A push on a climb: Help or hindrance?

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Winding my way up the last climb near the end of Amy’s Gran Fondo a couple of months ago I passed a woman being pushed up the final hill by a steady-handed male rider. She was quiet, hunched over, exhausted and clearly concentrating on just making it. After more than 100 kilometres on the bike she looked to desperately need that helping hand to make it through to the end. I couldn’t help but smile and think “oohhh, isn’t that sweet.” In that space it was a picture of meaningful, caring support.

It reminded me of one of my favourite family photos, a picture of my husband riding along pushing my then five-year old son. His little legs just wouldn’t carry him to the end of this epic adventure with the family, no matter how determined he was to try and make them. It exemplified how every one of us could try and achieve something that may seem a little out of reach, because if we didn’t quite make it on our own we had each other to fall back on and help us through that last tough bit.

So why, with all these positive associations, is it that when my partner joked about pushing me up a hill I answered with a stream of expletives and a threat to give him a push off his bike if he came anywhere near me?

I’ve spent more than my fair share of time being the one struggling to hang on the back of a group of faster riders but I absolutely hate the thought of being pushed up a hill. For a start a push implies I’m not up to doing it on my own and secondly, it’s the challenge and satisfaction of having got there under my own steam that is the appeal of doing it.

Giving a push on a climb seems a bit like asking someone to listen to this great riddle and then telling them the answer before they have had a chance to think about the solution – it just completely undermines the reason why it is good in the first place. To me the whole point of going up a mountain is to earn that peak with every last agonising pedal stroke.

What may seem a helping hand to one person can be a back-handed insult or ride-spoiling interference to another. So by all means give your struggling child, your best buddy or that riding mate who is blatantly yelling out “for god’s sake will someone give me a push”, a bit of extra help. But there are times when perhaps you should think twice.

There are just some situations that if you even think about pushing you may be asking for a tongue lashing. 

Here’s my list of push-at-your-peril circumstances:

You didn’t ask. Always, always, always ask if the person actually wants a push. It’s just the right thing to do, even if you know them really well. What if they are desperately close to beating a personal best they have been fighting to get for the last six months? With that one push you have just completely blown it, because they’ll never know it they got there because they gritted their teeth and went for it or because you gave them a shove.

You think you have your pushing technique sorted but… I have seen a couple of push attempts almost end in disaster so don’t try and push someone up a hill unless you really know you can pull it off. Ending up on the ground with an already struggling rider because you couldn’t hold a steady line as you gave a push isn’t going to win you much thanks.

You don’t know them. Some people aren’t going to mind a push, some people are going to love you for it, but some people may take it as a patronising insult. If you don’t know them well enough to know which camp they fit into maybe you don’t know them well enough to push.

You don’t know them, you haven’t asked, they are a woman and you are a bloke. Okay, for most readers I probably shouldn’t have to explain this one but judging from a couple of recent conversations there are some people who don’t quite get it. So, to put it simply, no matter how honourable the intentions, most women I know don’t want some strange man just coming up and putting their hand on or near their backside. It may be meant as a kind gesture, but it can be just plain creepy.

You do know them and you should know better. There are some types of people that just aren’t going to like being pushed, ever. I’d call them determined, because I’m one of them, however others might prefer to call us stubborn. They are the people who would rather get off and walk than get a push up a hill because even if no one else knows they got a push, they will.

Then there are those who hate to admit to any frailty in public, so just don’t push them if anyone is looking. And another group is those who wobble every time they look around on the bike; definitely don’t push them unless of course you feel like its about time you fell off your bike.

Do you like or loathe a push? Or are you the one doing the pushing? Have you seen any other push-at-your-peril situations?