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.
But 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 cop a $50 note 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.
The "clearing the deck" strategy
An excellent way to get some riding time to yourself is to sneakily arrange for everyone in the house to be doing something at the same time. Send the kids off to a movie with their friends. Send your partner off to a craft store, hardware store, the horse races, or whatever other thing there is that you both know he or she likes, but you do not.
Suddenly, you've got time for yourself. Gee, what to do?
I expect you'll think of something.
5 top techniques
You have many, many additional ways to avoid your family in order to spend more quality time with your bike. Try these five top techniques on for size.
1. "Just this once." They say that nobody likes a whiner, but that doesn't mean that whining doesn't work. Make your case that you work hard, that you don't spend a lot of money on cars (don't say this if you spent a lot of money on your car, or if your bike cost more than a car), that you don't try to stop your partner from doing the things he or she loves. You just like to ride your bike, and - just this once - you'd like to get out on a ride without having to start at 3:00 a.m. and being back before anyone wakes up in the morning, as if it were something to be ashamed of and hidden from the neighbors.
The great thing about saying "just this once" is that nobody really believes that you don't ever plan to ask for this favor again. Your partner knows you're going to make the same argument again next week.
2. "I have a dream." This one takes planning and foresight. On New Year's Eve, while everyone's talking about the things they wish they had the discipline to stick with but won't, you bring up something you really plan to do: "Honey, I want to get in great shape this year. I want to lose weight and get fit. I would really like to win at local races."
Then, each day you ride, you express gratitude for the support you're being given as you strive to reach your goals.
If you can, from time to time, get a little misty as you say this, it makes the lie more palatable.
3. "I'm doing this for you." This technique works best if you have a grotesquely obese neighbor whom you both know by name. "Would you rather I look like Dan?" you could ask. "If you want me to gain 20Kg, just give the word and I'll stop biking."
Conclude with, "I should probably update my life insurance, since once I stop exercising I'll be at greater risk for heart disease."
Note: If you have picked up a vibe that your partner wouldn't mind seeing you dead (happens more often than you might think), you should probably avoid the above technique.
4. "This is nothing." Again, you'll want to have an unknowing neighbor to bolster the credibility of this argument. This neighbor must be gone or unavailable almost all the time, whether it be for work or for waxing the BMW. Simply say, "You think I'm gone a lot? Have you happened to check out Brad lately? Would you prefer I be more like him, maybe?"
The flip side of this argument actually works pretty well, too, if you happen to have a local hermit. "OK, how about if I just sit around and never leave the house except to go get the mail, like Bob. You'll see me all you want. Won't that be great?"
5. Mope. To get something, sometimes you've got to give something up. Sometime, don't go on a ride. Don't even ask. And then mope around the house all day. Sigh heavily. Look outside the window.
Eventually, you'll be asked what your problem is. Don't answer right away. Hem and haw. Insist everything's fine.
Finally, admit that there was a group ride you were interested in today, but you decided against it - you'd rather hang out with the family.
I promise, next time you ask, you'll be given a free pass.
Elden "Fatty" Nelson blogs as the Fat Cyclist, where he offers excellent, practical advice like this most weekdays. Fatty would like to make it clear that he personally has never had to use any of the above techniques in securing a ride. Ever.