Leaf littered trail through trees in Bastrop State Park, TX

Girl Trouble

When I told my mom about my plan to ride a bicycle across the country, she had a few concerns. Most were not legitimate (isn’t it dangerous for your future reproductive prospects to ride on a bike seat all day? (It’s probably not)) Some were, though. Invariably, when I talk to other women about cycle touring, they bring up a number of issues that concern them. We’re all adults and humans with daily needs to take care of. Let’s talk about some of these.
One of the most common questions I get asked from potential female tourists is: “Where do you go to the bathroom?” If you’ve never spent much time outdoors, you may have never had to do your business in anything other than an indoor toilet. Here is the short answer: anywhere you can. Always take advantage of a toilet if you see one. Supermarkets, gas stations, and restaurants are all great places to use the toilet. Construction sites typically have porta-potties. Sometimes there’s porta-potties in fields for the fieldhands.
However, there will be some times that you’ll have to go when you don’t have a toilet handy. You’re going to have to squat somewhere. Look for a place off the road, behind a tree or bush which hides you a bit. I take off any high-vis I have on just to make myself a little less conspicuous. If I’m cycling through an area with no trees or anything to hide behind, I use culverts-those pipes that run under the road. It puts me down below the surface of the road, making it a little more difficult to be seen. Remember to try to not go within 100 feet of a water source.
What about menstrual cycles? Well, that can be a little more complicated, but while touring in the United States we have not had a day where we didn’t have a place or two I could take care of this in a restroom. In my experience, the fact that I’m cycling for many hours a day lessens my symptoms. I’ve had a lot of success with tampons. If I need to change it out during a daily ride, I have baby wipes to make sure my hands are clean. If there is no place to dispose of it I have a shovel to bury it in a cat hole. I’ve read about women using an internal cup, and I’m intrigued; I think I’ll try this for my next tour.
Other things that I’ve found that really helps include having a sport’s bra that hooks in either the front or the back. At the end of the day, my arms are usually sore enough that pulling a sports bra up and over my head can be difficult. Also, getting dressed in a tent or inside a sleeping bag can be tricky if you have to pull that bra on. On my last tour, the hooks were a welcomed addition.
As for shaving legs, arms, or whatever else you may be used to shaving: I choose not to shave while I’m out there on tour. Carrying a razor and shaving cream just to try and shave in a dingy camp shower is not my idea of fun. No one is looking at your legs while you ride. If you do stay at a hotel every now and then you can always ask the front desk for a razor.
Don’t let your fear of these issues keep you from riding. You just take care of things as they come. In the end, you just do it. It’s really no big deal. What other concerns do you have?

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Pam Emerson

is an avid bicycle tourist who enjoys sharing her love for bicycling with all she meets.

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