Time Management for Cyclists

02.27.2008 | 3:11 pm

A Note from Fatty: I’ve got a new article at BikeRadar.com today. You can read a snippet it below, or click here to read the full article.

It is common knowledge that if you want to be a rider of any consequence, cycling must be the only thing you think about, ever.

Sadly, there are those who — bizarrely — think that there are other things in the world that approach the importance of cycling. These people are often called “family members,” and — for reasons that have never been made clear to me — they believe they have some sort of claim on your time.

And since — for the time being, anyway — you live in the same house as your family, there’s probably going to be a little awkwardness if you simply ignore these people and go about the very important business of riding of and caring for your bicycles.

How, then, can you get in all the quality bike-riding time you deserve? By using the time-tested time management (also called “manipulation” or “being a weasel”) techniques described below, that’s how.

Determine how much you should be prepared to give up
When you negotiate for time to ride, you must be prepared to give something up in return. The trick is in understanding how to give up as little as possible. Use the following as a guideline:

  • Ride during business hours, when you wouldn’t be home anyway: Do not give up anything for this. In fact, why even bother revealing that it happened at all?
  • Short ride (which may or may not turn into a longish ride) after work: Make a phone call on the way home from the ride volunteering to pick up dinner, so your partner doesn’t have to cook (and so you can eat immediately upon returning home, because you’re starving).
  • Long ride (4+ hours) during the weekend: Volunteer ahead of the ride that you’re planning to spend most of the day working around the house, but would like to start the day by getting in a "good-length ride." This is, of course, code for "long ride," but it’s crucial you don’t actually call it that.
  • Long weekend away with the riding buddies: Flowers and chocolate.
  • 4+ day cycling road trip: Flowers, chocolate, and jewelry.
  • Month-long trip to go pre-ride the Tour de France: Anything asked of you, since the only negotiation tactic open to you in this case is pure, outright begging.

Good Deeds: Timing is Crucial
I don’t even need to tell you the value of pre-emptive good deed-doing as a finding-time-for-cycling technique.

However, if your sense of timing is off, you run the very real risk of sabotaging yourself, and your act of "kindness" will be for naught. (Oh, you could say that the act of kindness is its own reward, but neither of us really buys that.)

The simple, important rule of "good deeds as a form of currency to be spent on permission to go on a ride" is: do not, no matter what, mention the ride you want to go on while you are performing the good deed.

If you do, your significant other will draw a line connecting the dots so fast, you’re likely to be sliced in half by it.

Instead, wait a minimum of six hours — nine is preferable — before mentioning that you’d like to go on this ride. And when you mention this ride, do not bring up the good deed you did. Both of you know a transaction is happening, but neither of you should acknowledge it. Kind of like when you give a copy a $50 to get out of a ticket. You’re each pretending you’re doing something nice for the other person because that’s the kind of people you are.

You abandon the charade at your peril. I say this with the wisdom of experience.

Click here to see the rest of "Time Management for Cyclists" at BikeRadar.com.


  1. Comment by Donald | 02.28.2008 | 7:11 am

    Great tips and timing for me on your article. I’m having to consider this approach for my ride schedule because our second son will be born next week.
    I’m all about helping. But I get up at 2am for work and I’m going to need bike time to stay sane.
    I know my wife will need her time too. I’m looking forward to your next part of this article when you include tips for new Dads who are addicted to cycling.

  2. Comment by Orbea Girl | 02.28.2008 | 7:34 am

    Brilliant article! Should a similar situation occur in our household, I tend to resort to “just remind me, who was it that suggested I take up cycling in the first place?” 18 months ago my husband challenged me to resume playing tennis, learn to play golf or ride a bike. I took the last option and now spend rather a lot of time out on the bike(s). Frankly, he only has himself to blame.

  3. Comment by Clydesteve | 02.28.2008 | 8:25 am

    “…By using the time-tested time management (also called “manipulation” or “being a weasel”) techniques described…”

    I do not even have to read any farther. This article is hilarious!

    So, Elden, did you actually get the MRI done? Any results, yet?

  4. Comment by bikemike | 02.28.2008 | 8:51 am

    hey Elden,
    are there any tips for us morans who don’t follow the pre-emptive strike plan and have to beg after the fact? is the saying about it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission, really true.

    does water really roll off a ducks back?

  5. Comment by The D | 02.28.2008 | 8:55 am

    Epic article, absolutely spot-on!

    The post-work-ride-with-dinner move just killed me… My wife digs it when, right after we both get home, I take off for ninety minutes of “me” time and then grouchily demand food to “immediately replenish my glycogen levels.”

  6. Comment by fatty | 02.28.2008 | 9:15 am

    donald – the best way to find time to ride when you’re a new parent is to plan ahead. way ahead. which is to say, plan the birth of your child so it occurs at the beginning of the off-season. that way, when the new riding season begins your situation will be stabilized and you can resume riding as if nothing had changed. ha.

    bikemike – it’s EASIER to ask forgiveness than permission, but only initially. it’s a well-known fact that each time you ask forgiveness for a new instance of the same thing, you have to apologize for each and every instance of the commission of that event. after a while, it becomes burdensome to even LIST all those iterations. in short, it is best to ask permission, but timing is key.

    clydesteve – i have in fact had the MRI done, but have not heard results yet. i called the dr’s office yesterday; they said they haven’t received the report from the radiologist at the imaging center yet.

    orbea girl – you are in an enviable and quite possibly unassailable position. kudos.

    the d – i, too, have noticed a startling lack of sympathy for (and corresponding attentiveness to) my intense hunger when i arrive home from a ride. i simply do not understand it.

  7. Comment by jerry | 02.28.2008 | 9:35 am

    fatty – the lack of news from the Dr. on the wrist is ultimately good news. I hereby make my prediction that your wrist is an overuse injury at worst and a mild hallucination at best ;)

  8. Comment by Donut | 02.28.2008 | 9:52 am


    My wife and I are expecting our second child in about a month. It appears that I have volunteered to take one sone with me in the Chariot and only leave my wife with 1/2(?) the work while I am gone. Luckily baby boy number 1 loves to ride with me and I can use the extra resistance training. I am working the same angle for a one week ride across Iowa this summer on RAGBRAI, so the wife can have some serious one on one bonding with the new baby.

  9. Comment by Don (http://cyclingphun.blogspot.com) | 02.28.2008 | 10:05 am

    You have once again outdone yourself. So is the key to the workday riding to work at lunch, or to be independently wealthy so that when the wife thinks you are at work you are actually riding? I like that and thinks it would be the best fit for my average day.

  10. Comment by Rio's Rider | 02.28.2008 | 10:18 am

    Great article as always!
    I am currently in the planning stages of bulleted item 4: Long weekend away with the riding buddies. You have suggested flowers and chocolate as negotiation… I’m not convinced my husband would want flowers and chocolate. Any suggestions for the wife obsessed with biking?

  11. Comment by KT | 02.28.2008 | 10:18 am

    Don, maybe the key to the workday riding is to make it a long ride into work (aka “performance commuting”) and then a long ride on the way home from work (“recovery ride”).

    Although, I thought he meant “riding all day when you’re supposed to be at work”, which means you’re independently wealthy or have a lot of PTO to burn through.

  12. Comment by judi | 02.28.2008 | 10:24 am

    Great article!! I guess I am lucky that I ride with my b/f and we don’t have kids. I just need to work around my dogs….

  13. Comment by fatty | 02.28.2008 | 10:25 am

    rio’s rider – table saw. definitely. every man in the world wishes for a table saw. if he already has a table saw, then a drill press comes next.

  14. Comment by 29er | 02.28.2008 | 10:37 am

    Elden, My husband introduced me to your blog last fall. I think today he is going to be sorry for ever sharing that information. I laughed harder today than ever before! After work instead of him saying “Dear, you gotta read Fatty today!” I’ll get something like “You didn’t happen to catch the Fat Cyclist Blog did you?” He will follow this with a quick change of subject and possibly start some good deed doing.
    I outright told my sweetie a few years ago that when he is going on a weekend with his riding buddies and leaving me and my bike at home he should buy the flowers before he starts packing. I feel much better about that than getting wilted grocery store ones purchased at midnight on his way back into town. Then all weekend I have flowers to look and say to myself, “Well, at least that’s something”
    Your 5 top techniques were amazingly accurate. One more favorite I get is “My buddy, so-and-so called to ask about riding tomorrow. What should I tell him?” So now It’s not my husband asking, it’s his friend and you don’t want him to think you’re one of those meany wives, so you’re stuck.
    Thanks again for the great laughs!

  15. Comment by rich | 02.28.2008 | 10:45 am

    awesome stuff as always!
    One other technique that’s worked for me is to cheerfully volunteer to stay home from a ride then pester and bug the wife all day long trying to be “helpful” ….next time I offer to stay home she argues against it.

  16. Comment by bikemike | 02.28.2008 | 10:54 am

    also,remember, whatver you “volunteer” to do, do it wrong. you know, if you wash the dishes, leave dried egg on the plates. if you’re dressing the toddlers, put the diapers on their heads. if you start the vacuum cleaner in front of her (or him) put it on exhaust instead of suction.

  17. Comment by cyclostu | 02.28.2008 | 11:04 am

    Another great tactic is one that Elden has taught us throught the years without actually listing it in the article. Pick an event in the upcoming event or race year (Leadville, a 12/24 hour event, century ride, ride across whatever state you live in, etc.) and then pitch that you are really going to have to knuckle down and train for this. Make it like it will be a “just-for-this-year” kind of thing. Next thing you know, you’re staring at 11 shinny Leadville belt buckles. Simple as pie. Thanks Fatty – we all owe you one.

  18. Comment by KanyonKris | 02.28.2008 | 11:05 am

    Fatty, you traitor! How could you sell out your brothers and sisters in the Secret Society of Cyclists? You broke the pact and will now be disowned and shunned. Your bike shop privileges have been revoked. You will be shaken off every paceline. Etc. I hope it was worthy it.

    But this dark cloud may have a silver lining – you could go it alone as a coach. Not a cycling training coach, those are a dime a dozen and you have a much more valuable service to offer. You could coach cyclists on negotiating rides as you’ve discussed above. I’m sure you have more tricks in your bag – and have probably not revealed the best techniques. And all you’d have to do is use your weasel talents to help others. You’d be fielding calls like:

    “Fatty, help me! I’ve got a century ride this Saturday but my wife is saying something about a funeral. What can I do/say to make it OK to go on this ride?”

    I’ve gotta think there are big bucks in this career!

    BTW, 29er is my wife (see above comment). I’m doomed and I need some coaching.

  19. Comment by rich | 02.28.2008 | 11:06 am

    good point on the training for a specific event idea….although be careful. I tried the whole “I’d hate to die trying to finish such and such a ride”….to which she responded, that would be bad, right?

  20. Comment by Susan (the wife) | 02.28.2008 | 11:54 am

    Apparently you were not listening yesterday. Does “Monkey Boy” sound familiar? I’m on to you, Mr. (I am making that gesture with two fingers, pointing at my eyes maining – “Eyes on you.”). Careful there.

    Note from Fatty: Folks, it’s not cool to pretend to be someone else, especially my wife, on this blog. I’m leaving this one up as a message to whoever posted this, by way of saying people don’t get to put words into each other’s mouths. Post as yourself, or don’t post.

  21. Comment by isela | 02.28.2008 | 11:55 am

    Awesome advice! Excuse #2 is a good one. I am in a good spot though, hubby bought me the bike so I could hang out with my neighbors. If he ever gets pissy about the time I spend with my girl, I’ll just tell him he bought it for me and it was his idea.

  22. Comment by Marrock | 02.28.2008 | 11:58 am

    I go for the “Angry Bastard” approach…

    Just a few minutes around the house complaining about whatever catches my attention, swearing at the top of my voice, or knocking the occasional hole in the wall and it’s usually suggested, in a quiet voice, that I go out and ride for a little while.

    So far getting time to ride hasn’t been much of a problem..

  23. Comment by timlees.blogspot.com | 02.28.2008 | 12:38 pm

    great posts this week fatty, the good stuffs just flowing out of you at the minute. thanks for the laughs. Did you see the soveryalone post including Jane’s “discovery” email? also genius.

  24. Comment by Lifesgreat | 02.28.2008 | 1:45 pm

    Rio’s Rider:
    My husband fishes and hunts and I bike. I stay home with the kiddos when he is hanging out with the wildlife, he stays home with the kiddos when I hang out with you and the other the biking wildlife. I have a lot of time to draw from because his hunting and fishing trips started about 20 years before my bike trips.

    I think we need to plan an epic trip to cash in on some of the 20 years. . .

    Fatty, chocolate and flowers won’t work with me-hubby must bear bike stuff.

  25. Comment by TomE | 02.28.2008 | 1:51 pm

    The end of the article says “that he (Fatty) personally has never had to use any of the above techniques in securing a ride. Ever.”

    Of course not…he uses these excuses to BUY BIKES!!!

  26. Comment by Dobovedo | 02.28.2008 | 1:55 pm

    I have to admit this one didn’t have me laughing. It was absolutely too spot-on 100% accurate.

    For example: I am taking my wife up to Holiday Valley in NY for a ski trip for her 40th birthday. 3 days skiing, two nights slope side. My chance to make the whole trip ‘all about her’, right?

    Well… I’m taking my bike with me and have found a gorgeously hilly 65 mile route from Ellicottville down through Allegany State Park, “just in case I get tired of skiing and the roads are clear”.

    My excuse, of course, is that it’s a chance to do some hill training that we don’t have here in Ohio.

  27. Comment by Ant | 02.28.2008 | 2:27 pm

    My tactic is to suggest a difficult / time consuming loop or ride, and then casually throw in “would you like to come as well honey? You’ll really enjoy it!”

    No sooner have the words left my mouth than I have been ushered out of the house with bike, 2 drink bottles, and a polite “no thanks, maybe you’re better off doing this ride by yourself.”

    100% success rate thus far!

  28. Comment by hobgoblin | 02.28.2008 | 4:07 pm

    I am apparently the luckiest cyclist in the entire world, so I’ll brag a little about that. My wife also rides and races, and there have been a few weeks so far this season where she actually spent more hours on the bike than I did. I never, ever get any trouble about the time I spend riding, and, in fact, sometimes I feel I have to live up to her riding. Our living room is filled with bikes, wheels, riding paraphernalia, and dog toys. The last doesn’t have anything to do with bikes, but it does help show how we’re very relaxed about household clutter; we ride instead of cleaning our house.

  29. Comment by Barb | 02.28.2008 | 4:56 pm

    And I suppose you guys think us wives don’t see right through this? Come on now – give us some credit. It IS nice to get flowers, though…

  30. Comment by El Animal | 02.28.2008 | 6:43 pm

    Fatty: Just a side comment, Jay Petervary the guy that won the Great Divide Race, also won the Iditarod Invitational. BTW, Jill is doing a great race.

  31. Comment by Mike Roadie | 02.28.2008 | 6:54 pm

    Also, we know thjat Susan can spell “Meaning”…..

  32. Comment by Mike Roadie | 02.28.2008 | 6:54 pm

    And that I can’t spell “that”……apparently

  33. Comment by Tim D | 02.29.2008 | 12:43 am

    If you want to get out on your bike and spend time with the family, get one of these: http://www.sandsmachine.com/a_swa_t1.htm

  34. Comment by Bluenoser | 02.29.2008 | 6:45 am

    I figured as much Fatty. I couldn’t see Susan using the term, Monkey Boy. Not nice. How’s the weight challenge going? I need bike parts for race season.

  35. Comment by System6 | 02.29.2008 | 2:22 pm

    You forgot to consider the time continuum. Let me explain.

    Sometimes I do something for 5 minutes and my wife swears it was 20. Let’s not bother talking about what this something usually is. Or why it involves reading books or magazines or whatever happens to be nearby.

    The important thing is that my wife has learned that 5 minutes in my world is 20 or more in her world, and when she says, “you were gone for an hour and you said you would only be 15 minutes,” there’s a perfectly sound explanation.

    See, my time/her time are universally skewed for reasons that are beyond us.

    Einstein’s theory of relativity explains that all items that have mass have gravity, and the strength of their gravitational pull is some exponent of the amount of their mass.

    As a result of gravity, time and energy do not travel in straight lines, but bend around objects according to how much gravity they exhibit. Since my mass is a good fifty percent greater than my wife’s, and we are relatives, there’s no doubt that things would then appear vastly differently to each of us. It’s just the universe at work.

    Therefore, my ride is at the same time, too short, it appears to me, and too long, as it appears to her, but WE’RE BOTH TALKING ABOUT THE SAME RIDE. Einstein was brilliant to see how this works.


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