Touring Clean vs. Home Clean
As a woman on a bicycle tour, you’re bound to get questioned on many topics. Even if you’re traveling with a companion, male or otherwise, there are questions that invariably get asked. For example: “Do you ever feel unsafe?” “Why would you want to do that?” “How do you stand not being clean?” The first two questions, I can understand. It’s the last one that gets me, and it’s actually the most common question from other women. Why are women so concerned about this?
Well, I’m here to tell you that modern cleanliness has taken the meaning of clean a little too far. The idea that you have to be stripped free of every bit of dirt and sweat immediately is something that you get over really quickly while on a bicycle tour. You get used to your own smell pretty quickly, in a matter of days usually. And don’t get me wrong, a nice shower at the end of the day feels amazing, but it’s easy to ride and sweat through a day (and sometimes two) without thinking too much about it. A clean bathroom on bicycle tour is a luxury. And you learn to never pass up a toilet, no matter how dirty. Just do your business and get on with it. (You also learn how to do your business behind the cover of a tree, or in a culvert, or pretty much any other opportune place. When you gotta go, you just go!)
And speaking of modern hygiene, let’s talk about body hair. On my first bicycle tour, I was very aware of how quickly my leg and underarm hair was growing out. At home, I can get away with a shave once a week or so, but while on tour it began to seem out of control, as I didn’t even bring a razor. I was more than a little embarrassed about it. After talking to other women bicycle tourists, I came to the realization: it doesn’t matter. You’re riding a bicycle all day. You’re using your own powerful muscles to push and pull pounds of gear, plus your own weight, up massive hills. What does a little leg hair matter?
Once I stopped caring so much about it, I felt relief. Like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. In the present moment, when all that matters is making it to the goal you’ve set for yourself for the day, a little leg hair is irrelevant. Everything gets put into perspective. The simplicity and beauty of the ride should be what you are focused on; this is what your body was built to do. Plus, there’s plenty of time when you get home to lather up or on a rest day (you are scheduling rest days on your tour, right?). Until then, just eat, sleep, and ride!