When starting out in road cycling there is a lot to think about and get your head around. Even for the more impulsive out there - you may start by rushing to buy your new bike and other gear without much thought, but before long you'll be planning routes (you don't have time to ride), researching the latest gadgets or upgrades (you don't have the money to buy), or pouring over your performance data (you don't really understand) to see how you're fitness is progressing.
With the benefit of 20 / 20 hindsight there's one crucial thing I'm able to share that 'they' don't tell you about when you're starting out as a road cyclist, and that's how to manage your partner’s expectations when you become a weekend road warrior.
Your partner, who should now lovingly be referred to as your ‘cycling widow’ (a phrase applicable whether your partner identifies as male, female, gender fluid, non-binary, or a Smurf etc.), may not like your new hobby as much as you do.
It can be fairly expensive - relative to any budget; it can take you away from home for hours /days on end, and it becomes very tiresome for the cycling widow when your new toy is treated with as much love and care as a new-born child.
Once, when we were having work done on the house, I had to find temporary storage for my bike. Of course, the bedroom seemed like the obvious choice. And if that didn’t annoy Mrs. P enough, then me asking if she’d mind sleeping on the floor so that I could spoon with my beloved machine went down like a cold cup of sick. Let’s say my bike nearly became a very expensive scarf as my wife tried to throttle me with it.
Cycling doesn't have to be expensive but when you’ve been at it for as long as me, you have a tendency to talk yourself into buying more expensive bikes, upgrades and clothing, and this never goes down well, particularly with non-cyclists that can’t comprehend 'why the bloody hell' you would spend so much on a bike that can, ‘get you from A to B just like a £100 bike can?!’
What I have now found is that buying cycling gear is similar to a scene in those 80's cop shows where a bad guy is doing a dodgy hustle in a back alley. You’re out there on the street looking over your shoulder for any sign of your partner as you take the cash you’ve been ciphering from your bank account over the past few weeks. You discreetly approach the bike shop before stopping to do your shoelace (aka covertly surveying your surroundings one last time for any signs of Mr. or Mrs. Other-Half). No sign of them? Excellent, it’s time to jump in the shop before you're spotted.
You look around the cycling palace of joy, quickly grab what you need and take it to the counter. You give the shop assistant the secret wink. The signal that lets them know there’s a cycling widow within close proximity and it’s also their que to offer you the receipt and the ‘receipt’.
The receipt contains the actual prices you’ve just paid for your items. This stays strictly between you and the bike shop. Then the "receipt" is the one your cycling widow gets to see. It usually contains something like: ‘1 bike, £10.99’ and will likely be the saviour of your relationship.
Then, of course, the weekend comes around. “So, what shall we do this weekend?” your partner asks. Words no cyclist ever wants to hear. Especially when you already know you've arranged to meet their cycling buddies for a 50-miler the following day, but haven’t built up the courage to run it by you other half yet:
I was thinking of going out all day on my bike...
Please don’t hit me...
Now put that remote down, darling...
I forgot to tell you, I’m sorry.
I can’t cancel now...
Don’t leave me, I’ll make it up to you!...
For the love of God, please stop hissing and clawing at my face!"
So basically, the lesson here is to make plans well in advance and give your cycling widow at least 2 years’ notice (give or take) before leaving the house.
And then there’s the bike. Or as I like to call it, “my favourite child”.
It can be quite difficult for a cycling widow to understand the bond between a MAMIL and their bike – especially when they have no idea how much you’ve paid for it. But it really can be a bond like no other. You’ve kicked out one of your actual human children – they’re now in a makeshift shed at the bottom of the garden – and you now have an entire warm, cosy room in your house dedicated to your bike and all its belongings.
In all seriousness though, it will probably cost you a few meals out, bottles of alcohol, takeaways, plenty of notice about upcoming rides, and just being very nice all the time to prevent your cycling widow from taking a sledgehammer to your machine of joy - and to remove their hands from your throat.
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