How to Talk to Your Partner About Bike Touring
Several years ago, I came home from work to an enthusiastic Russ. ‘We’re going bike touring!’ he excitedly proclaimed. ‘Uh…’ I thought, ‘that really doesn’t sound like fun.’
When I was growing up, my family would go backpacking for summer vacation. A week’s worth of food and gear on our backs, we would hike into one of Oregon’s many backcountry lakes to camp and fish and swim. When I was 20, I lived in Spain as part of a study-abroad program. I spent my non-school hours roaming around the small streets of the city, reveling in a culture that was so fascinatingly new to me. Combine that background with the fact that I’m fiercely independent and you would think that I had been hard-wired for bike touring. The truth, however, is that it took some creative convincing on Russ’ part to get me on board.
At the first mention, I promptly shot down Russ’ great idea. Who wants to put a lot of weight on a bicycle and work so hard to move so slowly, to be dirty for long stretches of time, to limit the pairs of shoes you can wear? Sure, I was commuting to work by bike and grocery shopping by bike, but this whole travel by bike thing sounded exhausting and difficult – and not really the direction I thought I wanted my life to take.
A few days later, after getting some much-needed advice from a bike touring friend, Russ flashed me his adorable smile and eased into his proposition… ‘What if we took the train up to wine country, and we got a cute little hotel room… We could leave all of our stuff in the room and just ride around the countryside during the day… It’ll be quiet and pretty and we can taste wine and have picnics of bread and cheese… It’ll be just like we’re in France!’
I still didn’t like the idea of bike touring, but what girl can turn down her boyfriend going to such lengths to take her on a trip that would be like going to France? ‘Okay,’ I said, ‘If you make all the reservations and plan everything, I will go.’
And a few weeks later, we went. And it was sort of a comedy of errors. Just about everything that could go wrong and convince me that bike touring was terrible, happened. It was the coldest weekend on record in central California. Restaurants were closed because their pipes had frozen and burst. The train was hours late, so we arrived after dark, exhausted and cold. Neither of us knew how to pack, so I had a basket on my handlebars, with a hairdryer in it.
But we did go wine tasting. And we did eat picnics of bread and cheese. And when the sun came out and it was just us on country roads, talking to cows and sheep, it was glorious. Somehow, in spite of myself, I fell in love.
We’ve met so many people who love the idea of bike touring and really want to travel on their bike – and lament that their partner isn’t as interested as they are. I may be a hard-core bike traveler now, but I still completely understand that hesitation and anxiety of being the partner who doesn’t want to go. And I believe it all comes down to how you sell it.
When Russ first pitched the idea, my head swam with ideas of not showering and being covered in mosquitoes and eating gross freeze-dried foods. In essence, I thought of the very worst things that could possibly happen. As soon as he reframed the idea, and met me where I was, it turned into something that wasn’t as terrifying.
When you say ‘bike touring,’ most people immediately think of spending months crossing the country, in less-than-romantic conditions. It’s like a moving bachelor pad – unkempt, haphazard, full of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. But, in my experience, bike touring can be so much more than this stereotypical image.
Don’t want to camp? Stay in a motel or a B&B. Don’t want to cook? Go places where there are restaurants and eat out. Don’t want to go for weeks on end? Start small and just go for a night or two. If you’re hoping to convince your partner to go with you, ease into it. Call it bike travel or a bike vacation. Liken it to another great experience you’ve already had, or something you’ve always wanted to do together. Plan a themed trip around a common interest – wine tasting, food, architecture, bird-watching. Romanticize it somehow – no kids, no pets, no kitchen to clean, no yard to mow. Promise to ride slower, carry more of the gear, cook an elaborate meal. Offer to take care of all of the details, so that your partner just has to choose his/her clothes and show up.
One of the things that I’ve learned about bike touring is that it’s an amazing thing to do with your partner. You experience incredible moments together, you spend hours talking and connecting as you ride down the road. But just like being in a relationship, it has to be something you do together, and you have to meet each other in a comfortable space. Maybe that means that bike touring together looks completely different than bike touring by yourself. Maybe it means that your tour with your partner looks completely different from my tour with my partner. And maybe that’s the point. Bike touring with your partner is a collaboration, a way of experiencing your lives together in a new way. The only thing it ‘should’ be is whatever works best for you and your partner, whatever makes you both enjoy the experience and want to do it again.
So rethink your pitch. What does your partner worry about when you’ve suggested the idea before? How can you alleviate the nervousness and create a deeply-memorable and enjoyable trip? Try again, do it differently and, if you need to, tell your partner that I wasn’t convinced at first either.
Robert March 14, 2011 at 10:31 am
Can my pitch just involve sending my partner this link?
Jessica March 14, 2011 at 10:32 am
I must be a smooth talker, because less than one month into knowing me, my girlfriend pretty much invited herself on my planned bike tour.
It worked out for the best, though– she’s much more meticulous about the money issue than I am! I was pretty much just like, “Yay bike tour! I want to go anywhere!” Almost a year since she invited herself, and we’re planning on launching this September– couldn’t be happier.
Craig March 14, 2011 at 10:51 am
I was lucky that my wife and I arrived at the decision mutually to give bike touring a try. We have done many weekend and 3 or 4 day trips, several week long tours and this past October a 2 week trip on the C&O Canal Path and great Allegheny Passage. Our goal is to take off cross country when I retire in 3 to 4 years but until then we plan to do many short term tours.
We would love for you guys to come through St. Louis on your next tour. We have many exciting things happening here in relation to cycling, bikeable/walkable legislation, new bicycle commuting center, etc.
April March 14, 2011 at 12:07 pm
When I started dating Shawn, I remember thinking, “ooh, I’ll get to try bike touring!”
I’d gone on exactly one overnight trip (to a cabin!) at that point, with a bunch of friends that didn’t include Shawn. And as we rode by a historical marker, a friend said, “Yeah, if Shawn was here, he’d want to stop and read it, even if he’d already seen it,” and I remember thinking, I am traveling with the wrong people, ’cause that’s what I’d do given a choice!
So while Shawn didn’t have to talk me into trying it, he did end up playing cheerleader on a number of occasions, because I had a heavy and badly-geared bicycle to start with. Also, I’m terrible with logistics and directions, and that’s what Shawn excels in, so Shawn always does that part. Which is fine by me!
We did a bunch of touring last year, and I can’t wait to try longer trips this year. Our longest trip last year, of nine days, was so awesome.
Kerry March 14, 2011 at 5:24 pm
I’m not sure how we came up with the idea to bike tour… I think it may have been his idea, but he sold it to me in a way that made it seem like it was my idea too. We put over 10,000 km on our bikes after two summers of touring. We started in Canada and the US the first summer to get the hang of it. The second summer we cycled around Europe. It was a lot of fun and definately a unique trip. We got lost quite often and have many helpful people to thank for helping us along the way.
Devorah Zamansky March 14, 2011 at 5:35 pm
Now try convincing a spouse AND two kids … it is possible and the end result is a lot of fun.
Marcus March 14, 2011 at 7:16 pm
Having never toured myself, I’ve been thinking I’d LOVE to tour France. Knowing that wouldn’t work, I floated the idea to my wife of touring parts of Ireland. Critical to the story is to know that she’s an adopted daughter, and only recently learned that she’s got Irish ancestry! This summer, we’re starting small, doing a 5 day credit card tour in Michigan (Gaylord to Mackinaw along with our 3 kids) to see how we like it. So far, all she’s ruled out is camping. If all goes according to plan, we’ll be in Ireland next summer!
Jason March 14, 2011 at 7:40 pm
Now you need an article on how to find and keep a partner.
John March 14, 2011 at 8:37 pm
My girl won’t bike more than a few miles, but she has offered to do SAG for me. Given a few more years, a recumbent for her and some vacation it may yet happen…but until then all I can do is recount my mini-tour adventures and hope that it sinks in.
bran March 15, 2011 at 5:42 pm
Heh, after reading this I keep hearing my wife say to start small. It is the idea that my son wants to cross Canada with his old man on recumbent trikes. Maybe I will read this a few times and get her to try a weekend away with cc etc… And maybe when we retire ….the whole enchilada.
Russ March 15, 2011 at 6:18 pm
@Bran Small is a good way to start. I don’t think we would have gone on our long trip with out the 20 or so smaller trips. Sometimes as long as just overnight at a B&B. Short trips are “gateway” tours to longer tours 🙂
mari March 16, 2011 at 1:09 pm
What a great story! If I were in better shape (okay, that’s making me think about my new year’s resolutions…) I would suggest this to my husband – he’s the one who would likely be reluctant. I’m sure we could easily find a good seat for our toddler daughter and do a day or two of biking. We drove around Santa Barbara wine country for our fifth anniversary and I’d love to go back on bikes!
anon March 16, 2011 at 1:18 pm
Trish March 16, 2011 at 3:50 pm
Can your partner call my partner? My husband has no interest in doing this, saying it’s ‘dangerous’ to bike on the roads. I am longing for an adventure like this.
stasia March 18, 2011 at 10:36 pm
Hm. The idea of starting small makes so much sense! Crazy that I’ve never really thought of that before–instead I’ve been working so hard to convince my partner that weeks at a time really IS fun and enjoyable! (Needless to say, it hasn’t worked very well.)
I’m going to have to take your advice into account and start over on my getting-him-to-come-with-me endeavors:) Thanks for the inspiration!
heather March 21, 2011 at 11:52 am
YES! It’s amazing what a little PR will do. Thank you for tackling the topic.
the never ending bike date: bike touring for two « Simply Bike March 31, 2011 at 1:58 pm
[…] fact, Laura just wrote a recent post on How To Talk To Your Partner About Bike Touring, admitting that she had to be coaxed into it at first but that the efforts are well worth it. The […]
behzad April 11, 2011 at 12:41 am
the idea of long trip by bike is so nice i have 2 opinion
1: if in your site help to anyone find partner for common trip is so good for example i’m in iran . anyone like see here i help him for it (by bike)and instead of it he help me for trip hin country bt bike
2 : common trip in another country
do you help me for this idea?
Switching Gears: Falling in Love Over Bicycles | Diffuse 5 May 9, 2011 at 5:23 am
[…] I’m kind of a nerd…in many many ways. About a month ago I stumbled across this website: How to talk to your partner about bike touring. Um can we say amazing?? I giggled to myself and hoped that one day I too would have the chance to […]
Jael Cordova October 10, 2012 at 12:54 pm
You make bike touring sound so much fun. I want to go too! 😉
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Nice article! I’m looking forward to having this conversation with my girlfriend soon… but first I have to help her buy a kick-ass pink bike 🙂