Sunday, May 16, 2010

'So My Husband Wants Me to Get a Bike...'

Since the start of the Spring season, I have been getting emails from women that read something like this:
My husband/boyfriend is a cyclist and he wants me to get a bike so that we can ride together. I am not very good at cycling, or sports in general. What bike do you recommend? My husband/boyfriend sent me a link to your blog and said that you would know.
Nice. Notice that the phrasing is not "I would like to get a bicycle so that I can accompany my husband/boyfriend on rides," but that the desire and intent are attributed entirely to him. This is something he has probably been convincing her to do for a while, and finally he sent her to my website, as if to say "See? Other women can do it!" (Great way to make her hate me, fellows!)

Of course if he does succeed in convincing her to buy a bike and join him, I can already see how that will go. He: the man dressed like a professional racer on a $2,500 road bike. She: the woman in ill-fitting bike shorts, cotton tank-top and sneakers, on a $600 hybrid. He: stern and professorial, explaining the importance of proper cadence and posture in a tireless monologue. She: red in the face and panting, sneaking longing glances at the families picnicking on the grass. Eventually it ends in bickering and tears - or worse, a fall. I see this on the local trails all the time. Please, don't be that couple.

If you are a cyclist and want to share your favourite pastime with your spouse, that's fantastic. But please understand that in order for someone to enjoy cycling as much as you do, the interest must come from within - and that you are essentially killing any chance of that happening by pushing too strongly or making the person's first cycling experience too difficult and stressful.

So what should you do instead? Well, for starters don't try to be your spouse's teacher or mentor. Unless she has absolutely never pedaled a bike before, there is no need to "instruct" her, as tempting as that may be. Even if you think she is "doing it wrong", leave it. She did not sign up for a bicycle course; she just wants to have fun with you out in nature. Give her that, and she will associate cycling with the nice time she had - and therefore will want to do it again.

Also, even if you have been cycling since age 5 and can compete in timed half-centuries in your sleep, consider downplaying your prowess and adapting a "leisure cycle" mode. Don't kit up. If you have an old beater bike, ride that when you are together instead of your super-fast roadbike. I would even go so far as to suggest buying an old vintage upright-ish bike for yourself, to match the level of the bike your spouse will be riding. This will even out the playing field between the two of you and will make you less intimidating.

In general, I think that getting your spouse to cycle is not about what she should do to keep up with you, but about what you should do to make her comfortable with her current level of skill. If it's going to work, that's the only way. Only if she enjoys cycling, will she become motivated to improve her skills, and perhaps will even start asking you for advice - giving you plenty of opportunity to play "coach" when the time comes for it. But that initial enjoyment is key, and it is up to you to set things up in a way to make it happen. Think about it from that perspective, start slow, let her figure things out for herself... And perhaps before you know it, your special lady might delight you by becoming a bona fide obsessed cyclist, entirely on her own accord. She may even start a blog.

90 comments:

  1. pure gold, this.

    i'm a bike shop person. all my worst stories involve couples coming in where she's the customer, but he's there to act as our translator, as if, o... you can guess the rest.

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  2. :)

    Oh, and it may take time... Once a season reminder is enough.

    Be prepared to wait. It may only take, oh, say, I don't know, ten years? :)

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  3. My wife got sick back in 2006. Well, died really (prinzemetals angina- a heart condition.) After she got healthy enough, i decided it was time for her to start riding. After all, she can either sit and die or ride and live a bit longer. We discussed it together, then we discussed it with her doctor, then we looked around at a bunch of shops, and considered a bunch of possibilities, eventually settling on a Townie (Purple Poem.)

    I think the only things I insisted on were that she try to bike once a week on it (Around the block counts,) and that she get both fenders and a rack to put groceries in.

    Now she rides a Stoked X and most weeks puts more time in the saddle than I do.

    I think I went in with her each and every time, and she asked me a few questions, mostly about the terrain around our house, but most of her questions were focused to the salesmen.

    i think the key to happy cycling is: listen to your partner. Explore what they want, and go from there.

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  4. I agree with the majority of your blog post. Keeping rides short and sweet is good advice. I don't know how fair the 2500 bike / full team kit characterization is though. I realize that is just a made up scenario but it reeks of bias. It's as if there is no cross-over between the racers and the leisure riders. I think it mostly boils down to what kind of spouse you want to be.

    Still, it's sound advice.

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  5. MDI - Come on, we weren't even together 10 years ago. You had to wait 4 years, max.

    Matthew - The hypothetical "couple" was meant to represent a comically extreme scenario. However, it does describe actual couples I see on the Minuteman Trail outside of Boston. Yes, the man is in full kit and on an expensive roadbike, sternly instructing the close-to-tears woman on a hybrid.

    Velvetackbar - Glad to hear about your wife's recovery, and glad that she enjoys riding.

    todd - Yes, I've seen the "translators" in bike shops too : )

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  6. Velouria, I recall I first suggested we go riding or get bikes or somethiing like that back then. But you didn't want any of that. :)

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  7. Good stuff. Like Todd noted, the fast-rider jock guardians who accompany their partners into the shops are the worst. Not. Helpful. At. All. Second worst is the well-meaning co-worker who is a bike expert.

    On the other hand, there are more than a few shops (obviously, not Todd) stocked with employees and style so bad that you can't blame folks for wanting a translator.

    I always tell people to think about what kind of bike/riding will make them happy. Then try that. Don't worry about what will make your friend/lover/etc happy because it doesn't matter. You can't force an enjoyable bike ride.

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  8. This post made me finally stop lurking. Well said!

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  9. Ha! I might be worse. I get my wife ridiculous bikes off craigslist that match mine. That recumbent didn't work out so well (apparently she's not wild about looking like an adult in a self-propelled stroller). But the cornflower blue Brompton is a hit. 1 out of 2 ain't bad. But I should take your advice, methinks, and let her decide when she needs a new (old) bike.

    Most shops do need some sort of opposing counsel, it should be said. When my wife got her own bike, they sold a 5'1" woman a 700c hybrid with skinny skinny tires, and upsold her a lot of shite like clipless pedals, bike computer, etc etc ...

    But amen to emphasizing unpressured bike fun up front.

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  10. I completely get your scenario as of course there are many out there just like that.There is however something clearly wrong with us.My husband has the hideously $$ road bike,lycra,scary sunglasses and pointy helmet.I spend my spare time checking ebay for vintage upright loop frames or mixtes and have my list of adjustments ( alot I have jotted down from you thankyou) for when I find one.I even lookout for just the frame even though there would be a lot of googling to be done before I so much as got out the spanner-and if I'm not doing that, I am going over my "dream bicycle file" that sits on my desk top.I drive my husband INSANE with my bike lust and "why wont he get a lovely old bike to do up and go riding with the children and I".I only plan on going local because Sydney drivers are extremely unpleasant towards cyclists and I have no intention of putting my family in danger from a raod rage nut but we have plenty of parklands nearby to enjoy. I am possibly the flipside of your regular scene=trying to convert him when he's not terribly interested.Any suggestions or do I just ebay HIS bike to fund mine ?? : )

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  11. Lovely!!!

    Of course mine was the other end of the spectrum and more " Oh no- you can't handle a bike and a child seat. You'll fall over. I know, I bike the streets of new haven and I almost get doored everyday."

    Grrrrrr.

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  12. My husband has never been on a bicycle. Has no interest in learning to ride. Appreciates the aesthetic beauty and engineering of bicycles, but I'm certain that I will never get him on one. EXCEPT that recently he has expressed interest in building himself a recumbent trike. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that he will!

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  13. Brava!

    When you want someone to come out to the pool with you, do you start them off on a 30m freestyle medley, or just paddle around at their own pace? Your amalgamation of typical "girlfriend" letters sound suspiciously like the SO of someone who really really likes activity x, and By God, they'll get to you like it too no matter the cost!!! (I see this a lot with guys trying to get their girls into comic books, video games, UFC or whatever else they love...so the girlfriend must love it too.)

    There's a decent chance some (not all, sorry) of these non-cycling ladies might come to enjoy cycling if they get to start out at their actual fitness and comfort level, and not that of a dedicated and enthusiastic cyclist. But forcefeeding a non-cyclist everything elite cycling on their 1st time on a bike since childhood (if that) is as good an idea as trying to get a non-comic book reader into what _you_ like by bending their ears about the entire history of Marvel once they agree to watch just one X Men movie. Bad move, boys.

    Hmm, apparently I have strong feelings about this!

    ohkay

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  14. I would like to add to this post: male spouses/partners, please do not patronize bicycle shops who tend to be unfriendly towards women/do not think that they are capable of thinking for themselves. Most bicycle shops tend to be male-dominated, and sometimes finding a bicycle (even a non-racer) is a nightmare for a woman simply because she gets the "oh, your husband's not buying it for you, he's buying it for himself" treatment. It wouldn't matter if a woman knew the lingo or what she wanted. So if a couple does want to go bicycle shopping together, don't go to a shop that has this kind of attitude.

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  15. That's the beauty of a ride for morning coffee. Fun and talk at the destination.

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  16. Good advice. My wife was never interested until my brother and I signed up for the Lake Pepin 3 speed Tour. Old English 3 speeds, a leisurely pace, and a brew-up at the end. It's a good way for anyone, man or woman, to get into cycling.

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  17. I love how you "school" guys, kind but firm. You do a great service to all women.

    My wife is riding with me once or twice a week, and we are having great fun. She's a Ninja though.

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  18. I upgraded (yes, upgraded) my classic Trek to more closely match my wife's bike. North Road bars with corkies on a stem extender. Recovered Brooks saddle laced by Velouria's kind instructions. Platform pedals, new brake levers and cables completed it. Total cost $135, I am slightly slower and vastly more comfortable.

    Chip Veres

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  19. I'm such a dreamer, wondering why it can't be like the old days, when we were kids, and bikes were bikes - boys, girls, you just rode around on whatever bicycle had air in the tires. But I admit, I am a woman who avoids bike shops - picked out my last (dutch) bike by reading blogs, then finding which shops carried them. Then, I convinced my husband to get one as well ....!

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  20. MDI and velouria, i am beginning to see the etiological roots of this post :-)

    i think this is a good post and describes a very real scenario, although in all honesty, i have only rarely seen this borne out in the streets. perhaps people working in bike shops see it much more often when couples come in looking for bikes?

    most of the time i see couples who seem fairly matched, competency-wise: it's either both beginners on low-end hybrids or old beater bikes, or both experienced roadies with modern road bikes. that's the majority of what i see, although i do see the occasional example that velouria describes, and it makes me cringe-- the gender roles play out as velouria describes: the more experienced and hard-core male lecturing to his demure wife who is dutifully trying to perform to his standard.

    if i did work in a bike shop, my advice for a first-time rider or someone who wants to get back into riding but doesn't know what she (or he) needs, would be to buy a very inexpensive bike initially, a general purpose hybrid. once a person gets back into riding, it takes time to build up confidence and figure out what type of riding style best "fits" the rider. after figuring out what the rider likes and dislikes about riding, he or she can sell or donate the bike and move up to something that more appropriately fits their needs. i know people who've bought $1000 bikes to get back into riding, only to realize after one season that the bike is all wrong for them. better to have that happen to you with a $400 bike than a $1000 bike.

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  21. It was many years in the past but I got my wife riding when I bought a tandem. It satisfied her comfort zone, I navigated she stoked.

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  22. lovely hubby bought us a tandem 15 years ago, It allowed me to ride without the fear of being left behind, my confidence increased and I got hooked. I now have as many bikes as he does!

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  23. I have to think about this some as well, not so much because I want to push my wife beyond her comfort (I have no desire to do that at all), but simply because I sometimes forget that I'm a stronger cyclist than she is. When she, for instance, mentions that she needs to walk up a particular hill, I might, without thinking, comment "oh, really?" - not meaning anything by it in terms of her fitness or skill or anything, I just wasn't myself thinking about it, so it didn't occur to me, but it can come off as "you need to walk? how lame."

    In any case, I try to be on my toes about those kinds of things, and I hope I generally do a good job of that. I guess it's a good thing I don't ride very fast or aggressively in general, it makes the natural gap there somewhat smaller :)

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  24. In my household, it's quite the opposite. I have a hard time getting hubs on the bike - and while I don't have a fancy road bike, I do like to go fast... good news is I laid off asking him for a good long while and then when we were having parking difficulties at Conan's show at SMU, I mentioned that we should have biked and he said, "I would totally have done that!"

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  25. I think in any relationship you have to know when to disagree and have separate hobbies. The Scientist is into go-fast biking, including following racing, and I am only marginally interested in racing, and not the least interested in going fast. We try to do an annual ride to a destination as a fun way to do something together, and I may not go as fast, but I can go a really really long way without much effort.

    He still chuckles at the memory of me, after sitting through a lengthy (and somewhat testosterone fueled) discussion of chain rings and gear ratios at a bike store, asking the sales guy what they had in the way of baskets.

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  26. somervillain: We actually talked about bikes on and off for many years, but, fortunately, decided that we both like bikes and cycling on our very first ride together (without any of that lycra road bike stuff...) Those first bikes were rented Manhattan Greens, by the way, excellent bikes to rent and ride for the first time. Little did we know that day that we'll own nearly a dozen bikes a year later.

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  27. Brilliant post!

    My partner loves cycling, always has been since I met him, I was once far too afraid of the traffic and never gave cycling a go, thinking I'd be run over within 5 seconds of me cycling down the road...

    so our initial conversations went like this...

    'you should cycle, you'd like it'
    'no thanks I'd like to keep my skin intact'
    'it will do you good, make you stronger'
    'it's ok I do yoga, pilates, badminton... etc (you name it)'
    'it will save you money on the bus'
    'it's ok I like reading book on the bus'...

    ... and so on for about 4 years...

    then...

    then we went to Copenhagen and Berlin for a holiday, where cycling is a normal way to go about your daily errands in your every day clothes, then I stumbled across Copenhagen Cycle Chic and then I gave it a go!

    and then I was hooked! I loooove cycling, I don't know what I do without my Pashley! ;)

    now... now I am the one nagging my partner to go on a cycling adventure...

    so in summary, you are ab-so-lu-te-ly right, it has to come from within!! :D

    cycle love <3

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  28. Great post! As a mechanic at the local bicycle co-op, I see variations of this situation all the time. It's infuriating to ask a question to the (usually) woman and have their spouse answer for them. It also tells me that it's likely the bike in question will not be ridden.
    On women only days, we will ask the man to leave if a hetero couple comes in, before asking the woman what she needs assistance with. There have been times where the woman admitted she was just there because that's what her SO wanted.

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  29. Love the post!!
    I've read a few amusing (?) threads on bikeforums from guys who just can't understand why their wives won't bike with them...and they are typically *that* guy. I'm so grateful that my guy is a bike lover and superb mechanic, especially when it comes to helping me fix up old bikes. I do the whole kit-up road bike thing, but I'm not into speed. Unfortunately, he can't join me due to a disability. He's OK with it, having spent his late teens and early 20's biking the west coast a few times over. He can do rides around town though and that's really what's fun for us as a couple.

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  30. Yes!

    Tim and I were that couple 15 years ago. Tim: racer dude who wore a heart rate monitor and liked to go fast. Anne: leisurely rider who enjoyed the journey and preferred to go slow and stop for coffee or beer along the way.

    We met in the middle @ 4 years ago. (These things take time).

    I agree, the desire to ride (male or female)must come from within or it's not going to stick. That hybrid in the garage will become a dust-collecting laundry rack.

    I'm happy to report that we're perfectly compatible on bikes these days.

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  31. somervillain - I did not mean to imply that the Co-Habitant and I were ever like "the couple" I describe. I have known him for a while and he has always been into bikes and trying to recruit others. Back in the day when I was an undergrad (and we were just friends), he and some other of my male friends got bikes. They invited me to join them, but I declined. Cycling on the mean streets of Philadelphia with a bunch of reckless boys sounded like certain death. Lots of things happened since those days, but 5 years ago we met again and got married. For the first 4 years of marriage he did mention bikes longingly, but I refused and he didn't push beyond that. Then I "discovered" them on my own, and he has been pleasantly amazed ever since - especially with my slowly inching toward a more aggressive and sporty side of cycling. I guess that's a happy ending?

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  32. The roles can sometimes be reversed. I am trying to get my husband to ride with me. We have already visited one bike shop where I might have tried to translate for him. Thanks to your post, I'll restrain myself next time.

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  33. My wife and I started with low end aluminum cruisers with derailleur gears. I modified the rear wheel on her bike (and mine too) and laced it with a 3 speed internal gear hub that she finds a lot easier to handle. Last summer I had some success in having her riding with me, but through some "persuasion". I'm going to consider your tips this season and maybe we can have even more fun this year. One thing I would recommend for starters: stick with flat and safe routes, maybe a picninc in the park on a nice sunny day...

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  34. Great advice, and well said. Luckily for me, my wife has been interested in bicycles since I started restoring some old Raleighs about 4 years ago. At first she just thought it was a neat hobby. Then, she became more interested in riding them with me. I think the style of the bikes is what attracted her to it in the first place. Her interest just kind of built up from there, and now we try to ride together at least twice a week, as much as busy schedules will allow. I am not a ultra-mega slick lycra speed cyclist, prefering more of the s l o w touring kind of riding. That works well with her as she has not ridden a bicycle since she was young. She's getting better every time out, and now she's hard for me to keep up with!

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  35. Nicely put, Velouria.

    I see the "clueless enthusiast and his spouse" scenario a lot in my vocation, too.
    Guitars -and guitar playing- seem to bring out a lot of negative gender stereotypes as well. My understanding benefited greatly by the experience of apprenticing under a (fiercely intelligent) female luthier.
    Understanding and careful listening (also being careful not to put one's foot in one's mouth)
    is key to help your significant other along in nearly any joint hobby.

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  36. 7 years ago I bought a bike to get fit and started riding to work. A few months later my partner (unprompted) decided to buy one too. He rode around the block on it and then decided the traffic was too scary and the bike sat in our cellar until a couple of months ago. I was always a bit baffled as to why he'd bought the thing if he had no intention of riding it and used to drop hints and he always came up with excuses, so I shut up. However, kids aren't so tactful and they used to comment loudly within earshot "why does daddy have a bike when he doesn't ride it?", "why won't daddy ride to school with me?" and "I don't think daddy knows how to ride a bike". A couple of months ago our son finaIly persuaded his dad to bike with him to school. I think in this case pester power did work!

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  37. BTW - I completely agree with those who point out that the roles can be reversed and that many couples aren't like this. But I *have* gotten a bundle of emails just like the one I describe at this point, and all of those emails were from women talking about their male spouse, not the other way around.

    Also, re somervillain's comment about not seeing too many couples with mismatched skill levels on the roads: I don't think it's so much on the roads, as on the trails. If a person is going to cycle on the street, chances are that they already have a certain degree of skill and are confident enough to do it. The trails attract cyclists of more varied abilities.

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  38. velouria, this is true. 99% of my riding is on the road, not on trails.

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  39. + 1 for the tandem...there are great deals on old tandems to be had, esp around Boston, where we went to pick up 3 of them (not all at once).

    Change the stoker bars to upright north road bars, add a sprung brooks seat, don't go for crazy long rides; have a destination, go easy, make sure you have low gears if you live in a hilly area, don't be afraid to walk up hills, don't be in a hurry, let the stoker call the shots re pedalling, pretty soon you'll have an enthusiastic cyclist as your spouse

    Our tandem is our "date night" transportation. If you can ride a tandem together, you have a good marriage. The triple however (not for our polygamous self (how do they have the energy)) but for us + our young son...that's a whole other clown college...

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  40. Re tandems - we've ridden one, and it was fun. See here!

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  41. Further thoughts:
    Having a modest goal/ destination/ activity is key to enjoying a new activity. The Scientist taught me (afraid of heights, afraid of speed) to ski, with lots of "let's go slowly down this (green bunny) slope and get a coffee at the bottom."
    I will say that learning/ trying new things together, when done right (with patience, love and humor) is one of the best things you can do for your relationship.

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  42. One of the best post's yet.

    It applies double to kids...

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  43. Some great insight in this post.

    My ex-not-quite-boyfriend is a serious cyclist and owns all kinds of bikes and expensive gear. When we were dating, he mentioned that biking together would be a fun activity. At the time, I had never gone on a ride that was more than 10 miles, so I was somewhat intimidated and afraid of being judged.

    Well, he showed up on his commuter bike, wearing jeans and a polo shirt, with a camera casually slung over his shoulder. I immediately felt better about riding my cheapie hybrid in ballet flats. The ride ended up being a lot of fun and not at all straining, even though I knew that he could be riding circles around me. That boy gets major brownie points for not being an overbearing jerk!

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  44. Last year my wife and I decided we would start biking again as a way to get more outdoor activity as a family, with our toddler. I took her to lots of bike shops to try whatever she wanted, with the goal of getting something she liked and was comfortable on. Eventually she chose a 3 speed upright, and only then did I go looking for a bike for me, with the goal of getting something I would ride in the same way she would on her new bike. I got an old Raleigh 3 speed. This worked great! I have since bought a bike with more gears, since I am the one who usually tows our son on his trail-a-bike, but the tone of our family rides was already set by then, and I still love riding the 3-speed too.
    -Eric

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  45. Don has been biking since... well, I guess it's fair to say he never stopped biking. But we've never had the clash when it comes to biking. Now we're both riding almost every day, but rarely do we do it together. I guess it's because Don and I ride primarily for transportation, not recreation. It's rare that we'll ride just for the sake of riding... usually if we're together it's because we're going somewhere. When it comes down to it I do think Don is a stronger rider, but mostly because he is more than twice my size and his bike is larger too. A lot larger. But I go pretty fast:) And strong in my own way.

    I always see guys in the bike shop with their girlfriends. Often I see them suggesting the hybrid thing and all I can think to myself is how ugly the bike is. I know an ugly bike can still ride well, it's just not what I would want...

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  46. Great post! My bf and I are both keen cyclists, but your description of the 'proper cadence' monologue still raised a chuckle with its familiarity... I ride for functionality and fun, don't really care what cadence I 'ought' to be doing as long as it feels right.

    Still, we seem to manage joint cycling OK, even on longer distance trips :) I find regular photography stops on big hills helps. Also, picknicking in the grass *as well as* cycling. Yes to that.

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  47. @Amy: oooh encourage the recumbent-building! Has he been on one though? They're tricky to get the hang of, I find.

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  48. This is so true and well-said! If guys are smart, they will follow your advice. Overbearing guys are so out-of-touch.

    Such behavior is epidemic among our population :) Recently, my husband witnessed our neighbor "instructing" his female friend on bike riding in the back alley. After barking at her for a few minutes, he firmly declared, "You're not ready for riding on the streets of Chicago," picked up her bike and carried it back inside his apartment. Oy!

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  49. anon: we also got back into biking as a result of wanting another outdoor activity to do with our two toddlers (less than two years apart). we went to bike shops to try out various bikes, but in the end, instead of buying new bikes we decided to invest ~$200 into each of our existing bikes (both old mtn bikes)to make them more comfortable, practical and city-friendly (city tires, fenders, upright handlebars, racks, baskets, etc). we figured this made more economic sense, since we knew that once we got back into biking it would take time to figure out what we really want out of our bikes. (it turns out that we've fallen in love with vintage 3-speeds). i'm glad we didn't buy two $600 hybrids, because i'm fairly certain we'd have regretted purchasing them. the converted mtn bikes have proven extremely versatile and capable of hauling kids and groceries up our steep hills with aplomb, for little monetary investment. the 3-speeds are more just to have fun getting to our destinations when we don't have to haul kids or cargo.

    miss sarah: ditto us. we almost never ride for recreation, but for transportation, so we rarely ride together. my wife actually only rides about once every few weeks now, after a few years of riding several times per week, but that has more to do with the kids being in school now and she needing the car to transport them (sad that we have to rely on a car this way in a city). i use my bike for transportation to work every day and i even do our weekly grocery shopping by bike.

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  50. When I was slow to jump on the bike band wagon (and to keep up with my commute-to-work-on-a-bike husband), Mark got a tandem. Everything I complained about (seat too hard, handlebars not upright, whine, whine, whine), he fixed. And then, as an added carrot, my first REAL tandem ride (with a REAL bike club) was a short easy ride to breakfast. Yes, I will ride for food. And on a tandem, if your partner gets tired, you jock bikers can just show off your prowess by doing ALL the peddling.... just ask Mark.

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  51. Ever get 50 responses in half a day before?

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  52. Jefe - Yes : ) See here and here.

    somervillain - What do you carry the week's worth of groceries in? We can never find a way to fit things like huge bags of oranges and apples, as well as bottled water.

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  53. velouria, here's a link to my ugly duckling, my very un-lovely cannondale frankenbike with looks that only a mother could love:

    /www.flickr.com/photos/7516215@N03/4583244782/

    between the big wald basket up front and the child seat in back, i can pack in three full-size shopping bags (as shown-- 43 lb worth!). full accounting on the flickr page of why i keep this beast.

    not shown in the picture, it also has an axle mount for a two-kid trailer, which can hold (in place of two kids-- i don't believe in trailers for urban child transport, but that's another discussion) about six full size shopping bags. so in theory, this bike could haul nine loaded shopping bags

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  54. velouria, short of having a dedicated cargo bike, rear dutch-style grocery panniers are a good option for carrying large grocery bags. they typically can hold a full size grocery bag on each side. i had a set of fastrider dutch panniers on my union 3-speed, but i sold them (to cycler) after i realized that the gearing of that bike just didn't suit hauling a lot of weight up my hill-- even with a 22T rear cog. and, the pannier set is incompatible with a rear child seat.

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  55. Hi Velouria,

    I carry a week's worth of groceries with this and bungee nets!

    http://spacemodular-spacemodular.blogspot.com/2010_04_01_archive.html

    As for bottled water... I use a Brita filter.

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  56. What a great post! Oh yes, those guys are out there, the ones who want to get their partners into cycling. That's how I picked up my mixte - she belonged to a woman whose husband had bought the bike for her so she could go riding with him. He was a very enthusiastic cyclist with a keen interest in road bikes. She went out with him twice, and yes, I imagined she was very red-faced and sweaty at the end of each ride, and the poor bike was packed away in the garage for years afterwards. Had he bought her something less twitchy than a mixte with drop bars, or better still let her choose the bike she wanted that would suit her cycling desires, the tale could well have had a different ending.

    Excellent advice, Velouria. Everyone has their own pace; if you are riding as a couple, then it's polite for the fittest, strongest, fastest one (which is sometimes the woman :-) to slow down for the other.

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  57. I was biting my tongue trying to hold back one of my favorite rants, but a couple of people broached the subject...

    Enough with the hybrids and the comfort bikes! For someone to really enjoy riding, the bicycle needs to be able to do at least one thing really well. Get an old slowpoke traditional bike like a Pashley or a Raliegh Roadster or even an antique Schwinn 3speed and groove on their unparralleled rightness with the world, or get a for real touring bike that wants to unwind 50 miles everytime you turn out of the drive, or even a basic fast roadbike that wieghs less than the pizza your'e going to want to inhale after spending the afternoon on it. Even on the 40 pound antique you will find yourself clipping along faster than you would have believed when you want to, and your skinny tired roadbike will be perfectly happy goofing around going nowhere slowly once you have made friends with it.

    People get turned off by the marketing that says you have to have exactly the right machine for exactly the type of rider you are and go for the compromise that allows them to avoid the issue. But these goofy bikes that aren't good at anything just trick us into thinking we have avoided the question. As soon as you ask them to come along and do something worthwhile they show themselves for the sloppy, lazy things they really are.

    This is my current favorite bike rant. I hope you got as much satisfaction out of it as I always do, it's better when you can see my eyes bugout and all the arm waving.

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  58. Spindizzy - I enjoyed your rant :) True, true.

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  59. Spindizzy - Clearly we need a video of the rant, or at least some photo-documentation? I agree about hybrids. They are deceitful little things that trick you into thinking they are comfortable for the first 20 minutes, only to betray you on a serious ride. I killed my knees after riding a hybrid in Austria last year. Never again will I touch one of those bikes.

    Carinthia - That is exactly how I got my Motobecane mixte. It was practically "new old stock", because the woman for whom it was bought was not able to ride it.

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  60. The day my hybrid got stolen was the best! Then I was able to go out and buy the bike I really wanted. It's amazing how much more I enjoy riding now. I'm faster, more comfortable and more capable in general.

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  61. : )))) I don't remember where now, but I read a very funny short story once about a person who tried very hard for his bike to get stolen. I think in the end, he finally succeeded - only to have the police return it several days later.

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  62. I'll fourth the hybrid ranting.

    The "innovations" that people have made in the beginner bicycle realm (like hybrids and things like Electra's flat foot technology) have done little more than make people think that "practical" bikes are horribly difficult to ride, because the geometry is just really wonky.

    Granted, we did get into cycling via Electra Amsterdams, but after getting our Raleighs, we were flabbergasted how much the geometry of the Electras was hampering our riding.

    Just get any kind of good, standard bicycle. A traditional design, not something made up in the last 20 years to "accommodate beginners".

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  63. Probably best to avoid the "comfort" version of most items.

    Like don't by the pump that feels like a sneaker. Just buy the great looking sneaker.

    Great post, btw.

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  64. portlandize - I agree that Electras have strange geometry. I know some people like them, but I find them almost unrideable.

    neighbourtease - I am guilty of having bought "sneaker pumps" in the past : )

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  65. Velouria, NO. I don't believe it! :)

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  66. This is good advice, not just for those considering cycling, but those considering committed relationships in any form. Nice work!

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  67. I confess...I was once one of those awful husbands who prodded, lectured and was even more of a pain in the rear than her saddle was. After we split up, she never touched a bike again.

    Later, I had a live-in girlfriend who was motivated by curiosity. She was already doing a bit of riding herself, and wanted to try whatever I did or was using. I started off riding my clunker with her; soon, after seeing me come back from my long and hard rides, she wanted to ride more and check out some serious equipment. It got to a point where she could keep up with me for a couple of hours and we did a tours of the Loire Valley and Vermont together. If it weren't for one small matter, we'd still be riding together!

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  68. Friends don't let friends ride--much less buy--hybrids. They make me think of that old Saturday Night Live sketch. It was a "commercial" for New Shimmer: "It's a floor polish! No, it's a dessert topping!"

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  69. Justine - I remember that SNL commercial : ))

    Tours of the Loire Valley and Vermont! Lucky girlfriend.

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  70. I know this is an old post but I just found your blog and am enjoying the content!

    I can totally vouch for this post. I used to cycle as a teenager and really loved it. So when my husband bought his bike I figured I could have a go too. However he was on his new super fast road bike and I was on my 70s vintage cruiser. Oops!

    He was all testosterone - doing tricks, going speedy. After that ride I refused to ride with him. He figured I didn't like biking. A few years later, we have moved to a small beach town and I now bike everywhere! He has also since adopted a vintage roadster -- our bikes are known in town and we have a blast riding together!

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  71. Fish n' Chips - That sounds great! And vintage roadsters are great for rehabilitating male cyclists : )

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  72. Five years on and I have got the cycling bug . It's great I can now buy loads of nice clothes and shoes not to mention wow Cannondale bike .
    Come on ladies let's show the men we are worth it you never know you might just reach the summit first !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  73. Reminds me of a time I went riding with an ex girlfriend - it was a bit of a disaster, I have always gone out biking on my own or when at uni rode with competitive male sporty types. When I get on a bike I have to go as fast as possible in a slightly reckless fashion, suffice to say my 'riding style' did not go down at all well.

    I just got a 3 speed raleigh roadster with rod brakes, try racing traffic on that ! (my researching it brought up this site)
    Im going to go out riding with my girl (if she is up for it) she has a posh lightweight racer and is a keen cyclist, Im going to try and beat her on the old thing !

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  74. Trudging up an OOOld post I know, but I would like to make one arguement for the ugly hybrid. My hybrid is my daily comuter bike. I'm not comfortable on a roadbike in downtown Minneapolis trafic, which is my daiy grind. I'm more than happy on my road bike on trails and side streets, but in rush hour, city traffic I like the increased ability to see everything around me that I get with the more upright position of my hybrid, and since my day to day rarely takes me more than 10 miles round trip, long ride comfort is a non-issue. We also have a fair amount of bicycle theft in the area, so late nights when my bike is locked up outside bars or on campus, having a $500 dollar bike instead of a $1500 dollar bike is just fine by me.

    All in all I agree with the above that in order to realy enjoy cycling you need a bike that does one thing really well. My road bike does long rides really well, and my hybrid does short distance/busy street biking really well.

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  75. Wow, your third paragraph was me!! $1000 and ten years later (sans that boyfriend) my 2000 Marin Pt. Reyes hybrid has been ridden maybe three times and is covered in rust and dust. I was terrified of it so I never rode it, just pushed it around the porch for years and then relocated it to the basement to wilt and collect dust. I wanted to ride it, tuned it up periodically but I just never felt comfortable on it so I didn't (your clipless peddle write up also echoed my experience, ugh! Anyone need a 10 year old pair of Sidi's in perfect condition?) I happened to ride a cruiser bike in Calistoga recently and loved it! It reminded me of what fun it is to ride a bike! Hence my search for a new bike and discovery of your blog. I want to get rid of my Marin hybrid and start fresh - first with an upright cruiser style bike (your Superba is very interesting to me) and next with a comfortable road bike with drop bars that I could love as much as my first drop bar 10 speed that I rode daily as a kid. I found your blog yesterday and have spent an inordinate amount of time on it catching up. Really enjoying it, thank you! Wish you could be my personal bike shopper..

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  76. I've seen both extremes a) husband five time state champion (an animal); wife loves to ride;
    just doesn't have to be on a never ending breakaway; result: now divorced; husband married to a non-cyclist. Ex-wife still riding just doesn't need to be "the leader of the pack." b) man meets woman while riding his bicycle; woman also is riding her bicycle; next morning, man meets woman for a 125-mile two day ride. result: 22 years later, man and woman continue to ride together (now as husband and wife).
    PS to Velouria: I have my degree in Animal
    Husbandry (wife doesn't mind).

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  77. While I agree with your advice, the undercurrent of sexist rankles somewhat. This scenario occurs in all walks of life where one party in a relationship is trying to "encourage" the other to join them in a hobby.

    Head to your local mall on any given Saturday to see it operating the other direction - the henpecked boyfriend being forced to try on clothes by an overbearing girlfriend trying to give him a "style update".

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  78. I've ridden competitively for sixteen years, everything from crit's to 24HR solo mtb; I have eight bikes and ride'm all. I purchased two bikes for my wifie; neither one suitable alas... Now though she wants to ride and I'm directing here HERE. I'm leaving the kit at home she'll be in control when we're riding together and whatever she ends up with will be her choice. Love the blog really, thanks for the effort.

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  79. I've been lucky with my wife and all of my prior girlfriends - they all had nice bikes before I met them. Not that my wife always rides with me now but before kids we rode a thousand miles a year together. Now we bring the little ones with us most of the times we ride together.

    My experience is that yes, men are more likely to hammer and be stern and all that but I know as many women who can ride faster than me as men. There are all types out there.

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  80. nice post, but these things can go perverse: i love old beater bikes, the older the better. my girlfriend, for her limited cycling experience, finds modern mountainbikes attractive, with all the wrist-aching bent-over-posturing, nasty, clunking deraileuring that involves. so, that's how it is, no amount of "lending" her my old raleigh, or even recumbent seems to cure her yen for lycra and painful posturing

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  81. a tandem bike is gold in this circumstance.

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  82. I just found your blog and am loving every minute of it, especially this post. The best thing that happened to my biking relationship with my fiance is him letting me lead as opposed to me trying to catch up with his fast, racing machine with my hybrid. He can follow my leisurely ways and sometimes I actually surprise him with my speed :)

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  83. Hummm, Interesting topic. My husband and I met as racers in college. At one time I did ok keeping up with him, but as time went on, I got tired of always having to go out and "hammer along" It started to impact my health. When I started slowing down, my husband would get angry and wonder why I was so "slow". A relative assessment since I was still winning and placing in races. After a while his constant berating of my performance took a toll and sucked the joy out of riding together. It took a while, but now I just ride for fun, usually by myself. I secretly hate that I allowed him to destroy the joy I got from cycling together. He is just a stronger rider and won't compromise his ability just to ride along with me, even after all these years. It's a little sad. It's a sadness I've kept private, but I can tell by these posts it's not that uncommon.

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  84. I normally would never comment on a blog but I stumbled across this blog entry and the comments and this speaks directly to me. My husband has a very technical road bike with all the bells and whistles. He rides extremely fast at a high cadence and. Although it was my own decision to purchase a road bike, my previous biking experience - over 10 years ago consisted of meandering down the street or seawall on my old BRC Trekker mountain bike. I went for a carbon framed Trek and have since felt pressure by my spouse, and our friends, because I feel uncomfortable to use a clipless pedal system. And pressure to increase my cadence. "Pedal, Pedal" is the refrain I hear on a regular basis. My spouse also insists on accompanying me to the shop and "translating". Like the Anonymous entry above, I started losing any joy I had in riding my new bike. Until recently. I made a decision to ride at my own level, ignore the pressure of my well intentioned spouse and friends and ordered a good pair of platform pedals that I can use until I feel comfortable enough to attempt my Look clipless pedals again. I went out for a ride for the first time in over a month and guess what, I enjoyed myself! I even managed to keep my cadence in the 80 - 90 range! And if/when I feel comfortable, I will progress again to the clipless system. In the meanwhile I have some excellent road shoes for indoor spin class! My point is, EVERYONE, and their brother, sister, cousin, etc.... will have their own opinion about how you should cycle. And they will not hesitate to share it with you. Even strangers cycling by in the park will have a comment. So what! Just do what you feel comfortable doing when it comes to your cycle, gear, technique, etc.

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  85. Thanks. I am tired of riding alone and wish my wife would cycle but she doesn't want to, says its painful. She took her old bicycle to the dump years ago and has never had a quality machine. We used to cycle together decades ago, now I'm taking voluntary early retirement I really, really wish she would ride with me, maximum 30 mile a day stuff. Found this blog looking for advice about a maximum comfort women's bike to see if I can persuade her to try it, but probably I will have to live with the disappointment and continue riding alone. Better that than bullying or sulking.

    Thanks for acknowledging the problem and offering sincere thoughts.

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  86. I wonder why bicycling seriously attracts so many men, and why so many women find it off-putting. Perhaps the technical aspects and the danger, as well as the need to master the thing. My wife finally has begun to enjoy cycling, but doesn't really go at it with any vigor, or with any intended destination, both of which are for me part of the fun. But I have learned from her to enjoy pedaling at a leisurely pace while woolgathering in quiet neighborhoods with her, and go off on mad charges on my old steel racer or on errands on my own. I have spent a little time teaching her a bit about safety, which she does seem to appreciate, as she never biked much while growing up.

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  87. This is about people, not their bikes. People bring their unique character to bikes...not the other way around. There are some people who don't want to go racing around on feather weight carbon racers and some people who don't want to coast around on beautiful leisure cycles.

    Riding with another person is about sharing the personal experience and enjoying the ride. If two people get along and think about people first...the bikes won't matter.

    Kids know this and get it. That is why you often see a kid with a walmart huffy riding with another kid who has a 2000 dollar high end road bike. They don't care--they just want to ride with their friend.

    Men aren't the only ones who make the mistake of forcing people into "their way" of riding or "their kind of bike". I have seen both genders do it.

    Being snobby, obsessed, and judgemental about bikes is getting a little out of hand. I think people are getting too caught up in the gear and materials. Let's not forget that the bike is just a tool. I don't want to see bikes become status symbols like cars. That will just take the fun out of it.

    Do what you want to your bike and have it reflect your own personality but don't forget everyone has their own unique way of doing things.

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  88. Great post. My Wife and I used to cycle a lot together, when we met she had a high-bar UNIVEGA she had bought new in a bike shop, I had a Raleigh Gran Prix. Mid range road bikes even then, but we had a great time. We had kids, two, and they were close enough together that we put seats on the back of each and rode the tykes around for a while. Then they grew, and our jobs did too, and we just kinda got out of it. Fast forward 30 years... our grown daughter is living in Baltimore and has become a real urban bike gal. I love it! She's inspired me to get the bug again, so, I've been Craigs-listing, buying, restoring... and I finally bought my first-ever new bike, a modern touring bike (Kona Sutra). My "mid-life crisis" does not involve a Porsche... I want to ride across the country!. My Wife's drop-bar Univega was seeming a bit uncomfortable for her now, she was enjoying it less, so I bought (on Craigslist) a TREK multi track. She loves the upright position, the twisty shifters, and the wide, soft, sprung seat! STILL, however, she does not ride at the pace I do and, I believe, without the fervor either. But we enjoy riding together, I try to offer her as few tips as I can bear but some (like shifting points) come out from time to time. ("You're pedaling madly on a flat surface, you can shift now! Work less!"). Apparently not enough to annoy her, but we just plain ride at different paces. I try to cope by riding along most of the time but sometimes riding out and circling back. Not a problem. I dream of us bike touring together but I fear that she just does not want to do that. So, I'm resigned to the idea that I'm just going to tour the country without her. Sigh.

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  89. Well, my experience:
    I bought long time ago an electric foldable bike to go to work (10 miles away). After some time, I bought my wife a non-electric foldable one for leisure. When we go out together, she gets the electric one....and I pant :-) (but enjoy my panting and she does the electric)

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