I think we’ve all heard the old saying, Happy wife, happy life. It goes both ways, of course, and you don’t have to be married to want to please your significant other.
If your spouse or partner doesn’t share your passion for cycling, it can cause some friction from time to time. If you are one of those who rides as an escape from family, then maybe this article isn’t for you. Or maybe I can change your mind.
But I’m sure there are many of you who wish your spouse or partner would share your cycling passion, for a variety of reasons – from mitigating that occasional “friction” to enhancing your relationship to paving the way for doing tours and cycling vacations together, and more.
I’ve gleaned some helpful tips from what I’ve experienced myself and from how I’ve introduced others to cycling.
Tips for Bringing Your Spouse/Partner Into Cycling
Start out casual and fun. When introducing your loved one to cycling, start slow and easy. You want them to have a positive experience, so make sure the beginning rides are casual, easy – and fun. Remember howit was when you started out (if you can remember back that far!). The biggest fear many newbies have is not being able to keep up, or “holding back” the more experienced riders. So early on, just dial it back like you’re on a recovery ride. And make sure you choose fitting terrain. Flat to rolling, but no hard hills would be ideal. Remember: keep it casual, easy and fun.
Limit the group size. Start out with just the two of you, or at most ride with one other couple. Opt for a quiet trail, side streets or another protected route away from traffic. Keep the distance short, too. Again, think back to your beginning days of cycling. Part of getting comfortable in the saddle is toughening up the rear end, so you don’t want to overdo it. Consider running errands together via bike, or ride to a local restaurant or coffee shop. You can also consider buying/renting a tandem (but it’s probably best to start out on single and learn the ropes before considering a “divorce machine.”) Couples need to be on solid footing in every respect before taking on a tandem.
Share your knowledge. The very best way to learn is to be offered insight by an experienced cyclist, and to be encouraged to ask questions about anything and everything while riding. Give your partner bike-handling and group riding tips. Encourage him or her to watch you and other experienced riders for such things as: when you shift, when you stand on a hill, how closely you ride someone’s wheel, your cornering technique, etc. Even tips on properly wearing equipment, like helmet fit and going commando under your bike shorts. You’ve been riding for a while, and it all comes second nature to you, but not for a newbie.
Build slowly into appropriate group rides. Once your partner has embraced the joys of cycling, introduce him or her to group rides. Make sure to find a club or group that matches your partner’s level. Some clubs actually have “spouse rides” for this very purpose that ensure an “all comers” pace and distance. And many clubs or organized groups have separate rides based on ability or average speed that riders can self-select into. The main thing is not to jump the gun and assume that your significant other is ready for a testy group ride that brings in all the elements that you love (speed, close-quarters riding, challenging hills, etc.). That may be the surest way to end up sleeping on the couch for a while, or worse.
Try an organized ride as the next step. Organized rides are also a great way to enjoy riding together. They have a number of benefits: You have SAG support and rest stops along the way. They typically have several distances from which to choose, often as short as 25 or 35 miles, but nearly always with a metric century and/or full century options. This might encourage your partner to try a little longer distance knowing there’s always help should it be required. And ride together for the first couple of organized rides, at least, if possible. Again, there’s a lot to teach, and learn, about big group rides like these that are different in some fundamental ways from smaller group rides.
Considering touring or cycling vacations. Once your partner is confident with organized rides and is riding regularly in groups, it’s a safe bet that he or she is hooked! At this point, you can start considering doing tours or vacations together planned around your shared passion for cycling. There are any number of options from self-guided to fully guided destination tours, cross-state rides, etc. The cycling world is your oyster. (Take a look at some of RBR’s advertisers and sponsors for touring options.) Some tour operators even offer bikes with electric assist, which helps couples of varying speeds and abilities to enjoy the ride together.
If you both get really daring, try racing together. You must work as a team, communicate and encourage one another. Last summer, my boyfriend and I entered a 2-person 50K time trial. It could have gone either way, but we worked like a well-oiled machine and had a blast. There were no other mixed-couple teams (or I called us, the mixed-up couple), so we were thrown into the men’s division. But even with that we took home some bling, and were quite proud of our teamwork.
If serious racing isn’t for you , there are also fun races. This Valentine’s Day, we competed in the Fat Cupid fat tire race. There was a couples division requiring that you both must cross the finish line together. It definitely scored high on the fun meter!
Consider sharing your cycling passion with the one you love. It could make for a happier life for both of you.
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Sheri Rosenbaum regularly contributes articles and reviews products for RBR. She’s an avid recreational roadie who lives in the Chicago area and a major advocate for women's cycling, serving on the board of directors and volunteering with the Dare2tri Paratriathlon Club. Click to read Sheri's full bio.