“Be the change you want to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi
In December, a group of superheroes will jump on their bicycles and ride around Texas.
Superhero Cyclists Compashman, Atomic Calm & Velvet Revolution.
These aren’t your usual high-flying, danger-sensing, glow-in-the-dark superheros, but they do have capes and their own self-created characters. There’s Queen Bee, Wander Woman, Super Brownie…
And let’s not forget the most important superhero quality of all: a desire to make a difference to the communities they pass through. When the superheros ride together, they stop along the way to help people. They plant gardens, paint houses, volunteer at fun fairs and pick up trash.
We caught up with superhero Metta The Mime, who told us more about the ride and the group’s mission. She’s also hoping to attract a few new superheros. See the end of the article for details of how you can join in. Everyone is welcome.
1. Can you explain the mission of the Cycling Superheros, to someone who’s never heard of the group before?
With wheels spinning and capes flying, the Bicycling Superheroes ride self-contained, usually on month-long journeys every year, spreading goodwill through spontaneous acts of service in small towns and big cities around the country, and the world.
It all started with a cross-country ride in 2000. Since then, there have been rides in many states like North Carolina, Arizona, Vermont, New Mexico, Washington, Oregon, Missouri and Louisiana, as well as countries like Thailand, Ireland and England.
The first priority is to cycle with an open mind to whatever service opportunities present themselves. Another important aspect is bringing mindfulness as much as possible to everything we do: hauling organic and bulk foods, being truthful and sincere with interactions, using human-powered transportation, being substance-free, supporting local businesses and small farms, leaving all judgments at home.
Compashman (another cycling superhero) said it well: “We try to raise ourselves, through our superhero personas, to the highest means of being that we can.”
And we have a ton of fun. There’s always face paint and musical instruments and juggling balls in the trailers we pull.
Superhero Rabbi Yikes. She’s led several superhero tours.
2. How do you find people to help, and how do they react to your offer?
It can start simply with: “Can I help?” We often just run into someone who knows someone and so forth. The capes and costumes really help out by drawing attention.
In Missouri, a woman named Nellie jumped out of the crowd in front of us when we were in a parade and hollered, “I need you in Bevier.” She had heard about us somehow.
In New Mexico, after a long-hard-rainy day biking, we were setting up tents in the “front yard” of an RV park as it was getting dark and a woman and her daughter peered over a fence behind their house. They were so curious as to what and who we were. As it turned out, Robin and Reina were a big part of the hub for community and non-profit things in Pecos. We stayed several days painting an art space and building a greenhouse.
My favorite story is about the woman in one of those drive-up coffee huts that saw us whizzing by and called her husband who was at home. She said: “I just saw these caped bicyclists and I think they are heading for the park. You have to go find them.”
We were finishing lunch in a gazebo and figuring out who we’d send out to scout the town for service. Then Ivan came walking across the grass toward us. This young couple (studying to be missionaries) had just read a book that inspired them to want to reach out and take people in need into their homes. We stayed with them 2 days and they hooked us up to do landscaping in a local park.
Superheros are on the way to a town near you. This is Stardust: an organiser of the Texas ride.
3. What role does the bicycle play in all of this? Why not ride around the country in a car?
Well, it’s the closest we can come to being able to fly. Bicycles are our superhero mobiles. And of course, the fun of the capes flapping just wouldn’t be the same in the car. It’s been part of the idea from the beginning, as much a part as service and community. The choice for using eco-friendly transportation goes hand-in-hand with the idea of bringing mindfulness to all our choices on a superhero ride.
Here’s a quote I like from Zoo Kat about how the bicycle fits into this:
“It occurred to me that the greatest value of our bikes is that they lead us to deeper inquiry. They carry us to new places within ourselves. We learn very real things about our internal physical functions. They expose the wondrous workings of our body-mind while connecting us in the outer world. They take us there under our own power at our own pace. Bicycles become our teachers and healers and friends. All we have to do is ride them. That’s a damn good deal.”
4. When you did the ride, you added an extra challenge. You cycled in silence and communicated with hand signals and written signs. What was that like?
It surprised me. It felt like I was more myself, if that makes sense. Maybe words cover up who we are. I had an amazing experience with a troubled youth where we “talked” for over an hour. I usually don’t connect well with teens. And it was such a joy, a fun way of fitting into a group. It had a life of its own and created a lot of laughter. I guess I became the “clown” of the group, which isn’t my nature.
Someone would say, “Wait, hold on, the mime wants to say something.” Or we’d be in a group meeting deciding on something and someone would say “The mime told me such-and-such” (when I didn’t of course). When we needed someone to ride around with Nellie in her car and map out where the street signs were that needed painting, it was “Let’s send the mime!” And so it went. I especially loved how my senses got really sharp, which in turn made me the person in the group that tended to find things…because my ears were always open to what was going on all around camp. It definitely added to my overall experience on a superhero ride.
5. What lessons did you learn from cycling with the Superheros, that you think other cyclists could benefit from?
Compashman cycling the roads of Missouri.
It’s outward service but that inevitably leads to an inward journey. And it’s different for each superhero I’m sure. I keep going back for more. It’s hard to choose love in every moment, but a superhero ride is set-up to help you work toward that.
Like with most volunteer work, it turns out to be a lot about the people you meet. They bring such blessings to our lives. While we are the crazy-looking caped superheroes out for a month of service, we find they are the true heroes, giving back in their communities, working hard every day.
For me, it’s a wonderful balance with bicycling, community and service. All three of these things can bring so much joy and so much growth.
Want to join a Superhero bicycle ride? The next one will begin on December 3rd from Austin, Texas. There will be a weekend of superhero training, which includes topics like consensus, non-violence, bike safety and how to go into a Chamber of Commerce dressed as a superhero.
Call Superhero Headquarters at 660-332-4094 or email n_blouin AT yahoo DOT com
You can learn more about the superheros through this Facebook Group and Metta’s journal of the Missouri Superhero Bike Tour in 2008. You can also join the Facebook event for the December ride. To be put the Superhero mailing list for information about future rides, email: compashman AT hotmail DOT com