Weekends with Womack

Cycling and Kayaking– The Case for Them as Companion Sports

Last Tuesday, I was delighted to be able to meet up with Fit is a Feminist Issue Co-Founder Samantha, who was visiting in my area. We had lunch, caught up on all manner of news (domestic and professional), and then proceeded to the nearest kayak rental place to take out a double kayak on the Charles River. Sam told me she had never kayaked before, so wanted to try it. I have a season pass, so the rental was free. Suhweet…

While out on the water, we talked a good bit about the ways kayaking is or is not like other sports that we do. (For philosophers who read this blog, you know the deal: when in doubt, try to categorize and make distinctions). Sam has a lot of experience with rowing and is also the proud owner of a new canoe but she said she’d never been in a kayak before. In the course of leisurely discussion, we both came up with these features that kayaking and cycling have in common (which in fact make them both appealing).

  1. Both kayaking and cycling are relatively easy to do as a complete beginner.

Cycling does generally require some instruction, but once you have the basics, you’re good to go. For kayaking, you just have to get into the boat and move the paddle, and you’re kayaking. The main point here is that you don’t need to know very much about either sport in order to do it.

  1. Kayaking and cycling are endurance sports—if you pace yourself, you can (eventually) go all day long.

People use bikes and kayaks to go long distances, and both lend themselves to getting into a groove, just moving through space/water/wind. My kayak instructor Spencer talks about finding his rhythm and settling into that for a long paddle, and how satisfying that is. Cycling is the same way—turning the cranks and rolling down a country road can be a positively meditative activity.

  1. Both kayaking and cycling afford you the opportunity to spend absolutely all your discretionary income on gear. Or not.

Bikes and kayaks can be had for cheap. You can buy a used kayak at the end of the season from a rental place for a few hundred dollars. OR you can buy this Kevlar beauty for about $4500:


Of course, don’t get me started on bike prices. Yes, you can buy a decent (if heavy) used commuter bike for $100–$200. And then there’s the $12K Pinarello Dogma 2, with Campy record groupo:


And of course there is ample opportunity for accessorizing in both sports. My friend Janet, who has taken to kayaking like a fish to water, already owns (at least count) 4 different sizes of dry bag for stowing stuff in the kayak. And she’s shopping around for her own boat, although has not yet taken the plunge. I’m holding off purchasing a boat until at least next season.

  1. In both kayaking and cycling, there’s a lot of variation in both speed and technique between beginning/recreational participants and competitive/hardcore ones.

Samantha and I were talking about this while tooling around the Charles River in our double kayak—cycling for fun on a bike path is a very different experience from a group road ride. Similarly, taking a kayak out on a lake for an hour quite different from a 6-day ocean kayak touring trip (in the actual ocean). In each case, doing the latter requires conditioning, skill, fancier equipment and experience. As a kayaker, I’m still on the cusp of being able to paddle safely and comfortably in the ocean; I’m still working on learning solo rescue (getting myself back in my boat after turning it over and going in the water). Janet’s got that down pat already, and is planning on taking a rolling class this winter.

As a road rider, you have to have a bunch of bike handling skills, including knowing how to paceline. Also, you have to develop enough fitness and strength and stamina to hang in for the length of the ride. In short, both cycling and kayaking offer opportunities for a wide variety of sport participation.

  1. You can kayak and cycle from childhood throughout your whole life.

This is something I love about both activities—I can do them at whatever pace, intensity and duration I choose, in whatever outdoor venue, in whatever weather I can manage (this is where more gear helps—see number 3 above), and at whatever level I am feeling up to at the time. Not all sports are like this.

  1. Both kayaking and cycling are lovely ways to put the power, coordination and efficiency of your body in motion—wherever you live, whenever you want. Yay!

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One thought on “Cycling and Kayaking– The Case for Them as Companion Sports

  1. I don’t think kayak is easy to beginner but I agree with you about cycling is for beginner and “Kayaking and cycling are endurance sports—if you pace yourself, you can (eventually) go all day long”
    Kayaking and cycling is two my favourite sports. I think kayak help me the feeling to adventure and cycling help me leave depression behind
    Thank you for your sharing 🙂

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