Perfectly Good Excuses

12.6.2005 | 5:04 pm

In one hour and ten minutes, I will post whatever it is I’m about to write. Then I’ll read it online and make a couple edits: usually adding a parenthetical joke or two, usually adding a few paragraph breaks.

Then I’ll get on my bike and ride to work.

The truth is, at this moment I’d prefer to drive to work. It’s cold, dark, and raining outside, and it’d be nice to just say, “forget it, I’m driving” today.

But I’m going to ride, because I don’t have a Perfectly Good Excuse for not.


The Importance of Excuses

Really, I’m a little bit embarrassed that I don’t have a good excuse for not riding today. In the past, I’ve generally been able to come up with something that sounds pretty convincing whenever I needed it.

Why do I need an excuse at all? A couple reasons:

  • Others: I’m noticing, as winter progresses, that an increasing number of people at work are asking me whether I biked in each day. (I’m beginning to suspect that an office pool has been started on when I’ll stop.) If I don’t ride in, I need to have a reason why I drove, or they’ll think I’ve given up. Somehow, if I give these people a good, compelling explanation of why I didn’t bike that day, I expect I’ll still get credit for being a cyclist. Now that I articulate that thought, I realize how completely boneheaded it is.
  • Myself: More than convincing others that I’d be biking if — darn it! — I didn’t have this Perfectly Good Excuse I cooked up, I need to convince myself. This allows me to be a slacker without being a quitter.

The Anatomy of a Good Excuse

So, in order to avoid the dilemma I find myself today — riding into work when I feel more like hibernating than exercising — I need to replenish my stock of Perfectly Good Excuses.

This is not as easy as it seems, because an excuse is nothing but an excuse unless it meets the rigorous entrance criteria necessary to become a Perfectly Good Excuse. These are:

  • It must be unique: An excuse that you have used within the past several days is no good. If you use the same excuse frequently or two days in a row, people will think you are just too lazy to fix the problem.
  • It must seem to have caught you unawares: The excuse needs to be something that came out of left field. If you knew it was coming, you could have probably planned for it and found a way to ride in anyway.
  • It must be convincing: The excuse must be good enough that the person you are using the excuse on agrees: he or she would also not ride into work under those circumstances.
  • You must sorta-kinda even believe it yourself: This is the tough one. If you know that your excuse is an outright fabrication, you’re not going to have much luck making yourself believe it’s true. You need to have a component of truth (no matter how small) in your excuse.

Perfectly Good Excuses Under Consideration

In order to avoid finding myself in today’s dilemma — biking into work when I really just want to go back to bed — I am currently developing a new stockpile of Perfectly Good Excuses. They are:

  • General Achiness / Approaching Illness: I don’t ever feel great first thing in the morning. In fact, if I went strictly by how I feel about the world in general when I first get up, I could probably make a case for calling in sick on any given day. The thing is, though, I know that this “blugh” feeling (a medical term) passes on its own within about five minutes, and I’m not very good at nursing it into a sense of impending illness. Plus, there’s the problem of my theory that when you feel sick, a ride is more likely to cure it than make it worse.
  • Can’t Find My Helmet / Shoes: This is actually a really good one; there’s no way I’m going biking without my bike shoes or helmet. And with the forgetfulness that seems to be accompanying middle age, this is an easy one to pull off, too. It just takes a little planning. If I put my helmet or shoes down anywhere besides the space I have reserved for them in the garage, I will not be able to locate them the next time I want them.
  • Broken Bike or Part: As long as you’ve got only one bike, this one’s bulletproof. It’s been a long time since I have had no serviceable bikes, though.
  • Need My Car: This is a good one — if you’ve got to go pick someone up at the airport during the day, there’s nothing you can really do about it; you’ve got to drive in. The problem is, these excuses generally don’t coincide with days I don’t feel like biking. In fact, they seem to most often happen on days that a ride sounds really, really good.
  • Rest Day to Avoid Overtraining: Oh, this is a fine one indeed. Not only does it give you a reason to skip riding that day, it carries an implied boast: “I skipped riding today because I am so fit it’s dangerous.” (Interesting note: did you know that “overtraining” is something that only very few pro-level athletes are even capable of? 99% of the people in the world couldn’t overtrain even if it was their fondest desire.)
  • Weather: Since most people won’t ride their bikes if it even looks like it might rain, you can almost always use the weather as an excuse. The problem is, the weather is a slippery slope. If you use it as an excuse today when it’s drizzling, you’ll wind up using it tomorrow when it’s raining again. Soon, the season’s over, and all that’s happened is you’ve become an expert on rain. (It’s entirely possible I’m fixating on rain for some reason. I wonder what that reason could be.)

PS: The Snowman Theme Continues

Yesterday I posted the game my 12-yr-old and I worked on over the weekend. Earlier that week, the rest of the kids were making real snowmen.


The twins (4 years old) with their snowpeople


The 10-yr-old, with his "Snowfa"


  1. Comment by craig | 12.6.2005 | 5:30 pm

    yeah, most people confuse overreaching with overtraining. Much different Animals. How is the pull up workout coming along. Any takers in the office yet?

  2. Comment by Tom Stormcrowe | 12.6.2005 | 5:45 pm

    I skip when there’s glare ice on the roads, is that a valid excuse? How ’bout finals overload, valid? By the way, Fatty, as you can see, I changed over to MSN! Pop in and add a comment, no more anagrams to post a comment!::GRIN::

  3. Comment by Unknown | 12.6.2005 | 5:49 pm

    Since I am down to only two days a week that I can ride to work, excuses become harder to come by. So this morning when my alarm went off and I looked at my wireless thermometer that read -14F….. I decided -13F was the cutoff for what is safe to ride in.Thats the best I could come up with. Then I laid awake and wasted my extra hour of sleep that I get when I don’t bike in beating myself up for being a wuss.

  4. Comment by tayfuryagci | 12.6.2005 | 6:21 pm

    my heart aches every single time I see or hear or read about someone commuting to work/school. I have my share of cluster headaches when I hear about someone commuting in extreme conditions. I want to ride to school too man! And as everyone who dont ride their bikes to school I think that I have the ultimate excuse. My school’s on another continent! No, really! I live on the European side of Istanbul/Turkey and Campus is on the Asian side of the city. 120 kms of sheer fun (60×2=120 wow great math)hmm, snow! I got the gear ready to have long walks in the country side. Can’t wait the snow!

  5. Comment by Unknown | 12.6.2005 | 6:26 pm

    this theory you have (i guess it’s more of an "interesting note) that "overtraining is something that only very few pro-level athletes are even capable of? 99% of the people in the world couldn’t overtrain even if it was their fondest desire." could it be that you pulled this overtraining derision straight out of your butt?you’re not an excercise physiologist, but you play one on the world wide web.

  6. Comment by James | 12.6.2005 | 6:41 pm

    Over here in Boston we had enough snow on Sunday to leave ice on the roads on Monday. Mondays are the only days I can commute, and I don’t currently have any tires with any tread on them whatever, so I skipped it. I rode the train in and felt wussy the whole way. That feeling intesnsified as the train passed over the trail I usually ride and I gazed down at the pristine snow. The studded tires are on the way…JLS

  7. Comment by Douglas | 12.6.2005 | 6:50 pm

    Fatty, Hey, one other problem with the excuses: they (you know, "they", "them") make bikes for almost any condition now. Today would be a great day to have an excuse for me, it is 25 degrees, snowing like crazy and blowing. Unfortunately, they make bikes that will ride on the roads, even when they don’t plow them (Surly Pugsley, with 4" tires). If the roads are icy, well, they make studded snow tires. Raining, just buy fenders. Cold, go get the clothing to ride in it. So really, it just boils down to whether the weak sauce you had with your breakfast is going to keep you from riding. Me, I had an extra helping. Before you go out though, I might suggest not pulling your neck gaiter/Balaclava OVER your helmet as you described. It generally limits your vision less if it is UNDER your helmet.

  8. Comment by Unknown | 12.6.2005 | 7:11 pm

    My number one excuse for not riding today: I had to read Elden’s blog but he wrote too many words and by the time I was finished reading it was already tomorrow.

  9. Comment by Unknown | 12.6.2005 | 7:45 pm

    These are actual excuses that some of my coworkers have used for calling in sick. Maybe they could be modified for your use:1. Their feet swelled up and they could not put their shoes on2. They ate an entire block of cheese while playing video games the night before and…3. They did not have a phone and could not call to ask for a ride…oh yeh, neither did the neighbors, or the gas station, or…4. Their Boy/Girl friend stole their car and fled to Florida5. Friends from Scotland came into town and they were forced to stay up all night drinking and partying6. It was someones 21st Birthday and they stayed out in the cold all night drinking and woke up feeling very sick (must have the flu)7. Their Boy/Girl friend did not hear the alarms going off and overslept

  10. Comment by BIg Mike In Oz | 12.6.2005 | 9:13 pm

    **Can’t Find My Helmet / Shoes**Recent medical research has shown that the advanced thought processes of reasoning and innovation in mature adult males seems to need fresh air and sunlight that is only afforded by thinning on top, however sharp memory and quick recall is the domain of the well thatched cranium and shaded scalp.**Rest Day to Avoid Overtraining**It is true that overtraining can’t be achieved by mere mortals. But excessive volumes of poorly managed training (referred to as overtraining by the great unwashed) causing tendonitis in the achilles or patella tendon or inflamed knee cartilage is quite common.**Weather**It was far too cold to venture out this morning. Overnight it got down to 23. (Damn those pesky celcius, I guess you would call it 73F) P.S. Cute snowcreatures – I also have cute offspring for no apparent reason. Maybe we should be blaming the female parent.

  11. Comment by Unknown | 12.6.2005 | 9:13 pm

    Ack! Snowfa. That’s classic.By the way, this marks the first day I’ve had to put the heater on. Let the "cool" season begin in Houston. Here’s an idea:Your boss (not really caring, but asking anyways): Hey Fatty, why didn’t you ride in today?You (getting increasingly excited): Because I had to carry this cake (pull out the cake) all the way from home! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!Your boss (not impressed): It’s not my birthday.You (trying to hide the smirk): Ah, well. More for me.Kinda cheesy, but may do the trick some day.

  12. Comment by Unknown | 12.6.2005 | 9:42 pm

    Variation on weather: today in Spokane (you know, the other side of the state, across those mountains) the morning started at about 8F, without wind. Throw in windchill, snow and ice on most of the roads (and little room to avoid the cars that are also intent on using/sharing those roads) and you might have a good reason, never mind an excuse and forget the studded tires, for not cycling to work. Being alive is kinda nice, even if not exercising on any particular day. Or so I’ve been telling myself this last week or so, but I just might be whining! I mean, heck, the suns out (for the first time in a long time) and it’s a smoking 20+F out there right now. And I drove?!?! What was I thinking?!?!?

  13. Comment by Jim Carson | 12.6.2005 | 10:30 pm

    The flip side is if you do take a day off, like I did on Friday, my weekly "recycle all the laundry in the office" day, you’ll get endless indirect ribbing from coworkers about being too wimpy to ride through a little white snow, yet questioning the "sanity" of biking home in the same the day before. Adding to your list:1. Snow plow/street sweeper chunked all of the snow into hard globules onto the side of the road where I’d normally bike. [Which they did, but it mostly melted off by yesterday];2. Forgot to recharge my bike light(s), had an early/late meeting; [it helps if you have the charger in your office.]3. Spilled breakfast all over my (polypro, wool) outfit [assumes they don't understand "wicking"]

  14. Comment by TIMOTHY | 12.7.2005 | 12:57 am

    Ok, I did a ride yesterday morning when it was a (relatively) balmy 32 degrees (F) and the streets were only covered in packed snow and ice – but I admit that I wimped out on riding to work yesterday because at 2 p.m. (when I go in to work…) the wind shifted around to the north and temperature nose dived about 30 degrees in under an hour, and it started to snow. Today the forecast high was -2, with 15mph winds. In Montana you get a lot of good, legitimate, weather-related excuses.

  15. Comment by Unknown | 12.7.2005 | 2:26 am

    Love the snowpeople and the snowfa is brilliant, as are their engaging smiles! I think the cake excuse is probably the best one offered yet. Only make it your Best Cake in the World. People would immediately cease to care whether you EVER rode in to work. But then you would NEED to ride in to work to work it off.Hugs,MuMo

  16. Comment by Bryn | 12.7.2005 | 2:50 am

    Hey Fatty, long time no speak. If you check my space, it’ll say why i haven’t been able to post a comment every day as i said i would. The reason been i maoved house and dont have the net connected yet. So at the moment, im at my girlfriends place using her net just to keep u posted on why i haven’t been able to uphold my word to comment on every one of your posts. Seems like your just going to have to wait a week til you get to hear my great comments again. In the meantime your just gonna have to save your best post material til im back and able to make great comments. Have a nice week fatty!

  17. Comment by Unknown | 12.7.2005 | 4:24 am

    Gee Mr. Science…tell us more! I think you might have confused your "fake news" with the real world that is your blog (?) with that little "overtraining" schtick.

  18. Comment by Fat Cyclist | 12.7.2005 | 6:23 am

    dug, rocky – here’s an interesting quote, from Joe Friel’s article "Are You Really Overtrained?":"Less than one-tenth of one percent of the general population is capable of attaining such a feat."The article is worth reading. You’ll find it at:’s (furthermore) interesting is that while i remember this quote from a recent (sometime this year) VeloNews, the article i found — by the same author — with the quote i remember was in this 1999 article for Inside Triathlon. Which probably means that Inside Inc is recycling articles; betcha they had a hole to fill in that issue. What’s the most interesting thing of all, though, is that you both called me on the carpet the one time in my life that i actually had data to back up my claim. thank you.

  19. Comment by Unknown | 12.7.2005 | 10:03 am

    I am incapable of overtraining, for the simple reason that I dont do any. I have a 10K in two weeks. Total training mile since the last 10K – 0.This approach also has the benefit of never being at risk of a training injury.

  20. Comment by Unknown | 12.7.2005 | 11:28 am

    It’s in Friel’s Cyclists Training Bible too, toward the end in the chapter on periodization. History may not repeat itself, but Joe Friel certainly does.

  21. Comment by Unknown | 12.7.2005 | 2:55 pm

    Your boss (still not caring, but still asking): Blah, blah, blah, where’s your bike?You (smirking. again.): I did a little overtraining in the bedroom last night if you know know what I mean. Heh. Heh.Your boss (disgusted): Don’t ever say that again.

  22. Comment by Loes | 12.7.2005 | 4:05 pm

    I can never convince myself with excuses, although I try to say to myself that I already train enough and can afford some rest, but I’ll always feel lazy and guilty. It even troubles me to take rest days when I’ve trained too much and can hardly get my cranks around. Bad weather does always work as a good excuse though.


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