The Girlfriend’s Bike



p> It happens all the time: boy meets girl, boy decides to get her a bicycle. This is especially true for hardcore bike geeks. These relationships don’t always work out. Scan eBay listings for road bikes smaller than 52cm and you’ll find a dozens of stories about bikes for girlfriends that just ended up collecting dust. Oh, and the girlfriends don’t always stick around either. Then that bike definitely is an eyesore.

So getting your girlfriend a bike is always a risky move. But it can be fun.

My girlfriend has declared that she isn’t into athletics, but she picked up my Redline BMX and decided that she would ride more if her bike weighed a lot less. So I pulled a spare BMX frame out of the back of the shop and started a project.

The modern BMX bike is a direct descendent of the Schwinn Stingray, a 20”-wheeled, banana seat classic. I hatched this idea to take a racing BMX frame and returning it to its roots. I’ve got a Kappa cromoly frame with 1-1/8” headset and a Euro BB, and I’m gonna put high-rise “ape-hanger” handlebars and a banana seat on it. I’ve got the project halfway done now. The bike has a early 90’s Campagnolo Chorus crankset and Redline fork. It’s gonna be AWESOME. If she ends up really liking it, I’ll have it repainted this spring.

So who else has gotten a cool bike for a significant other? And I mean a really cool bike, not some token hybrid. Did the girl keep riding, or did it end up on eBay?

I mean, the bike on eBay…


p> kappa%20crank.jpg


Just bought “Wife” a Kona Africa bike.

“I don’t really need a bike, I prefer to walk” was her last comments before taking it out for the first ride.

Now she takes it everywhere.

And she loves it.

Not too long ago I spotted a cast-off Gary Fisher at the curb. It was missing some parts, but my wife and I grabbed it without thinking about it. (I’m a bit of a fish head.) Upon closer inspection, I realized 3 things:

1- it would fit my wife

2- it was a pretty sweet ride, with triple butted True Temper tubes, full XT components, etc.

3- I had enough spare parts in the basement to replace what had been cannibalized by the previous owner.

It is a very nice ride, and there is plenty of action left in those parts. I haven’t been able to get my wife on it for more than one ride around the neighborhood to appease me after I spent the better part of a Saturday tweaking and truing it, though. I plan to start back in when the weather warms up. She WILL like it.

Ah yes . . . there’s the old joke about a bike shop offering marriage counseling, along with Spring Tune ups. Pam always got my hand-me-downs, until she was done with that and now gets the latest and is a state medalist. She’s got 3 bikes now and besides racing, of all the bikes we tested this year, the Kona Ute was her fav.

advice from a girl:

years ago when i swore i wasn’t athletic at all, my boy took me out to ride some really easy fun trails on my old crappy city bike with big ‘ol slicks on em.  i loved it so much i bought myself a full-suspension mountain bike, then a road bike, then a fixie, then a ‘cross bike, and now i’m racing and riding more than he is.

i think a lot of guys get into trouble when they buy their girls a bike and then take them on their favorite trail/road ride.  it might be easy and fun for you, but it’s no way to get a beginner hooked.  instead, maybe borrow a bike and take them somewhere that’s super easy but gives them the sense that there’s fun to be had.  then (if they don’t buy a bike themselves) they’ll see it as a gift of fun instead of skinned knees and frustration.


Good advice! It also really helps the relationship to lay out for someone that I’m a cyclist, this is a lifestyle for me, I ride a lot. The relationship break ups I’ve seen are when someone gets “serious” about riding, training, and racing.

From first-hand experience, it’s also not good to say, “stay on my wheel” to many times on those first “date rides.”

When I first met my wife, a huge part of the attractions was that she had 3 bikes already.  Having been through the “buy your girl a bike so we can have common interest” fiasco with a prior girlfriend, this was a sure thing that she was into biking.  Since then she has added 4 more to the fleet and lost one due to mis-adventure with a car port.

She has definitely benefited from boyfriend/husband buys girlfriend/wife a bike syndrome.  The grand total for the 4 additions to the fleet have cost less than $2k and these include a year old Bianchi Eros, three year old Klein Palomino, four year old bike friday and a three year old Klein Quantum Pro.  All of them were hanger queens and essentially in new condition.  Since they were all Craigs List, we got to know the owners a little.  In almost all cases it was a move after the break up or divorce that was stimulating the sale.

So fellas, here is my advice.  Date short women that can benefit from the pool of newish, small framed bikes.


better yet, date women who ride the same size bike as you (i ride a 49cm frame).  that way, when the relationship goes south, you can change the saddle and stem and ride the bikes yourself!

i am happy that of my exes, half of them have gone on to keep riding. one of them now has a nicer time trial bike than i have ever owned and ended up dragging her husband into triathlon too.

My special girl purchased her own Specialized Dolce (pun not intended) after we met because she saw how much I rode and loved cycling.  I bought her the accessories and helmet.  She was very enthusiastic and really wanted to try clipless immediately, but unfortunately, it hasn’t gone as well as we’d both like.  She does really well when the terrain is flat, but we have tons of rolling hills out by us and the thought of stopping on them terrifies her.  Now she’s a little discouraged but she still wants to try, wonderful girl that she is.

She has Ultegra SPD-SLs loosened all the way, but I’m thinking about buying her the Light Action Speedplay’s for Xmas.  Does anyone have experience with them and would they help her confidence at all?  She’s really gung-ho about learning clipless and I don’t believe that she would want to go to platform pedals or even toe-clips for that matter.  She used to be a dancer and cocking out her heel to click out is totally opposite of what she’s done in the past.


i work at a shop where we see a lot of people willing to dive into cycling but being held up by the technical aspects of the sport.

this is what i almost always recommend to newbies.  get mtn style clipless pedals.  the mechanism is often easier to get into, the pedals are double-sided, and if she misses the first try at clipping in, the full rubber sole gives some purchase on the pedal whereas a road shoe/cleat won’t give jack.

i love speedplay road pedals, but the speedplay frog is THE lightest effort pedal out there, hands down.  you’d have to invest in new shoes to match the pedals, but i’m telling you it’ll make the transition easier.  if you don’t like speedplay frogs, get the shimano M520 pedal.  don’t get the more expensive shimano mtn spd’s; they have a heavier retension spring range.

as for shoes, they don’t have to be extra bulky like some mtb shoes.  shimano makes some excellent touring shoes that are pretty slim and light.

i commute and train in the winter in Sidi Dominator shoes, which are race-grade mtb shoes.  the benefits of a dedicated road shoe over shoes like that are marginal. Sidi Dominators are just a tiny bit heavier and less stiff than the Sidi Genius. 

road pedals, compared to mtn pedals, are usually lighter (50-175 gr us not a big issue for non-competitors) , have better cornering clearance (great for racing criteriums, meaningless for touring), and have a larger platform to support the foot (not a issue for short duration rides or small feet).  that said, i’ve won road and criteriums with mtn pedals and shoes.

one more thing: don’t use road shoes (ie without a recessed 2-bolt cleat interface) with mtn pedals. i’m sure there’s somebody out there doing just that, but only because he’s cheap or ignorant.

an expensive, but well working solution: buy a tandem bicycle. A lot of confidence from the future stoker is mandatory though.
Overall speed will be higher than any “one bike each” solution, hills will not cause “discussions”, except maybe for the maximum speed when descending. And still both will have a workout as desired.
And in case of breaking up: most tandem bicycles are easily adjustable.

Yeah, tandems can be a good equalizer. Each cranks according to his or her own ability and everyone travels at the same pace. It’s like vehicular socialism. My wife and I once rented a tandem cruiser and had a great time pedaling through Pennsylvania Amish country. I’m told that a tandem can definitely make or break a relationship, though. I can see that.

Mark V,

Thanks a bunch for the advice. I personally have the Shimano M520 pedal and agree that they are very easy to clip out of and I was going to initially recommend them to her but I thought clipping in might have been an issue.  The Frogs look a bit easier to get into, however.  Thanks, again, for the great advice.  I’m sure this coming season will be a good one in terms of gaining confidence on the bike.

On tandems, be careful that your girlfriend or boyfriend isn’t a wheel sucker in disguise and you eventually discover they’re soft-pedaling you on the climbs!

Mark and Jay,

Pedals are like saddles with widely differing opinions . .. for all the speedplay lovers, there are haters that can’t stand that much float.

I’ve ridden Time pedals forever and that’s the pedal that works best with my knees—I want +- 5 degrees of float and that’s it. Note, no diss to Speedplay or any other pedal, but base the decision on your knees or your girlfriend’s and what works. For example, [on Bettie](/tag/bettie), we’re using old school [Powergrips]( that to this day work exceptionally well—slide in, flick your foot to the right of left and they tighten, do the opposite to loosen.

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