The Biking Lifeby: Naomi Bloom 2/1/2009
Valentine's Day and cycling are not, as many might believe, mutually exclusive. Yet for many years that's what it seemed like to me. I remember talking with men and women who bemoaned the lack of opportunity to get acquainted, even on singles rides. Rides typically ended with: "Nice ride." "Yeah, well, see you on the road."
Nowadays I'm tickled pink (a nice Valentine shade) at all the couples I know who, as one pair put it, "were not looking for love, but found it while riding a bicycle."
Lessons in loveOne of the most successful ways to find a mate, I've discovered, is signing up for cycling instruction. At least two couples I know met each other through Almaden Cycle Touring Club's ACTC Academy.
Take Karla and Henry: Many years ago a mutual friend and I urged Karla to enroll in the Academy. She did, and Henry was one of her instructors. The rest, as they say, is history.
Mary and Bob became Academy sweethearts more recently. Before sharing class time, they happened to sit in the same group eating lunch on the Tierra Bella Workers Ride. Her first reaction was, "Whoa, that guy has been divorced twice," while he was thinking, "Egad, she's a technical writer like my second wife."
Five months later Mary enrolled in Intermediate Academy and Bob was one of the instructors. Most of their early "dates" consisted of Bob riding his bike up from Morgan Hill to Mary's house in San Jose so they could ride together to the Academy sessions. Mary would provide the breakfast bagels; Bob would bring the "fixin's"
Since Bob and Mary got together through bicycle education, it makes sense that they both serve as senior Academy instructors as well as League of American Bicyclists LCIs and seminar leaders.
Overcoming misconnectionsAnn and Richard first met on a Sierra Club hike. But Ann didn't have an answering machine at the time so they kept missing each other. "I tried to call her a half dozen times after that but could never get hold of her," Richard remembers. They met again eight months later at a ride around the reservoirs of south Santa Clara County.
Ah yes, I remember it well. You see, I was the leader of that ride. Richard came over to me to sign up, then looked up in surprise at the blonde passing by. "Hullo, Ann!" he called out. That was it, the connection finally made. "We did a three-day ride down to the Great Western Bike Rally in Paso Robles and both completed 40 Billy Goats that year. And we've been together ever since," he reports.
Personally, I say eight months is chump change in the connection department. Naomi and Jim first met in 1980 on a ride from the mid-Peninsula to Stern Grove in San Francisco. Frankly, I have no memory of that meeting. I just sort of always knew him, mostly as the guy who owned Joselyn's Bicycles in Mountain View. I used to drop in from time to time, interviewed him for an article in California Bicyclist, and brought my Cannondale in for regular service.
Oh, yeah, he was married then, having and raising kids. Believe me, there was absolutely no hint of romance there. Then in 1998, while working for Dick and Marilyn Powell at The Bicycle Outfitter in Los Altos, he spent several weeks in France assisting them with Outfitter Tours. When he came back he filed for divorce. (Don't ask me; I was back here entertaining a group of visiting French cyclists!) And not until nearly a year later did he approach me with an invitation to take a tandem ride with him!
"I love tandeming!" I replied. This was followed by two hellish weeks at work when I had no time to even think about setting time aside for a ride date. And straight-arrow Jim hadn't bent the rules to look up my phone number in the shop database. Finally I managed to call him to set up a day and time. Well, we just couldn't coordinate that -- either he was working or I was. Finally he said, "Why don't we just go out to dinner?" Totally taken aback, I thought, "OMG, he's asking me for a real date! Well, why not? I've always liked him!" Ten years later we're still together, riding tandem and singles, sharing life's ups and downs. Thank goodness!
On the road
Already experienced cyclists, Tim and Jane were both new in town in 1999. Both were trying out the local clubs when they met on an "easy" ACTC ride around the South Bay. They chatted in the lunch line, although "it's hard to have a conversation with Tim," says Jane. "It's like pulling teeth to get him to talk." But they kept going on the same rides and eventually began comparing notes on which ones they wanted to do, then planning on going on the same rides.
They quickly discovered they were both into touring, so they decided to ride in the French Alps together with Outfitter Tours. A year later they joined Jim, me and five other club members to tour the Dordogne. That was the last group tour they took, instead planning an annual bicycle vacation together in Europe, even after Jane had moved Washington, D.C. for her job. Back in the Bay Area now, she still takes on the planning and reservations part of each tour, while Tim serves as mechanic and bike packer.
A strong rider, Jane still prefers to pedal through quaint villages, exploring scenery, culture and history, while Tim leans more toward more challenging tours, over famous cols and along the routes of the Tour de France. They try to strike a balance by going for the culture one year, then tackling something challenging the next.
Bob and Mary have gotten into touring big time too. This past summer they crossed the USA from San Jose to Portland, ME, on their tandem. "We arrived on the East Coast after crossing the country still in love, still speaking to each other, and already planning another long-distance tour," they report. Check out their daily journal at Crazy Guy on a Bike.
"The bicycling relationship also means that if one of us gets a new bike, the next logical question will be what bike will the other get," says Bob. Jane and Tim told me the essentially the same thing. They've invested in new bikes as a joint project, at first buying matching Merlins, then later upgrading to coupled Sevens once they got tired of lugging heavy bike cases around France.
"Cycling is how we spend our leisure time, and we get to spend it together," Tim says. "Cycling means we can spend a big chunk of our time together." Bob and Mary claim they are much more likely to ride with each other than do club rides anymore. Instead, they do most of their utility cycling together. "Rain, sun, or moon, there is no one I would rather ride with than Mary," says Bob. Now that's velo love.
Actually, there are many others who echo that heartwarming sentiment: Lynn and Mark. Garnetta and George. Deb and David. The other Deb and Vince. Margaret and Richard. Vicki and Karen. I could go on and on.
Looking for love? Join a club. Show up for a ride. Talk to someone on the lunch break. Sign up for
the ACTC Academy or LAB's BikeEd. You never know what
Naomi can be reached at email@example.com