I have thought of a synonym for partnership: Compromise. Because essentially that is what a partnership always is. Whether it’s marriage, a business partnership or two people cycle touring together the greatest challenge to success lies in the level of compromise that can be achieved.
Gill and I spent last weekend at the first ever Cycle Touring Festival at Waddow Hall near Clitheroe and it was amazing how often this topic popped up in conversation. There were many touring couples there, some of whom gave inspiring talks about journeys half way, or even all the way, around the world. Nobody talked about falling out, though obviously we may have been missing those that did, but they all agreed that touring as a couple is not dissimilar to marriage or a partnership in that it’s a long learning curve and it ain’t easy.
By the time we got back to our starting point on our tour last year there was some question as to whether Gill would ever get back on a bike again and this caused me to think long and hard about why that was and if I was in some way responsible. It was obvious that she had become exhausted after 3,500 miles of riding and coupled with a lot of pain she experienced in her hands it was all just too much for her. Why didn’t I have these problems? We talked a lot around the issue and eventually we came to the conclusion that we hadn’t managed to compromise enough. Or to be more honest, I hadn’t managed to compromise enough. Day after day I had been enjoying what to me was a reasonable and not too arduous pace and distance whilst Gill had been pushing herself just that bit harder to keep up. My compromise was probably waiting regularly at the top of hills whilst Gill’s was riding harder than she really wanted to all the time. It wasn’t fair or balanced.
We met a cyclist at John O’ Groats who had completed the ‘end to end’ ride of around a thousand miles in eleven days.
He was totally exhausted and bitterly disappointed in the experience because he hadn’t enjoyed it. It turned out that having originally conceived of the idea as a solo effort he had subsequently agreed to ride with a younger friend who had totally outpaced him every day. Rather than split up or compromise this chap had pushed himself to the limit day after day and as a consequence his dream ride from Land’s End to John O’ Groats had been ruined. What a terrible waste of a dream. Sadly, even listening to his story a third of the way through our trip we were completely unaware that we were doing the same thing, albeit to a lesser degree.
Loading up our bikes to cycle to the festival last week couldn’t have made me happier. The fact that Gill is now talking enthusiastically about another big tour is music to my ears but I am more conscious than ever of the need for compromise. The answer may lie in a tandem but I am not yet convinced. Just about every aspect of a cycle touring trip is a compromise, from which route to take to what to have for dinner at night. We seem to manage about ninety percent of it really well so if we could just crack the pace and distance conundrum I think we would have a winning partnership. We have managed sixteen years of marriage, surely a few thousand miles of cycling together in harmony can’t be that hard can it?
Somebody at the festival thought a good solution would be for me to carry a lot more of the heavier kit on my bike to reduce Gill’s load. I’m not convinced. You can take this compromising lark a bit too far you know.
There are no immediate plans for a long tour so we have plenty of time to get it right. The kit from last week has been cleaned and sorted is ready to go. I’m looking forwarding to finding our solution. It’s all about balance, in more ways than I thought.