The joy of … cycling |

The joy of … cycling

Roger Marolt

Men and women are different. Activities like bicycling make this very apparent. Failing to recognize it may leave riding couples frustrated and disappointed when they head out on the trails. On the other hand, since both men and women do enjoy it, and Aspen is a bikers’ town, good cycling can play an important role in maintaining a healthy, long-lasting relationship here. My wife put cycling with a partner into perspective. She noted that, while I always appear eager for a ride, it takes a little more effort for her to get ready. She enjoys riding when she’s out there, but getting motivated to start pedaling up the side of a mountain at the end of a long, hard day can be daunting. Being an avid cyclist and having been married for thirteen years, I’ve learned a few things that might help committed couples to get out riding more often with greater enjoyment when they do. Here’s my male perspective on the subject:First of all, understand that men usually don’t need as much time to get geared up for a ride. We’re always ready to jump on and go at a moment’s notice. Women need to prepare a little more than that. Many like to talk about the ride first. For them, that’s part of the fun.It doesn’t hurt to plant the seeds for a ride early, either. A good time to mention how nice a ride would feel later in the evening is over a cup of coffee in the morning. A phone call in the middle of the day or a conspicuously placed note suggesting the idea are unexpected niceties that help to get her in the mood, too. After that, don’t skimp on the pre-ride tune-up. Most men inflate their tubes and are ready to roll. Women may need a little extra attention first. Start by looking over her equipment and assure her that everything looks nice and tight. Gently run your hands over the entire frame giving special attention to the critical components. Take the time to see that her chain and gears are well lubed before starting off. It takes time to do all of this properly. Don’t be impatient. Making sure that everything is running smoothly will pay off down the road. Only when you are both ready is it time to get in the saddle and start pumping. Even then, it’s important to start slowly, very slowly. Enjoy the moment. The last thing you want to do now is get in a hurry. Although you will undoubtedly feel fresh at this point, resist the urge to sprint. There’s nothing worse than going like crazy right out of the chute, immediately working up a leg burning, lung searing, anaerobic sweat only to explode a few miles down the trail. It doesn’t get any worse than to have nothing left only to look back and realize that you’ve completely left her behind and she’s not even loose yet.Be adventuresome, too. Resist picking the same old trail because you’re comfortable with it. Try new routes that you’re not sure of. Talk about it. Look over some maps. Offer to give and take directions. Yes, there may be some technical spots that make you a bit uncomfortable, but variety is a big part of the excitement in cycling. She’ll appreciate it even more if you trade off choosing the trails. There’s nothing like exploring a new favorite together.Finally, some men have a tendency to get hung up on their own gear. The fact is that women don’t really care what you’re riding. If you’re doing it right, it doesn’t matter if you have an old hard-tail Stump Jumper or a fully suspended, long-travel unit. A skilled and attentive rider can make a unicycle work. Like Lance said, it’s not about the bike. Then, when everything is set, there’s nothing better than the ride itself. You start out gently, taking plenty of time to let your bodies get warm and loose. Each of you adjusts your pace to keep close to the other. Gradually your heart rate increases and your breathing gets a little labored. Within a few minutes you break into a gentle sweat. This is really good. The trail begins to level off now and you find a rhythm as it winds through the forest and rolls along the riverbed. As you settle into your comfort zones, without speaking, the tempo naturally increases. You’re gliding along almost effortlessly.Suddenly you feel the terrain shift ever so slightly upwards. Your body tenses a little. Up ahead, you get your first glimpse of the top of the climb. You’re edging onto the steepest part now, but the summit is ever so close. As your effort increases, your muscles begin to ache in that way that is so satisfying.You look at each other, breathing hard. You encourage each other; you’re getting nearer. It’s time to finish the climb. There’s no holding back! You push harder. She responds and exerts a little more. You get a little ahead and then slow just a tad to let her catch up. You both smile and start sprinting the last few yards together! Then, you’re there. You’re at the summit! It’s suddenly quiet as you stop to take it all in. The endorphins surge through your body as your pulse slows. You catch your breath and can’t imagine a better feeling in the entire world. To share this with the one person you love most is as special as it gets.After a few moments relishing the experience, it’s time for the descent. Here it is important to resist the urge to just let your hands off the brakes and rip back down the trail, into the shower, and kick back for some well earned relaxation. Many women will tell you that the ride is only half over for them at this point. The worst thing you can do is to leave them stranded up at the top, left to find their own way down. Now is not the time to race home. Rather, it is a time to coast lazily along; to talk about the ride, the day, and all of the wonderful things you have experienced together. It’s an opportunity to look at the wildflowers you missed on the way up. Is it any wonder that we love to cycle?. Roger Marolt is currently working on a column about couples skiing together for this winter. Give him your suggestions at

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