Love and Bicycling

As anyone who has ever conflicted with a significant other about their choice of hobbies knows, it can be challenging when the love of your life and one of your favorite past-times don’t mix. Thankfully, Chris and I have similar tastes in music, movies, and conversation, even if we don’t always agree. (It helps that we’re both huge nerds.) But it’s a whole different matter when it comes to the bike. He’s warming up to it, little by little, but there’s a long road ahead.

It didn’t help that my first biking experience with him was mildly disastrous. We were in our senior year of high school, our first year of dating. I’ve always rode regularly with my parents, covering 15 or 20 miles in a day by the time I was in high school. We regularly rode a 15 mile loop around town with three stops – a convenience store to refill on water, a fishing dock that we would chill on, and a restaurant where we bought ice cream. I thought it would be a fun outing for the two of us to cover this route I knew so well. I insisted that it was an easy ten mile ride (I honestly didn’t realize it was 15) and that he’d be fine. After a bit of hemming and hawing, he agreed to do it. That experience was my first lesson in the fact that there’s a big difference between being a casual cyclist and not being a cyclist at all. While I wasn’t a strong cyclist, I was extremely comfortable on a bike. He hadn’t ridden a bike since he was a kid and was very unsteady. I struggled up hills and stopped at the top to rest, but still made it up – he walked every one. I thought stopping every four miles or so was great – he wanted to stop after 3 and didn’t want to finish the rest. It took so long that my mom got seriously worried, as this was in the days before ubiquitous cell phones. She contemplated sending my dad out with the car to look for us. When we finally arrived home, Chris collapsed on my parents’ couch, a hand over his forehead like a Southern belle. Quite dehydrated and exhausted, he half-jokingly accused me of trying to kill him. He still brings it up to this day.

Throughout college, I didn’t make much of a push on the biking front. This was partly because I didn’t do much biking myself until my senior year and partly because we lived several hours away from each other. Even when I was training for the AIDS Ride, I mainly rode to work and went out with my parents.

When we first moved to the D.C. area, it was a mixed bag once again. As Chris didn’t have a bicycle suited for an adult, we bought him one through the Washington Area Bicyclist Association’s used bicycle sale. For $100, we got him a sturdy hybrid Trek that we then spent another $100 on for a tune up. Unfortunately, for the first few years, he didn’t get much use out of it. We didn’t do many rides when we lived the apartment, despite being adjacent to the Rock Creek Trail. During our first year in the house, we were taking our lives in our hands every time we dragged the bikes up and down the basement stairs. Last year I was training so hard for the Climate Ride that I honestly couldn’t slow down to ride with him. He was very supportive of me doing the Climate Ride, but there wasn’t any room for him in it.

But now we’ve come to 30 Days of Biking, where I’ve committed to get on my bike every single day of the month. Being that I’m not training for anything in particular, the first day was a Sunday, and the weather was good, I thought it would be nice to go for a ride together. With a surprising lack of pushback, Chris agreed. We cycled nice and slowly over to Carmen’s Italian Ice, a now favorite bike stop location. It’s on one of the residential routes through the city, has a fence to lock your bike to (although lacking true bike parking), is adorable, is community-focused, and has quite tasty Jersey-style custard. Even though the way back features a rather substantial hill, Chris did admirably, with no whining at all. A six mile ride isn’t much to an regular cyclist, but was just perfect for us. Overall, it was a lovely way to spend an early spring evening.

I’m hoping that we can continue to take on these rides throughout the spring and summer. Even though I’m often a solitary exerciser, I enjoy riding with others, especially during the rest stops. And if there’s anyone in the world I enjoy spending time with, it’s Chris. I’d love to be able to share this part of my life with him more. In fact, I’m hoping we can attend a number of the community bike rides together that I’m helping organize for the Rockville Bicycle Advisory Committee. Also, the more he bikes, the more comfortable he’ll be and the more he’ll enjoy it.

In addition to general enjoyment, there’s also a very practical element involved in increasing the number of rides. We’re planning a trip to Peru this summer that will require a couple of long hikes at altitude. Although he’s strong from hauling around boxes at work, we could both build up a lot more cardiovascular endurance.

So I’m looking forward to spending less time overall this summer on my bike, but more time with Chris. Having more people on bikes is a societal good, but the fact that one of them is the love of my life is whipped cream on my cycling pie.

If you’re into bicycling, is your significant other? Have you ever had a significant other who is into a sport that you’re just not interested in?

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11 Responses to Love and Bicycling

  1. Randi says:

    I understand this completely. While I’m not the avid cyclist I once was, I am trying to get back into it. After all, I didn’t haul my bicycle from Alberta to Schenectady for nothing! But, it would seem that cycling may not be the couple-activity I had envisioned. At the same time, it’s nice to not to have to embarrass myself when I get winded way too early!

    • That is a heck of a long way to bring a bicycle, especially because Schenectady is not bike-friendly! In terms of a nice introduction, the Mohawk-Hudson trail that runs through Niskayuna and along the river is a great option. It’s so pretty that it’s hard for even a non-cyclist to reject that as an activity on a beautiful spring day.

  2. bicyclebug says:

    That’s sweet and very understandable. My wife and I are very similar to you two when it comes to cycling.

    I’ve held at hope that replacing her sturdy, heavy tank of an old Schwinn with a Linus or Bobbin would spark interest. I’ve even told her I would get her a Cross Check so she could come on longer rides with me.

    It’s difficult for me to understand why someone wouldn’t enjoy this. And then she reminds me of all of her hobbies I have an aversion to. And then I go for a ride…alone.

    • Unfortunately, getting a new bike isn’t much of a motivation until you are a cyclist, I think. It just doesn’t have the same level of “shiny.” Chris doesn’t have any hobbies I have an aversion to, so we sometimes end up doing what I want to because he doesn’t have any other suggestions. I know you’re in the D.C. area – are you part of any of the bike clubs? I find they’re too fast for me, but I love finding people to ride longish distances at a rambling pace.

  3. Nancy L. Seibel says:

    Great post, Shannon! I am fortunate in that my boyfriend is an avid and far more experienced cyclist than I am. When he and I met, I had become a bike commuter and was still riding a loop-frame hybrid for recreational rides and for my 17 mile round trip commute. His patience, enthusiasm and experience have opened up the world of bike touring for me. I now have a mixte touring bike for tours and local recreational rides, a used mixte I found on e-bay for my city commute and a folder that I take with me for travel and sometimes use for quick errands. Perhaps the folder will eventually become my city bike, too.

    Though my endurance, pace and strength are increasing, I still am too slow for club rides. I’d bet what you both think is a relaxed pace is faster than mine! 🙂 It’s a rare occasion that I overtake someone and have to call out “On your left!”

  4. Jean says:

    Shortly after I met my partner (20 yrs. ago), he got me back into cycling. However 6 months before I met him, I already was toying with the idea of returning to cycling. So it truly was happenstance that I met Jack. He had to returned to cycling to lose weight and a different activity from…leaving farming when he had a weekend farm.

    So cycling is not a problem. When he goes on long solo distance touring and I can’t join him because I’m working, it’s easy to share cycling experiences and understand rigours of cycling under certain conditions.

    He also has been an active local cycling advocate 2 cities at different times, which means he knows the bike routes very well and I have learned how to join routes together to make longer rides. It helps when I cycling on my own with this type of knowledge. So I am very lucky.

    Best with your hubby, is to continue to enjoy your rides together and not ask so much of anything unless he really wants it. Or even better, when he gets on the bike himself and takes off on his own.

    • I love your story – what wonderful timing! It’s great that you can both independently bike on your own and share those experiences. I think no matter who you’re biking with, it’s best to go slowly and at their own pace – doubly so if you’re married to them!

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