Bike Snob

How to Date a Non-Cyclist

Because your Garmin can’t help you navigate your relationships


Outside's long reads email newsletter features our strongest writing, most ambitious reporting, and award-winning storytelling about the outdoors. Sign up today.

By now you’ve probably seen the viral news story about the woman in Turkey who is filing for divorce because of her husband’s “bizarre obsession” with his bicycle: 

“My husband always spends time with his bicycle. He has a different kind of a bond with it,” Yağmur Z., who resides in Istanbul, said in her complaint. She added that her husband cleans up and fixes his bicycle in the middle of the living room on a daily basis.

If you’re a cyclist, your response to this was probably, “And that’s bizarre…why?” We’re an anal-retentive bunch, and I’ve heard of people who rinse their bikes in the shower and run their components through the dishwasher. Given this, Burak Z’s behavior barely even registers on the spectrum of Weird Things Cyclists Do. 

Nevertheless, it’s important to remember that the world is full of non-cyclists who, quite rightly, find this level of attachment to an inanimate object disturbing.  Furthermore, while we’re great at analyzing our ride metrics, we’re not so good at monitoring our social behavior. So if we’re going to foster and maintain relationships with regular people, it’s important that we learn to recognize when this behavior starts to cross the line. (Obsessing over our ride metrics, for example.)

To that end here are some tips that will help you find love with the normies and live happily ever after. 

Don’t Try to Convert Them

So you’ve convinced a non-cyclist to spend time with you. Congratulations! Somehow you’ve managed to find someone who’s not put off by your passion for grinding away on a bike for hours on end—or, even rarer, someone who actually finds your compulsion endearing.

Warning: one way you’re likely to blow it with non-cyclists is by mistaking their open-mindedness for a desire to become cyclists themselves and then trying too hard to foist your strange lifestyle on them. Want to introduce bikes into a relationship in a fun way? Keep it casual. Suggest taking advantage of the local bike share program and going out on the town. Ride together, not three bike lengths ahead. Refrain at all times from pedal stroke critique. Above all don’t record the ride on Strava!

Want to quickly convince your new friend that cycling is the equivalent of LARPing? Emphasize the need for high-end equipment and full Lycra at all times. And don’t even think about pushing the clipless pedals. Like any other type of fetish gear, if you’re on a date with someone who’s interested in that sort of thing, it’s because you both met on a forum dedicated to it in the first place.

Don’t Keep Your Bikes in Your Living Area

This is perhaps the most basic strategy for curbing your excessive cyclist tendencies, and it’s the one that might have saved Yağmur and Burak’s marriage. Whether you’re cohabitating or merely hosting someone in your own home, keeping your bike where you can see it is like keeping your phone on the table at a restaurant: sooner or later, you’re going to start pawing at it. It starts with “I’m just gonna top up the tires for the ride tomorrow,” then “Netflix and chill” gives way to “repack and degrease,” and before you know it your partner has turned in for the night and you’re up until 1 a.m. cleaning your cassette with a toothbrush.

If the separation anxiety is simply too much to bear, use your phone to take some photos of the bike. At least that way when you gaze at it you can pretend you’re wallowing in depressing current events or the personal lives of celebrities like a normal person. And if you’re a city-dweller who has no choice but to store the bike in your apartment, consider using a series of cables and pulleys to suspend it from the ceiling, or perhaps an electric fence. At the very least keep it somewhere in the apartment with bad light so you’re not tempted to clean it.

Don’t Travel with Your Bike

If all goes well, eventually you’re going to want to take a trip together. For any cyclist, the prospect of a few days away from the bike is a daunting one. Therefore, at some point during the planning, you’re going to float the idea of taking your bike along with you.

Don’t do it.

You know what feels great? That moment when you both arrive all road-weary at your destination, drop your bags, and collapse onto the bed. You know what ruins that moment? When you get right up again, unpack your bike, and start whining about how the TSA crammed your wheels back in the case and now they’re half a millimeter out of true.

Even worse is to plan the trip with a secret cycling agenda. If your non-cycling partner is looking for an early spring getaway to shake off that seasonal affective disorder, don’t push for the chilly, rain-soaked charms of Flanders because you think you may be able to watch a Classic. Sure, the romance of the cobbles is undeniable, but it’s not that kind of romance, and sometimes you’ve got to suck it up and spend a few days lying on the beach.

Search and Replace

Riding makes you happy, and happy people make good partners. However, people who ride to the exclusion of all else are no fun to be around, and if you suspect you may be pushing it, here’s a simple test: before announcing your intentions to your partner, say it to yourself first, but replace the word “ride” or “race” with “drinking binge.”

To wit:

  • “Sorry, can’t meet your parents, leaving town next weekend for a two-day drinking binge.”
  • “Let me know how the movie ends, I’m turning in early tonight. Got that big drinking binge first thing in the morning.”
  • [Pushing curtain aside]. “Still snowing. I’m gonna go binge drink in the basement for a couple hours.”

It’s a fine line between fitness and selfishness, and sometimes a ride hangover is just as debilitating as a regular one.

promo logo