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Question about mountain biking rider order

Question:  When riding as a couple, why is the man always in the lead?

I hike multiple times a week on trails that also have a lot of mountain bikers.  I don’t remember ever seeing a couple with the woman in the lead.  Even when there are two couples, both men are in front nearly always.

When hiking with my wife, I always let her lead.  I learned long ago that I’m faster and she gets tired and frustrated trying to keep up. So she sets the pace.  If I want to go faster, longer, higher, or more challenging I go by myself or a friend.  Hiking together is just that - together.

So I notice with the mountain bikers the man is in the lead, sometimes by several minutes.  I have a few guesses about it, but thought I’d throw it out to the community.

What are your thoughts?  Has anyone else noticed this or noticed more balance?  

As an aside, today, Mother’s Day, we met a group of obviously experienced bikers.  First, the 5 yo, then 7, 10, 12 and last the father.  The mother was probably enjoying peace and quiet!  What a great gift!😃

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11 Replies

When I ride with my wife, she leads for the same reason your wife leads on hikes; I'm faster and don't want to pressure her.  When we take our eight-pound dog in a pet basket on my handlebars, I lead because the dog shrilly complains about any position except lead dog.

Unlike hiking or even running where men and women have similar abilities,  Women are generally much slower on a bicycle.   Of course there are counter examples but they are not common.   I'm a 63 year old male who is a semi-serious road biker.  I ride about 80 miles a week and I can count the times on my fingers when a female rider of any age as past me on the road.  I happens but only every week or so.

So I think it is simply that the faster person ends up in the lead.   It is very frustrating to be following someone who is slower and maybe not even safe if the person in front stops unexpectedly.

Yes there are some women that are very good but they are all young and work hard to keep up with the men.   I NEVER see women over 50 riding on longer road rides but its common to see a lot of guys with grey beards on the roads.  Biking is a very male dominated sport  Maybe 5 to 1 ratio.


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I can't say I've actually paid much attention to other couples out riding, but I'll do one of two things myself.

1. let my wife lead to set the slower pace, as you do (though I will emphasize that I don't think it has anything to do with our genders, just overall fitness levels)

2. still go in front so I can enjoy ripping a fun section at my faster pace, BUT I would never get minutes ahead of her, I stop frequently and/or check over my shoulder to make sure she stays within eyesight/earshot. Besides being rude to leave someone behind, it's a safety thing that if one of us were to have a bad crash, the other would know.

Your observations don't necessarily surprise me though. For as welcoming as MTB communities can be, they do still often have a "bro's club" undertone yet, and I feel like many women that have been welcomed in are those that can "play with the boys".

Another possibility is the common belief that following a faster rider will make you faster, so maybe they think they're helping their riding partners? There's probably some truth in that, but only if getting faster is something that motivates that person, and getting left in the dust doesn't seem like it would be great for an ego boost either...

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1) I agree it has nothing to do with gender in our hikes as well.  I just hike a lot more than she does so can go faster.  But like I said in the op, we’re going for a hike together!

2) that’s exactly why I thought of this issue.  I just so often see the man ahead by several minutes.  It just doesn’t seem like they are going for a ride together.  And from a safety aspect, I wouldn’t get that far away from any partner

Thanks for your input.  You also brought up a really good point about being left in the dust not being an ego boost.

I do hope someone who does get left  in the dust has some comments for us.

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Normally I always ride behind my wife on the road. Downhill on a mountain bike, the fastest goes first. It is dangerous to do otherwise. 

Basically riding with my wife is about keeping her safe and moving.  Normally that is about watching her back.  


It's usually the person in the lead who encounters the Bear first.


My husband and I MTB together and he always leads.  He is faster than me so it would be dangerous for me to be in front of him if we round a corner or go up a big hill and he has to suddenly break.  He will wait if I get too far behind, but most of the fun of MTB is getting to ride those fast flowy downhills.  I wouldn't want to take that away from him because I'm just a little bit slower. 

I typically ride on rail-trails, and frequently in a small group that can consist of my adult son and daughter and their respective significant others, and a couple of friends.  We all tend to switch places (lead lemming vs. sweeper) during our rides, and tend to stay generally close together.  Occasionally one or more of us will feel the need...the need for speed...and go off on a sprint, but in keeping with safety and companionability standards, anyone that gets too far ahead will wait for the stragglers to catch up.  The same holds true for our group hikes.

If I want to push for my own personal FKT, whether biking or hiking, I go alone, or with folks that are in similar condition to avoid anyone being left in the dust.  

It's just the cordial and courteous thing to do.

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