By: Molly Hurford
If you’ve ever dreamt of riding a bicycle built for two with your partner, or disappearing on a week-long bikepacking adventure together, or even just getting out for a simple leisurely weekend ride, you’re not alone. Being able to share a love of cycling with your partner is both fun and efficient: You get to spend time together while exercising, and being out in nature together is a wonderful bonding experience…
At least, it can be.
Unfortunately, often in our excitement about sharing our love of riding with our partners, we forget to take it slow and make the process fun for them. Whether you’re trying to get your boyfriend, wife, BFF or coworker out for a ride, here’s what people who’ve (eventually) succeeded at riding together have found:
Find your “couples why”
You already have your ‘why’ when it comes to cycling. But your partner doesn’t—yet. So you need to work together to decide why you want to ride together. Is it so that you can explore new places on two wheels, maybe rekindle some excitement? Is it because you both love nature and want to spend more time outside? Is it because you both want to be in better shape? Don’t force your particular ‘why’ on your partner, come up with your new ‘riding together’ mission statement. This helps set the tone for your rides.
Don’t go from 0 to 100
You might not want to start on singletrack if your partner has never been on a mountain bike, and if the last time your partner rode a bike was a decade ago, starting on a bicycle built for two is a recipe for disaster. Think simple: rail trails and quiet roads, maybe some mild gravel or doubletrack depending on your preferred ride style. But keep it as low-stress as possible.
Make sure they have what they need
A lot of couples start riding together with one nice bike and one bike that’s been pulled out of the garage covered in spiderwebs. This is not a fun way to start riding. If you don’t have a decent bike for your partner, consider renting or borrowing one in the appropriate size and style for the first few rides before buying a new one. Or, if you can fit on the same size bike, consider letting your partner ride your nice shiny bike while you ride the old junker. And make sure your partner is kitted out appropriately, wearing comfortable bike shorts (with no underpants!), a properly-fitted helmet, and shoes that will work well for the ride. In cold weather, make sure you’re both dressed even warmer than you think you need to be, since you’ll be moving at a less intense pace than your usual winter rides.
Start in a parking lot
You know that saying ‘it’s just like riding a bike’? The problem with that is it makes riding a bike seem easy. But plenty of adults haven’t ridden since childhood, and their memory of riding is a single-speed step-thru beach cruiser with a coaster brake, not a road bike with hydraulic disc brakes and 11 speeds. Before you actually hit the road or trail, start by just rolling around a parking lot or large grassy area and practicing shifting, braking, and stopping. You don’t want to be heading downhill the first time you realize your partner has no idea where the brake lever is. For any newer rider, start with flat pedals for the first few rides—save clipless for later!
Take it slow
Let your partner set the pace of your ride! Don’t expect to have the same pace or fitness level as your partner—and don’t expect them to perfect the art of drafting on their first time out. Whatever you do, don’t ride away and expect them to chase you down—the fastest way to ruin a fun time together is to have your partner forced to huff and puff their way up a hill to catch you as you wait impatiently at the top, checking your phone and sipping some water. (If you think you’re going to have a tough time keeping your pace relaxed, consider doing a ride beforehand to get your hard work out of the way so you’re relaxed and not itching to sprint.)
Stop more often than you need
The biggest mistake riders make when taking out new cyclists for the first time is a lack of stops. Even if your partner seems to be keeping up just fine, find reasons to occasionally pull over so that they can take a drink, catch their breath, or ask any questions. Destination riding is the easiest way to turn a rough ride into a fun day, since it gives you both a break and a boost. A coffee, bakery or brewery stop can go a long way to restoring goodwill on a ride.
Always have snacks
You know how small children get cranky when they aren’t fed? Cyclists are the same way, and your new-to-cycling friend may not realize that he or she has gotten hungry. And new cyclists often struggle to eat or drink while pedaling, so make sure you’re stopping enough that he or she can sip or snack. Set a good example by eating and drinking during these stops as well.
Patience, patience, and more patience
This applies to both sides of the partnership: While riding bikes together is an awesome way to spend quality time while exercising and being in nature, it may take a few rides before you find your rhythm. This applies to both the veteran rider and the newbie in the couple—both can end up easily frustrated and ready to throw in the towel at the first sign of trouble. But have faith: After a few rides together, you’ll start to discover the fun of being able to share your favorite sport!
Get outside help
It may take a few rides before you’re both feeling the love, if we’re being honest here. And for both of your sakes, you may want to consider some outside help. If your partner is keen on getting into cycling, there are plenty of great clubs and groups in Ontario that are welcoming for beginners. A clinic or coaching session with a bike skills expert is another great way to help boost your partner’s confidence, and take some of the teaching burden off of your shoulders—it’s a lot easier to get instruction from a coach than it is to hear critique from a partner!
About the writer:
Molly Hurford is a journalist in love with all things cycling, running, nutrition and movement-related. When not outside, she’s writing about being outside and healthy habits of athletes and interviewing world-class athletes and scientists for The Consummate Athlete podcast and website, and most recently launched the book ‘Becoming A Consummate Athlete.‘ She’s the author of multiple books including the Shred Girls, a young adult fiction series and online community focused on getting girls excited about bikes. Molly is a little obsessed with getting people psyched on adventure and being outside, and she regularly hosts talks and runs clinics for cyclists and teaches yoga online and IRL… And in her spare time, the former Ironman triathlete now spends time tackling long runs and rides on trails or can be found out hiking with her mini-dachshund DW and husband, cycling coach and kinesiologist Peter Glassford.
To read previously released blogs: OCA BLOG