Every month half of the population struggles with a period. Cyclists are not an exception, but sitting on a saddle for hours while bleeding might not sound like an ideal way to spend time on period. So can you go cycling with a period?
You can go cycling when on your period. In fact, doctors even recommend light exercise to reduce general malaise, cramps, nausea and bloating. To prevent leaking, use tampons or menstrual cup, while pads are discouraged, as they cause chafing.
When I started cycling, I didn’t ride during my period. I couldn’t imagine going for a ride when every inch of my body ached, and my energy levels were at rock bottom. Later on, I realized that cycling actually helps me relieve the pain, so I have been cycling during my periods ever since.
For cycling, I recommend using a menstrual cup. You can get it by clicking here.
Can I cycle with my period?
When I’m on my period, I have one of two modes – either I don’t have any energy or I’m in pain. Neither is very encouraging to go cycling.
I’ll admit that I don’t even think about cycling on the first day of my period. I don’t have the strength needed for a ride. Even the thought of sitting on a bike for a few hours makes me sick. I just want to lay in my bed, feeling sorry for myself.
However, in the days that follow, the thought of a bike ride is not so scary anymore.
I learned that the toughest part is finding a will to overpower your mind and sit on a bike. Once you start riding, all the troubles are gone. You are committed to riding, your mind focuses on things other than period pains and your body starts to function better.
You have to find the will to get on the bike, even when it’s hard. Believe me, you won’t regret it.
Cycling can help reduce discomfort
Cycling with a period is not only allowed, it’s recommended. Once you start your body’s engine, processes unfold inside you that help you overcome or reduce the effect of the annoying companions of a period.
- General malaise is something every woman can identify with. The first few days of my period, I feel like a wet rag. I don’t want to or can’t do much. Recently, I’ve realized that lying on the bed only makes things worse because all I can think about is how awful I feel. Cycling at least gets the blood flowing a bit and helps me feel better.
- Cramps are my worst enemy during my period. I suffer from them every time. Luckily, they are significantly reduced after cycling. Sometimes, especially in the last days of period, they are completely gone, but they tend to return after some time.
- Bloating is another unwanted byproduct of the period. I hate it and anything that can help me reduce it, I’m willing to do. Cycling is one way to battle it. Light exercise helps expel the gas that causes you pain. However, the effects will wear off a few hours after you come home.
- Nausea. I don’t have many problems with it. I know some girls even vomit during the period. Based on other female cyclists’ information, cycling also helps with nausea. However, don’t overdo it. Only light exercise is recommended, otherwise, you might achieve a counter-effect.
- Breast tenderness is also a common problem for girls during their period. Riding on a rough surface makes your breast bounce a lot, resulting in discomfort. I combat this by wearing a high-impact bra.
Many women cyclists cope with their discomfort by taking ibuprofen. It helps them overcome the initial step in which they want to stay home. And once they’re on their bike, the exercise will do the rest.
Not riding is not an option.
How to prevent leaking
Once you’ve decided to get on your bike, the most important question arises – how to prevent leaking?
It’s a personal choice of how to manage period on a bike. Some prefer one sanitary product, others prefer another. There is no right or wrong.
I will present you with all your options and give you my opinion about them. You can take it or leave it, it’s entirely up to you. After all, it’s about your comfort on the bike.
- Well absorbent
- Does not cause chafing
- Easy changing
- Can fit in a bike bag
- Can cause a bacterial infection
- Need regular changing
- Can stain clothes
Tampons were and probably still are the preferred sanitary product among female cyclists. There are other solutions on the market, but most still stick to tampons.
Tampons are good because they successfully absorb most of the blood. They are also removed from the contact area between the body and the seat, which means there is no chance of chafing.
One of the main benefits of tampons, in my eyes, is they can fit in a bike bag. You can always have a spare in case you need it. I recommend having them as a backup even if using a different sanitary product.
Tampons also have a downside.
The reason I don’t like using them is you need to change them quite frequently. You have to change it at least once during a ride of several hours. While changing it is relatively simple, it still brings additional stress you don’t want on your bike.
And it’s not like you can ignore changing it. If you leave it in for more than eight hours, the recommended upper limit, you’re risking toxic shock syndrome (TSS). This can cause a bacterial infection which can be lethal.
I was also warned that a tampon can stain clothes. The string can soak up blood and transfer it to the clothes. The string should therefore be removed from the clothes beforehand. This also prevents potential chafing.
In my opinion, tampons are the second best solution for cyclists.
- Low leaking potential
- Can be used for hours
- Does not cause infection
- Environmentally friendly
- Messy cleaning
- Need to get used to
The menstrual cup is my favorite way to fight period on the bike. I have been using it for over a year and don’t see myself switching to anything else in the future.
You insert a menstrual cup into a vagina and it creates a barrier for blood. It’s collecting the blood rather than absorbing it, meaning there is no chance of developing bacteria, which could cause infection.
Since there is no potential for infection, you can use it for up to 12 hours before emptying and cleaning it. This means that in most cases, you will be able to insert it at home, do a bike ride and then empty and clean it again at home. This is important as emptying can be a bit messy.
If it’s inserted correctly, which takes some time to figure out, the potential for leaking is very low. I haven’t had any problems with leaking so far.
Last but not least, a menstrual cup is also environmentally friendly. According to studies, using a menstrual cup generates only 0.4 percent of the litter produced by using tampons or pads.
If you don’t use a menstrual cup already, I recommend giving it a try. You can get them quite cheap and I promise it will change you’re periods and bike rides.
- Cause chafing
- Difficult to stick to chamois
- Can cause a bacterial infection
- Need regular changing
Pads are the worst choice for cyclists. They do not have a single advantage over other sanitary products, but they have a lot of disadvantages.
The biggest problem with pads is they don’t stick well to chamois. In 99.9% of cases, it will peel off and cause chafing. You will not be able to ride more than an hour and even that’s a stretch in my opinion.
The only solution is to wear underwear and stick it there, but you don’t want to wear underwear under cycling shorts. The reason again is the possibility of chafing.
Even if you manage to get the pad to stay in place, there are other potential problems ahead. A combination of blood and sweat that’s absorbed creates ideal conditions for bacteria to grow. It’s only a matter of time before you get an infection. Therefore you need to change them regularly and taking them on a bike ride can be tough due to their size.
- No need to change sanitary products
- Staining the clothes
- Takes time to clean shorts after a ride
Some cyclists don’t like using sanitary products on a bike. They let the blood flow freely and use a chamois as a built-in pad.
I must admit I wouldn’t be comfortable with this method, as it’s too messy for me. But if you find it useful, great for you.
It’s certainly practical not having to worry about changing pads and tampons or emptying the menstrual cup. However, it’s a lot messier than the usage of sanitary products. You need to weigh up the pros and cons of this method – does not changing a tampon mean more to you than clean shorts?
Birth control pills
- No worries about period
- Effect on the body
- Not 100% reliable
You don’t have to worry about periods if you don’t have one.
Some cyclists use birth control pills for period manipulation. These disrupt your hormones, causing your periods to be delayed or even absent.
However, it came with a price. Hormones in the body have a purpose. Manipulating them too much has consequences. These often manifest in more irritable behavior and lower energy levels. But it can also potentially affect your chances of getting pregnant when you choose to.
Many pro cyclists use this method, as their career depends on their results. Having a period or PMS on a race day can be a difference between a win and a place far behind the winner.
I understand pros have to do it. However, I don’t recommend doing it just to make occasional bike rides easier. If you already use birth control pills, then you can manipulate periods, but don’t start using them just for cycling.
Take care of hygiene
When on a period, you must take care of your hygiene. I already mentioned that bacterial infection could occur quickly if you don’t keep your intimate parts clean. Therefore, you should be prepared to clean yourself even on a bike, meaning you must carry a few essentials in a bike bag.
Keep essentials in your bike bag
A bike bag is great for storing tubes and tools, but this becomes secondary during periods. It transforms into a sanitary bag.
Store a few tampons in a bike bag when you’re expecting your period. Even if you use another sanitary product, have them as a backup. You never know when you’ll need them.
Also, keep a pack of baby wipes or, even better, women’s wipes in your bike bag. That way, you can clean yourself anytime, even if no water is near. They also come in handy if you have to pee in nature.
Change your sanitary product on a longer ride
It’s not uncommon that bike rides last longer than 4 hours. In that case, you will need to change your tampon or pad before returning home. If you’re using a menstrual cup, you don’t have to worry about that.
If you use the same tampon or pad for longer than 4-6 hours, you risk bacterial infection. Make sure you don’t forget to change your sanitary product, otherwise, you can have severe problems.
Pro Tip: Set a timer when you start your ride to alert you when it’s time to change. It’s easy to lose track of time when you’re on a bike.
Take a shower when you get home
I hope you take a shower after every ride, whether you have your period or not. However, showering is even more important when you’re on your period.
As soon as you come home, take a shower and clean yourself down there. Change whichever sanitary product you use. If you’re using a menstrual cup, empty it and clean it before inserting it back.
Also, check your shorts if there were some leaking. If you find blood stains, take your shorts with you into the shower and remove the blood with cold water as soon as possible.
What to eat and drink when you’re on a period
When you have your period, you need to take care of your diet. This plays a big role in how you feel and perform on the bike.
As you lose large amounts of blood, you also lose water, minerals and other nutrients. It is essential to replace them as much as you can.
- Water. Drink lots of fluids during your period. Water is advised. You can also add some electrolytes to increase hydration. Avoid alcohol and caffeine, as they dehydrate you and increase the chance of cramps.
- Iron. Blood contains iron. When you’re losing blood, you’re also losing iron. Low levels of iron in the body are manifested through fatigue, low energy levels and shortness of breath. You can ensure your iron intake by eating iron-rich foods, such as red meat, beans, nuts and dried apricots.
- Calcium. Essential especially in the period before menstruation, as it helps to reduce the effects of premenstrual syndrome. It is less desirable during menstruation as it inhibits the absorption of iron. Calcium can be found in dairy products and green leafy vegetables.
- Ginger. It’s not essential during a period, but it can help ease cramps and decrease the duration of pain. It is most easily consumed in tea, but ginger water is also popular. You can add ginger to your water bottle when on a bike ride. Alternatively, it can be eaten on its own or in combination with honey.
While these recommendations are valid and confirmed by many doctors and women, you should listen to your body first. If certain ‘forbidden’ food works for you, feel free to eat it. After all, it’s your body.