This weekend, halfway up a long, steep climb, I overtook a woman who was pushing a rather old and heavy mountain bike up the hill. She was out of breath, fed up and appeared to be on her own – but I knew, from experience, who would be waiting at the top.
And sure enough, there he was: her other half.
Leaning on his top of the range bike and zipping up his wicking top to ward off the hypothermia that he clearly feared could strike him as a result of having to wait so long.
“Well done" he said as I passed him, a comment delivered with the despair of a man who knew he’d made 'A Terrible Mistake' in suggesting to his OH that a mountain bike ride would be a nice thing to do on this lovely sunny morning.
It had clearly all gone horribly wrong, and they were only half a mile from the car park.
It’s an all too familiar scenario: the guy that rides a lot cycling with his girlfriend who doesn’t (yet!), about to have a blazing row that'll ruin both the ride and the weekend because (more than likely) he’s gone off too fast.
Believe me, I have been there.
My OH is a great rider with a lot of experience - but not so much patience. I, meanwhile, cannot deny being ‘sensitive’.
As a result when I started riding - and despite what he felt to be his very best efforts to encourage me - countless rides morphed into a humiliation fest of tears and tantrums (mine, not his).
On my first ride, ten years ago, he took me along a rock-strewn track that was a bit unpredictable and unforgiving for a novice rider.
“How do I get over the stones?" I asked.“Depends on the stone," came the not terribly helpful response as he hammered away into the distance.
Since then our rides have been littered with equally choice comments:
- "That drop is really easy!" said while picking me up after I’d fallen down it
- "I hope you haven’t damaged the derailleur," while picking me and the bike up from the bottom of a ditch
- "I’m just going to do this Strava segment," while disappearing for half an hour
- and "that woman just did the roll-up that you’re really scared off," while pointing to a woman who also happened to be REALLY HOT!
One time he stopped at the bottom of a hill to take a phone call. Spying my chance to get to the top before him, I attacked the hill like Marianne Vos.
Metres from the top I was gasping for air, trying not to vomit and sweating like a boil-in-the-bag cod fillet when, apparently effortlessly, he caught me up: “It’s turned a bit chilly, hasn’t it?" he said as he sailed past, zipping his top up and completely oblivious to my efforts.
Many is the time I have felt tears of humiliation well up in my eyes, along with an overwhelming urge to lay the bike on the ground and start the long walk back to the car park and a new hobby – non-competitive knitting for instance.
Luckily, the adrenalin kicks in and instead I am filled with defiant rage. This is great for my riding - but not so good for romance.
To be fair, from the man’s perspective a mountain bike ride is the perfect opportunity to demonstrate how Alpha-fantastic he is. After all, bagging a KOM is just a short evolutionary step from beating all the other hunter-gatherers to the deer that he can drag home for dinner.
What hope is there for the modern man if his girlfriend and her carbon fibre Bronson gets there first? It’s not that men don’t want us to do well – they just want us to notice how well they’re doing too.
The trouble is its difficult to notice anything when you’re terrified, knackered and only too aware that your hair looks a bit rubbish under your cycling helmet while all the other female riders seem to be whooshing past and looking great in lycra.
So, gentlemen, here’s five little snippets of advice to think about when taking your girlfriend mountain biking. Here's how to make a ride with a newbie a short cut to the bedroom, and not the doghouse.
Five tips on how to take yout girlfriend mountain biking for a harmonious ride
- Treat your ride like great sex: take your time, pay her lots of attention and finish while you’re both having a great time
- Share your equipment. If you’re riding a carbon fibre **** rocket and she’s aboard your ancient hardtail (the one with the gears that don’t really work and a slow puncture) it's little wonder she’s lagging behind. If adjustments will allow, swap
- Don’t wait at the top of a climb or bottom of a trail: ride it with her. Following an experienced rider is a great way for her to learn. Yes, other riders will think you’re slow. Get over it.
- Avoid showing off, patronising comments and disappearing over the horizon, unless you want her to dump you (and if you do, believe me there are easier ways of getting her to do this - but that’s another post).
- Take an extra jumper.
DISCLAIMER: To those guys about to comment something along the lines of ‘My girlfriend tears up the trails, eats fear for breakfast and shags like a rabbit on Viagra at the top of every climb’ - I would like to point out that I am absolutely aware that the above post does not apply to all couples. And I don’t believe you.
[ED: And if you liked that, you might enjoy this classic video]
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