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?