The agitation starts to simmer. You watch your riding partner create more distance between the two of you every minute until the angry internal monologue starts running: “You never wait for me. I’m so slow. Why do I ride with you? This always happens. I’m tired. I’m not having fun. Screw this, I want to go home!”
Sound familiar? Almost all of us have had this experience riding with a stronger rider, and those heated thoughts intensify when it’s a spouse or significant other. People joke that the ultimate test of a relationship is to ride with your partner. During my nine years racing at the pro level, I’ve been in both situations (slower and faster). Both have taught me a lot.
Here are some guidelines on how to train or ride with a partner, spouse, or friend to help make your rides together more fun. First off know that in most cases, your faster partner likely has no idea they’re crushing your soul. Indeed, they’re probably oblivious to the fact that you are frustrated.
Ladies, this applies to you, too! It’s not always the men who are faster. But in my experience, men tend to deal with their frustration when they are falling behind in different ways. My husband Matt and I each have days where one person is riding faster than the other and both have had to figure out how to communicate.
A successful and fun ride with someone who is at a different fitness or ability level than you boils down to two key things: empathy and communication. Before you ride, it’s important to have a conversation about expectations. Don’t wait until you start riding when fatigue and emotions can make a mess of things. Here are seven more important tips to follow.
1. Assure Proper Bike Set-Up
This especially applies when riding with a beginner. Do not assume that they know about tire pressure or have mechanical skills. Ask them if they are comfortable on their bike and do a regular maintenance check just like you would with your own bike. Take note if they are on a hardtail and you are on a full suspension. Consider what the descents will be like for them with the equipment they have and choose the best option.
2. On-Trail Advice – Yes or No?
There’s nothing worse than someone giving you unwelcome, unsolicited advice when you are struggling. I personally love pointers or constructive feedback, but it can be really difficult to receive feedback if you have a tendency to get frustrated easily. If you want your more skilled partner to give you advice, tell them your expectations in advance so you don’t feel like you’re getting picked on if they start chiming in about your cornering technique or bike/body positioning.
3. Plan the Pace
First, decide if you are going to actually ride together. When someone invites me to ride, I expect to ride with them, not 30 feet in front or behind. If you both don’t care if one person is way ahead and one is behind, then communicate that. I have been guilty of telling someone to “go ahead” but ended up enraged on the inside because they either weren’t stopping to wait soon enough or they were simply riding too far ahead.
If you’re the slower rider, do not feel guilty for asking them to wait or ride with you. It’s okay to change your mind mid-ride, too. Or, if you want to just start and end together, communicate that as well. Pacing can be one of the most frustrating issues when riding (and especially racing) with a partner. I know it’s been my biggest hurdle.
One option is to have the slower rider go first on the trail, which allows them to set the pace so that they aren’t struggling to keep up with the stronger rider. Also, it takes pressure off the stronger rider because now they know exactly what a comfortable pace is for their partner. In the event that the slower rider feels nervous or anxious with someone riding behind them, it’s very important that the slower rider communicates to the rider in front regarding what pace to go. Ask them to slow the down if it is a little too hard.