As a professional cyclist, I spend a large majority of my existence on the road and, by default, hotel-hopping. I am currently in the middle of what I would call epic hotel-hopping all over the United States.
I’ll stop there for a second.
Are you reading this now and imagining that I’m living it up while on the road? Let’s get one thing clear from the start. Both male and female professionals will undoubtedly experience some real dives. Some of the funniest memories I have had with my teammates have come from staying in the worst hotels in Europe.
The only exception to this rule is Qatar. In Qatar, we are treated to five-star ritzy accommodation that we never went to leave. This is the only time in the season that this happens – for the women anyway.
All right – now that we’ve got that cleared up, on to the real topic at hand. Roommates. Hotel-hopping means sharing space with roommates. Teammate roommates to be exact. There are good roommates and there are bad roommates. I’m sure you’ve encountered both. I certainly have.
The team soigneur usually does a pretty good job at assigning roommates. Determining which riders should room together is not as simple as you might think. It’s almost a bit like matchmaking. Some riders even have preferences of who they will and will not room with on any given team. Me? I’m Switzerland, I’m neutral territory – unless I’m getting run down on tour. In which case, you do not want to room with me, because you will not sleep. Because I will be keeping you up with my snoring.
I was chatting with my friend Zak Dempster the other day. Zak rides for Bora-Argon18, and he, like me, is currently hotel-hopping while on tour. We came up with a few rules together that, when followed, allow for peaceful and even pleasant cohabitation. Well – as pleasant as it can be when you’re sharing a closet-sized space.
Rule #1: Separate the beds
If you’re not familiar with Euro beds, quite often you will enter your hotel room only to find two single beds pushed together into one double bed. The beds must be separated – even if it means moving the mattress to the floor.
If there isn’t any space on the floor, the hallway is fair game. If the hallway is full of other mattresses, or the mattress doesn’t fit because the hallway is so goddamn small, take that mattress down to reception or out on to the street.
We will share rooms with our teammates, but we will not share beds.
Rule #2: Share the make-shift drying racks
Our hotel rooms end up looking a bit like laundry rooms. Dirty kit, lingerie, smelly shoes and helmets dangle everywhere. We become the masters of finding things that can act as a hook for our wet clothes.
So, don’t be hogging every light shade, door nob, towel hook and clothing hanger in the bedroom. We’ve all got dirty laundry we need to hang out. Hopefully it’s semi-clean after the swanny has washed it. Be considerate. Leave a few hooks and wall paintings free for your roommate.
Rule #3: Keep the nakedness to a minimum
This is always a funny one in my opinion. Generally speaking, Europeans are more comfortable with their nakedness whilst Aussies, Kiwis and Americans (obviously Americans) are slightly more prudish.
I had a European roommate who slept naked and only wore socks. Why socks? I don’t know.
To account for our different comfort levels with nakedness, I propose no nakedness for anything more than 10 seconds. This doesn’t mean sitting in your tracksuit for the entirety of your stay at the dingy hotel, but I think most of us can agree being with a naked person that isn’t your bae and trying to hold eye contact whilst having a conversation, can be quite awkward.*
So, please keep the PJs on. If you need some naked time to stretch or whatever, go for it – when your roommate is at massage.
*Unless of course you are European, and nudity is as normal as having a coffee at 11pm
Side note: Pause for a moment and imagine with me what happens if rules one and three are broken at the same time.
Rule #4: No skyping at 1000 decibels to your significant other
Please. Seriously, I get it. You miss your partner. You haven’t seen them in awhile. If you’re Aussie, Kiwi or American, it could quite possibly mean months without physical contact and virtual connection is all you’ve got. I understand. I’ve been there.
This is why we have reception areas and hallways. Make use of them. Don’t be sitting on Skype, without headphones, for two hours talking, usually in a baby voice, about things that are only interesting to the two of you. Utilise your roommate’s massage time if you want to Skype in the room. Naked stretch and Skype all in one swoop.
Rule #5: Be a good mate. If you get water and the wi-fi code for yourself, snag one for your roommate, too
Quick side note to Australians: sometimes the quality of water isn’t the greatest in the countries we race in, so we rely heavily on bottled water. Even when water quality isn’t an issue, most of the time I just find bike riders to be snobs when it comes to water. I drink the water as long as it’s safe.
If you can’t drink the water, and there isn’t bottled water in the room, you’ll need to hunt a bottle down from the swanny. When you do this, be a good mate and grab two. No, not two for you, one for your roommate. This rule also applies to picking up the wi-fi code from the front desk – if the wi-fi codes are single-use only.
We’ve all been guilty of trying to land the wi-fi code first to secure our spot on the network. Wi-fi is key when on tour. What the hell are we meant to do in these hotel rooms without Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Whatsapp? Talk to one another? I don’t know about that …
Rule #6: Solve the big bed dilemma amicably
This is a common issue when sharing hotel rooms. You enter the room and discover one big bed and one small bed. There are many theories on who gets/deserves the big bed.
Here is some of the logic:
- Taller person gets it. They’re bigger. They need it. Move over shorty. In return, tall roommate will reach up and grab the bowl for short roommate.
- Best-placed rider on general classification gets it. They’re stronger. They need it. They will be winning the prize money for the team.
- Older person gets it. Let’s face it, they’re old. They need it more. Years in hotel beds will do that to you.
- First person to the room gets it. They’re faster. They’re craftier. They deserve it.
- Split it 50/50. With lots of days on tour, you’re guaranteed to have multiple nights with a big and small bed. Do as your mum told you: share and be nice. If sharing is a foreign concept to your roommate, then you’re well within your right to use one of the cards outlined above to claim the bigger bed.
Rule #7: Agree upon wake-up time and stick to it
Think bull in a China shop. Do not be that person. No making a racquet before the agreed upon wake-up time. If you are awake before your alarm because your legs hurt and everything hurts and you want to get up to eat one kilo of cereal before the mountain stage, you’ll need to follow this plan.
Yes, there’s a plan. Because I’m that person. I’m the one who wakes up before the agreed upon time. I would desperately love to sleep in until nine, and I will agree to that time when you suggest it, but it’s never going to happen. When my brain switches on, it’s game over. Which means I’m very experienced in sneaking out of the room like a ninja and leaving my roommate blissfully asleep.
Think of it this way. Pretend you’re a teenager trying to sneak out of the house. Get out of that room without making a sound that will alert the roommate. Do not draw the blinds. Do not have a shower. Just grab whatever clothes you can find in the dark.
Now go in to the hallway partially dressed. This is where you pull on your sneakers, and undoubtedly bump into a family walking past who give you the “what the?” look. Then head to breakfast to eat your one kilo of cereal.
You might not look your best, but you know why. It’s because you care for your roommate and you respect the rules. That’s roommate love right there.
And hey, who knows, that roommate may win the race that day because you let them get that extra hour of sleep.
Loren Rowney is a professional rider for Velocio-SRAM. With the team since its inception (as Specialized-lululemon), the South-African born Australian lives in Girona, Spain during the European cycling season.