city-bicycling-holding-hands-featured
Christopher Harrison

You are: a thoughtful, eco-conscious romantic. You want: to make a good impression on that special someone next Friday night. You need: a bike date.

Seriously: What better way to stand out from the pack of would-be suitors (or just show your S.O. a good time) than planning a two-wheeled date night? It’s fresh. It’s fun. And you’re working your quads at the same time.

With all this in mind, I decided to cap off my summer of exploring urban cycling by taking my fiancé, Ted, on our first city bike date. Having survived a few rides and even handled after-hours pedaling, I felt ready to add a little romance to my riding resume.

Bike dates sound easy: Find date, hop on bike. But there’s a little more to a successful outing than that. Here’s what I’ve learned about the art of velocipede wooing. May you take these lessons to heart on your own amorous rides.

First, about that date: Pick someone not just dateable, but bike-dateable. By that, I mean someone who a) knows how to ride a bike, b) actually likes riding said bike, and c) is not overly concerned with helmet hair. Luckily, Ted meets all these requirements with flying colors (which is good for me, as I am now contractually obligated to go out with him).

After you’ve secured your evening’s companion, it’s time to get ready. You’re trying to impress this person, right? Well, here’s an unexpected plus of bike dating: It keeps you from trying too hard. Snakeskin heeled boots are probably not your best option. But nor should you go with flip-flops, unless you have a particularly high tolerance for scraped-up toe knuckles. And instead of worrying about getting sweaty, just wear something you don’t mind sweating into. It underscores how laid-back and cool you are. Here’s some great inspiration, all much better than what I wore on our date this week: a sleeveless top, shorts, and sneakers. But they were cute sneakers.

Next comes your most important task: planning your route. This is not your bike commute, and besides, white-knuckle road stress is not the ambiance you’re going for. Get off the busy streets and onto a peaceful, off-street bike path as quickly as you can. Then target your date destinations based on their accessibility from the path. That’s right, destinations with an S: May I suggest planning a series of stops? You don’t have to do the city parking-space hunt, so why not take advantage of your fleet mode of transport? Offbeat destinations like carnivals, street fairs, and hot-dog eating contests are encouraged, but you can’t go wrong with this time-tested formula, either: one stop for appetizers and/or drinks, one for dinner, and a final stop for stargazing at a park or waterfront promenade.

Now, you may think I’ve neglected another unexpected bonus to bike dating: You can both get hammered! It actually turns out that’s not such a hot idea. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 23 percent of cyclists killed in 2008 accidents had a blood alcohol content of .08 or more (yikes). But sure, it’s nice to have a drink or two and not have to worry about breaking the law (unless you live in BUI states like Colorado or Oregon) when you pedal home from the bar. Just be responsible about it, OK, folks?

And finally, a note about mileage: Don’t turn this into a sufferfest. If your date happens to show up wearing a yellow jersey, then sure, go the distance. Otherwise, keep it within about five miles each way.

So how’d it go? Well, I had to do a little convincing. Ted, like me, was a bit leery of spending an otherwise relaxing night out dodging traffic. But after plying him with promises of a visit to a new microbrewery, he agreed to give it a whirl. So one night this week, we pumped up our tires, checked our blinky lights, and went for it.

One of Seattle’s nicest bike paths is just at the bottom of our hill, so we pointed our wheels in that direction as we set out. Things were a little iffy at first — “Do I have to ride my brakes the whole way down?” Ted griped — but we made it to the path within 10 minutes. Ahhh. Once on that tree-shaded, waterfront avenue, it was smooth sailing to our first stop: beers on the patio of that brewery, located just a block off the path. After that, we hopped back on the bikes to stop two, a casual Flemish joint for dinner with bike racks out front and no one to look askance when we piled our helmets on the extra seats.

Feeling high-spirited and belly-full, Ted and I swung back into the saddle for our return ride home. It was dark and quiet by now, and we laughed as we whizzed along the path. But all too soon we reached the foot of our hill, and the fun and games faded as we gazed up its looming flank. Downshifting and grumbling, we started grinding away.

But as we muscled our way back up that hill, one more unexpected bonus to bike dating occurred to me. Reach back with me to Psych 101: Remember excitation transfer theory? The idea that an aroused nervous system, usually accomplished through anxiety or fear, can shift those keyed-up feelings to a second stimulus, aka your companion? You get a little freaked out on a roller coaster or watching a horror movie or, just maybe, riding a bike up a steep hill, and you project your pounding heart to the guy/gal riding next to you. It’s a classic priming-the-pump situation (so to speak). I’m no psychologist, but hey, it never hurts to add another wrench to your toolkit of seduction.

So how’s that work out, you ask? None of your business.

I will say, though, that all in all, I’m a huge fan of urban bike dating. And luckily, my date agrees. “There’s no better way to motivate a stubborn man uphill and into treacherous traffic like a Belgian strong ale,” Ted says of the outing. “It’s the pedaling man’s carrot.” This was our first time out, but it won’t be our last. I’ll even up the ante next time and break out a true date-night outfit. Just as soon as I figure out how to pedal uphill in a skirt.