In Appreciation of the Non-Riding Spouse

Wilderness
Wilderness areas don’t allow bikes, but they do allow spouses, so they give a good nudge to leave the bike in the garage once in a while. (above Treasure Vault Lake in the Holy Cross Wilderness near Leadville, CO)

We hardcore mountain bikers are a rare breed. Sure, there seems to be a lot of us when we show up at a busy trailhead on a weekend, but relative to the overall population, we are but a drop in the bucket. What’s more, we don’t always gravitate toward each other–romantically speaking, that is.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we all managed to end up with a kindred mountain biking soul mate? Alas, this is among the least common of unions. But it’s not all doom and gloom. Hitching your cart to a non-biking spouse or significant other need not be cause for lament. It’s also useful to think of it from the other point of view; while you may feel sad that your SO isn’t into riding with you, imagine how he/she feels with you ducking out to ride all the time!  Taking this, and the entirety of the gulf created by such mixed marriages into account, I offer great praise to the non-riding spouse.

It takes a devoted spouse to get on the ground and take a shot like this just so I could have a cool pic for a mere pedal review on Singletracks. (photo: Lisa Fisch)
It takes a devoted spouse to get on the ground and take a shot like this just so I could have a cool pic for a mere pedal review on Singletracks. (photo: Lisa Fisch)

First, let’s acknowledge the difficulty presented to one who is left out. I grew up hearing about “golf widows” and “fishing widows.” These were spouses who were always left at home while their husbands spent their weekends golfing or fishing. While golf and fishing are the two most prevalent examples of such abandonment, the fact is most of us, male or female, have some activity we like to do that our spouse does not. This can put the spouse in a precarious position. If the one engaging in the activity lacks sensitivity and mindlessly chases his preferred pursuit, the spouse left behind is left with a couple less than appealing options: either demand less abandonment and risk the wrath or misery that will follow, or allow the adventurer to head out at will and end up spending what should be quality time together… alone. While those of us who long to head out on our bikes think we’re doing a good job balancing these conflicting aspects of our desires (sometimes we do manage this well, but often we fail), we almost always forget that our “widows” are working hard to balance these elements as well, and are faced with this difficulty by our actions. Only when we face the issue from our SO’s point of view as well as our own can we hope to maintain equilibrium.

Which leads us to the real source of appreciation for the non-riding spouse: their willingness to let us be us, knowing the sacrifice that comes with that. Time is our most precious asset, and it is the one completely expendable, non-renewable, asset we have. Time together is even more so, being the very essence of priceless.

This purchase wasn't cheap. Neither was the one before that... or the one before that... Thank you, dear! (Photo: Lisa Fisch)
This purchase wasn’t cheap. Neither was the one before that… or the one before that…
Thank you, dear! (Photo: Lisa Fisch)

Of course, something that is “valuable,” is money. It’s easy to put a price on money as it is the basis of price or cost; completely and readily quantifiable. While we may never know the true “cost” of the time we spend in the saddle, we know up front the true cost of biking. From the cost of the bike itself, to parts and maintenance, to gas to get to the trailhead, vacation costs, trail fees, etc. we can easily keep tabs on how much we’re spending on riding.

We usually don’t, but we could.

One reason we usually don’t is that subconsciously, we don’t want to face the fact of just how many resources we’re putting into our hobby; our addiction. There’s a good chance our non-riding spouse actually has a more accurate picture of the resources being expended than we do ourselves! Like time, this is all a representation of scarce resources that could go to something together rather than something apart. Again, to the extent we are allowed to do this, we owe our non-riding spouse tons of appreciation.

My spouse happily made the treacherous drive up Pikes Peak to drop off the Singletracks crew so we could enjoy nearly 8,000 vertical feet of descending -- and took pics! (Photo: Lisa Fisch)
My spouse happily made the treacherous drive up Pikes Peak to drop off the Singletracks crew so we could enjoy nearly 8,000 vertical feet of descending — and took pics! (Photo: Lisa Fisch)

Some non-riding spouses even go above and beyond. My wife has many times shuttled me (and often my buddies) to the top of some gnarly descent. Not only is she allowing, but also actually enabling my time away. She knows how much I enjoy the activity and facilitates it for my increased enjoyment. When she encounters something mountain bike-related in her social media, she shares it with me and talks about it even though she has no real interest herself. She has even been my photographer when I need some pictures for a Singletracks article. She lets me know whenever she sees a sale on bike parts or apparel. Amazingly, the non-riding spouse can be a great source of riding information.

As often as not, my spouse prefers a home cooked meal to going out, so I try to make something both healthy and tasty like the stuffed portabellos as a thank you for letting me ride guilt-free.
As often as not, my spouse prefers a home cooked meal to going out, so I try to make something both healthy and tasty, like the stuffed portabellos, as a thank you for letting me ride guilt-free.

Actions Speak Louder than Words!

We can talk all we want about how much we appreciate those who allow us our hedonistic indulgences, but talk, as they say, is cheap. For all of you who have a non-riding spouse or significant other, this is a call to action. Show your appreciation. Once in a while, on a day you really want to ride, skip the ride and do something together instead. Plan a picnic, go to a movie (even a dreaded “chick flick” if that’s what your SO likes). Make the day all about him/her. I often start the day by doing all the initial prep work for a homemade gourmet meal, hit the trail, and return in time to put the culinary delight in the oven, and we have a grand meal together.

Look, Ma... No Bikes!
Look, Ma… No Bikes!

You can also blend time apart with time together. I wanted to ride Sedona but I didn’t want to create a “bike widow” for a week. Sedona is a beautiful place for anyone; even for a non rider, there is plenty to do there. Do the math: there’s 16 waking hours in a day. You can get in a solid four-hour ride and still spend the other 12 with your SO, which is more time than you would normally spend together most days anyway! With a little planning, what would have been a vacation apart can become a vacation mostly together. Give a little, get a lot.

Quality time with a special human will always beat quality time with an inanimate object, even a bike. (at Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota)
Quality time with a special human will always beat quality time with an inanimate object, even a bike. (at Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota)

With a little clear-headed thought and a little effort, it becomes obvious that being with a non-riding spouse is not something to lament, but rather something to cherish. It should also go without saying that meaningful appreciation is shown as a spontaneous outpouring of love rather than in preparation for some expected return.

I must finish by saying that, in defending my bike fanaticism in this article, I have tooted my own horn a bit, probably too much. Even if it was all true, it still falls short of what my non-riding spouse deserves. Never lose sight of all the benefits this person provides, and all the ways he/she shows love for you. As long as you have someone who is willing to let you be you, you are truly blessed.

Your turn: How do you balance your biking with your relationship, and what do you do to show appreciation for he/she who gives you your bike time? Tell us in the comments section below.

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