Swipe right: Tinder tips for cyclists

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“What do you want your bio to read?” my friend asked me at bar a few months ago. I nervously entrusted him with my phone and he was setting up my first Tinder profile, tisking away as he was scrolling through my photo library looking for a photo in which I’m not wearing a helmet, lycra or any other bike-related apparel.

“Must. Love. Bikes,” I responded, a half-joke that was met with an eye roll.

Apparently I was doing Tinder all wrong.

But what did I know? A decade has gone by since I was last single, and a lot has changed since then. Meeting people organically is rare nowadays, especially if you live in a tech-obsessed city such as Seattle and spend all your free time in the saddle. So I reluctantly agreed to enter the dating app world and “play Tinder.”

“You can only have one bike-y picture,” my friend advised (which I have since totally ignored). “And you have to swipe right occasionally!”

And so my Tinder experiment began.

I have since made all the rookie mistakes: I have “super liked” people I meant to “X” and vice versa, left-swiped through all of Seattle’s profiles until a “There Is No One New Around You” notice popped up, used terrible opening lines on people, and shown up to a first date in lycra. But I’ve also had some fun dates, and have come to realise that the stigma surrounding online dating is quickly disappearing and it’s actually an interesting way to meet people outside your usual social circles.

So whether you’re using Tinder, Bumble, Match, OkCupid, or any other of the dozens of dating apps out there, here are some best practices to help ease other cyclists into the dating app world.

Dating App Tips for Cyclists

While primarily used for dating, apps like Tinder, Bumble, OKCupid, and the like can be used for whatever you want it to be – whether it’s to make new friends, to find romance, to set up a one night hook-up, or even to find new riding buddies. They are simply tools that connect people faster than chance encounters would.

For some, like retired pro cyclist and Ella columnist Loren Rowney, it can lead to a long-term relationship. For others, it can be a way to meet new people in a new place.

“It was all a bit of a joke. Not taking it serious,” said Rowney. “I didn’t expect to meet the love of my life…it just happened.”

Cycling journalist Hannah Weinberger started using Tinder to meet people in new places.

“I’ve made some really great platonic friends on dating apps while living in places with few ‘young people,’” she said. “When I first moved to Emmaus, Pennsylvania, where I live now, I hung out with someone who was really into bike touring and offered to show me a fun local road route. It was a great way to explore my new stomping grounds.”

A picture is worth a thousand swipes

With that said, your success on most of the apps hinges on your photos. Users tend to “like” other users simply based on whether they find the other person attractive in their photos. This instant and superficial like or dislike reaction is what psychologists call “thin-slicing,” the ability to make very quick and surprisingly accurate extrapolations about an individual with minimal amounts of information.

In other words, how you choose to present yourself in your photos is hugely important as it tells volumes. Posting a bunch of up-close selfies, for example, is a lot less insightful and/or interesting as photos in which you’re riding, hiking, working in a lab coat, or cuddling with your dog.

Tinder has an in-house sociologist who specifically looks at how people present themselves, swiping patterns, and which photos work best. Those that don’t work include photos where the subject is:

  • Not smiling
  • Covering their face
  • In a group of people
  • Wearing a hat (or helmet)
  • Wearing any kind of glasses

Other no-no’s:

  • Blurry pictures
  • No mirror selfies
  • No pictures in underwear
  • No children by themselves. There must be an adult in the picture with them. Plus, if they’re not your children, why even have them on the app?
  • No watermarks or text overlay

The takeaway? A few bike-related photos are okay, as it shows your hobby, or lifestyle. But this is not Instagram; best to leave your #BAAW, #Kitgrid, and #foreverbutts photos off the dating apps.

Unless…you’re looking for a fellow cyclist.

All the Tinder-using cyclists I spoke with had somewhere between two to five cycling photos, and only six photos are shown on the app.

The most popular photos in the Tinder-verse, however, are ones that feature cute animals. So maybe try a cute animal and a bike? Instant hit.

A note about your bio

The experts say that short and witty are key to a successful bio. Leaving the bio blank or using emojis only are generally not as successful.

But should you mention bikes?

That depends on what you’re looking for in the other person. Are you looking for a cyclist specifically? Or more generally, someone who’s active and enjoys the outdoors?

“If they take the time to look through my photos, they’ll catch on that I’m a cyclist,” Weinberger said. “But if I ended up dating someone, they’d probably be a person interested in things that are bike-adjacent: sustainability, fitness, spending time outside, etc.

“I’ve only gotten into cycling myself over the past two years (as a regular bike commuter, road-cyclist-for-fun-and-fitness, and chaotic mountain biker), so I’d love to spend time with someone who encourages that passion, and is excited to learn more about it with me. They don’t need to share it already.”

Of course, looking specifically for an avid cyclist will dwindle the size of your pool.

“How much you have embraced cycling as a lifestyle may seriously impact the type of people you attract,” warned David Bartel from Winnipeg. “For example, I’ve run into a number of women who have no interest in dating someone in his now late 30s who doesn’t own a car and chooses to bike everywhere, especially in a city like Winnipeg which is known for its rather epic winters. I would certainly like to find someone that enjoys bikes and their various forms as much as I do, but the cycling community here is rather small, so I mostly hope for someone else who is reasonably active.”

Daniel Ostanek, a 26-year-old cyclist from the UK — and CyclingTips contributor — echoed Bartel’s concern about a small dating pool.

“My bio says ‘I write about cycling,’ which, it turns out, is kinda vague (people don’t get pro cycling right away, obviously),” he said, adding that he’d like to find someone passionate about cycling, but that it would be “narrowing down things an awful lot.”

“It’s fine [if they are] vaguely interested, or at least something more than dismissive.”

Meanwhile Sean McGraw, a 33-year-old cyclist from Seattle, who also works in the bike industry, is blatant about the role cycling plays in all areas of his life. His photos are all cycling related in one shape or form, be it while racing or enjoying a post-ride beer. His bio even promises he will automatically swipe right if your profile mentions bikes.

“I just spend so much time in all areas of [the cycling world], it’s something that is so ingrained in my life that it matters if the person I want to date is into bikes, too,” he explained.

But when it comes to the actual first date, McGraw did offer this tip: “Yes, cycling is a huge part of our lives, and we can talk about it all the time, but I try and actively not talk about it unless I get direct questions about it.”

Going on a ride with your Tinder date — good idea, or bad idea?

Going for a ride with your online match fully depends on the person you’re meeting. It sounds like the perfect date, but be aware that it could quickly turn into a nightmare. Communication is key.

If you do decide to go on a ride, be sure to set ride expectations ahead of time. You don’t want to be the one showing up in full lycra and your race kit while he/she rocks up in jeans on a townie.

And remember the basics:

– No half wheeling.
– No KOM hunting, unless that was previously discussed.
– No giving unrequested advice
– No talk about race weight
– If you’re the one who planned the route, call out turns and obstacles well in advance

Don’t take it too seriously

“Go on Tinder to meet people and have a bit of fun. It’s an awesome way to meet people, especially when you move around a lot,” encouraged Rowney. “Don’t take it too seriously, and just be open to whatever happens. You never know who you might meet!”


Have you tried Tinder? How did it go for you? Share your tips in the comments below.

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