Riding with your significant other seems like a dream situation, but there can be serious consequences if you don’t follow these 3 rules of engagement. 

I’m lucky. My husband is my favorite riding partner.  There is no one I’d rather chase down a trail.  However, it’s not all sunshine and lollipops. Riding together as a couple can be challenging.  There are still days when I want to punch him, and I’m sure, days when he wants to ditch me and ride solo.   It took time for us to figure out our riding dynamic, but as a result, we’ve learned a lot about compromise, communication, and trust.  Riding together has also been a way for us to guarantee that we carve out at least a few hours a week (sometimes a few hours a day) to do something fun together and forget about all the other stresses going on in our lives.  I know every relationship is different, but I’m going to try to outline a few rules for riding with your other half, that have helped us along the way.  

Scenario A: One of you is New to Riding

Rule 1: Be Patient

This is a big one. Your partner is not immediately going to be good at riding.  Remember when you first learned to ride your bike? Maybe you don’t, because maybe you were 5, but try to remember anyway. You were probably wobbly. You probably couldn’t go that far without getting tired.  You probably got frustrated and maybe even threw your bike down on the ground followed by a few temper tantrums. That’s where your partner is at. If you roll your eyes, or leave them in the dust, or give them crap about being slow, they aren’t going to want to ride with you. Try to have empathy with what they’re experiencing. If they crash, help dust them off and laugh about it together. If they want to stop, stop, even if it’s in a place you normally don’t. If they’re scared, tell them it’s ok, and that they can always try it next time.  Good things come to those who wait. 

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Rule 2: Show Confidence in Their Abilities, but Don’t Teach

I’m not sure what the psychology is behind this, but I have never heard of a relationship where “teaching” a partner to mountain bike goes well. Having confidence in them and supporting them as they learn, on the other hand, is incredibly important. If they think you believe in them, they start to believe in themselves, and when it comes right down to it, believing you can do something on a bike is half the battle. Use your judgement – don’t go encouraging your beloved newbie to huck themselves off a 10 foot drop – but within reason, encourage them to try anything they want. This might mean seeing them crash. God knows my husband has witnessed some doozies. But I’d way rather have crashed and learned from my own mistake, then had my husband tell me he didn’t think I could do it.  “You’ll get it next time” is a better response than “maybe you shouldn’t do that anymore.”

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Rule 3: Don’t Expect the Ride to be the Same as a Ride with Your Normal Riding Buddies

You might not get to go fast. Up or down. Ride at their pace, and don’t make a big deal about it.  Good things happen when you actually ride WITH your partner instead of ahead of them. First, you might realize that riding with your partner is fun in a different way than riding with your buddies. Afterall, you keep them around in your life because you like hanging out with them, and this is just an extension of that. Second, your partner gets to learn from you.  They can watch you ride over things, they can see your body position, they can try the things you try. You might, if you’re not careful, create a monster of a rider, and be able to jump into the next category of couples: couples where both sides shred. Or maybe not, maybe they’ll never become someone who wants to ride every day. However, if they still want to ride with you even if it’s not “their thing”, it’s because they want to spend time with you, doing something you enjoy, which is pretty cool. Appreciate it. Save your hardest shredding for another ride.

Scenario B: Both of You Shred

Rule 1: Set the Ride Expectations

You both need to understand what you’re in for. Are we going for a fun, chill ride today? An all out hammerfest? Do we have structured training planned? Is this an exploration kind of day? If you don’t both know what to expect, you can often get into trouble. “Why do you keep ditching me today?!”, “Why aren’t you talking to me?”, “Why are you going so slow?”, “Why are we hiking up this damn hill?”  All of these phrases have gone through my head at some point on a ride with my husband, and most of them have come out of my mouth. Learn from my mistakes, and communicate ahead of time. Otherwise, someone usually ends up angry or sad or annoyed. Try to agree on what type of ride you want to do, but be ok if sometimes you can’t. At least if you know ahead of time,you can prepare yourself mentally.  Maybe you can compromise and do the ride they want to do after all, or maybe you can set up a spot to meet to have a snack together, or regroup for a fun downhill. You can go on a ride together, even if you’re not technically riding together for the whole ride.  

Rule 2: Be Patient

That’s right, this one still applies. Sometimes your partner is not going to be having a good day.  Sometimes one of you is going to break down and cry/yell on the trail. Sometimes one of you is going to pedal off in anger. Be patient when you’re not the one melting down, so that when it is you, they’re patient with you.

Rule 3: Don’t Compete

Men and Women are different. It’s science. If a guy and girl work out the exact same amount, the guy is still going to be physically stronger in almost every case. I don’t know how many times I’ve fallen into the trap of beating myself up because I’m not able to keep pace with my husband.  That being said, we all have different strengths, and there have also been times when my husband has gotten upset because I rode something he didn’t. Rather than comparing yourself to your partner, and letting it bother you when you’re not quite as good at something, try to be proud of your partner for what they can do and use their strengths as motivation for yourself.  Remind them how awesome they are, and then try to learn something from them.  

No matter who you are, always remember the most important rule of all:

Have Fun. You may not have fun every moment of every ride, but if you can’t finish a ride with a smile and high five, you’re doing it wrong.

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