The Excuse Machine!

posted Dec 30, 2012, 2:18 PM by Jay Sully   [ updated Dec 31, 2012, 1:21 PM ]

A Field Guild to Improve Your Excuse Making Prowess for 2013 Cycling Season

There is a dark place our heads go to when we suffer. It is a place that is both full of pain, a pain that is reflecting back at you the energy that has since left your body, but also a place we slide into to wander about. Thoughts rattle down from the mountain tops of anguish and careen at us as we wrestle with the "should I stop or should I go". This is the place that excuses, and many of these factual tellings of Chilkoot Velo rides (stories), spring from. (aka: If you where to stop my suffering, You could also stop your own suffering which is likely caused by the appearance of another of these stories upon the internet.) 

The best description of this mental place that I've come across is in the book The Rider by Tim Krabbe ( . An amazing story and an amazing description of this place that sits just beneath your helmet, behind your eyes, and somewhere above your heart. The space that can be filled with great darkness and suffering. 

That was uplifting! 

I know. I know. 

You're thinking: "I thought this was a list to help me improve on my excuses." You'd be correct.** It is, or soon will be. I needed you to look deep into my mind. Not only is this important in my effort to help you understand where this sewage comes from, but I'm also hoping you'll suddenly embrace it, disappear to this dark place yourself, get lost and not see me as I come off your wheel (assuming I've not already been dropped) and blow right by you effectively kicking your butt in that next Stop Ahead sprint! 

Or not…  

Hmmm - maybe this should instead be in my Top (not quite) 10 List of things that'll make you (me) rider faster in 2013? Or perhaps I've just gone to that dark place and retrieved another idea that needs to be put back for more baking time. Onward: 


A field guide to improve your excuse making prowess for the 2013 cycling season*. 

Step 1. Put yourself into a position of suffering. And I'm not talking about just any suffering. This has to be  a L O N G  suffering. The path to this place is long and winding. You must cover many hills and valleys to arrive there. You must have that pulse pegged over 200 or 300 (or, if you're like me, over 85). You must push your respiration into the stratosphere. And recover. And do it again. And again. (In 1 activity. Spreading this process across multiple efforts will not put you in the necessary place.) 

As you approach the gates of purgatorial suffering, you must punctate the entrance by watching the group of participants disappear. By disappearing I am not talking about watching them disappear in your rear view mirror that you have on your left handle bar of your road bike so you can cheat on sprints. NO! I am speaking about you looking straight ahead, if you can still lift your head. Of watching the wheels of the other riders slowly grow smaller, and smaller until they are out of sight. (Yeah, it would've been easier to say 'get dropped', but the flowery language helps me feel better about this whole thing, and skiers may not understand without a detailed explanation.) 

But I digress. 

I sense that after reading these last thoughts I may have just put your mind into that dark, dank hole where excuses can come from. Please don't choose the excuse for not continuing reading this. This story may not improve, but it does continue. 

Step 2. Explore this dark place. Look around. Think through the route that the group ahead of you is on. Will they be stopping? Will you be able to catch back on? Yes of course you will. The climb is nearly over. You're (well, me) the big guy so you'll blow right down this mountain and catch back on. Gravity will soon be your friend and not your nemesis. 

Yeah! That is the thinking that is hidden over there within that dark place by the 184 heart rate suffering as you go up, and up, and up. Good Excuses begin from self-delusion. Let's be honest, do you EVER catch up on the down hill or is it always at the ride rest stop where you catch back on just as the group is about to depart? None-the-less, you must pass through this mental place to get to that excuse generator. It's this process that leads to the destination. Embrace it and then HANG ON. 

Step 3. Go ahead. skip the break that the team just took as they awaited your arrival. Jump right back into the fray. You know there's a stop ahead just up the road and despite having just ridden by yourself for the 22.64 miles into a headwind you'll now be riding the tailwind home, you're back with the group, and you've learned your lesson about pulling the small riders. You're ready! You are reloaded! 

Ok, you learn this lesson every time you ride with the group, but as one wh

o is oft dropped, I understand that a lesson learned is not always a lesson remembered. 

It is vital you get back on. You know you won't stay on. You know you won't even make to that next sprint. But the delusions are flowing and the gates of excuseville are opening. 


Before we jump into step 4… Never mind. Forgot what was going here. Move along to Step 4.  

Step 4. Suffer. Do everything in your power to hang on. Take that wheel when someone comes back to pull you back up. You know you will only get half way back to reaching the group but this is where excuse 1 is going to pop from. 

You shout to yourself: "Go on! You are strong!" Which never works. 

That rider, the one about to tow you back to the group, she is humble. Super strong… but humble: She says: "No, come on, hang on, you can do it." In your mind you're grumbling about "where were they when I needed a lead out on that early sprint?" But that's not important now. 

The important part is your suffering. Make. It. Hurt. And the one who is towing you is happily taking pulls off their water bottle, maybe riding no-handed and peeling that banana because they only had 40 calories for breakfast and the group has now been hammering for 5 hours so they better eat something. 

From this suffering comes the excuses. Every door you open in that dark place has something for you: 

  • Brakes - dragging! Gotta be my brakes dragging. (and even in your current state you dismiss this one. Even for the weak, this excuse is terrible. Unless it happens to be true, which I've seen. Really.) 
  • Shifting issue… I keep slipping out of 7th into 6th gear. Never mind that the last time you even came close to 7th was on that last down hill about 12 miles into the ride. 
  • Tire Pressure! Surely!!! Tire Pressure. My tires have been a bit soft all day. I've been using an 1.5% energy output all day to turn these too soft tires. It's killing/killed me. 

All of these are weak, even cliché. Leave them. You will discover better. Wait for it. It is coming like diarrhea after bad Chinese food. 

"PLEASE! DROP ME! LEAVE ME!" Your mind begs. But you don't say that. Instead you toss what remains or your esteem**** onto the sword and say instead: "I know my way home. I don't want to hold you up. You go on".  

Granted, you have never been in this location before in your life, but damn it, just to be left alone you'll say anything! LET ME SUFFER. True, you'll suffer with or without the group, but to really get into the excuse machine you need to end up alone with that dark place. Someone with an optimistic outlook on life who happens to get dropped with you is gonna ruin the whole thing. They'll say something like "Wow! What a great day to be riding!" Or "Remember when it was 20 degrees below zero (fahrenheit) back in January?"

And BOOM! That optimistic, positive living buddy has ruined your dark place and the gates of excusedom snap shut. And all you'll be able to consider is that cold beer that awaits at the end of this adventure you claim to "enjoy". 

DON'T LET THAT HAPPEN. Be dropped. And be alone. 

Step 5. You have arrived. You've suffered. You are suffering. You're questioning everything about this hobby, "Why didn't I invest that extra $2500 US Dollars to shave another 12.5 ounces off this damn bike!" 

You are there. Let the thoughts swirl. The ideas percolate. They are there - they are behind the gates that just opened and let you into excuse nirvana and you are through the gates my friend. Open those doors. Look under the rugs that cover the floor and trip you up. Circle this dark place that is your head. You have received a gift. The gift of darkness. A wandering focus of the pain that is the suffering of the enjoyment of this activity YOU choose to do to YOURSELF! 

"Why oh why did my seat post slip in that first 2 miles and since then I've had to ride super cautiously to prevent it from going lower?? If it weren't for that I'd still be with the group." 

"If only I could shift past the 2nd cog and not keep spinning out of my gears - if only I had won that sprint." 

"Oh! I can't believe that dude on the Evo CUT ME OFF! I had that sprint till he boxed me in…"

"That meteor crashing along the highway sure shook the group up and the shrapnel really hurts the way it's stuck in my calf." 

It is a great place, albeit hard to see. But from this place the few words that are the excuse can grow into stories. Stories of great proportion! Stories that only one who had suffered greatly due to (insert your path to pain here) could understand. 

Only 1 such as you. You and your dark place.  

Happy New Year! 

* I will be completely un-offended if you use this advice to make excuses for your skiing, running, or handball efforts. I grant you full permission to use this sage advice for any activity you feel may benefit. These tips are hot! 

** One goal I have for the upcoming year is the reduction in the use of the exclamation (!) point in all that I write. In the spot that you spotted the ** I have resisted the urge to exclamation mark. I will poof*** read this and the exclamation may reappear. If it does, pleas

e know that it was gone for a bit. But like a good beer, having just one more is tough to say no to! 

*** Poof - me trying to be funny about proof reading. Granted, based on the number of mistakes I find in these stories post posting them and after proofing them, it probably seems I'm a bad proof reader. It just so happens, I am a bad proof reader. I need an editor. Shut up Hirsch.

**** Esteem - Meaning the amount of esteem left after you've been sitting on 15 pounds of carbon fiber in spandex for the last 3 hours, and you've been walking around with "clicky" shoes.