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  1. #1
    Junior Member nerakrose's Avatar
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    women on bikes - menstruating on tour? (Iceland)

    You see, I'm a woman. As a woman I'm cursed with this thing (in disguise of a blessing, since it makes me fertile) that makes me bleed every month. For six days. Including pain so extensive that for the first two days I feel like someone kicked me in the crotch and I can barely move or sit down, much less ride a bike. (On those days I either take the bus to uni or skip uni altogether, instead of biking as I'm not big on painkillers. I would be willing to forego my usual aversion to painkillers on a bike tour, though.)

    There are several travel blogs by bikers on the internet and many of them are female. I read three blogs last night written by female bikers who'd spent 4 weeks biking round Iceland.

    Not one of them touched the subject of what the hell you do about your bleeding vagina whilst on a bike trip IN THE WILDERNESS where there are no public loos for miles on end.

    When I googled the subject, I found NOTHING. seriously, are women so squeamish that they don't talk about this? WHAT DO THESE FEMALE BIKERS DO?!

    I'm going on a 5 week bike trip to Iceland next summer and those of you of the female sex who've done the same, could you please, please, englighten me as to what you did on your own trips?

    I found a forum in which a few girls discussed the merits of pads over tampons while biking, and another that adviced 'plan your trip so you can stop every few hours and change the pad or tampon' which is very good advice if you're travelling in populated areas, but you know, WILDERNESS. Between Egilstadir and Mývatn, there's some 110km of NOTHING, for example. I just won't have that option and many of you didn't either.

    TL;DR: How do women manage their menstruation on long bike trips in areas with little opportunity to use a loo?

  2. #2
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    I'm a woman who not only tours, but who has also been a randonneur for 12 years now, and who also does a lot of other long rides in remote areas. As it happens, stress or extremes in exercise make my menstruation that much worse, so it can be quite an annoying and frustrating challenge.

    And ... I did talk a little bit about this very subject when I wrote up the story of the Last Chance Randonnee:
    http://www.machka.net/usa/24h_lcride.htm

    But here's the thing ... you don't need a populated area or a loo to change your tampon. You can do that anywhere ... although you may prefer to duck behind a tree or something for a little bit of privacy. Remove the old one, place it into a plastic bag, insert the new one. Use a baby wipe to clean up a bit, and place the baby wipe into the plastic bag ... and carry the bag with you to wherever you can dispose of it. Pretty much exactly what you'd do at home or work ... except at home or work, you'll likely have a receptacle for the plastic bag nearby.

    As for the pain ... I've found a few decent painkllers that seem to work quite well. One is Panadol or Panamax which contains paracetamol. It's available as a painkiller everywhere here in Australia and is quite inexpensive. Another is one that contains Acetaminophen, Pamabron, and Pyrilamine Maleate and it is sold as a PMS painkiller in Canada. So you might have to experiment with what you have available and see what works.

    What can also help is increasing your dosage of calcium in the few days just before your menstruation starts. Try doubling the amount of calcium you consume for about 3 or 4 days. If your calcium tablets have a tiny bit of magnesium, all the better, although you don't want to get too carried away with the magnesium. Calcium and a little bit of magnesium are supposed to help relax the muscles and reduce muscle pain. Doing that has seemed to work for me to some extent.

    The Pill can also help. You know how they recommend taking it for 3 weeks and then taking a week off ... instead, just keep taking it all the way through your tour. Don't go off it at all. Doing that should prevent your menstruation all together. You will, however, want to have a chat with your Dr about it just to make sure that it is a good idea for you. I have done that on some tours, but as it turns out, it is not a good idea for me because I have a genetic predisposition toward developing blood clots and two years ago I was hospitalised with DVT. So this option is not an option for me anymore.

    And there is a great benefit to being flexible with your touring schedule.

    I have said in other threads that I don't like to plan long days of cycling when I'm on a tour. I have offered the guideline of assuming you'll ride 50 km/day every day of your tour. And then I explained that I prefer to ride for 3 or 4 days and then take a day off, so to keep up the 50 km/day, I need to ride somewhere between 60 and 80 km/day on the days I ride so I can take a day off. Relatively short days and factoring in days off, allow me to take it easy on a day when I'm not feeling very well.

  3. #3
    Senior Member missjean's Avatar
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    I try to schedule around, but we all know that does not always work, does it?

    For a back country tour in Montana, I went on birth control pills to eliminate my period altogether. I went to my Dr explained what I wanted to do, we decided on the best option, and I started taking them well in advance so my body adjusted, and stopped taking them after my trip. It worked out great.

    Other tours, and on hiking trips, I just brought an extra bottle of water (direct stream of water), baby wipes, zip-lock bags (to carry out), ducked behind the bushes and did what had to be done, It took some getting use to, and I rather not have to do it, but if it means missing a great outdoor experience, I just deal as best as I can.
    Last edited by missjean; 12-02-11 at 06:29 AM.
    "I bet German has a word for it. German has a word for everything."

  4. #4
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    I am a man so I can't give very specific advice, but I did travel with two female companions on the Trans America (73 days) and they were able to manage. I got the impression that they found it to be an annoyance, but not a huge obstacle. I am not sure when during the trip they were menstruating, but am pretty sure they managed in some places where there were no facilities for at least a full day and probably longer.

    We also traveled with two other ladies part of the way and they used oral contraceptives to avoid menstruating for the duration of their tour. I have no idea of the health issues if any of that or how long you can do that, but I think they were on tour for something like 80 days.

  5. #5
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    nerakrose, Having been a single father with two athletic girls/young women I've some experiance. Machka's and missjean's advice is really sound and I'll add talking with your doctor for a treatment scheme.

    If you're not using a birth control pill, talk to your doctor about a low dose pill to regulate your menstrual cycle, which may allow you to schedule some low mileage days just prior to and into the start of your menstrual cycle.

    Brad

  6. #6
    2 Fat 2 Furious contango's Avatar
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    One note of caution I'd sound regarding birth control pills. I've known a number of women (including my wife) who have had issues with them. Some have had high blood pressure, some get cranky, some get depressed. My wife took them for a time and they gave her chronic acne (which may or may not be a concern on tour). One couple I know nearly broke up because of some form of birth control (I forget if that was a pill or an injection) - the way the wife reacted to it made it 100% effective as she found her husband physically repulsive and refused to let him anywhere near her. If you're in a relationship with someone that could be a big issue, especially if you're supposed to be sharing accommodation.

    I'd imagine these more extreme effects are rare but they do exist.

  7. #7
    Mrs. Hop-along redeyedtreefr0g's Avatar
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    You might look up a menstrual cup, try googling Divacup or Mooncup. I don't have one yet, but it is an interesting idea that I was surprised to never have heard of before.

  8. #8
    Real Men Ride Ordinaries fuzz2050's Avatar
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    Another man writing in as a proxy

    My fiancee swears by here Diva cup, swears it's easier and better than the alternatives, she's even taken to proselytizing to her friends.

    As far as the pill, people react differently; most of the people I know experience side effects, but usually for the positive. It does tend to lessen the pain involved, and even things out a bit. More often than not, it clears up acne rather than cause it.

    I'd suggest experimenting and seeing what works for you, there might be a combination of hormones, pain killers, and other things you can do that can allow you to take tours spanning several months without stop.

  9. #9
    Junior Member nerakrose's Avatar
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    Thank you everyone for your responses! Lots of helpful advice there.

    It looks like going on the pill and just continue taking it would be the best option. I've been on it before (dropped it the moment I became single) without having any issues with it, so I'll probably make an appointment with my doctor and see what he says. Fingers crossed. It's like the most perfect solution so I really hope my doctor gives me the go. (More TMI: heavy bleeder here, must change pad/tampon once per hour...not very practical in any kind of situation, really...).

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by nerakrose View Post
    Thank you everyone for your responses! Lots of helpful advice there.

    It looks like going on the pill and just continue taking it would be the best option. I've been on it before (dropped it the moment I became single) without having any issues with it, so I'll probably make an appointment with my doctor and see what he says. Fingers crossed. It's like the most perfect solution so I really hope my doctor gives me the go. (More TMI: heavy bleeder here, must change pad/tampon once per hour...not very practical in any kind of situation, really...).
    The low dose BC pill helped a little in this regard. Otherwise I just told the girls to take care of business whenever an opportunity arose and not to wait until the situation became critical; sort of like going to the bathroom before starting a trip in the car.

    Brad

  11. #11
    djb
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    along the suggested lines of bc pills, you might want to check out Team Estrogen bike forums, Im sure you would be able to get loads of additional hints and personal experiences (bike forums for women riders)
    cheers

  12. #12
    Senior Member lucille's Avatar
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    I have toured during my period, and found that cycling actually helped with the cramps. I get tired much faster, take more breaks and plan shorter days, but other than that it's business as usual.

    Diva cup is great, you wouldn't have to change it as often as a tampon. However, I found it a bit of an issue if you have nowhere to wash your hands after emptying/reinserting, so on tour I stick to tampons for the day and cup overnight.

    I'm not a fan of idea of going on the pill just to avoid menstruation, but it's your choice of course.

    Tour of Iceland sounds great, it's so beautiful there! But no trees to hide behind...

  13. #13
    Junior Member nerakrose's Avatar
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    there's a handwashing issue regardless... or maybe I'm doing something wrong with my tampons because my fingers always get bloodied so a sink is appreciated and not often available in Iceland on the road and one can't always be guaranteed a stream near the road when stopping. I grew up in Iceland so I know it exactly. I can't count the times we've stopped at the side of the road (from a car) to pee or the like because there were still two more hours to the next stop (where we were all forced to go to the loo before continuing the journey again). I'd wager a guess at ~60

  14. #14
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nerakrose View Post
    there's a handwashing issue regardless... or maybe I'm doing something wrong with my tampons because my fingers always get bloodied so a sink is appreciated and not often available in Iceland on the road and one can't always be guaranteed a stream near the road when stopping. I grew up in Iceland so I know it exactly. I can't count the times we've stopped at the side of the road (from a car) to pee or the like because there were still two more hours to the next stop (where we were all forced to go to the loo before continuing the journey again). I'd wager a guess at ~60
    If you can, get tampons with applicators. It's not easy to find them here in Australia either, but some stores have them.

    And use baby wipes to clean up, then put the baby wipes into the plastic bag you put the rest of the things you'll want to throw out when you reach a bin.

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    I haven't bike toured yet, but I use to work out to sea for up to 6 weeks at a time (without a head), and I have done hiking trips that included remote areas without access to tampons/pads/trash receptacles/etc. I use the Keeper exclusively. I have used Keepers (on my second one) for 14 years, while traveling in remote and uninhabited areas, while SCUBA diving, canyoning, etc. remove, rinse, replace. boil if you are worried about germs (I've only done this in areas where water was questionable.)

  16. #16
    Senior Member missjean's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nerakrose View Post
    there's a handwashing issue regardless..
    That's where a extra bottle of water comes in handy. Squirt water on your fingers, wipe w/baby wipe, and all clean. It doesn't have to be a big bottle, just big enough for a few trips behind the rock or tree.
    "I bet German has a word for it. German has a word for everything."

  17. #17
    Member aprilstarchild's Avatar
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    First of all, OMG! Iceland! I lived in the USA military base in Keflavik from 1989 to 1991. I was twelve when we left. Visiting Iceland again is on my "things to do before I die" list. Haven't decided whether or not I want to bicycle tour it yet though.

    Okay, on the the subject of the post. I use a Diva Cup both at home and on tour. It can get trickier when touring, but still not impossible. The trick is BABY WIPES. You can use them to clean your hands, the cup, and your vulva. Cups are super comfy for biking (you might want trim off the stem, I did) and don't need to be changed as often as tampons. You'll need a plastic bag to hold the used wipes, of course. A little squirt of water from your water bottle is also very helpful.

    I've used tampons on tours before where I didn't know if I'd have access to running water, but now I prefer using the cup even then. It can be a slightly bigger hassle to deal with, but even on my super-heavy days I only need to empty it in the morning, at night, and once during the mid-day. It's also, in my opinion, more comfortable while riding.

    My PMS and cramps were easier/nonexistent while touring, but that's going to be different for everyone.
    "Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel...the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood." -Susan B Anthony, 1896

    I have a blog! http://aprillikesbikes.wordpress.com

  18. #18
    Senior Member badmother's Avatar
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    There is something here about it (and some links)

    http://lovelybike.blogspot.com/2011/...d-company.html

    and here:

    http://lovelybike.blogspot.com/2011/...e-saddles.html

    This started quite a discussion, read tha comments also .
    °Empty drums make a lot of noice... (Old Hungarian proverb).

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