me, it is such a blessing to ride through God’s creation in the Dandenong Ranges. It is
a chance to pray, reflect and to disconnect from being in front of a screen.”
While cycling can be an individual endeavour, it can also be very social. Worker has joined a local cycling club and has forged some new friendships.
“Joining the group has really improved my cycling and it has been a great way to make new friends,” he says.
“Going out on rides with a bunch of more experienced riders has helped me to gain confidence to take on challenges—and hills—that I would have never dreamed possible . . . It’s amazing what the human body can achieve if only you prepare well for it and are prepared to have a go.”
The father-of-two certainly put his body to the test in May–June last year when he was among a group of eight mostly Australian cyclists who completed an epic 1900-kilometre ride from Washington, DC to St Louis, Missouri, in the United States. The cyclists, all Seventh-day Adventist Christians, not only wanted to challenge themselves, but also set out with the intention of sharing messages of love and hope in Jesus with those they met along the way.
“It was such an amazing experience,” says Worker of the 15-day ride. “As we went through the small towns and villages, we had so many positive encounters. People were welcoming, they were receptive to what we had to share and some of them even prayed with us.”
The group experienced a number of challenges, including punctures, thunderstorms, steep mountain climbs and hot weather, but they were an enormous support to each other.
“We formed such a great bond as a team, and I enjoyed the camaraderie,” Worker says.
And now he’s doing it all again—this time in Australia. Seven of the eight cyclists from the US ride are taking off on a new adventure, joined by seven other friends and colleagues. This time the cyclists will be in two groups, with one team setting off from Melbourne, the other from Brisbane. Both rides will wind up in the town of Cooranbong, north of Sydney, where most of the cyclists will be involved in an Australia-wide conference at Avondale University for ministers and leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Following a similar approach to the US ride, the cyclists will be stopping in Australian towns along the way, chatting and praying with people, sharing their faith and distributing Christian literature, including copies of our Signs of the Times magazine.
Russ Willcocks will be among the group riding from Brisbane to Cooranbong, a distance of some 960 kilometres. As captain of the Brisbane Cycling Club, he is no stranger to long distances—in a typical week he rides between 250 and 300 kilometres.
“Going on a ride with colleagues is a lot of fun, but to go out sharing and praying with people at the same time, I certainly found in the American trip it made for memories that you just don’t forget, experiences with people where it’s obvious that God has gone before you, He’s lined up these people to meet with you and they’ve described a life-changing encounter,” he says.
Willcocks expects the weather conditions to be the biggest challenge. “The Australian heat can be pretty gruelling, just to be outside let alone be exercising.”
Unfortunately Willcocks recently broke his foot while playing in the park with his son. By the time his foot is ready to come out of the moon boot, he will have two weeks to get back on a trainer and prepare for the ride.
For Marcus Pereira, this will be his first long-distance ride, so he’s anticipating “pain and plenty of it”!
“I am actually looking forward to the sense of community that doing something like this brings and meeting people along the way where we can listen to their story and offer a sense of hope,” said the father of two young boys.
Nick Kross may be a grandfather but that hasn’t stopped him from getting involved, although he expects that the ride will push him to his limits.
“Sore legs, feet, behind, are part of the journey. I recognise this as a reality, but as they say, no pain, no gain,” he laughs.
Kross has completed one other long-distance ride, back in 1987—from Brisbane to the rural town of Goondiwindi—to raise funds for the local hospital “and it was a great success”, he recalls.
“As we get older it’s really important to maintain our fitness and health,” he says. “I want to be active till my 80s and as such, I need to keep up a regular exercise program of some kind. I enjoy riding as it’s a great way to stay healthy and fit.”
The inspiration for both the US and Australian rides comes from pioneer Christian booksellers Phillip Reekie and his nephew Frederick, who rode bicycles thousands of kilometres through remote parts of Australia in the early 1890s while carrying out their work.
It’s hoped that this latest Aussie cycling venture may encourage other Christians to come up with their own ways of connecting with their community and showing Jesus’ love.
“We hope that many will be led to know Jesus through this ride,” Worker says, “and that this will inspire others to think of creative ways to share their faith.”
Tracey Bridcutt is the communication director for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the South Pacific.