I love to ride and am a bit of a cycling fanatic. Susan? Not so much. And less and less as the years go by. This makes us a cycling incompatible couple.
And yet, somehow, despite this huge hurdle, we’ve been able to stay happily married for 27 years. At least I think we’re happily married. We are, aren’t we, Susan? Let me know in three hours when I get back from my ride. Wait, it might be four hours, I need to get over 250 miles for the week.
Perhaps you too are in the midst of a cycling incompatible relationship. I’m sure this issue has soured many brand-new relationships and has led to bitter breakups and even a few divorces. Not everyone is fortunate enough to meet the love of their life on a Tuesday evening bike-club ride and pedal off over the hill – drafting for one another – and into the sunset.
Don’t worry, cycling incompatibility isn’t nearly as bad as when one of you loves Trump and the other is, well, you know … nicer and more evolved.
As a member of a long-time, cycling-incompatible couple, I think I can help. Full disclosure: I’m a journalist, not a licensed cyclo-therapist. Here we go …
Recognize and compromise
It’s important to recognize and accept cycling incompatibility early in a relationship. Perhaps cycling fanatics should have possible love interests fill out a questionnaire on their first date (How many bikes do you have? How many century rides have you done?), or go for a ride on their second or third. The sooner the better. Susan and I didn’t learn this lesson until our honeymoon, a bike trip to France. It sounded totally romantic to Susan, until we hit that first big hill near Chateau-Thierry.
Cyclotourisme was new to Susan, and my expectations for her were probably a little bit unrealistic. OK, totally unrealistic. It takes a few years and hundreds, if not thousands of miles to become a cyclist and to learn to love riding 30 or 40 miles a day, day after day, and climbing all those hills. And mountains. Then again, she’s into yoga and can contort into posses that make my muscles scream just watching her bend further than a human should be able to bend.
Eventually we figured it out: Compromise, adjustments and more-realistic expectations on our honeymoon bike trip. We altered and shortened our route, reduced the length of our daily rides and stayed in most towns an extra day, sometimes two. While Susan rested, rehydrated, and wandered around town taking photos, I’d go for a ride. It wasn’t the ideal situation, as we were apart for a few hours on the days I went off on solo rides, and this was, after all, our honeymoon. But it seemed to work. And, who knows, maybe we needed those hours apart.
We’ve utilized this strategy over the years on bike trips, and, it kind of works. Sometimes better than others.
Separate but equal
Early on in a relationship, you do everything together. All the time. The thought of being apart is inconceivable.
And then, slowly, gradually, over time, you begin to do things apart from one another. And then more and more things apart. By yourself, or sometimes with friends. That’s OK. Maybe even a good thing. You’re still you even though you’re part of an us. Hold onto a little bit of you. But make sure to work on the us.
Holidays are a big hurdle, as I’d prefer every vacation to be a cycling adventure. The longer and further the better. I mean, what’s the point of going somewhere if you can’t explore it on your bike?
Over the years, Susan has indulged me, and we’ve gone on several cycling trips together – with mixed results. In recent years, we’ve added hiking trips, which we both enjoy. It’s sort of like cycling, but a lot slower. And you step in a lot more poop. On the plus side, no flats. Although the sole of Susan’s hiking boot dod come off in the middle of the Isle of Wight.
Eventually, I started going on cycling trips by myself. It began in 2010 when I was determined to write a book on cycling in Provence and needed a couple weeks and lots of miles per day, way more than Susan would want to ride. Plus, Provence is full of bill hills and even a few mountains. Like the Ventoux. And so, off I went, just me. In 2013, I was determined to write a book on cycling the Loire. We flew to Paris together, spent a few days there, and then a few days in Blois in the Loire, including two rides. Then back to Paris, Susan flew home, and back I went to the Loire for a couple of weeks of cycling … and, eventually, the Loire book. It was a business trip, right, Susan?
I know a few couples who go on bike vacations together – and find them a little bit annoying. Yeah, yeah, we get it, you’re so darn cute with your totally cycling compatible ways, and you look great in your matching jerseys from the Backroads tour in Bordeaux.
So, the bottom line is: Separate vacations can be OK. Then again, it seems as if I’m the one who benefits more from this than Susan. Sorry Susan. How about two really big hikes in 2021? Anywhere you want to go. Plus, the beach. And, you can go visit your mom. Without me, while I go on a bike trip with some friends.
If you’re gonna write a blog post about being cycling incompatible, let your significant other read it and make a few edits before you publish it. This may be my most important piece of advice in this story.
Absence makes the heart…
Separate vacations do take a toll. The first week is great, the adventure, the freedom, the new routes … and then … I begin to miss Susan, more and more each day.
Facetiming or WhatsApp chats help, but can’t replace the real thing.
Get an eBike
It turns out that an electric bike (an E Bike) is the great equalizer if one person in a relationship is more of a cycling fanatic than the other. We learned this in 2018 in Provence. I rented a road bike and Susan got an E Bike. And wrote in her journal …
“This is the way I always wanted to ride. Every pedal has power. Especially when I’m in Wonder Woman mode. It’s the power I always imagined I had on a bike.”
Wonder Woman mode?
Her e-bike had three settings: Echo, Normal, Sport. The most powerful is Sport, which Susan had immediately dubbed Wonder Woman mode.
We haven’t been able to do another bike trip since then (COVID), but Susan is open to biking Bordeaux on an E bike. I’m cautiously optimistic. Can a E bike somehow make us a little bit more cycling compatible? Perhaps.
OK, there you go. I hope this helps your relationship. Did I miss anything?
Here’s the link to Numbskull, my cycling novel, and my five Biking France guide books (Provence, the Loire, Normandy, The Dordogne and Bordeaux). The sale of these books helps justify my solo bike business trips to Susan!
2 thoughts on “Are You and Your Significant Other Cycling Compatible?”
My wife and I solved our cycling incompatibility with a tandem. This definitely is not the answer for everyone but it did deal with her inexperience as a cyclist while making excellent use of her athletic capacities in every other respect. We started with a cruised on the beach in Georgia and graduated in 1992 (or so) to one of Trek’s earliest tandems (which we still happily ride. In more recent years we’ve toured extensively on our Bike Friday tandem. Still loving it (and her).
On holidays, my wife and I usually opt for hiring a tandem if one is available. That gives me a decent workout while allowing her to relax a little, cover more ground and enjoy the scenery between stops (and also pass me snacks). I love it.
Last trip we hired an eMTB for her and a “regular” mountain bike for me to explore some off-road trails. I’m pretty fit, but any time the road climbed even just a little, I had trouble keeping up!