Ever been called an adrenaline junkie? Maybe an extreme sports fanatic, or maybe just a lunatic?
I'm sure you outdoorsy nuts out there have a screw loose that makes you want to ride Comfortably Numb on your mountain bike or jump off 20-foot drops while downhilling on Whistler. For some reason the harder, the longer and the crazier the trail, the more you love it!
Deep underneath the crazy you do have something in common with normal people from the city (Gasp!) who would rather drive their BMWs to Starbucks for their morning non-fat, no foam, half-caf latté (no cooler than 115 degrees please) than do anything physical. You dream of finding a woman (and I'm talking to the guys here - the girls who are dropping 20-footers don't need help attracting guys) who lights up your life.
The person who completes you and makes your heart sing. The type of girl you could spend hours thinking about, one that would occupy your thoughts throughout the day. Oh, the day when you met your match!
Did you ever think past that and wonder how you would incorporate that wondrous woman into all the different facets of your life? How the heck are you going to convince your new girlfriend to hike the Musical Bumps, or drop into a bowl full of fresh powder? How do you get your new girlfriend to come out and try your favorite sport? The answer: carefully!
Women can be fickle, some more sensitive than others, all needing similar things from you. Every woman likes a man to be patient, supportive and understanding, especially when pushing their comfort zones when trying new sports. These all sound like regular traits that most people have but in my experience and that of all my girlfriends, sometimes boyfriends forget the basics in the heat of the moment. You get all jazzed up that she finally let you suit her in downhill armor that you can't wait to show her just how hard you can ride. All of a sudden, the stories you've been telling her of the "dope" trails you've been riding and how "stoked" you are when you rip down A-Line come to life, as she becomes a part of your terrifying mountain experience. Meanwhile, her fingers have turned into eagle claws from gripping the brakes so hard, and in one petrified moment, she decides that she's done, and she is NEVER doing this again! Uh oh, what have you done?
My dad was in this very same position a few years back. He is a very experienced cyclist and was delighted when he met the right woman. On their second date, he thought it would be a nice gesture to get her a gift to show her how much he cared. Any ideas what he got her? Cycling shorts! She was a city girl through and through and thought it was the most ridiculous gift ever (she and her girlfriends we very puzzled at his gesture, while my dad's cycling buddies were patting him on the back for such a great idea!) Somehow he managed to squeak out some sort of explanation and dropped the subject of wanting to ride his bike from Vancouver to Calgary.
Slowly but surely he pushed and got his way. After a few months of gently educating her on the sport, and telling her how much fun it could be for them to ride together, he actually convinced his wife to do this ride with him and many others too. He approached the subject slowly and patiently so she didn't feel pressured. When they went out the first couple times, although my dad wanted to ride a Century, he kept it simple. He didn't push too hard, and didn't rush her into trying anything. He let her make it her idea because after a while of gentle asking, she gave in and let him take her out.
Just the other day, I went mountain biking with my new man. I realized how challenging it can be for two people who care about each other to do something that pushes the comfort zones of the relationship. We were riding some pretty simple trails around Lost Lake having a nice time. He is a seasoned rider, and probably has about 20 years on my three times out ever. I'm in good shape and was able to keep up with him physically, but not mentally. He was riding circles around me showing off, peacocking left and right (does this sound familiar to any of you?). I thought it was cute and kept riding. After about an hour of "easy riding" his excitement got the better of him and he started pushing me to do some more serious stuff without considering how I felt. He should have sensed my hesitation (but didn't) and after five minutes he talked me into dropping into the hairiest, most narrow crevice I have ever seen (ok, so it was pretty much a gravel trail with a bit of a dip, but that's how I saw it). I didn't want to let him down so I obliged his heeding, and bit the bullet.
After about two seconds in, I found my normally composed self calling him an a-hole, feeling very emotional about the whole thing. I was upset, frustrated and angry with myself that I wasn't able to keep up with him because he was so excited, feeling I would be letting him down if I couldn't do it.
There are many women who have been put in this position, at no fault of their boyfriends. We want to share your interests and learn to bike well for our own reasons, but not every girl gets it on their first day.
Here's the thing, guys with their buddies will practically kill themselves to prove their manhood, suffering bruises and broken bones, before they would ever dare squelch on a challenge. Most women are NOT this way. We like to feel safe, in control, and most of all appreciated for putting ourselves out there for your critiquing (pedal down on the outside, knee out on the inside, lean in to corners....what? I thought we were going for a "nice ride").
The best advice is to take it easy at first and let us get comfortable with a sport that's new to us, or at a different level than we're used to (e.g. going from Lost Lake to the Bike Park).
Going first for a couple short, easy rides will guarantee future outings and a lot less frustration for both parties. It's great that you want us to ride at your level - after all, it only took you three broken arms, a fractured collar bone, and an ACL reconstruction to get to where you are. Of course on the first ride ever, we are going to be delighted to drop off your favorite cliff or cycle to Pemberton and back!
Here are a few tips to get your significant other into your sports.
1) Ask first before you plan. Find out if she would be interested in doing something with you (hint: tell her how much you would love to include her in this part of your life, women love hearing that stuff). Then mention there is this beautiful lookout that she just has to see. Sell her on the romance aspect...it's a sure bet.
2) Take your woman's lifestyle into consideration. If she's adventurous, she may be up for more than a shy and reserved person. If she has led a sheltered life versus having traveled the world it might require more or less prodding.
3) Go slow and don't suggest anything crazy (like hiking to the top of the Wedgemont Trail for sunset). Let her set the pace. Don't roll your eyes, bitch that you're not even breaking a sweat, or tell her that you will just ride ahead for a while to get some exercise. Remember the goal is to get her into your sport, not make her dump you for being a jerk.
4) Be patient, and give suggestions - not commands. Don't bark at her to gear down or to keep her head up. Be nice for crying out loud, she is working her butt off for you!
5) Progressively try harder things. After a few times out, suggest a new trail that you think she is ready for now. The key is to tell her you have seen an improvement and that you think she'll really enjoy this one. Make sure to tell her that if at any point she doesn't like it you can stop (very important - it's likely that once she's in she'll be fine, but just knowing that it's okay to back out will make it less intimidating).
6) Tell her how much you are enjoying her company and how excited you are to try something she likes (don't worry, you don't actually have to go to the ballet - she may forget you mentioned it).
7) After the event take her out for a nice dinner or drink and tell her how hot you thought she looked climbing that hill, or trudging through the river even if it's a bald-face lie. Guaranteed second ride.
8) Wait three days before mentioning it again (not before calling her again - the three day rule is a myth), meaning don't ride her about it and hound her to go out again until she has had time to get the lactic acid out of her legs.
Everybody want to do things to make their significant others happy and proud. They are going to want praise for going with you and working hard. So even if she sucked, tell her how great it was. Even if she bitched non-stop (hey, some relationships just aren't gonna work out) tell her you had fun (and make a mental note to never ask her again). The key is to communicate how nice it was to spend time with her doing something you love. Tell her you want to help her get better, and maybe even buy her an uber-comfy seat.
To get what you want you have to work for it. Guys, if you want your new girlfriend to participate in your favorite sport you will need to be patient, be reassuring and be grateful. Push, but only push if she responds well to a challenge. Some of us do and some of us will hit you over the head with your air pump.
But always remember that if you ever want to get her out again, go easy - and that means easy in her opinion and not yours, especially on the first excursion!
Build up to bigger and better things. Develop the trust and togetherness that is bound to come from physically challenging her and your relationship. It may seem like a lot of work, but if done right you might end up like my dad and his now wife who've biked across Italy, the Mohave Desert and heaps of other places.
Eye on the prize guys, even when she hates you for making her ride 100 km into the wind with no rest stops. Focus on having fun with her, and be nice to her. Good luck, I hope that your next mountain bike ride doesn't result in a break-up!