How to Leverage Your Cycling Skills in the Workplace

04.1.2009 | 11:40 pm

A Note from Fatty: My friends at Banjo Brothers are doing an interesting experiment: Microfiction via twitter. It’s a bike story, serialized into 140-character chunks. Get caught up with the beginning of the story here, and then follow the updates on Twitter here.

As a teenager, I had the following jobs, in the following order:

  • Feeder of frozen meat patties onto the broiler conveyer belt at Burger King (fired after two months)
  • Shelf-stocker, floor-walker, toy assembler, help-as-needed do-er, and occasional Dungeon Master at a toy store (yes, from time to time I got paid minimum wage to play D&D. Envy me.)
  • Firework stand worker, and post-July-4 Firework stand disassembler and firework warehouser. My coworker friends and I would talk endlessly about the awesomeness that a stray match would bring about in that building.
  • Lawn maintenance, basic pest control in North Carolina. I nearly melted.
  • Midnight-to-6am radio DJ. I believe my entire audience was 3 14-year-old girls. Still, this is the coolest I have ever been.
  • Door-to-door insulation salesman in Southern California. I spent the entire summer wondering why I gave up the radio job to do this. I still do not have a satisfactory answer.

All of these things helped me make a career choice. Or rather, they helped me realize that I absolutely positively wanted to work while sitting down. Opining, theorizing, and occasionally (if necessary) writing or editing, as opposed to doing any real work.

And here I am. For the entirety of my career to this point, I have always either been sitting at a computer, sitting in a conference room, or sitting with my computer in a conference room.

I am not complaining. It may seem like I am, but I am not. When I’m complaining, I seem even whinier, if you can imagine that.

In any case, I would like to point out that even us white-collar (or in my case, “no collar,” since I’ve somehow managed to avoid companies with fussy dress standards my whole career) workers don’t have it easy. Work can be difficult. Gruelling. Painful.

Work can be, in short, very much like riding a bike. Which — finally! — leads me to my point: being a cyclist is the perfect way to condition oneself for the modern workforce.

Here’s how.

  • Spin a low gear at high-cadence: The secret to high endurance efforts as well as fast climbing is to learn to spin an easy gear, but spin it fast. This principle is true in the business world as well. For example, I never do anything that’s actually very difficult, but do my absolute best to always look like I’m moving very fast. Or for those of you in software, just say you’re doing agile development. Works like a charm.
  • Drafting: When you’re on a road bike, you can conserve a lot of energy by staying very close behind your competitors, letting them do all the work while you coast in their slipstream. The way this metaphor applies to the business world is so darned obvious I don’t even need to explain it. Don’t innovate. Instead, ride on your competition’s coat-tails and then nip them at the finish line. And by competition, could of course mean either your company’s competition or they guy down the hall.
  • Tolerance for pain: As a cyclist, you have developed a surprising tolerance of — and quite likely, a somewhat disturbing appreciation for — pain. You have augured into the ground, plowing fresh soil with your helmet. You have left unusual indentations in tree trunks. You have tested the impact resistance of pavement. And you have voluntarily ridden your bike even as you suffered mightily. Frankly, I cannot think of any greater or more directly applicable training for either a position in Sales or Customer Service. Or for a beatdown by the boss. While others quake and despair at the abuse from which they’re suffering, you will simply be thinking to yourself, “Y’know, this reminds me of the time my front tire blew at the apex of a tight bend in a fast road descent. Wow, what a day!”
  • Endurance: As a cyclist, you are no doubt familiar with the numbness and/or agony that accompanies a long session in the saddle. And you have learned to put up with it. What you may not realize, however, is that most people have not learned to deal with sitting that long. This gives you a distinct advantage when you find yourself in a marathon meeting. I myself have gleefully (?!) watched as others begin squirming and shifting in their seats as the fourth hour of an all-day meeting begins. Meanwhile, having cleverly thought to apply DZ-Nuts under my pants at the beginning of the day, my posterior still has the eye of the tiger. Wait, that didn’t come out right.
  • Use training analogies as a way to excuse yourself for slacking: Every cyclist knows you don’t get fast by always sprinting. Nosirree. You get fast by through a mysterious and complex sequence of efforts. Similarly, it can be asserted that you don’t succeed in the workplace by always working ’til you’re frazzled and burned out. You need to alternate between easy projects and difficult ones. You need to surf the web for a few hours, as a “recovery period.” And when your boss tells you that you always seem to be working at a snail’s pace, you just need to tell her that you’re getting in some base miles right now.  

I’m certain that will put her mind at ease.


  1. Comment by Big Boned | 04.2.2009 | 9:31 am

    Actually, cycling is my PURPOSE for working…Gotta get new toys.

  2. Comment by Onan the Barbarian | 04.2.2009 | 9:31 am

    I’m trying to figure out how to justify reading blogs as it relates to MY job.

    Base miles?

    Sounds good to me.

  3. Comment by Fuzzy | 04.2.2009 | 9:32 am

    Elden Dear Boy,

    I love your style and the way you manage to transpose your wok skills and riding skills. This metamorphosis of abilities is truly remarkable.

    You could however, save yourself lots of brainwork trying to conjour up ways of using your leverage skills- get a job riding a bike. I did!

    Luv n’ Stuff.

    Fuzzy from the UK

    WIN Susan.

    Are you hiring? – FC

  4. Comment by SYJ | 04.2.2009 | 9:38 am

    I have yet to try it…it may well be the best stuff on earth. But I am not sure if I can ever bring myself to “apply DZ Nuts” to my nether regions. Even typing it, I feel dirty somehow.


  5. Comment by Lowrydr | 04.2.2009 | 10:15 am

    I’m, currently in a cool down interval at work. I’ll ramp it up when the boss walks in.

  6. Comment by Hamish A | 04.2.2009 | 10:16 am

    DZ Nuts under normal clothing? Isn’t that just a little, you know… kinky?

    WIN Susan!

  7. Comment by MikeonhisBike | 04.2.2009 | 10:17 am

    Endurance cycling skills also come in handy at church. Trust me 3 hours of church is an endurance sport.

  8. Comment by Big Boned | 04.2.2009 | 10:20 am

    Last time I spent 3 hours in “church” was last weekend on Skyline Drive in Shenandoah NP.

  9. Comment by Tinker | 04.2.2009 | 10:31 am

    “Y’know, this reminds me of the time my front tire blew at the apex of a fast road descent.”

    Wouldn’t it be ever so much more painful at the bottom (the nadir, not the apex) of the descent, than when you are moving slowly at the top of the hill, when your tire blows?

    Just sayin’.

    That’s what I get for trying to write early in the morning. I left out a couple words. I meant to say “apex of a tight bend in a fast road descent. Thanks for the catch! – FC

  10. Comment by LidsB2 | 04.2.2009 | 10:42 am

    It’s those “base miles” that allow some shred of sanity to me maintained in my daily grind. It’s nice to finally have a name for what I’m doing right now! By the way, that stinkin’ Rick Astley song is going through my mind right now and I can’t escape it. Thanks, Fatty!

  11. Comment by mike | 04.2.2009 | 10:43 am

    I like how you did this. Now if we can only get employers to financially back cyclists….

  12. Comment by Linda | 04.2.2009 | 10:55 am

    I do have a high tolerance for pain and a penchant for picking the worst days to ride on. Perhaps this is why my daytime job as a customer service manager has been such a good fit for me. Thanks for clearing that up, Fatty.

  13. Comment by cyclostu | 04.2.2009 | 11:01 am

    In the effort of public service, you may want to apply your favorite chamois creme BEFORE you get to work and that marathon meeting, otherwise some akwards situations may arise (no pun intended). And it took every fiber of my being to not *accidentaly* leave the “L” out of public…cause that would have taken on a different meaning.

  14. Comment by Jenny-Jenny | 04.2.2009 | 11:08 am

    Such great advice. Cycling is the greatest sport on earth. It converts skills learned to everything else we do in life!

  15. Comment by Scrod | 04.2.2009 | 11:20 am

    You forgot one:
    Sprint where people can see you. No one can see who gets to the stupid rock over there first, but on the road where there might be a few people in a coffee shop or a group of attractive young women – that’s the time to declare the sprint (over your shoulder of course). Same is true at work. If you are going to work hard, make damned sure that everyone can see it.

  16. Comment by Rick | 04.2.2009 | 12:19 pm

    “Eye of the Tiger”- classic! Gives a whole new meaning to the song- Rising up, back on the streets/ took my time, took my chances!

  17. Comment by ann | 04.2.2009 | 12:24 pm

    I come here for the metaphor. It’s a great day on the metaphor trail, or something.

  18. Comment by jwbikes | 04.2.2009 | 12:26 pm

    After three straight sixteen hour days, tomorrow is going to be pretty much dedicated to base mileage. I need to get faster on something other than a steep downhill……

  19. Comment by rexinsea | 04.2.2009 | 1:13 pm

    Finally some business advice I can both understand and apply immediately.

    Thanks Fatty

  20. Comment by Kala | 04.2.2009 | 1:57 pm

    I totally agree with this comment:

    “You forgot one:
    Sprint where people can see you. No one can see who gets to the stupid rock over there first, but on the road where there might be a few people in a coffee shop or a group of attractive young women – that’s the time to declare the sprint (over your shoulder of course). Same is true at work. If you are going to work hard, make damned sure that everyone can see it.”

  21. Comment by Ambassador of Kool | 04.2.2009 | 2:22 pm

    Check out my article on Rapha: Cycling with style!

    Find out the latest in kool, from fashion to food at

  22. Comment by Me (still Kenny's neice) | 04.2.2009 | 3:19 pm

    School also is training for those really long meetings. Not quite four hours, but you do get stuck sitting and listening a lot…

  23. Comment by KanyonKris | 04.2.2009 | 3:53 pm

    Elden, did you just invent a new euphemism for rectum?

    “After two days of diarrhea my eye of the tiger is killing me!”

  24. Comment by Clydesteve | 04.2.2009 | 4:50 pm

    Hey Ambassador of Kool – You already spammed this site. go away.

  25. Comment by Clydesteve | 04.2.2009 | 4:51 pm

    KanyonKris – yes, he did. please don’t talk about it. ;-)

  26. Comment by bubbaseadog | 04.2.2009 | 6:51 pm

    is it still april fools day

  27. Comment by Dobovedo | 04.2.2009 | 7:31 pm

    Wow, that didn’t go nearly in the direction I thought it would. I expected a comparison between riding and working to be a lot more literal.

    Perhaps that’s because I am developing a twist to the coming indoor century. Fatty, if you will “allow” me to alter the timing of said event, I am thinking of riding at my desk for an entire work day. Or, in front of it rather.

    My thought is that I will take up donations from coworkers. The more they donate to my Livestrong Challenge, the more time I ride. That means I am going to push this even further than the six hours it takes to ride 100 miles. A full 8 hour workday? Overtime? 10? 12? Not sure yet. Certainly not any kind of record attempt, but it should get some attention.

    I have to work out the logistics of how to be semi-productive and pedal at the same time, and then convince the powers that be that it’s a good idea. Shouldn’t be hard; they all ride and sponsor a bike team.

  28. Comment by adirondack | 04.2.2009 | 7:32 pm

    This is one of the most innovative posts I’ve read yet- totally brilliant! I definitely need to avoid overtraining and burnout at work. I’m going to tell my boss that I need a few more recovery days next week- or maybe LSD base miles. Or maybe she already read this…

  29. Comment by Mia | 04.2.2009 | 8:04 pm

    Best to have a boss who is also a cyclist…yes???

  30. Comment by Fuzzy | 04.3.2009 | 5:13 am


    Applications to Thames Valley Police. Cycle Patrol Officers rock!

    Luv n’ Stuff
    Fuzzy from the UK

    WIN Susan.

  31. Comment by Mike Roadie | 04.3.2009 | 5:24 am

    In my job, I am definitely a “Drafter”


  32. Comment by Mike | 04.3.2009 | 7:51 am

    Good thing I didn’t have something liquid in my mouth when I read this. Eye of the tiger, ha!

  33. Comment by Flatman | 04.3.2009 | 9:06 am

    You have a won a huge (small) and very important (insignificant) award on my blog today! Check it out!


    Great post!

  34. Comment by Charisa | 04.3.2009 | 9:17 am

    So so true!

  35. Comment by Matt | 04.3.2009 | 11:33 am

    “Meanwhile, having cleverly thought to apply DZ-Nuts under my pants at the beginning of the day, my posterior still has the eye of the tiger.”

    Ahhhh Fatty…I was having a rough day yesterday…and just before quitting time I was finally able to sneak in a quick glance at your post…and LMAO! You once came thru with something so bizzare and off the wall funny that I can’t comprehend how you get this stuff…your mind is an amazing and wonderful creation! If you ever write a book, count me in for a copy. Seriously.

  36. Comment by Matt | 04.3.2009 | 11:34 am

    oops..that was supposed to be “you ONCE AGAIN came thru with…..” whos my editor?? He’s FIRED!

  37. Comment by Boz | 04.3.2009 | 12:03 pm

    Funny, once the job peleton hit the current economic mountains, I got dropped like a sprinter. Then, sacked by the team manager. I HATE bicycles!!!!

  38. Comment by Scott | 04.8.2009 | 2:00 pm

    Personally, I find that the ability to relieve myself from atop a bike seat is a highly-transferable skill. Just the other day during a meeting I walked over to the window, threw up the sash and “made water” while expounding on the virtures of cross-functional skill development as an imperative to optimize organizational effectiveness.

    Not only did my “relief-on-the-go” allow me to continue my train of thought uninterrupted, it was a poignant metaphor for the very point I was making.


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