Cycoupling: the art of riding in a couple

by Chloe Hosking


I don’t care who you are — Michelle and Barack Obama, Kim and Kanye (Kimye), Bec and Leyton Hewitt — if you have donned lycra and gone riding with your significant other, you have, at some point or another, returned home separately. Not by choice, of course, but because you got into a raging argument.

Someone half-wheeled someone else, someone rode too fast or too slow, someone looked like they were riding too easy while the other was struggling, someone went the wrong direction, someone almost crashed into someone else. You get my point.

Cycoupling can challenge even the strongest relationships. I’m not sure Michelle and Barack Obama have even been cycling together, but I am sure a Sunday cycle could cause tension in even the White House. Move over, Russia!

There is a reason the word cycoupling sounds like cyclops. Because if you ride with your partner, you run the risk of someone gouging someone else’s eye out. To avoid this somewhat gruesome scenario I offer you the do’s and don’ts of riding in a couple:

1. Be meticulous in your route and terrain description.

My former teammate and member of my trouple (three person couple), Julie Leth, says there is nothing worse than being told, ‘it’s flat from here’ and then hitting a hill. Even if it’s a speed bump. You lied. I’m tired. And I’m not riding up that hill.

So, pretend you’re Sherlock Holmes and pay attention to details. My best advice is to err on the side of caution and always add a few kilometres or gradient degrees to what you actually think it might be.

2. Pay attention to how the other person is feeling.

Administering an oral survey disguised as questions about your partners well-being at the beginning, middle, and end of your ride could help you determine the other person’s level of fatigue.

“How are you feeling?” “How did you sleep last night?” “On a scale of one to ten how cute do you find puppy golden retrievers?” If you deduct they are in fact tired offer a bar, offer a coffee stop, offer your back wheel, offer your left leg.

Importantly, do not deviate from the fastest way home. If you are on Pall Mall and you need to go to Old Kent Road do not pass go and collect $200. You turn your little scotty dog around and trot backwards on the board.

3. Do not half-wheel.

This is, of course, not exclusive to riding in a couple. No one likes a half-wheeler, but while your mates may complain about you at the coffee shop, they can’t kick you out of your home. As such, some may argue the stakes are a lot higher if you dare to half-wheel while cycoupling.

A good indication to determine whether or not you are half-wheeling is if you have to turn your head more than 90° to have a conversation with the person next to you.

If you have to turn your whole body you might as well ride alone for two main reasons:

a) you are riding in front of and not with your riding companion; and
b) if we’re being honest, it’s probably best you start getting use to being alone anyway. Chances are you will be single by the end of the ride.

4. Gauge your level of effort to match your partner’s.

If you are the stronger rider in the pair it is important not to appear so. It is the opposite of acting sober when you’re on your seventh drink. If your partner is struggling up a climb, labouring at 60 cadence, do not be spinning like Chris Froome next to them. Put it in a bigger gear and grind it out. Who cares about your knees? At that point in time, definitely not your partner.

5. Don’t ride together.

If you have attempted to follow steps one through four and still fail to return home together then this may be your best option.

Humour aside, I’ve been mulling over this post for a while. Mainly because my experience of cycling couples has been largely as that of an observer. My sister will tell you that I like to be better than the people I love at things; I stopped little athletics when I was younger and went in search of other, more obscure sports so I could be better than my sister. Given this endearing personality trait, dating a male cyclist obviously raises a few issues. One of them being, and I’m not ashamed to admit it, as the general law of science goes men are stronger than women. Another major issue is because they usually have smaller legs than me and that just won’t do.

But I have conducted a significant amount of research on this particular topic. My teammates are always willing to field my abstract questions, and conveniently for me (and you), the majority of them have partners who they ride with. What’s more, my boyfriend is currently with me on a four week training camp in Sierra Nevada, if that’s not dedication to the (research) cause then I don’t know what is!

Now that you are appropriately armed with the golden rules of riding in a couple, I encourage you to get out there with your significant other because couples who cycle together, stay together*.

* This is an urban myth and I accept no responsibility if it is not true.

Chloe Hosking is a professional cyclist riding for WiggleHigh5. The Australian found cycling as a pre-teen and spent her early years on the bike riding around Canberra with her dad. Chloe took an untraditional path to Europe, self-funding trips to ride with composite teams and club teams at international races. She hopes that her success inspires other Australian women to recognize the multiple pathways to European racing.

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