When you have a passion for something, it’s only natural to want to share it with the person you love. For some couples, sharing a love of cycling is as easy as breathing. But figuring out how to make it happen on a daily basis takes some effort, and everybody has to find the solution that works for them. For this Valentine’s Day, we thought we’d talk to some of the women we know whose love for cycling is a joint passion with their significant other.
Taking Life in Tandem
Jan Proctor takes couples riding to the pro level: Tandem riding. She started racing bikes in the mid-eighties, when she joined what was then called the Lake Sunapee Bike Club, in Sunapee, New Hampshire. As a rookie, she got coaching tips from some of the guys on the team. One guy in particular was Jimmy Proctor, who eventually started asking Jan on “sports dates,” aka bike rides together. That turned into “real” dates around 1988. In 1989, they bought their first tandem bicycle. They’ve been together as cyclists and partners ever since.
Tandem riding is “a great equalizer. Sometimes he's been stronger, sometimes I have been, but you can both ride together,” says Jan. “Also, if you’re the stoker, you need to totally trust your captain, and not freak out. We've hit 60 miles per hour on that bike, gone down crazy twisty roads, and my job is to stay relaxed.”
The key to success in tandem riding is great communication (“Be clear, be kind, and accept what your partner is saying”) — and knowing your limits. “We tried racing tandem together only once. We had at least three big arguments in one 50 mile race. We both did a fair amount of tandem racing after that, but with different people.”
For more info about tandem riding, check out http://www.tandemseast.com/index.html and http://www.easterntandemrally.org/wp/, which organizes an annual group tandem ride. This year’s ride is in Lynfield, Massachusetts.
A Family Affair
Sometimes sharing your passion for cycling means including the whole family, and nobody manages that feat with such success like Alix Norris. Alix started riding when she met her future husband Jesse, who raced road and mountain bikes for the Virginia Tech team. He invited Alix on a “great” ride “down to the river,” which turned out to be “a lot of descending at first, and then about three thousand feet of climbing back up” on a too-small borrowed bike with beartrap pedals. But Alix was hooked by the feeling of freedom and exploration (not to mention the chance to spend time with Jesse). She joined the road racing team the next year.
After their first child, Annabelle, came along, Alix and Jesse became avid cyclocross racers. “Annabelle came along for the ride,” says Alix. “It never seemed like a burden having her there; just one more person to pack for!” And when baby number two, Anderson, joined the family, he too got swept up in the family activities.
Alix and Jesse have been creative in finding ways to ride and train and compete while raising a young family. In addition to creating a fun family culture of cycling and outdoor adventures that include the kids, they’ve learned to find the moments when they can train or ride solo. Early mornings are a go-to choice for a lot of athletes, but Alix and Jesse also each have their own night to join local group rides. Alix gets Tuesdays and Jesse gets Wednesdays. Lunchtimes proved a great time to sneak in couples rides. For Alix and Jesse, the best “date” is a ride.
Romantic Getaway -- on Two Wheels
Kayla and Barney Brannen first met on a group ride in 2010 and rode together as friends for a few years before eventually tying the knot in 2014.
Spending time together riding has always been a priority. “Shared experience is so special,” Kayla says. “To see the same beautiful scenery together and physically push ourselves together always make us feel connected with each other.”
As goal-oriented racers who like to push their limits, Kayla and Barney can be competitive with each other. “We seem to mostly have a good time razzing each other, but every once in a while it goes too far.” But supporting each other as cyclists (and in general) is important to them as a couple. “At the end of the day, we’re a coupla amateur racers so remembering to have fun on the bikes together is important.”
Kayla and Barney make travel a regular part of their cycling life. They’ve used tour organizers like Thomson Bike Tours and Destination Cycling to help them plan and execute some memorable trips to destinations such as Italy, France, Mallorca, and most recently, Colombia. “The amount of the world we have seen together and the mountains we’ve pedaled over is so amazing. I am grateful for the experiences we’ve shared together on our bikes.”