Love in the Bike Lane: Cruising for Romance by Michael Tanner

Love Machine: Ted White and Katie Shults, demonstrating why a cargo bike makes an excellent tandem.
Ah, spring, when a young man's fancy turns... can earn him a hot date! Or a young lady's elegant traffic maneuvers can attract her swain's undying admiration. Now that the rainy days of winter are in the past and the wildflowers are abloom in the Headlands, it's time to use your cycling to your romantic advantage.

If nothing else, riding is a great way to meet people with similar interests, goals, concerns - and often really nice legs. When you run into people at Critical Mass, the Golden Gate Bridge bikeway, or Volunteer Night at the SFBC, you already know you have something in common.

SFBC staffer and SOMA resident Michael Calfee, for instance, saw his current paramour at several Critical Mass rides, but the relationship "took off at Bicycle Ballet, when we had something to talk about." So go ahead, ask that person next to you at the bike store what kind of pump fits her valves. Please don't try that at your local bar.

Dates on Bikes Once your smooth talk and toned gams have earned you some cute biker's number, don't leave your two-wheeled yenta at home. "You just can't help but have fun on a bike, and it goes hand in hand with dating," says Tracey Quintero, a newlywed who courted her now-husband via bike. "Biking revs you up for good meals together, provides ample time to talk, and you never argue over how to park a big ol' car."

And just because your Schwinn can't match the back-seat leg room of your cousin's Camaro doesn't mean you're sacrificing opportunities for curbside romance. As Quintero attests, a bike date "opens up so many more opportunities for kissing outdoors, which is the most romantic."

The lack of a car can also be an advantage on an iffy first night out. "You can always get away in a hurry if you have your bike and the date turns out crappy," points out Jenny Worley, who lives in the Civic Center area, "and you don't have to suffer the long, awkward car ride home. At your door, you can position the bike to signal 'don't try kissing me because there's a big hunk of greasy metal between us!'"

Sweet Smell of Success OK, you say, but what about staying spruced up while getting to the date and back under your own sweaty power? One word: pheromones. You don't smell, you're just emitting more of those mate-attracting molecules! Seriously, perspiring, sweating, or even merely glowing is not that big a worry. If you're not trying to catch the Early Bird Special at Denny's - which we simply can't recommend doing anyway - the fog has usually rolled in by a respectable dinner time, and the ride is more likely to be refreshing than sticky.

"When Renee and I were first dating, we'd ride around late at night sometimes after going out," says Worley. "I remember riding from SOMA to Sparky's on Church Street late one night through the cool air in the dark, just whizzing along together and my dress all flapping. It was a real aphrodisiac."

This is no time to put your mettle to the pedal, anyway. Just pick a flat route and take it easy, and you'll lock in freshness for the entire trip. "Slow down and ride together," says Teri Gardiner, who lives in the Western Addition and travels mostly by bike. "It is a date after all. There's nothing more annoying than machismo taking over to prove that he can ride faster than you."

Dressed for Love And this being San Francisco, don't sweat the dress code too much, either. Casual is usually fine, though arriving in style is still a possibility. "Jules and I like to get really dressed up, and go to expensive restaurants on bikes," says Brian Smith, of the Inner Sunset. "The best time was going to EOS in Cole Valley and asking where their bike helmet rack was as we checked in for our reservation. Everyone else had arrived in fancy cars. I did notice a few women who gave their dates looks that said, 'How come we aren't fun like that anymore?'"

Skip the Viagra So now, after that respectable fourth, sixth, or tenth bike date - or for Daisy and her more traditional ilk, after the bicycle-built-for-two ride back from the altar - what happens when you get him or her home? If you're worried about the stories of bike-seat-induced impotence that launched a thousand odd-shaped saddles, don't be. Subsequent research has shown that cycling is actually more likely to increase sexual performance.

A recent study of male Italian heart patients found that participants' blood flow and ability to use oxygen improved as a result of the aerobic exercise. Regular exercise also decreases depression and stimulates the release of endorphins, creating a feeling of well being that's been shown to increase sexual arousal or even orgasm in women. And University of California at San Diego researchers found that men who exercised regularly had 30 percent more sex with their partners and 30 percent more orgasms. They even kissed more.

So go ahead, get in the bike lane, and make your own bicycle love connection.