Ban leave passes and bin brownie points: The nice girls’ guide to negotiating ride time

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Want to rack up brownie points, score a leave pass or find out a sly way to trick your partner into letting you go riding? You could always sneak out very quietly at 5.30 a.m. when your partner is still happily snoring away and when you arrive back at 10 a.m. say you woke up early and asked if it was okay if you went riding. Strange that your partner doesn’t remember mumbling yes in a half-asleep state, isn’t it? You could soften your partner up with a nice dinner and a favourite beer right before you pitch your request for a weekend away on the bike with friends. Alternatively, you could just book his two-hour root canal at the dentist across town for the same time as your favourite Saturday morning ride time. He’ll be none the wiser.

Truth? I’d never suggest doing any of that nor would I think about doing it myself. For a start it would be pretty silly. My husband has been known to read Ella CyclingTips so I would get sprung really quickly. More importantly, one way to ensure your partner resents your time spent on the bike is giving him a good reason to feel negatively about it -like tricking, cajoling or manipulating your way into ride time. Instead let’s channel our inner nice girl and take a more reasonable approach to ride time negotiation.


It makes me gnash my teeth when I start reading forum discussions and articles about the tricks for swinging a leave pass so your partner will let you go out riding (oops sorry boss, of course I am not referring to the one you wrote). Once, long ago, I was that partner who didn’t ride much and, although I know those pieces are written in jest, they really irritated me.

Being painted as a fun-killing, authority-wielding nag really annoyed me. I certainly didn’t think I was one, and part of the reason for that is that I wasn’t given any reason to be. My partner negotiated his riding time with tact and consideration, so I was never handed a reason to complain about or resent his cycling. It made my husband healthy and happy and didn’t always have to take precedence over everything else, so of course I supported his attempts to get out as often as possible. In fact I watched him come back from his ride with a grin on his face so often that I ultimately decided I should get in on the cycling action as well.

Now, many years on, the situation has changed. I’m often the one trying to fit in more than my fair share of riding time. When heading into a discussion about squeezing in that extra ride the outcome is usually much better, and we are both much happier, if I try and remember what it was like when the shoe was on the other foot.

  1. Ban brownie points and leave passes. At the very least don’t talk about them within earshot of your partner. If you act like you only do things that are nice so you can score points to get a ride in, it would make most people feel uncooperative. It is also not a great idea to give the impression that time with your partner or the family is a chore or obligation from which you need to secure a leave pass.
  2. Predictability. Try and line up certain times when you generally ride, in discussion and consultation with your partner of course. Ideally if you can pick a regular time and your partner is expecting it, the weekly “can I or can’t I?” discussion doesn’t have to take place. Just be gracious if you have to give up that time every now and again, as this way, it is more likely to remain a long-term fixture.
  3. Planning. Map out big events in advance and discuss whether the increased training schedule they require is realistic given the other things you have going on in your life. It might fit in and, if it does, you will have given your partner a good idea of what to expect, but if it doesn’t perhaps a similar event at a different time could be a better option.
  4. Babysitters. If you have kids and you’re both are always struggling to find time to fit in the things you want to do, it can help to line up a babysitting share deal with another couple. They look after your kids for a couple of hours and you get to go riding together or you ride and he goes fishing. Then you come back and look after their children for a couple of hours. The other option is to just hire a babysitter for a couple of hours. The time on the bike is probably worth it.
  5. Take it in turns. If your favourite group ride coincides with that regular family Sunday brunch your mother-in-law has put on for the last ten years or your daughter’s tennis game, take in turns. Go to the brunch or do the children’s sport run every second week.
  6. Convenience. Obviously its best to pick a time to ride that fits in with your partners’ schedule. If he is off playing tennis on a Saturday afternoon and Grandma likes to take the kids and bake cookies, don’t waste the opportunity. Investing in a set of lights can also help as this extends the hours where riding is a possibility.
  7. Commute. What more convenient way to fit in that extra time on the bike than with a commute. It can be to work, to the shops or to that appointment across town. You are saving petrol money or public transport fares and utilising the time you would otherwise spend getting places some other way. If you can leave an extra 20 minutes early and fit in that favourite hill climb on the way that’s even better.
  8. Compromise. Don’t always make that favourite ride an absolutely unmovable fixture. If you are prepared to compromise for something that is really important to him, then maybe he will feel more like supporting your ambition to slot in extra training hours for that event or race you that really matters to you.
  9. Say thanks. Let your partner know how much it means to you to have that time to relieve the stress, get fit, catch up with friends and clear your head. Come back with a smile on your face, a good attitude and with a sincere thanks for managing the kids or going to that family breakfast without you. Your gratitude and positive attitude will help him feel good about your riding.
  10. Read this -it’s the most important point. Don’t take guidance about how to manage negotiations in your relationship from a cycling writer. After all what would we know? You know your partner and relationship best, so just do what works for both of you. Yes, even if it is brownie points and leave passes.

What are your top tips? And keep it nice.

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