bike touring resources:: cycling with a partner

Men and women are not created equally

“You’re pushing me too hard.”Lost in the dust--it's just not fair!

“Can’t  you hurry up?”

“Slooowww down!”

 “I’ll wait for you at the top of the hill!”

Does that sound familiar?  Female cyclists I've met on the road often complain of being left behind by their much faster husbands or boyfriends.  And guys grumble about being slowed down by their wives and girlfriends

Obviously this leads to frustration on both sides.  One partner is twiddling his thumbs at the top of the hill and the other doesn't have time to catch her breath.

Why are men usually faster cyclists than women?  
There's no secret to the fact that men have a higher average percentage of muscle mass than women.  Males tend to be taller, and on average weigh more. Then you must take into account the hormonal difference.  Men produce much higher levels of testosterone, which encourages muscle synthesis and promotes a greater muscle mass.

When comparing men and women of similar weights, heights and general level of fitness, experts have concluded that a woman possess about two-thirds of a man's strength.  Women on average have a higher level of fat than men.  Top female cyclists tend to have 18-25% body fat compared to 10-15% for their male counterparts.

This additional body fat is a consequence of being female, and has nothing to do with overall fitness levels. 

Be fair!
Given the average differences in strength, it goes to reason that a man should carry more weight in his panniers than a woman.  Even if the couple weighs about the same (which is the case for Eric and me--he's skinny, I've got thunder thighs), the man should pack more of the combined burden.  It is unrealistic to think that the average woman can lug as much weight as a man and still keep up.

A good rule of thumb is that the man should carry at least 20% more weight than the woman.  Since Eric and I weigh about the same, we don't need to make any compensation for differences in overall body mass.  Most couples will need to do this.  

The total combined weight of our panniers and bikes is about 110 kilos.  A recent weigh-in showed that Eric was carrying 45 kilos of gear and that my panniers contained 35 kilos of gear. Based on these figures, Eric is carrying 54.5% of the load and I carry the remaining 45.5% of the load.  He schleps about 20% more weight than me.  Given the inherent male-female differences in body construction, this is a fair weight distribution for us.

If your partner is continually waiting for you, do your own weigh-in and then redistribute the weight fairly.  Women should not have to cycle harder just because of mother nature.

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What are your experiences biking with a partner?  Any tips for cycling together and finding the right pace? 
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