Whether your passion is shredding a singletrack, an intense road hammerfest, or just a leisurely pedal, there’s one thing all cyclists tend to agree on: riding is an exhilarating experience!
If you want to be your best, then you’ve got to train with the best, or at least someone stronger than you. If you’ve never ridden in a group, you’re really missing out! Riding with others, particularly when they are stronger cyclists than you, is an opportunity for you to push yourself to the next level both physically and mentally. When riding with others, you will often find yourself mentally stimulated and your physical capabilities challenged, beyond where you’d normally be able to push yourself when riding solo.
But what does one do when the only training partner available is significantly slower than you? What if that slower rider is your significant other? As social as cyclists tend to be, it is not often that they ride with their life partners. Cycling often becomes one partner’s hobby while the other lives though them vicariously, from a distance. There’s a missed opportunity here, one that should not be quickly dismissed, even if you feel that your partner will be holding you back.
One of the most important things to do when riding with your significant other is to have realistic expectations and the right attitude. If you are expecting to knock out a century ride with a partner that’s relatively new to cycling, you are setting yourself up for a disappointment. However, if you set your expectations right, and view your ride together as bonding time, you are much more likely to finish your ride in good spirits, feeling closer to your partner, and even get a workout in.
Why ride together
Riding with your significant other can be a fun experience and carries a lot of benefits, too. It increases the intimacy of your relationship because it allows for the two of you to spend more quality time together. So often, we become immersed in the hustle and bustle of daily life and forget that it’s important to set aside time for our loved ones. By riding together, you are bonding over an activity that brings both of you joy, which is likely to have a positive effect on your relationship.
The most important step you can take when attempting couples riding is to set a purpose. Why are you riding together? In most cases, couples ride together because they want to spend time together. For most couples, this would be a good enough reason. Luckily, there are others! Losing weight, gaining fitness, cross-training, or simply getting fresh air are all good reasons to get on a bike. Exercise has a myriad of positive effects, including it being the most effective way of boosting your natural pheromones.
After deciding your purpose in riding together, it’s time to make a plan and set some goals. It is important to consider various aspects that could drastically affect your ride. Consider the following when creating a riding plan: experience, level of fitness, and skill.
Experience, level of fitness, and skill of each rider should be considered when setting goals. If you are one of the few lucky couples where both partners are similar in fitness and experience, you’ll find that very few adjustments, if any, need to be made. In most cases, there is one person in the pair who is the stronger, more experienced rider. If you ride competitively, then you might find it even more challenging to refrain from pushing the pace beyond your partner’s abilities.
Consider some of the following questions:
Have you and your partner ever ridden a bicycle before? If so, in what capacity? Have you covered distances over 10 miles on your bike or are you mostly a “ride around the block” kind of cyclist?
How strong of riders are you? Are either of you endurance athletes? Have either of you ridden consistently enough to develop a good amount of riding strength?
How good are your bike handling skills? Are you comfortable riding in a group, in close proximity with other cyclists? Are you comfortable riding on unpaved terrain, such as dirt roads or mountain bike trails?
If one of you is a newbie while the other is an Ironman, then you’re on different planets in terms of riding experience. By reminding yourselves of your strengths and limitations, you can work together to set realistic goals and devise an approach that will help you enjoy your ride as a couple.
There are many ways for you and your significant other to enjoy cycling together, but it might require making some adjustments to compensate for the difference in experience and fitness. We’ve included a variety of adjustments that you could do to your riding style and equipment to match both riders’ speeds.
The first and most obvious couples riding option would be that of a tandem bicycle. A tandem bike is designed to support two people, sitting one behind the other. Like single-rider bicycles, tandem bikes are made to accommodate a variety of riding terrains, and include road, touring and mountain. Riding tandem provides more stability to both riders, can allow for riders to achieve greater speeds than they would individually, and can be a fun bonding opportunity for you and your partner. Unfortunately, riders who are at different levels, might find riding tandem challenging. Most tandem bikes have their cranks locked in-sync, which means both riders need to pedal and coast at the same time. DaVinci Tandem makes an Independent Coasting System, which is a tandem bike drivetrain that makes it possible to independently or collectively coast, pedal and position cranks at will. Overall, it makes for a more intuitive, comfortable and efficient ride, but at a higher price.
It’s worth noting that tandem riders also assume very different responsibilities. In addition to pedaling, the wind-facing rider also is responsible for steering and braking and is known as the captain. The second rider is known as the stoker and is responsible only for pedaling. Since a tandem bicycle is much larger and faster, has greater braking distance and a much larger turning radius, it is highly recommended that the captain is a very experienced cyclist. Just like a driver in the car, the captain is responsible for all the safety-related decisions and their outcomes. He needs to be very confident in his decision making and bike handling abilities. If neither of you has the skill or experience to be the captain, a tandem bike is not for you.
Simply selecting gears each rider is turning is the simplest way to create a couples riding opportunity. For example, if the stronger rider is riding in the small (front) chainring, while the weaker is in the large, both parties could match speeds. The stronger rider would need to turn pedals much faster to match the speed of the slower rider who turning a higher-ratio gear at a lower cadence. For the stronger rider this would likely be a recovery ride, while for the weaker it would be a real workout. High-cadence spinning helps recuperate from hard workouts and provides with active rest.
Significantly Different Rides
Another option for couples that would like to ride together, but are somewhat mismatched in ability or strength, is to vary the kind of bicycles each uses. Some bikes tend to be heavier and are harder to propel forward than others. If you are the stronger rider, perhaps a heftier bike might slow you down enough so that your partner can ride alongside you on a lighter, speedier bike. For example, the stronger rider could ride a mountain bike while the weaker rider uses a road bike. Mountain bikes deal with significantly more rolling resistance from their knobby tires than road bikes, which have skinny, smooth tires.
When there is a significant discrepancy between skill and ability of the riders, the best way to compensate for that difference is by relying on technology. Electric bikes, also known as e-bikes, contain an electric motor and a battery to provide assistance to the rider. Unlike scooters and motorcycles, which require the rider to twist the accelerator grip to engage the motor, power-assist technology is much more intelligent: using torque sensors at the crank, the digital controller determines how much power the electric motor will deliver. When you’re not moving, the motor provides no assistance, as soon as you start pedalling, the motor engages and starts helping a little bit, and when you’re climbing a hill or sprinting, it helps a lot. All of this translates to a very natural experience, with a sprinkle or two of superpowers. E-bikes are a great way to level the playing field for two cyclists who are on drastically different levels. On an e-bike, even a beginner rider could become a worthy challenger to an endurance athlete. It could bring the seemingly impossible feat of keeping up with your triathlete significant other a little bit more possible, with both of you getting a quality workout.
While an e-bike might help close the gap between you and your honey, it’s also important to remember that there are some additional safety concerns that come with riding an e-bike. Because you’ll be moving at a greater speed, you must exercise particular caution; a spill taken on a bicycle going 25 mph is going to be more serious than one at 10 mph. Experience and skill also play a role, especially if you’re going to find yourself on rugged terrain. Being careful and taking all necessary precautions lowers the likelihood of a crash, but does not eliminate it. It is highly recommended that you practice riding your e-bike on an empty street and gain a good feel for the level of assistance you will receive from the motor, as well as the rate of acceleration and braking power that it delivers.
Warm up, cool down ride, or meet up later
When all else fails, you can always ride with your partner during either a warm up or cool down ride. It might not the same as completing a full ride together, but if your main objective is to spend time together, then a slower-paced warm up or cool down ride might be the best way to start. If that’s not an option, then consider starting your rides together, splitting to do your own rides, and then meeting up again at the end.
Do not add weights!
One thing that might seem intuitive, but you should never do, is add weights to the bike to slow yourself down. Just like weights attached to the bike, heavy backpacks will significantly alter bike’s handling characteristics that might cause you to lose control of the bike. Even if you stay upright, weights added to the body can cause unnecessary strain on the joints, ligaments and spine.
Keep yourself protected
Cycling, just like any sport, has inherent risks. Some of the risks associated with cycling are injury, liability, and financial loss due to theft or damage. While wearing safety gear such as a helmet, glasses and gloves goes a long way of lowering the risk of an injury, liability and theft are much harder to manage.
Not so long ago, a homeowner's or renter's insurance policy was the only option available for bicycle owners when insuring their bicycles for theft, leaving them largely exposed for other possible losses. Most home insurance policies do not cover you for personal liability while riding a bicycle or for theft if the bicycle was stolen from your car or a public bike rack, away from home.
Bicycle insurance from Velosurance was created by cyclists for cyclists, it recognizes the need for equal insurance protection and offers a highly customizable policy designed to provide coverage for almost any risk associated with cycling. The policy covers the bike for theft and damage, and offers optional coverages including gap medical, liability, vehicle contact protection, and even roadside assistance, if you ever get stranded far away from home.