Was That Just a Bike Ride…Or a Date?

That awkwardness when two friends have a sporting outing and one has a different sport in mind.


adventure journal is it a date

I didn’t realize it was a date until he grabbed my hand as I turned to leave. Maybe I was naïve, but I also don’t think I’m the first person who’s ever been confused about whether or not a hiking/biking/climbing outing was actually a date.

We had pedaled for a couple of hours on our bikes, out of the city and back, and on the way back he suggested we get something to eat. Innocent enough. We stopped at a taco shop. Bikes and philosophy dominated the conversation, so when he suggested I stop by his house so he could show me his new cyclocross rig, I thought nothing of it. My mistake.

It’s so easy to say, “We should go climbing some time,” isn’t it? And so difficult to say, “Would you like to go out to dinner with me?” That’s the wonderful-and sometimes terribly awkward-thing about being an outdoorsy person. Doing things outside together is the ideal way to get to know someone you’re interested in, but the crux comes when one person is seriously more into the togetherness than the other.

Before she could even untie, he pulled her in for a makeout session.

A friend of mine tells this story of a climbing outing with a surprise ending: She and a friend from a college class went out for what she thought would be a few casual pitches. Feeling victorious as she lowered off a particularly challenging toprope pitch, she realized her partner was apparently even more stoked than she was when she touched the ground. Before she could even untie, he pulled her in for a makeout session. What could she do? Still tied into the toprope, she couldn’t go far.

We could have endless “When Harry Met Sally” debates about whether men and women can really just be biking/climbing/hiking partners without one party getting more attached. Does a bike ride become a date when you go out to eat afterward? And if you’re not yet sure whether or not it’s a date, how can you tell if it’s going well? When he says, “That was great-we should do it again sometime,” does he mean he thinks you’re interesting and pretty and he’d like to get to know you better? Or does it mean the bouldering was super fun and you should bring all your friends and a six pack, too, next time?

But happily, sometimes, even when neither party initially intends to hook up, the outdoors can be a great matchmaker. My friends BJ and Tracy met up as friends for a week of climbing at City of Rocks. To this day, neither will admit that it was a date, but by the end of the week they’d seen enough of each other’s attitudes and character to be pretty sure that this was it. Within a year, they were married. Seven years later, they’re one of my favorite examples of a supportive, vibrant, beautiful relationship. My guess is that BJ probably let Tracy untie before he went in for the kiss.

Contributing editor Hilary Oliver lives in Denver and blogs at The Gription.
Showing 15 comments
  • Ambrose
    Reply

    Great article. It seems to me that outdoor activities are usually the most fun in small groups, so if someone is making an effort to do activities one-on-one they are trying to figure out if there is something there. It also sounds like the guys in the article did not quite man up enough actually make it clear they were asking for a date.

  • Charles Kelso
    Charles Kelso
    Reply

    It’s a tough call.
    For me it went something like this: I thought I had an awesome friend to climb with at the gym, she thought we might be dating. She realized that we weren’t and started dating someone else… which, of course, is exactly the same time that I started to think that we might actually be dating. Mountain biking, climbing, dating… timing is critical.

  • Kathleen Rock
    Reply

    It always turns out to be a date! Always. I’m done guessing.

  • Dirk Frentzel
    Dirk Frentzel
    Reply

    Yeaaaaah YETI RULES

  • Chase Eckert
    Chase Eckert
    Reply

    It depends, did they share that one bike…

    • Tom
      Reply

      The other bike clearly took the picture, thus was not able to be in it, having too short a reach for a proper group-selfie.

  • Alissa Gabriel
    Alissa Gabriel
    Reply

    I went on a Baja camping trip with someone and fully expected to meet his girlfriend on the trip. Turned out, it was me! #communicationissues

  • Alissa Gabriel
    Alissa Gabriel
    Reply

    I went on a Baja camping trip with someone and fully expected to meet his girlfriend on the trip. Turned out, it was me! #communicationissues

  • Murph
    Reply

    When I was a young guy, I was notoriously clueless when women asked me to do stuff. I mean, I just thought they wanted to do stuff. Clueless.

    Anyways, don’t those two want to take their helmets off while taking a break?

  • KatieSue
    Reply

    I have this problem a LOT. Sometimes it is a date, sometimes it’s not, sometimes it’s a married guy in town just looking for a partner to climb with and I thought it was a date. If I know it’s meant to be a date I usually say I don’t love climbing on first dates since we don’t get to talk much so lets have dinner instead. So far my only way to tell is if he pays for dinner after the climb. Otherwise I’m totally confused. I would LOVE to hear some guys chip in on this issue.

  • Jay Long
    Reply

    Interesting stuff. Didn’t know this was a “thing;” that’s Cleveland, OH, for ya. Makes me feel way out of a loop that I would want to be in. Hiking as a first date seems ideal.

  • Lynn
    Reply

    Ugh–“Surprise, you’re on a date!” isn’t really fun for anyone. I don’t date, so I try to be really clear about that, but for other people, why not keep an open mind? You clearly have similar interests, so it’s worth a shot. Just don’t be that dude from the climbing story. Good grief.

  • Chris
    Reply

    It’s not a date unless it’s agreed upon before hand that it is indeed a date. If you are just hanging out, and start to feel something more, maybe ask to go on a date instead of just making a move. Much less awkward that way.

    • hhf3
      Reply

      what “Chris” said! brilliant.

  • Heather
    Reply

    Loved reading this, and all the comments. I’ve mastered the “this is just a hike – nothing more” by explicitly stating just that, after I made plans with someone I was interested in who humored my interest, without informing me he was needing the outdoors time to figure out if he should go after a girl he met on a camping adventure several months before. Since then I’ve gone on loads more trips – hikes, camping, bike rides – and it’s always just for the love of the activity….and I turn down dinner at the end of a ride…

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