Friday Group Ride #95

For as long as I’ve been in cycling my significant others have all either been or become cyclists. In the case of the girlfriend in undergraduate school, I advocated that she take up cycling. It made perfect sense to me. Maybe she stuck with it, maybe not.

In one relationship I expressed my concern that the object of affection wasn’t a cyclist and, therefore, might have a tough time understanding me, my life. So she offered to get a bike. She stayed with cycling longer than she stayed with me.

I rarely advocate that someone take up this sport. I’m more comfortable when it works by attraction. I’d rather you sell yourself on cycling than me deliver my best pitch for why you need it in your life. I’m far more comfortable with congratulating new riders on a choice well-made.

Actual cycling clubs aside, being a cyclist has the feel of being a member of a club. There’s a secret handshake element to it. And it’s natural to want to share that with people you dig.

Which brings us to this week’s question: If you could bring one person into the sport who would it be? We’re not talking just a bike, but giving them all the tools: the bike, the clothing, the skills and the love for the culture itself. Ultimately, that’s what we’re talking about—giving someone more than just an activity, it’s giving them a whole life. Who in your life would you like to enjoy the experience in a manner as rich and complete as your own?  And of course, we’re a curious bunch: Why?

Hat tip to Robot; he posed the question.

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47 comments

  1. Souleur

    easy…my son.

    For obvious reasons, to pass on that which I love so dearly (both my son and cycling), it is only natural that I pass it on and share it, perpetually.

  2. Dan

    My wife. So she’d understand the obsession. I don’t see it ever happening, but we’ve got a kid on the way, and I’m brazing up a strider frame in the coming weeks. It’s gonna be awesome.

  3. Stefan

    Without question, either (or both) of my kids. One of the things I love about cycling is the time you spend with friends on group rides. No other sport (at least none that I’ve been part of) has the stretches of time built into it where you get to talk about all manner of things. Often it’s bike-related, but it’s also plenty of other topics, and some of my bike friends have consequently become some of my closest friends.

    To spend that kind of time with my kids, especially once they hit their teens, would be perfect.

    I’ve come to accept that this is unlikely to happen with my daughter. She’s now 9, and has actively avoided athletic pursuits, especially those that involve the risk of falling down. I hope that I can change this one day, but have begun looking for other things to bond over.

    My son, at 5, has started to show signs of curiosity towards bikes. He’s recently ditched his training wheels and has started asking about kids’ races. I am trying hard not to push him, potentially hampering the chances that it’ll happen, but I’m secretly thrilled…

  4. Wallisphotos_UK

    Also easy – my friend who was once a committed cyclist but then the work/life balance kicked in and cycling had to take a back seat.

    I am desperate to get my friend back in the saddle. But rather selfishly mainly so i can punish him on an End to End ride of the UK, the fact he will be fit again is just a happy coincidence

  5. Fat Monte

    My wife. I read the descriptions of cycling vacations to her…Vermont color tour, Napa wine tour, castle-to-castle tours in France, hoping it lights a fire. And it’s working. She’s considering a road bike. But she’s afraid of the pain. She’s done a few 20-mile rides with me on her Giant hybrid, and she is absolutely allergic to suffering.

    As an aside, and plea for advice: she’s tiny. 5′ 4″ and 105 lbs. A true size 0 with slim hips and a very small (nice) bum. As such, her sit bones (and thighs) are much closer together than what you find in most women. I’ve got a growing collection of bike seats in the garage, trying to find one small enough so she doesn’t feel like she’s straddling a split rail fence.

    Are there any small women riders out there who have found a bike saddle that works for them (or guys that’ve found one for their small female significant others)? Fixing this one issue will go a long way toward easing her into cycling.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Everyone: thanks for all the terrific comments. I can only wish that you all get the chance to share the sport with these folks.

      Fat Monte: the niceness of your wife’s bum aside, the key to her comfort may lie in something you shared: small hips. Her sit bones may be pretty closely spaced. If that’s the case then what she may need is a man’s saddle. I’d suggest dropping by a Specialized dealer and having her sit on an ass-o-meter. It is memory foam with calipers to determine the width of a rider’s hips. If her sit bones are narrower than 150mm, then she will almost certainly find greater comfort on a narrower perch. She needn’t buy a Specialized saddle, though they make some nice ones. The point is to gain an objective measure of her needs.

  6. Wallisphotos_UK

    the only advise i can offer is keep the collection going or make friends with a local bike shop. My other half has tried 10-15 saddles and at the moment its best of a bad bunch – don’t think she would do a 4 hours ride with me. The other ladies i asked recommended ones that we’d already tried and didn’t like

  7. chrisneilsmith

    I would like to bring one of the more influential students at the high school where I teach into cycling. One of my biggest regrets is that I did not get into it myself earlier. Already my daughters are loving it, as it my wife. Now, I’d like to see a cycling culture start among the high school students at my school.

  8. Mo'Nilla

    @FatMonte: My wife is a tiny human too. WTB makes a nice female specific saddle.
    Now if I could just get her to ride more than the obligatory 3x/year:^O

  9. todd k

    My wife picked it a bit this year. She will likely never have large epic style goals. And that is completley ok. She now has a flavor of what I see in the sport and why I am so inclined to engage in it. And i am thrilled with the how well she has developed as a rider over the past year. And she has fun.

    Interestingly, when it comes to my kids, I only want them to choose the bike if they want to choose the bike. It will need to be something that they discover (or not) on their own. I’ll certainly provide them the means if they so choose, but it needs to be on their own volition. It needs to be their discovery. They will be exposed to it enough during their lives that I figure there is no need to push it onto them. And more than I would love them to ride with me sometime I would love them to not view cycling as “that activity my dad forced me to do for all those years even though I hated it.”

    On the other hand I have a cousin who I would love to actively bring into the sport. He has all the characteristics of some one who should enjoy it: Reasonably fit, enjoys the outdoors, likes to push himself, enjoys challenges, would be motivated to try something new. We used to hike and backback together years ago and I just think he could really get into the activity and culture. He is a teacher on a very limited budget, but I’ve stockpiled a bucket of components and set them aside just for him. I just need a solid yet simple frame and some wheels. But he also must choose to pursuit it on his own. I know him enough that if I were to simply show up with a built up bike it would likely sit out in the rain and rust away. I’ve generally told him when he tosses the idea around that if he can tell me what size of frame he needs, I’ll help get him set up. I’ve put the onus on him to tell me that info rather than me deriving it as I figure it will show that he is taking that initiative for that first step. I figure he will be ready when he is willing to dip his toe in at least that far.

    I guess looking at the above, I am inclined to think cycling is something you sort of have to discover on your own.

  10. RedHill

    Robot,

    This both captures and illustrates why I read RKP: A recreational cyclist can begin to learn about details without feeling intimidated because the writing here is so closely tied to general experience. Chapeau.

    Fat Monte,

    I can’t recommend a saddle. I can say, though, that the Pearl Izumi women’s chamois — red, orange, and even blue — all tend to work well for me because they are tapered some from the center to the edges. Other chamois I have tried are too wide in the middle for me to walk normally. You’ve probably already thought of this, but some things are worth repeating if only for the benefit of others. Make sure that she does not settle for some chamois that feels like a bulky diaper. That may mean being picky but it doesn’t always mean spending more money: I did a four-hour ride this year in tights with a blue chamois.

    Also, allow me to tell her, woman to woman, that I like cycling because it can be about suffering but it doesn’t have to. Cycling has the flexibility to be what you want it to be. If I want to test my limits, I can and will. If I want to sit up and enjoy the scenery or chat with someone, I can and will. Cycling meets me where I am in a way that no other pastime can. No one should feel undue pressure to embrace to someone else’s ideal of the sport.

    Ladies and significant others, you should not conform to cycling stereotypes or to someone else’s riding style if you don’t want to. The beauty of cycling is that it can conform to you and that, with a little give-and-take, you can share it with others who ride for different reasons. Communicate what you want and find people who will help you reach your own goals.

  11. Fat Monte

    @Cat,

    No, I haven’t. In fact, I’ve never thought of, or heard of this idea before! Excellent idea. Any tips on how to do it properly?

  12. SWells

    The one person would be my oldest (soon to be 13 yo) son. He reads whatever cycling mags I have laying around and he’ll watch whatever races I happen to be watching, so he actually has an understanding of the sport of racing and some of the personalities. I wish I would’ve made an effort sooner to get his lazy butt outside and actually ‘do’ it vice ‘read about it’.
    There’s still hope, though. I’ve got one of those trail-a-bike things that my 6 yo son & I bomb around the neighborhood on…loves it.

  13. MikeG

    Hey, if we are wishing here, I’m going for the whole enchilada: My wife and both kids! My wife gets my obsession as much as a non-rider can, and she even talks so much like a cyclist most people think she rides. My son is almost 8 and has already completed an 11 mile memorial ride on his 16″ bmx bike – never been so proud! Now we have moved along to his schools running club – 2-3 miles 2x a week after school and I would not trade that time together for the world. I hope with all I am my daughter follows along as well (she’s only 5), and maybe, just maybe my wife will be drawn in as well! One can certainly dream…

  14. Clark

    As I don’t yet have kids and my fiancee has been a cyclist longer than we’ve known each other, I’m going to bend the rules of the space-time continuum and wish I could have picked the sport up sooner than I did at age 19. My dad has been riding since he was that age, and never pushed it on me. I certainly wouldn’t change that, but I wish I’d seen what was right in front of me all those years and could have spent countless summers rolling up and down the hills around my school-age hometown of Austin. Many of the guys I now ride with picked up the sport later in life than I did, so I’m definitely grateful for the time I’ve had thus far.

  15. Big Mikey

    Contrary to many of these responses, I wouldn’t invite:
    1. my wife – no way I’m arguing about ride time vs child care time with her. Imagine trying to support multiple, multiple-hour rides every weekend.
    2. my daughter – if she picks it up, she’s welcome to all of my assistance she wants/needs. But she can pick any sport she wants; hopefully it’s one that’s lucrative at the pro level.

    No, I’d give the gift of “getting it” to that guy on the road, the one in the car who’s trying to bully me into getting out of his way or not paying attention to the cyclist sharing the road. If he rode, he’d tell his friends and family, maybe they’d try it, or at the very least, see him when they encounter me, and we’d all have a better chance at peaceful coexistence.

    Here’s to hoping….

  16. Doug Page

    I agree with MikeG. While I’m wishing…I wish I had started cycling as a youth. While I did have a gig as a bike messenger, that metier in 1969 was not as it is now. The idea of riding as a passion never occurred to me before my late 20′s. To think the youth of today even have high school cycling teams! If I had had a ‘letter sweater’ in cycling, now that would be something! Maybe I wouldn’t have hated high school with such a passion!

  17. Ransom

    Whether for past me or some kid who’s still a kid, what Clark and SWells said strikes a chord…

    I’d been fascinated with bikes since I was in grade school, and had an uncle who worked at a bike shop in another state. My folks were encouraging. But despite my fascination with the bits and bobs and shiny things, I was highly resistant to being uncomfortable. I got my first “real” bike-shop bike when I was 13, but it wouldn’t be ’til I was in my early 20s that I learned to enjoy riding uphill, and though I tried a citizen’s crit or mountain bike race every few years, it’s only just before turning 40 that I managed to get *up to* few mid-pack (Masters C) finishes in ‘cross races. It took that long to get around to riding enough to see the improvements.

    I’m not sure how I could’ve convinced 13 year old me to go just ride, but I can’t help but wish I’d worked that out at the time. At least it has finally dawned on me; now to not let that lesson slip into the mists of work and house projects and…

  18. Fat Monte

    Padraig,

    I’ll get over to the Specialized dealer this weekend and have her measured on the ass-o-meter. Like you’ve suggested, the best luck we’ve had so far with a saddle is repurposing the men’s race seat off my old MTB. Much narrower. However, its nose is much too long for a woman her size…when she straddles the top tube with her feet/foot down, the thing is stabbing her in the back.

    RedHill,

    There’s also a Pearl Izumi outlet near us. We’ll hit that after the bike store to see what they have in women’s shorts/tights. Like you’ve said, most bike shorts are too bulky for her and she feels like she’s in diapers.

    I also certainly don’t want her to suffer. I want her to enjoy herself. When she and I ride together, she sets the pace and the distance — and I enjoy the company. The suffering so often comes from the saddle itself. She’d be far less uncomfortable, and much more excited about riding, once we get it straightened out. She’s the one person I most want to move from a very casual to avid rider — to share all the joys of cycling with. Thanks for all the feedback, everyone!

  19. Bike closet

    Like all single cyclists, I’d pass our love on to the girlfriend I don’t yet have. My time with Ms. Cervelo might be my longest relationship to date.

    Fat Monte: Bontrager has an ass-o-meter as well and I’m pretty sure they have a satisfaction guarantee on their saddles. Size one, try it, and swap it for credit against another if it doesn’t work. Wish every company played that way.

  20. RUV

    Definitely my wife. She’s starting to get curious about it and as soon as she buys in, I plan to spoil her. She deserves it.

  21. JT

    Barack Obama. Having our leader understand, embrace, and pontificate about our sport would do wonders for our country. More importantly, he would understand the concept of working together toward a common goal (I can hear the speech: “we as a nation must establish a pace line to reach the red kite flag together”) and would move away from his demogaugery.

  22. Tallmoots

    I want the driver to understand the joy I get from riding. Participation is not necessarily the goal. Similar for my wife; I would love to have her ride with me, but for her to understand my joy on a bike would increase her understanding of who I am.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Everyone: Thank you for your comments. I love seeing how many of you want to share cycling with your significant others. It says something very encouraging about what you think a relationship can offer and how you want to share the world with another person. Not that there’s anything wrong with wanting to keep the sport to yourself.

      I’ve been amazed by some of the big-picture suggestions such as Obama and Gingrich (from Twitter). Even Jeremy Clarkson. Anyone who’s watched Top Gear will know how anti-bike Clarkson is. It’s a shame given how amazingly funny he is. I’d love to convert all three of them myself.

      For my part, I want to share cycling with my son. He’s got a Razor scooter and a Skuut and loves motion. In the meantime, I’m good with letting his sense of fun guide him. I’ve got all the reassurance I need: He likes fun. The bike is fun. I think he’ll connect the dots.

  23. Pete

    My wife picked up cycling about 4 years ago when we were dating. A few weeks back, she announced that she wanted to buy a Surly Pacer and come ride the Paris-Roubaix sportif with me this coming June.

    I am truly blessed.

  24. steve

    Darryl Hunt. In 1984, he was convicted of the rape and murder of a young, white female newspaper copy editor in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. After serving 19 years, he was exonerated by DNA evidence. By all accounts, he left prison with an astonishingly small amount of anger. For all the reasons riding 100 miles is more satisfying than riding 50, crashing on a mountain biking makes the day better, and commuting in sub freezing weather beats heated seats and NPR in a BMW, I wish for him the same sense of freedom and feeling alive riding a bike gives to me everyday.

  25. Leo

    I’ve alread done it. My old college buddy (Class of ’92) dropped squash a few years ago and bought an aluminum Trek. This past spring, he bought a carbon Colnago. I flew out to the coast this fall, and we rode the Leipheimer Gran Fondo together.

  26. Sharkey

    Jacquie Phelan once said, “love is being willing to go someone else’s pace.” Many on this thread should ponder the wisdom of that.

  27. Neil in Vancouver

    My 2 step-kids. They’re still just a little too young to “get it”. But they see me heading out and returning and are beginning to understand the passion. We all ride every now and then, but I look forward that single day when can ride truly together. The day after that, they hand me my lunch and I’m chasing them for the rest of my days. As it should be.

  28. randomactsofcycling

    I think I’ll go with Big Mikey and give the gift of cycling to the motorist. It would truly be a blessing for all concerned. Perhaps specifically to all the top-notch Car Racers out there. Let’s enlist them to help promote some understanding and consideration.
    And as so many others have been helpful for Fat Monte, I would also recommend being careful when buying your lady a saddle if she is considering a new bike. Position on the bike influences the amount of pressure you put on your ass and your sit-bones. If you are considering buying a more ‘road’ style of bike, you may need an altogether different saddle to the one you buy for her hybrid. Good luck.

  29. Wayne

    The local Police. Seriously, I have often thought that the cycling community and bike shops should start a plan to fund discounted road bikes to officers. A bunch of young cops that like speed and danger. Start a police crit team. They would love the rush and we wo9uld get some understanding.

    Wayne

  30. dacrizzow

    i got my wife into it years ago and we did lots of mountain bike rides and 24 hr races. she’s since dropped out of that scene but looks for any excuse to do errands on her commuter bike. it’s cool because she gets it but i get to train on my own without the feeling of slowing down for her. i also got my brother into it as he segued from life as a rockstar to an avid local racer. as far as getting anyone else into it…i can’t understand why everyone isn’t into it. seriously, i really can’t

  31. Fred

    I’ve been lucky enough to welcome my father, cousin and soon my brother in law to the sport. Unfortunately, now that I’ve moved a few hours drive away from my parents, Dad and I don’t get to share our Sunday morning getaway rides as often. It really is great to for once, teach my father something. It’s great to know that he at 50+ is in better shape than most men his age. It was funny to watch him try to command a group of riders when he learned how to call out potholes and gravel. I really do miss those rides.

    My fiance, who has never been the athletic type, will soon finish dental school and I plan to build a nice starter bike for her. She is worried that something might happen to her precious money-makers, her hands. I try to assure her that she will be just fine. I am buying a house a couple miles from a pretty laid back trail system…maybe the easy trails will be a better start for her?

  32. StephB

    This may sound odd, but my person is me. I’ve long been a cycling fan, but preferred running and hiking for exercise for a variety of reasons. Several things have changed – an interest in covering more ground and running taking its toll on my troubled feet – that have me considering moving from cycling spectator to participant. I’ve been studying up to make sure I make a wise investment in my first bike in 20 years.

  33. tim b

    No doubt it would be my dad. Unfortunately it would require a little time travel as my pop is in his eighties now. Nothing would make me happier than setting off on long rides with him.
    In my younger days he was my coach for baseball and football and spent tons of time with me on both sports. It’s funny that I have no interest in either one of the sports at this point, but value the time that my dad and I spent together during those years more than anything.
    What I wouldn’t give to be able to share with him a sport that I have remained beyond obsessed with for over 20 years.

  34. Jimmy

    My wife likes casual rides to the park, along the path or the occasional 50K event at an all day pace. It’s a nice shift from half wheelers. My son loves riding his skuut bike at the local park, down the grass hill and around the trees. It means the world to me that he asks to go for a ride at age 3. Of course it also means I don’t get to ride in a manner that allows me any fitness gains, but it’s not about me. In the words of Jeff Spicoli, “It’s our time.”

  35. Jank

    My kids (big surprise) are the folks I’m working on – it’s neat watching the oldest (12) get his legs and freedom simultaneously; and I’m really looking forward to having an outlet available to us that exists somewhat outside of home and the father/son relationship.

    I’m completely split on bringing my (lovely) wife along – on one hand, it’d be beautiful to drag around with her in the (near) future once we’re empty nesters. On the other hand, it’s really, really nice to have some time apart.

    The idealist in me wants to make all traffic planners and others involved in laying down roads and traffic infrastructure commute to work by bike once a week.

  36. michael

    i live in a small town of 6500. more than 45% of the adult population work for a huge iron ore mining company that is undergoing massive expansion. median salaries are between 100-150K/year. Housing prices have inflated more than 150% in the last 3 years. many, many people are being left behind.

    so had i the means to do so (i am not one of the 45% working for said mining company, though i am doing just fine as director of an outdoor pursuits center), i`d share a bike and gear with all the kids in my community whose parents can`t afford to get them started out. all those kids who gaze whistfully whenver the local road crew roar past on a saturday or sunday morning group ride, all riding the latest carbon wonderbike (for such a small town, the proportion of high end carbon bikes from Look and BMC must be the highest per capita in the world, or pretty darn close!).

    there are a whole lot of those kids :(

  37. James

    Every conservative politician in the country! it can only help them to understand that global warming and other ecological disasters are not flukes (or so one hopes)!

  38. Dan O

    It would be cool if my wife and 8 year old daughter got into it. My wife used to ride casually before the kids arrived – had to be scenic, easy, lunch stop – no problem there. My daughter rides her bike some and we’ve been on a few easy family rides. All good.

    However, my wish has already been granted, since my 12 year old son has been riding with me since age 6 or so. I’ve watched him progress into a great mountain biker and decent racer. He’s been racing mountain bikes and cyclocross since age 8 or so. This year was the first on a team and we’ve hit many ‘cross races this fall. My own (alleged) racing has plummeted over the years, but supporting him at races has been huge fun.

    We’ve been on countless mountain bike rides together. His ability and strength have really increased over the last two years. Our rides are no longer “kid rides” but fantastic days out. He can drop me on some twisty downhill singletrack sections. In a few years, he’ll probably completely hammer me, and that’s totally cool. It’s all fantastic father and son time.

    I keep this all casual and fun, and hope his interest continues into the future, so we have something to share approaching his teenage years. Excuse my blabbering and semi-bragging here, but it’s been completely fantastic to experience. I’m a lucky dude.

  39. CAT4Fodder

    I would bring my wife. She is the most amazing person in the world to me, and I feel I am failing her by not somehow opening up her world to what I experience every time I dive into a descent along the front-range here in Colorado.

  40. Peter Lütken

    I’ll bend the rules a bit and invite an entire group of people: The transportation committee in the Norwegian Parliament. Then maybe we’d get some cycling paths and -lanes, not just a slightly wider sidewalk with the name “walking and cycling path” written on it.

  41. John

    This might sound really weird, but the person or type of person I’d really like to introduce to cycling would be Kip Kinkel and others like him. Kip Kinkel was a teenager in Oregon who too small to be good at sports, like his college football star father, and had learning difficulties, so academically he paled in comparison to his valedictorian sister. Eventually, for a whole slew of reasons I can’t begin to understand, he grew fascinated with guns and went on to shoot up his school. Two dead, 25 injured. He’s now serving a 111 year sentence.

    I’m sure this is overly simplistic, but ever since I saw the Frontline documentary on him (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/kinkel/) I’ve thought that given his small size and all that this kid would have been awesome on a bike. Cycling is unlike other sports: the smallest kid in class, and the one that isn’t good at ball sports, often kicks butt. It could have helped his confidence, which could have used the help. And even if he wasn’t winning races maybe cycling could have been an outlet for his anger. Maybe if he could have vented on some Oregon hills, his life, and those of others, would have been different.

    Like I said, this is probably overly simplistic, but who knows?

  42. Fat Monte

    John,

    It isn’t simplistic; it’s true. Every kid needs to own something. Just one thing. Maybe it’s playing an instrument. Writing poetry. Athletics. Academics. Art. Theater. Something, anything, to grab onto and say, “This is mine. It’s what I do. Who I am. And what I enjoy.”

    Absent that, even promising, well-loved kids get lost. And kids who are struggling…well, a few end up like Kip. The bike would help so many. Just being outdoors in nature camping, hiking, hunting or fishing is enough for some. Fresh air and exertion centers and grounds, challenges and accomplishments restore. If everyone could find a bike charity in their communities and contribute unused bikes or their services tuning up old bikes, maybe somewhere, a “Kip” will get the bike he needs and lives will be changed.

  43. Dale Schaper

    For me, I see it differently. I do not want to give some bicycling. I want to give them the enjoyment, freedom and pleasure that I derive from cycling. The way it is play and allows me to be a ‘kid’ again. I felt it, as well, with other passions in my life. I think exercise is an important aspect of that feeling. So, I want to give them a physical activity in which they feel true joy, passion and commitment.

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