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I'm riding a lot with my girlfriend. We just ride - no training or such. Yet I do like to train. The intensity I normally ride with her is not enough for any training benefit. I guess adding weight could be an option, but the problem is that we sometimes go on long flat routes so the added weight would have to be uncofortably huge to compensate (I don't think carrying a bag of bricks is a solution). Using brakes all the time is tedious and potentially unsafe but also will produce uneven power outputs resulting in uncofortable speed changes, also using up brake pads swiftly. Is there a way to make pedalling less efficient without making rides too uncomfortable/unsafe?

Bicycle type is gravel 46-30 / 11-34 with a very relaxed geometry

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  • Fattest tires you can install, running at low pressure. – Daniel R Hicks May 7 at 19:51
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    I wonder if you could fill your tires with oobleck or something. That might be an interesting effect. – MaplePanda May 8 at 3:48
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    What’s the origin of the speed difference: training or personal preference? In my couple’s case, it’s both (and she has an ebike), so I took a second hand touring bike, that I’m using when riding with her on short trips (it provides plenty or air resistance to fight with, and additional weight) and for casual use. For longer trips, her motor takes the advantage for “my training purposes”, and I need to ride slower to keep my forces, so I’m using my normal bike. – Renaud May 8 at 6:19
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    I'm sure this is an exact duplicate but I can't find it right now. – Nobody May 8 at 10:19
  • I'd be cautious with lowering the tyre pressure as it increases risks of punctures. – Carel May 8 at 14:36
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In flat terrain it’s easy: Just ask her to ride in your slipstream. When done properly this allows a much weaker rider to keep up with a stronger rider. However you both have to pay attention at all times. Signal direction changes (turns, overtaking etc.), signal potholes, don’t brake suddenly, increase the distance if necessary and so on.

Weight will hardly slow you down on flat terrain, it’s mostly about drag and rolling resistance. You could wear loose clothing, change to an upright seating position, lower your tire pressure etc.

In general I’d make sure her bike is set up properly, her saddle high enough, she’s eating enough carbs, drinking enough water etc.

You should also carry all the water, jackets, bags (if any) and so on to make it as easy for her as possible.

I also suggest to start the rides easy. If you exhaust her in the first 15 minutes she’ll have a bad time and won’t have any chance at all to keep up for the rest of the ride. I’d make the first few minutes almost comically slow and easy, with you hardly feeling any pressure on the pedals.

You could also think about riding with her on your easy/recovery days, or do the first part of your long&easy rides with her and then continue on your own. Not every ride has to be all-out ;)

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    In my experience, many beginners don't want to ride close enough to draft, particularly at the resulting higher speed. – Erlkoenig May 8 at 7:34
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    Riding in the draft also changes the nature of the ride significantly. – user2705196 May 8 at 15:06
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    Accepted this answer as it is probably closest to what I need. There is a problem with my question as it is opinionated (tandem bike for example is a perfect solution but not for me). Thank you to everyone who helped with suggestions. Lots of amazing ideas. – Zloj May 9 at 9:22
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Get a tandem. Wherever your relationship is going, it'll get there faster, and together, on a tandem.

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  • If she's small enough, a tagalong bike might work :) That's almost the same thing. – Criggie May 8 at 8:37
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Occam's razor says "practice riding slower" for her benefit. No extra hardware spend required. Instead its extra cognitive load for you as a rider. Downside is that if you do keep riding away from her, she might not want to come with you any more.

The hard part here is that you're looking for a technical solution to a mental/tactical problem.

You could try doing a hard ~1 hour ride first, and then link up with her and do the recovery ride at a casual pace together.

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You could increase rolling resistance by lowering the air pressure in your tires. With lower pressure, the tire walls will deform more as they roll, dissipating more energy and making riding more difficult. This will add resistance to a point, but don't underinflate too much, or you'll run a greater risk of punctures or rim damage.

You could also add wind resistance by riding in an upright posture, or by wearing baggy clothes that catch the wind.

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    Depending on the tires on his bike, the current pressure, and the surfaces ridden, lower pressure can actually reduce rolling resistance. A surer way to add resistance is to switch to tires with high rolling resistance, to use thick butyl tubes, and possibly tire liners. Then inflate them in a manner (either lower or higher pressure) to increase rolling resistance. The coefficient of rolling resistance scales like gradient, so a Crr of 0.01 is like riding up a constant 1% slope. Also, wear loose flappy clothing. Make sure the GF has good tires and is not wearing flappy clothes. – R. Chung May 8 at 4:09
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Rather than you riding slower, help her to ride faster. Make sure her bike is in top condition with good quality parts - no MTB tyres on her bike.

If that's not enough to even the playing field, then consider an ebike for her. You'll have difficulty keeping up with most of them on full assist, so there's your workout. And she'll be able to enjoy the ride with you. Downside, they're not cheap.

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  • I think in most jurisdictions eBikes are limited to 25km/h. It probably won’t help her on flat terrain. – Michael May 8 at 5:16
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    @Michael absolutely correct, in some locations. Here, the ebike is nominally limited to 300 watts and that's it. Other places have no restrictions and ebikes have been seen doing ludicrous speeds. Even if it doesn't apply specifically for OP, then future readers may come from places where the road rules are different. – Criggie May 8 at 8:33
  • Use either gears that are low enough to increase your cadence rather than you speed or when going uphill rather high gears that will force you to push harder. – Carel May 8 at 14:34
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I've never tried one, but you can get a special hub designed with this in mind. It can provide a fixed resistance or use feedback from your heart rate monitor or power meter to keep resistance at a specified level.

https://airhub.com.au

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