Sharing a favorite activity with your favorite person is undoubtedly something special. Everyone on the Singletracks team gets to ride mountain bikes with a loving life partner, and we don’t take that experience for granted. I want to share some of how pedaling with my favorite person has enriched our relationship, our trail time, and my experience in the world more broadly. While we met on a bike ride, I’ll argue a strong case for activity-based dating no matter the catalyst.
My partner, Megan Christine, and I met twelve years ago on a crisp winter training ride. I was pulling my daughter in a toy-packed trailer and Megan was on a light rest day spin, so the pace was perfect for connecting. The ride was a setup, thanks to a dear friend who knew we would spark. Over the following months, we fell fast in love and I soon moved into her warm craftsman home in Northeast Portland, Oregon. We have been traveling to races and singletracks around the world ever since, sharing our trail love, and I am forever grateful to enjoy my favorite thing with the human I love most. It’s a serendipitous collision more fortunate than any other I know. It’s like love caked onto love and ours feels like the kind of home that I’m excited to live in forever.
Mountain biking as a couple has allowed us to spend far more time together, traveling to countless races and trail vacations. Of course, we’ve also had to train for all of those events, which increases “us time” significantly. When we were both racing cyclocross, road, and cross country we would sometimes hit the road and trails together between four and six times per week. A majority of our deepest discussions and emotional processing around work and life have taken place balanced on two wheels. Philosophy and feelings between intervals.
If we kept a trophy case in our home, it would be laughably lopsided. Megan has always been far faster and more competitive than me, racing at the highest level of any discipline that she’s entered, and I’ve learned oodles while trying to hold her rear wheel. She has inspired me to push myself further, to try new things, to accept different levels of risk, and to strive to be the rider I enjoy being. With the race numbers now filed and collecting dust, we’ve continued to grow and challenge one another in similar ways, both on and off the bike.
Those countless hours gaining fitness and skills together have afforded us the time to show one another more of who we truly are. It’s hard to hide desires, or frustrations that you’re chewing on while pedaling watts to the point of tears. It comes up, and it comes out. Riding together gives us a unique perspective into where we need to be supported, what we want to give one another, and what may be eating at the soul. Spinning pedals have not only allowed us to be more loving and supportive partners, but they have allowed us to be better individuals throughout our lives. When struggle and joy ride a tandem, beautiful things can happen.
Mountain biking is hard. Like snowboarding and surfing, it can be difficult enough that you have to really love the idea of it in order to tolerate the cycle of injury and recovery over the first season or so. With continued progression that challenge endures, providing fantastic context for relationship struggles or for either partner to demonstrate how they work through physical and emotional difficulties. All relationships require work to maintain and improve, and a shared activity like mountain biking can demonstrate both our needs and how to interact with them.
Tied to our ability to demonstrate how we cope, mountain biking provides a means of coping. In addition to that togetherness, it gives us healthy self-reflection moments and a meditative outlet where we can reset and become more present. Pedaling hard is most often good for the body and mind, and It’s rare that a ride can’t calm anxiety or anger to a discussable level. Additionally, Megan and I have both had “crying rides” where one of us needed to work through something heavy, and that weight becomes more manageable when sweat and tears mingle. This level of emotional intimacy may feel like too-much-info for an article, but nearly everyone I know pushes out a good cry ‘N’ ride every now and again. It’s cathartic. When the saltwater rolls with your best friend by your side it can feel like relief.
When your partner is a mountain biker, they understand that your four-hour ride will likely take five or six, and that you’ll occasionally get lost or hurt. Megan has picked me up at the hospital a number of times, where I walked through the exit wearing a cut jersey and a cast. My daughter and I once hopped on a train to meet Megan at the hospital after she broke her back in an EWS race. Her front wheel washed, and she hopped over the bars on an extremely steep and slick slice of trail to cannonball the hard earth below. Now we get to practice physical therapy together, laughing at the odd movements that can increase mobility and strength.
Megan is a gracious and compassionate parent for my daughter, Penelope, and over the past few seasons, we have started riding together more as a family. We waited until Penelope chose to try mountain biking, and she has organically taken to the sport with excitement and courage. As a natural teacher, Megan is both a role model and mentor for Penelope, and our family singletrack time became a cherished tradition in short order. The amount of pride we both have for Penelope’s bravery and gumption is immeasurable. This recent riding development has pulled our family closer and will continue to moving forward.
Apart from trail time, there is no shortage of intriguing MTB-related activities and ideas to curry conversation and passion between partners. From watching World Cup events in the wee hours of the weekend to lifting weights and maintaining bikes or trails, couples who ride will always have something enticing to discuss if they want to. I can’t recall a single dull day in my relationship with Megan, as we’ve had the privilege to enjoy multiple aspects of our favorite sport and the beautiful surrounding forests together.
I count myself fortunate to have found a trail love who is also deeply intrigued by life’s other wonders. She reminds me to look toward those external activities and elements that I appreciate, and to pursue them with similar vigor. While I do breathe trails, I’m a more well-rounded animal thanks to her. Some of those external endeavors bleed into the bike fabric, like cooking healthy meals and playing music that helps me clear my head and become a more centered and present person. She has also reminded me how much I love writing and listening to slam poetry, which may amplify my writing career in some ways.
Megan and I are currently transitioning from our relationship as lovers to one as dear friends. We currently need different things in our lives, and our hearts remain forever touched by the soil we tracked together. If you have a trail love, please give them a warm embrace and remind them how much you enjoy riding through it all with them. Additionally, if you have single friends who ride, is there any chance they might hit it off? It could be worth setting them up at a chill pace that’s perfect for connecting.