Fostering fraternity on a bike | Persons, places and things


By Barb Arland-Fye

Pope Francis says relationships between brothers and sisters deepen with time. Personal experience tells me those relationships require lifelong nurturing to remain fruitful.

We Arland siblings live in different states and, like most brothers and sisters, live separate lives with varied responsibilities and interests. My brothers have bonded over bicycling over the years and I desired to share in that bonding. The challenge, however, is their strength and speed, which exceeds mine.


Three years ago, my brothers Tim and Pat rode their bicycles across Iowa with me to fulfill a promise that provided inspiration as I journeyed through illness. In the three years since that ride across Iowa (RAGBRAI), my brothers continue to provide encouragement.


When Tim invited me to participate in the TourdeTonka in the Twin Cities, an annual event my brothers had ridden together, I said yes. He and Brian planned to ride the 100-mile tour with their friend Mark, and I would ride the 42-mile tour. Our brother Pat was unable to join us this time.

Although we would not be riding together, Tim said Mark’s wife would ride with me. Mark and Kathy are like family to my brothers, so I looked forward to the experience. However, a couple of days before TourdeTonka, an illness in the family prevented Kathy from riding with me. Without a companion on an unfamiliar route, I felt some apprehension but my desire to share the experience with my brothers created a strong pull to participate.

Early on the morning of the ride, I woke up in Tim’s house to the sound of thunder and rain. My confidence sagged. Riding in the rain on an unfamiliar route would not be prudent for me. I could not risk a fall off the bike.

Organizers delayed the ride for an hour, but it was still raining. Tim, Brian and Mark decided we would ride later in the day. I silently said a prayer of thanks to God that we would not ride in the rain.

That afternoon, the rain let up and the four of us rode our own version of the TourdeTonka. Tim set three goals for the ride: no one (Barb) would fall off a bike; Barb would learn how to “draft” (riding behind another cyclist to reduce the wind resistance and the amount of energy required to pedal); we would complete 42 miles.

“Drafting” was a challenge because of the close proximity I had to maintain behind Tim’s bike. Three years ago, I had bumped his tire during RAGBRAI and wiped out. Tim figured out a way to boost my trust — we rode two by two; Mark drafted Brian and I drafted Tim. We came together in this formation almost naturally. Drafting is still a work in progress, but the bonding experience will last forever.

In a Facebook post, Tim wrote about “Team Arland Cycling,” which includes Arland family members, relatives and friends who have become a part of the family as avid cyclists. “The fact that we can organize cycling events with all of the Arland siblings and that we are getting the younger generations excited about cycling is a gift to us in our lives. Our goal is to be organizing cycling events into our 90s!”

Pope Francis says, “Perhaps we do not always think about this, but the family itself introduces fraternity into the world” (“The Joy of Love,” Amoris Laetitia, No. 194). “From this initial experience of fraternity, nourished by affection and education at home, the style of fraternity radiates like a promise upon the whole of society.”

I call it fostering fraternity on a bike.

(Contact Editor Barb Arland-Fye at

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