If you’re looking for a novel way to spend Valentine’s Day as a couple, or an exciting idea for first date then donning the Lycra, clipping in to the pedals and cycling into the sunset could be the best way to a long and loving partnership.
New research shows that going for a ride may be the best way to set the wheels in motion on a new relationship. A survey carried out by the dating app Bumble and AirBnb reveals that 77 percent of women would be impressed by a prospective partner suggesting a new experience as a date option – and cycling together featured among the favourites.
Riding for romance has certainly worked for Jack White, 86, and wife Pamela, 84. The couple, who regularly rides around their home town of Ludlow, in Shropshire are celebrating their 64th wedding anniversary this year. They insist that it’s a shared love of cycling that’s kept their marriage strong.
Jack and Pamela first met at a South Buckinghamshire Cycling Club meet in 1952. “She was 19, I was 22 and we were both keen cyclists,” says Jack, 86. “Pam’s sister introduced us and I invited Pam to join us on some club rides.” For Jack and Pam cycling together was a first date that blossomed into a true romance. They married a year later and still ride out with their local Cycling UK club having moved to Ludlow from Buckinghamshire when their children left home.
“I’m a very competitive cyclist,” says Jack, who still rides an average of 1,000 miles on his indoor turbo trainer over the winter. “But Pam prefers the touring and the social side of cycling. I’ve taken part in over 800 time-trials and have ridden over 250,000 miles since I took up the sport. Pam has marshalled time trials in the past and also made the cakes and teas. We both get different things out of being on a bike.”
The passion for cycling runs in the family too. “As soon as they were old enough we got our two daughters into cycling,” says Pamela. “When Jack bought a triplet, him on the front, the youngest, Carolyn, in the middle and Susan on the back. We toured and hostelled with it on the Isle of Wight. That week we became notorious on the island with that triplet, with motorists tooting their horns and waving.”
Both Pamela and Jack insist that compromise is a key to enjoyment when riding as a couple. “Jack likes to head off up the hills whereas I will cycle around the towns and villages. In France, Jack cycled up Mont Ventoux while I rode around the villages and stopped at the café for a coffee.”
Mont Ventoux, a 1912-metre high mountain, is the hardest of all the Tour de France climbs. “I did it when I was 73, then completed it again when I was 83,” says Jack. “It hurt a lot more the second time around. Even though it was in the summer the temperature at the summit was freezing and the visibility really poor, but I managed to climb it ok.”
Over the years the couple have cycled through Spain, Cyprus, France and the former Yugoslavia. ”France is the best place to ride,” says Pamela. “The drivers are more considerate and the facilities are geared up for cyclists. Over here football is the big thing, but in France cycling is definitely a national sport. Yugoslavia was interesting, Dubrovnic was beautiful but we went there over 30 years ago and it was a very different place. I remember the choice in the shops for picnic food was limited.”
“It’s been incredibly beneficial to our health too,” says Pamela. “All of the cycling we’ve done in the past has definitely paid off now. I’ve heard it said that cyclists appear 10 years younger than someone of a similar age.”
Pamela’s thoughts are echoed by a new survey of 300 UK doctors by Patient.Info which highlights cycling as among the best exercises people can do to remain fit and health. “Cycling can help you maintain a healthy weight and improve your cholesterol profile, as well as helping to reduce your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis and even cancer,” explains Dr Sarah Jarvis, “Not to mention the positive effects on mental health.“
Jack and Pamela insist that cycling has been a crucial factor in a loving relationship – but it didn’t look like that would be the case at first.
“Jack fell off his bike on the eve of our wedding,” says Pamela. “He cut his head open and damaged his shoulder. It meant that the next day we had to remove his bandages before the wedding photos were taken and that I had to carry our suitcase during out honeymoon. When the vicar asked if I take this man for better or worse I thought ‘it can only get better!’ Almost 64 years later we’re still married and we’re still cycling.”