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Cycling While on Your Cycle, Period

Cycling While on Your Cycle, Period

Guys beware!

If you are a bicycle touring girl, you find out quickly, that there are a few questions you will find awkward or difficulty to ask the guys at the local bicycle shop. Unfortunately, it is not much easier to find answers online, which will enlighten us to a few female specific questions. Let’s face it, although we all like to be equal, our anatomy down-under is quite different…for good reasons. And although guys have their own gentle parts, they do not really think about that there is a lot more sensitive skin tissue rubbing on women’s bike saddles, or whether the creams that guys use against chafing are actually good for those down-below-girly parts. Also, the guys behind the bike shop counter usually do not have many answers to how women best manage their period when cycling while on your cycle.

So if you are a guy that happens to stumble upon this page, maybe you want to help a female traveler out, show them this page or keep reading so you can educate someone.

Otherwise, here is a link to our Gear Review Page.

It’s that time of the month again

cycling with period

Having your period doesn’t mean you have to stop cycling

No matter where in the world, no matter how poor or how rich, no matter what the sanitary circumstances, women have dealt with their fluctuating hormone cycle and all the Jazz that comes along with it for millennia. On average a woman will have her period 5 days a month for roughly 40 years. Whether we want to or not, we learn to live with it.  Sometimes we even used it for an excuse to stay out of PE class, swim meets, or other activities that do not seem pleasurable while feeling bloated, crampy, or leaky.

Although, menstruation has been given all kinds of creative names and descriptions, cycling while on your cycle is no joke..period!

Being on your period is already a real drag when you are at home , it becomes an even more annoying event when “Aunt Flo(w)” decides to show up for a surprise visit at work. However, all of us ladies have learned how to deal with the issue; we carry emergency pads or tampons, or we find another sympathetic girl that is willing to share her emergency stash.

The woman’s menstrual cycle has created a multi billion dollar business and every month we trot to the store and wonder whether there might be another more comfortable, or less leaky hygiene product out there to help us make it through the crimson tide–again.

Bicycle touring female rider

Oh no, not already again!

But how do you deal with it while traveling? Or even better: while traveling long term on a bicycle through areas, where women hygiene products may or may not be readily available?

For some short term travelers who are taking birth-control medications this answer is easy. A few of these women just decide to “skip” their period for a month by not taking a break (or skipping the sugar pills) in their  birth-control regimen.

However, some of us do not get along with the “pill” nor do others want to mess up their hormone levels. Also, it just does not seem feasible to “skip” a period for long term…a year or even two. On the other hand, riding on a bicycle with sanitary pads is just plain torture. Not only do they not stay well in cycling pants and more than likely end up in a crooked wad, but you are inviting a yeast infection into the hot, sweaty, moist, non-breathable environment. Using pads while riding a bike also causes chafing, saddle sores and more of a bloody mess which usually turns into very embarrassing moments when you take a break in a small village, where modesty is king.

Tampons work great for most women; however, when wild camping or when having to change a tampon along the way, disposing of them can be a problem. To boot, they are not always available in certain areas, because of cultural or religious reasons, or just plainly because feminine products may be rare in a specific region.

donkey_ifrane

No store in sight! If you’re lucky you’ll find some diapers

Also, some women are simply not able to wear tampons or have reactions to them. Most tampons and pads are made of bleached rayon fibers, plastic and cotton. Unfortunately some of these products leave small fibers behind in the vaginal wall and can cause bladder and vaginal infections as well as Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). Not to mention, Tampons have been proven to absorb all natural fluids and even beneficial bacteria which help keep the vagina clean and healthy and the bleach/chlorine used in tampons is linked to endometriosis, cancer, and a suppressed immune system.

Since selling pads and tampons has become a multi billion dollar business it is no wonder that we do not hear much about any other alternatives. But there are a few.

The one that jumped out for me was the menstruation cup. Although there are many more brands out there, I happen to choose the Diva Cup, if you should want to know.

“Gross!!!”

Well, that’s what I thought at first. You may agree with that even more so if you are a little bit squeamish about handling bodily fluids, which is not so much of problem for me, since I work in the health care field.

Benefits of using a Menstrual Cup

So why would I want to reuse a small cup made of surgical silicone to catch, what my body is trying to get rid off every month.

  1. Because it is made of surgical grade silicone and not toxic bleached rayon, it is overall better for my health and the environment. After all, there is enough waste in the landfills they don’t need more tampons clogging it up.
  2. Because it is small: I only have to pack one little cup instead of a pack of pads or tampons which takes up valuable space in my panniers. After all, I have to stock up on at least 2 extra bars of chocolate to make it through those days.
  3. It is reusable: On average a menstruation cup will last at least 2 years, with some cups lasting up to 10 years depending on how well you care for then. Which brings me to point number four.
  4. The money savings:  A menstruation cup costs on average between $19.00 and $50.00, depending on which brand and size you choose. There is a great list for comparison of all kinds of different menstruation cups here.
  5. Convenience: Where tampons give you about 8 hours before TSS  becomes an issue, the menstrual cup can go up to 12 hours before I need to empty it. Also, I do not have to worry about leaving a bloody, messy pad or tampon in a stranger’s or friend’s bathroom.  Instead, I just empty it into the toilet, rinse it with clean water, if available or wipe it out with tissue paper before reinserting, and then clean it later… It also has a higher volume capacity than tampons or pads, which means fewer trips to the bathroom, or having to find a bush while outdoors. It also lasts through the night, without finding a mess in the sleeping bag.
  6. Many women, me included, have reported less cramping and lighter/shorter periods with the menstruation cup….maybe it is just the lack of bleach and fibers that does the trick, who knows.
  7. Comfort: the cup comes in different sizes, depending on whether you have already given birth or not. Even some women that are not able to wear tampons due to a tilted cervix or uterus can sometimes wear cups comfortably. I find it sits well while I ride my bicycle for hours and days on end. There is no rubbing, chafing, and luckily no embarrassing leaking, as long as I know about how long I can go until I have to empty it during the “heavy days”.

Since I am not the most graceful person, I also was a little skeptical about making a mess with this little gadget. I know this product is not for everyone and it takes a little bit getting used to folding the cup and inserting it just right for it to seal. So I would suggest to try it out for a menstrual cycle or two before you set out on a year long adventure.

When not to use a Menstruation Cup:

I really could not find any restrictions on why you could not wear the cup, but here are a couple of things to maybe consider. Please make sure you do your own research.

  1. Although, there has never been a report of TSS with the use of menstrual cups, women who have a history of TSS should always talk it over with their doctor first.
  2. Further, a study by Dr. Weibe showed no risk of early expulsion of an IUD; however, women who use IUD’s may want to ask their gynecologist about the use; especially, if they have a tilted cervix or uterus.

 

On a lighter note and just in case you were wondering how other people describe or nickname having a period. These are supposedly common things said in different countries, although, there are many regional differences.

starfish,communist.comDenmark: “It’s the communist in the fun house.”

Netherlands: “The tomato soup is over cooked.”

Chile: “She’s with red flag (referring to the red “no swim flag” at the beach).”

England: “Flying the Japanese flag.”

Germany: “Visitors from Rothenburg.”

strawberry-heart-19205882Japan: “Little Miss Strawberry.”

France: “The English have arrived.”

Others: the monthly curse, visit from Aunt Flo, have the painters in, red tide, shark week, surf the crimson wave, on the rag, time of the month, Jenny has a red dress….

If you are interested and you can not find it locally, please use the link below to help you find one on Amazon and help keep our blog going.

4 Comments
  • Debbie
    Posted at 18:42h, 16 August Reply

    I love my MeLuna cup, and won’t go anywhere without it. Great article, there needs to be more info on these things out there. I switched a few years ago and won’t go back to tampons.

    • Petra
      Posted at 19:22h, 16 August Reply

      Hi Debbie. Thanks for leaving a comment. Yes, I agree, I did not know about these cups either until we planned on long term traveling and did a lot of research. Actually, I am still surprised that not many women know about these alternatives, because they work great even when not traveling and save a lot of money…

  • Cait
    Posted at 12:59h, 23 June Reply

    I’ve been using a menstrual cup for years now and wouldn’t turn back. But I was wondering, how do you still stay hygienic while wild camping (i.e. safely disposing the contents when you don’t have access to a toilet?)

    • Petra
      Posted at 16:29h, 14 August Reply

      Hi Cait, It is actually much easier than trying to dispose of tampons or pads. When wild camping in the woods, we use the leave-no-trace method of digging a hole when using natures bathroom, not only do we do “our business” there, but the contents of the cup will go in there as well. We also carry toilet paper and baby wipes for hygene.

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