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Biking with the flow: The challenges for women during that time of the month

Posted by on June 5th, 2008 at 12:02 pm

Marion Rice and daughter Gleneden

[This article was written by our Carfree Families columnist Marion Rice. For previous articles in this series, and for links to other articles and photos on family biking, check out the Carfree Families Page.]

Some of you may wonder what this post has to do with family cycling, but I assure you it has everything to do with family cycling and the particular challenges women bikers face.

“it’s not like I have to dress up to get to the office, but if I did, the potential for getting there in an embarrassing state might be enough to force me back into my car until the worst days were over.”

That said, most days getting on my bike is not a chore. As the post office says; rain, snow, sleet or hail (as long as anyone of those things doesn’t make cycling with my daughter unsafe), I’m biking.

But the one thing that can get me off my bike is that damn time o’ the month, if you know what I mean.

Yes, I am a mom and the lovely fluctuations of my body, in part, enabled me to have two awesome children — but now I’m done having kids. I don’t mean to rant, but the monthly personal oil change is messy, often leaky and the uncertainty of it all definitely puts a damper on my cycle commuting fun. I currently work from my home so it’s not like I have to dress up to get to the office, but if I did, the potential for getting there in an embarrassing state might be enough to force me back into my car until the worst days were over.

Angela Koch of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance wonders about the impact of this monthly visitor on women bicyclists. She says, “You know, no one has really talked about this, but I definitely think it’s an issue. At least for me, I’m especially distracted when I’m standing to pedal with 100 pounds of kid, trailer and gear behind me, but all I’m worried about is the view for the cyclist behind me. It’s not like I can stop and do something about it – I have to keep right on going and hope for the best”.

My friend Olivia Rebanal says, “My husband is always amazed that I can’t seem to predict how prepared to be for whatever comes my way. It just doesn’t work that way, every month is different”.

O.K., so I have deemed an elective hysterectomy too irrational but anything that interferes with biking on the order of magnitude of menses could do with some group problem solving. So, all of you out there that can speak from personal experience please offer your ideas, advice, product reviews etc. to keep all of us bike sisters happily on the road.

Please support BikePortland.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

  • anabananasplit June 5, 2008 at 12:13 pm

    I\’m not sure I completely got it but, I guess the problem you\’re bringing up is cycling while mentruated and using pads, right?

    Yes, I guess that might be an issue… I never thought about it, I have to admit. Women who just use tampons are much more care free in that situation. 😉

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  • Moo June 5, 2008 at 12:14 pm

    This article may need a disclaimer. As much of an issue that it is, for both rider and follower, I don\’t really need to get blind-sided like this right after lunch.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) June 5, 2008 at 12:16 pm

    \”This article may need a disclaimer\”

    sorry \’bout that Moo. we tried to give an idea of the content in the title.

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  • R June 5, 2008 at 12:18 pm

    I am also a woman and I don\’t mean to trivialize your problems, but honestly my period is not an issue that affects my cycling (no pun intended). I don\’t have the most regular cycle in the world (haha, cycle) but I have a general idea of what\’s in store and I\’m prepared. If you have really irregular or heavy flow that\’s so bad it might keep you off the bike, you might want to schedule a chat with your gynecologist.

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  • Marion June 5, 2008 at 12:25 pm

    R, I assure you I am quite normal, but thanks for the advice. This wasn\’t an issue for me before I had my kids but since I have had two.. things have changed in this area for sure.

    I didn\’t mean to turn this post into advice for me specifically and I KNOW from talking to others this is NOT just my problem so anyone got any concrete advice as to how they \”prepare\”.

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  • Elly Blue June 5, 2008 at 12:25 pm

    Gotta agree with Marion et al — this isn\’t the hugest problem in the world, but it\’s definitely an extra logistical challenge. Exercise definitely helps with cramps etc so it\’s worthwhile to make the extra effort to get on your bike even if everything seems like a big drag.

    Funny, I don\’t remember any complaints about ruined lunches back when Jonathan was posting on the debate about potential male-specific problems with bike seats…with much more graphic detail at that.

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  • Jenny June 5, 2008 at 12:31 pm

    Check out Luna Pads and the Diva Cup!

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  • Ashley June 5, 2008 at 12:50 pm

    Marion, thanks for the article. My cycling lady friends and I will sometimes talk about the challenges of riding during the flow. While exercise does help cramps, it\’s hard to ride when your insides are unhappy and at times, your energy level is kaput. There are times when I actually feel more energized during that time. As far as preparation goes, I keep a lady flow product in my bag AT ALL TIMES. Just in case. I definitely recommend bleach-free cotton over \’namebrand\’ products. I think that both tampons and pads can have their discomfort while riding, so really you need to use what works for your body. I will also wear a long shirt/jacket sometimes just in case I\’m take off guard.

    I appreciate your writing the article, it was a surprise to see a reference to menstration, and I think it\’s phenomenal that we can talk about it here.

    I\’m not thrilled that you refered to your flow as \”…the monthly personal oil change is messy, often leaky and the uncertainty of it…\” I in no way want to associate my lady bits with an oil change, or oil at all. Your mind is done with babies, but you body has no way of knowning that, and I think it\’s nice to continue to have the opportunity- it\’s a biological fuction I greatly respect and admire, regardless of my decision to have/or not have children.

    Finally, \’Moo\’ in comment #7- You felt \’blind-sided\’ by menstration? I\’m trying not to laugh at how ridiculous that is. OMG what? Women menstrate? People actually TALK about it?! Shocking…apparently girls still have cooties- who knew?

    Thanks again Marion!

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  • heather andrews June 5, 2008 at 12:51 pm

    A similar product is The Keeper ( Ever since I got The Keeper being on my bike during my period has not been an issue at all. Sometimes your body feels really sluggish so you ride a bit slower, but keeping on your bike definitely helps with cramps.

    The Keeper also lasts for up to ten years, making it way more earth-friendly and cost-effective than regular feminine hygiene products.

    Whole Foods on W Burnside sells the Diva Cup, but I\’m not sure about other local stores. Shipping is pretty cheap, though.

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  • mbsf June 5, 2008 at 12:55 pm

    Cycling actually makes me feel better, too and it seems easy enough not to wear khakis or white jeans for a few days.

    What concerns me though, is me biking with PMS and wanting to rip drivers, spandexophiles and pedestrians to shreds.
    Being over-taken in a left turn by 2 soundless racers a few days ago, made me contemplating knocking them of their bikes and using their entrails as inner tubes…
    …and while I do joke about it, I do think most of my \”close calls\” do happen during PMS times or at least it seem to affect much more.

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  • Marion June 5, 2008 at 1:05 pm

    Oh My Gosh.. I have already learned so much and am going to try a few things.

    LOL-contemplating knocking them of their bikes and using their entrails as inner tubes…

    Thanks All for having this great conversation!

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  • Dabby June 5, 2008 at 1:17 pm


    Cooties is still around? Shouldn\’t there be some sort of public service announcement?

    I thought cooties had been eradicated entirely.

    Luckily I still have a can of cootie spray from grade school.

    As much as I was surprised by this article myself, being squeamish, I think it is good that it is posted. As a male I am amazed at how seamlessly most females seem to deal with this issue.

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  • Robin June 5, 2008 at 1:29 pm

    Cycling usually does help my mood and energy when I get to that special time. That being said it can be a great challenge to leave the house in the morning.
    As far as products I am another supporter of the diva cup! It\’s made my life much easier. Besides selling it on-line you can get it at Food Front, New Seasons and some other places around town.

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  • Jan June 5, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    This is definitely an issue for me sometimes. For those of you who don\’t have to worry about it (guys, women past menopause, women with light flow), that\’s great. For the rest of us, it\’s good that Marion is starting a conversation. And Moo? I\’m sorry that your eyes were sullied by reading references to female anatomy and physiology, but please get a grip.

    Wearing tampons is just not gonna cut it for women with heavy flow. Not when they\’re exercising and shifting around in and out of the saddle. You get leaks. Wearing a heavy pad while biking is uncomfortable. Way too much pressure and friction in all the wrong places. But unless you\’re on a long ride, you\’re probably safe with a tampon + pantyliner. The all-cotton ones are the most comfortable for me. If you\’re out running errands maybe try to schedule one stop someplace with clean bathrooms (library, New Seasons) so you can change the tampon and liner.

    And for women who don\’t know when their periods will start, that sounds really tough. But surely that\’s something that affects you whether you bike or not. Probably you\’ve already figured out some coping strategies.

    I\’m glad a couple of people mentioned Diva Cup and other similar products. I\’ve been thinking that might be the way to go.

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  • PAgent June 5, 2008 at 1:53 pm

    I honestly never thought about this particular aspect of cycling until reading this post, but switching to a recumbent bike might help.

    The broad and relatively soft seat on a recumbent typically eliminates problems associated with hard and narrow saddles (and neck and shoulder pain, hand and finger numbness, back pain, etc.) It could be that commuting on a recumbent might reduce other, ah, unpleasant potential side-effects of riding an upright bike.

    Besides, they\’re just fun to ride.

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  • Moo June 5, 2008 at 2:04 pm

    Sorry Ashley #8, I was alittle turned off by the descriptions of some of the \”sensitive\” terms used in this thread myself, so maybe I was a bit insensitive to all that really were here to help with new and exciting information to share with their sisters…Oh by the way, it\’s menstruation- not menstration – and I promise not to laugh at how ridiculous \”that\” was of you.

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  • Rena June 5, 2008 at 2:17 pm

    Funny…my experience seems to be quite a bit different. That time of the month has never seemed like a big inconvenience. But as a woman who experiences moderately heavy cramping for several days, I have found cycling to be one of the best pain relievers out there.

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  • Esther June 5, 2008 at 2:27 pm

    I STRONGLY second or third the Cup (Diva, Keeper, Moon, Luna, Lunette etc.) recommendations.

    Pads= bulky.
    Tampons = risk of TSS, give you cramps, etc. I also usually have a fairly light flow, and tampons were very difficult for me (even the \’slender\’ ones).

    Cups = benefits of tampons but no TSS risk, less wasteful, and I have been able to get into them (and I was never really able to use tampons)-I haven\’t used a pad or tampon in over a year. It can sometimes take awhile to get the hang of using it, but see for more info on tips and tricks on insertion, removal, cleaning, etc.

    Still, I sometimes avoid biking around that time because 1. my energy is low and even the promise of helpful exercise isn\’t enough to drag me away from the couch and a book or Netflix, and 2. I hate wearing tight fitting clothes because I\’m bloated, have cramps, etc. and biking around in pajama pants doesn\’t sound appealing. Still, when those aren\’t an issue, the cup is AWESOME for the actual, y\’know, bleeding issue.

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  • Esther June 5, 2008 at 2:35 pm

    Oh yes….and cups hold at least twice as much and up to 4 times as much as a tampon. so, you might be good to go for a looong day ride without fear 😀

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  • cc June 5, 2008 at 3:28 pm

    After choosing to take the bus in yesterday due to the disaster my flow created the day prior it was a delight to see this post today!

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  • Vance June 5, 2008 at 4:21 pm

    Nice. I noticed Ms. Koch airing the issue of being bit self-conscious.

    but all I’m worried about is the view for the cyclist behind me.

    Never underestimate the social progress of the 21st century American! I, for one, would like to reassure you that this particular circumstance is not something to be self-conscious of. Just let me catch somebody…

    For the record, us old male road-dogs love the thinner liner-type sanitary-pads. Prior to the advent of the ergo-cut-away seats, this little gem saved me some serious discomfort over the years. My partners have benefitted as well, if ya catch my meaning. Dysfunction of that sort is seriously impacted by this padding, and the new seats.

    Health issues aside, I\’m energized to find that most of the comments from women here reflect an attitude of perseverance! Good show!

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  • Ashley June 5, 2008 at 4:57 pm

    Dude Moo, I forget the letter \’u\’. Seriously get a grip.

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  • april June 5, 2008 at 5:33 pm

    I have an IUD and I can bleed up to an ounce in a day, plus some lovely lovely cramping. ow ow ow.

    To echo a few others\’ thoughts: Diva cups are truly awesome. Among their other many benefits, they have little measuring marks on the inside. That\’s how I know that I can bleed more than an ounce in a day. Yeesh.

    I still wear a light pad for backup–it just makes me feel more confident. I used to use reusable cotton pads, but the snap in the crotch + a bike seat = oooh, not so comfy. So unfortunately I\’ve started using disposable pads. I use the 7th Generation ones, but they\’re not as comfy and they don\’t stay in place as well as cotton pads. If anyone knows of any that don\’t have snaps…bah.

    But I agree that biking has helped my cramps. That and, y\’know, advil. *lol*

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  • laurenSina June 5, 2008 at 5:37 pm

    Oooh, great topic.

    I have an Mirena IUD and don\’t have much of a problem with PMS or \”flow\” these days, but my suggestion with this concern is BIKE SHORTS. It\’s like a major pad to back up your favorite \”feminine protection\”. My personal favorite is also the keeper or diva cup.

    And the IUD has solved a lot of problems in this area. The Mirena has a low dose of hormones in it that make it a very reliable contraceptive plus it helped with my crazy periods. I hope one day IUDs are more encouraged here in the States rather than the pill (which makes pharmaceutical companies lots of money, is often hard to take reliably, and messes with your body). I\’ve heard in Europe the IUD is offered in different sizes to accommodate a variety of uterus sizes.

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  • former heavy flow June 5, 2008 at 5:53 pm

    While an elective hysterectomy might be considered irrational, there is a much less drastic procedure that might help those of you with heavy flows. It\’s known as an endometrial ablation. This is a minor outpatient procedure in which the lining of the uterus is essentially burned away. It can eliminate or drastically reduce menstruation. Check with your physician about this option. For me, it was a miracle procedure!

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  • Kronda June 5, 2008 at 6:02 pm

    I will enthusiastically fourth (fifth?) the Diva Cup. The Diva Cup CHANGED MY LIFE. I\’m not kidding. Unless you have a *really* heavy flow, you can pretty much eliminate leaking problems. And if you\’re unpredictable, you can just put it in when you think you\’re getting close. Try *that* with a tampon. (No, don\’t. Really. Bad idea.)

    I did day one of STP on the first day of my period. Put the cup in and didn\’t think about it again until my first 100 miles were done. I honestly don\’t know if I would\’ve done the ride without it.

    Viva la Diva! 🙂

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  • Liz June 5, 2008 at 7:38 pm

    Yes, the Diva Cup is amazing on so many levels, including the ability to handle different amounts of flow. Finally got one last year. I\’ve been thinking about getting one, since I heard some friends talking who had the Keeper, a decade ago. They were instructors for month-long hiking trips in the wilderness of Alaska, and raved about it. If you are doing pack-it-in pack-it-out adventuring (biking,cycling,hiking, etc.), it means one less messy thing to pack back out with you. Also creates less of a scent for the bears.

    The padded bike shorts for backup seems like a great idea, and in their black color, they would hide leakage/overflow well.

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  • K June 5, 2008 at 8:03 pm

    Interesting article, Marion, and, shall we say, timely? 🙂

    I\’ve been on the pill for quite a long time now and my periods are predictable and lighter than they were before. Plus the PMS isn\’t as bad– well, the physical aspects aren\’t. I get angry faster and am more emotional during \”that week\” than usual.

    Yes, it\’s difficult to get on the bike and ride– to work, recreationally, etc… during that time… I have a philosophical objection to tampons, so use pads. And yes, I wear them with underwear under my shorts. I\’m interested in all the other things out there as posted here by my bikey sisters!

    Sorry, guys, if it grosses you out… but it something all us females have to deal with, it\’s just a fact of life.

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    • Arthur Bhutic May 21, 2015 at 3:01 am

      I love that you use pads! It’s lovely too be at the verge too cry wearing your underwear under your shorts to use pads! Which I love that you use pads, is that I love too see the waistband of your underwear and you see the waistband of my boxer brief underwear!

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  • Aaron June 5, 2008 at 8:48 pm

    Thanks to Jonathan, Marion, and the many commentators for addressing this issue. Any difficulty which makes people feel uncomfortable on their bike should be discussed so as to minimize unhappiness. I hope that this is helpful for all women.

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  • kayres June 5, 2008 at 10:07 pm

    I fifteenth menstrual cups! For all situations! My other must-have item is a pack of wet wipes. When I\’m changing after a great commute, they take care of the blood, sweat and tears. Any time of the month.

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  • None June 5, 2008 at 10:17 pm

    I have a breathtakingly heavy flow with (guys may want to stop reading) occasional amazing clots. I use the super-plus Playtex tampons, and wear bike shorts, which I wear all the time anyway. No worries, other than the general low-to-no energy issues.

    I\’m in my 50\’s. Menopause can simply not get here soon enough 🙂

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  • Graham June 5, 2008 at 11:21 pm

    Oh, biking with the *flooooow*… Took me a minute.

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  • gynecologist June 5, 2008 at 11:28 pm

    I am a bike riding gynecologist. I wear a tampon and my bike shorts when I ride during my period. The built-in pad is an excellent back-up.

    Esther – Toxic shock syndrome is an extremely rare issue with modern tampons. I have never seen it.

    For those with too heavy flow or cramps: ibuprofen, the pill, depo provera, implanon, progesterone only pills, the Mirena IUD, endometrial ablation, and uterine artery embolization will all reduce the volume of your flow AND cramping. However, depo provera and implanon can and do result in unpredictable spotting/bleeding, which may not be ideal for bicyclists. Endometrial ablation and uterine artery embolization are only for women who do not plan future pregnancy. Talk to your doctor!

    lauren-Sina – A mini-Mirena is in development for the US market.

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  • april June 6, 2008 at 12:10 pm

    To the gynecologist: My flow is heavier with my paraguard IUD, but I got it instead of the Mirena (or staying on the pill, which wasn\’t giving me any real problems), because I missed having my natural cycle. I kinda enjoy ovulating. *lol* Ironic, considering children might not be in my future. But, yeah…I like those three days or so.

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  • Angela June 6, 2008 at 12:12 pm

    Vance, so maybe it\’s not ALL I\’m worried about but I am human, afterall, and I do happen to get embarrassed about things. I\’m not at all self-conscious about menstruating, but I am very self-conscious about the display of it when accidents happen. 🙂

    But my real point is that the possibility of leaking is a distracting problem I\’d like to solve once and for all. Decreasing distractions is definitely a goal we all talk about in various ways. I like talking about this one because it helps me better focus on the task at hand when I\’m cycling – getting me and my kiddo there safely!

    Thanks for the suggestion but for me the idea of wearing cycling pants on specific days is just not appealing. I\’m loving some of the other suggestions! Thanks Marion for bringing this up.

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  • bike nun June 6, 2008 at 12:16 pm

    Just want to comment back on the use of cups. I\’ve used both the Keeper and the Diva cup, and both have caused me yeast infections that don\’t go away after my period stops. bah!

    Yes, I emptied it frequently. Yes, I washed it thoroughly. Yes yes yes, I followed the instructions and sanitized it not only between months but a few times during my period. I really tried because as these other women have said, it works great, makes things easy to deal with and has very little leakage. Mine just got \”funky\” after the first month (it was no longer scent-free by any means) and caused me more trouble than it was worth.

    I know this doesn\’t seem to be a problem for most women but I do want to put this feedback out there so I\’m not alone in wondering why this \”miracle\” product didn\’t work for me.

    I really wish it did, and I\’m glad to hear its working for other ladies. Thanks so much to all these women for their willingness to share, and good luck to Marion in finding a better solution. It\’s a frustrating problem indeed.

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  • Abbey June 6, 2008 at 12:37 pm

    This is a great post, and I will definitely think about the Diva Cup, though I’m not sure I want to be that “hands on”. The idea that I wouldn’t have to deal with it nearly as often is very appealing though.

    Still the bigger issue for me is just the exhaustion. Every month is different, but in many cases, the idea of walking to the bike seems insurmountable, let alone riding it. Caffeine won’t touch it, any ideas for energy or motivation?

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  • Martha June 6, 2008 at 3:31 pm

    I have a pair of red castelli shorts that I wear during these times of the month. Occasionally I too will spring a \”leak\” and this helps with my ebarrassment, utilizing the camoflauge technique. The only downside of my red shorts I\’ve found is that my curvey posterior seems to draw more \”cat call\” attention when wearing these shorts, and that is a separate problem in itself.

    My husband has had similar issues with leaks, but his originate from a different source. He once had a suprise \”attack\” and due to his choice of bib shorts on that particular ride (white, mind you) he was unable to remove them in time and it did make an ebarrassing stain. We made a beeline for home so he could get out of that darn soiled chamois.

    Maybe we could start a separate thread about how to deal with commuting with indigestion? It\’s really a problem.

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  • PBk June 6, 2008 at 7:24 pm

    I would like to fifteenth the Dive Cup! It\’s great for cycling, backpacking, running, swimming, rock climbing, pretty much anything. It\’s brilliant. Too bad I lost mine a month ago- thanks for reminding me to pick up a new one before next month!

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  • Annie June 7, 2008 at 9:20 am

    At the risk of starting another cootie attack, I\’d like to mention that, after bearing three children (and at the \”advanced\” age of 49) I *always* have to wear a pad of pretty substantial thickness, in case of, shall we say, \”urinary leakage.\” Yes, kegels, etc. I know all that, and I\’m an active and fit woman, but as I reach the beginning of my Crone years, there are times (a histamine attack in the middle of biking next to a field in bloom, a *really* sudden stop to avoid an accident etc) when said pad comes in *real* handy.

    I recommend cushy cotton pads for this use, and believe me, since I *always* wear a pad, I know whereof I speak. The disposable ones chafe, rub, and irritate; and I\’ve never been comfortable in a tampon or internal cup. For longer (10+ mile) rides, I use a pad plus the Novara padded bike boxers for extra protection, just in case. Good luck, ladies; for an extra challenge, try doing Aikido with this issue or during menses (fortunately my sensei is really mellow and let\’s me practice in sweat pants and a black t-shirt!)

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  • Elicia June 7, 2008 at 12:23 pm

    Glad to see this topic discussed. When I was getting ready for a four month tour, I had all sorts of questions about how my body was going to deal with being on a bike for that long, no matter what part of the month my cycle was in.
    Here\’s what I found: I took a diva cup, but it was really, really less than ideal for camping situations with little or no water. Not to mention the utter lack of bathrooms on the road. (I once had an unfortunate cactus incident while trying to use the darn thing.) The disposable Insteads are much, much better for those situations.
    I took lots of baby wipes.
    Finally, we scheduled lower mile days when my energy was ebbing (usually the day before for me) and were very careful to schedule time apart when I was feeling most PMSy.

    Hope that helps anyone who is contemplating the long tour! It seems to be something every book on cycling neglects to mention.

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  • jacque June 7, 2008 at 3:26 pm

    Nobody is really addressing the issue… which was not cramps, or fatigue or anything like that, but was unexpected leakage I believe? Keep a hoody handy to tie around your waist until you get somewhere you can deal with it. Let it flop over the saddle so you don\’t go through IT as well. Works well when you rip the entire butt out of your jeans too, or when you\’ve laughed so hard it made you pee your pants.

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  • KJ June 7, 2008 at 6:19 pm

    I umpteeth the diva cup and luna pad accolades. I prefer the luna pads, I find the flannel supper comfy and they are really absorbent. Both are very eco friendly, and better for one;s body than the synthetic bleached products that we dump in landfills and sewer treatment plants month after month. And I find them both tp be more comfortable than the other crap.

    I\’ve never had issues biking (or anything backpacking sports etc) and old aunt Flo. I\’m lucky. I do want to share a convenient trick though. I am not a fan of the pill but it\’s preferable to kids right now, and I decided to try the seasonale style regimen, where you skip the placebos and there for the \’period\’ the hormone drop causes. It\’s frikking rad. Not that I mind my period much, but this saves bathing, TP, laundering fo aforementioned pads and uninterrupted sexual windows of opportunity ( periods don\’t gross me out but I feel crappy and un sexy so..blah.)
    I\’d ask a gyno about what pill would work well if any ya\’ll wanna try it. I\’m on Levora and have no side effects. I\’m in lurve.

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  • eli bishop June 8, 2008 at 12:18 pm

    i loved the \”instead\” when it was my first introduction to cups, but then i got an iud and read cups introduce the risk of pulling your iud out, so i stopped using them. but if that\’s not as true as it once was, i\’d consider switching back. april, i saw you\’re using an iud & a cup; anyone else?

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  • ah June 9, 2008 at 5:06 pm

    this isn\’t a consistent problem for me. a tampon usually does just fine but if they\’re nice undies i might also wear a pantyliner just in case.

    but once i did have a really bad experience.

    (squeamish, hypocritical males who like to talk about everything gross in the world except when it relates to females stop reading now…)

    a friend and i were coming down a hill and i was trying to catch up. at the bottom of the hill was a light that i realized i wouldn\’t make so i had to stop very quickly. i was also frightened. so yeah, this particular combination of muscle spasms created a big shock of red running down the inside of my jeans…

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  • Jill June 9, 2008 at 7:54 pm

    Awesome post- thank you thank you!
    I don\’t have a problem on short commutes when menstruating, but I definitely shy away from longer rides. Even a liner pad gets REALLY uncomfortable. I\’m lucky to have a light flow since I\’m on the pill, but I hope to go off soon and am not looking forward to the increased flow and cramps (but very much looking forward to not taking hormones any more!).
    Why don\’t they make more chamois that are black?
    Thanks so much, everyone, for all the tips!

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  • brenda June 11, 2008 at 6:54 pm

    Thanks for posting about this subject. Most people don\’t realize that GladRags (sellers of pads, Moon Cups, etc) is a local company, headquartered right here in Portland. North Portland to be exact. Many of our employees, past and present, bike with cups and/or pads with great success. We even had one customer who told us her husband puts a pad in his underwear for extra cushion while biking. And for those who still hold some \”issues\” about menstruation (notice the correct spelling, Moo) go to our site for some tips on healthy attitudes about a highly natural function.

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  • me June 12, 2008 at 9:56 am

    I was extremely glad to see someone is brave enough to talk about this in public, too. For my first multi-day tour, I had no idea I would have an issue until it became an issue, and by then, it was too late. The next four or five days were extremely uncomfortable.

    Squeamish guys will want to stop reading here.

    I had been using tampons for many years, so it never dawned on me how uncomfortable the string might be during a 90-mile bike ride. I was so intimidated by having to approach someone at a first aid station to ask what could be done. It\’s bad enough having to say it out loud to a total stranger; I prayed no other cyclists would come near until I was done. I was given some anti-biotic cream to help clear up my problem and keep it from becoming a worse problem, and the nurse discretely and quietly advised me to cut the string off close to the tampon next time. Next time, of course, was the next day\’s 70-mile ride.

    It\’s still not the ideal solution, but I\’ve been doing that for five years now when the situation arises, and I\’ve never had to use the first aid station again for that particular problem.

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  • Anonymous June 12, 2008 at 11:15 am

    you can also stuff the string up. Of course you then need to fish it out, later. But it does avoid the irritation.

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  • luv June 12, 2008 at 5:56 pm

    hey ya all, it is nice to see that everyone can get along… I agree using a tampon and sticking the srtring in is just fine. Just dont forget it and insert another. I am a heavy flow type so I just use the larger size tampon it last, I promise. If it is uncomfortable use a little ky to ease it in. much luv to all you women and girls out there.

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  • MaryBeth June 20, 2008 at 1:54 pm

    Wow! So many Instead and Diva cup users. And here I was thinking I would get to chime in with some brilliant wisdom…but you brilliant women beat me to it! I do love the fact that if I *think* I might start my period, I just pop one in and forget about it until evening. Love it!


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  • monica June 22, 2008 at 7:22 pm

    I have a paragaurd IUD and have had 5 children. I\’m glad to hear that there are some new and more comfortable options out there. Thanks everyone for sharing!

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  • CK June 30, 2008 at 11:03 pm

    Thank you so much for this post on your blog and those who responded! I have been searching the web trying to find out how to deal with long rides while I have my period – which tends to be quite heavy. I have no interest in taking pills (to stop or reduce my periods). I\’m going to try the Keeper product that so many have referenced and hopefully it will allow me to ride comfortably on any day of the month. Thanks again!

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  • Marion July 1, 2008 at 10:32 am

    O.k so many of you probably were wondering.. did I get a Diva cup.. the answer is YES.. and we had our maiden voyage this morning.. I agree with so many of you out there. I can tell this is going to change my life at least one week a month for a while. So A HUGE thanks to all of you who responded.. Anyone else try one?

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  • Curious July 1, 2008 at 12:54 pm

    Has anyone tried using a Diva cup or similar when they also have endometriosis? Tampons about triple my typical pain level, which is pretty high and requires controlled substances to make tolerable. I\’m very reluctant to try something that requires insertion again, as I\’ve always suspected that is the caused of the increased pain.

    On the plus side, even a slow and sedate ride goes a long way to help prevent adhesions from forming, adhesions being a common side effect of endometriosis. It\’s totally worth the unpleasantness of the ride in the long run.

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  • Josh July 1, 2008 at 4:18 pm

    Re: recumbents, mentioned above —

    I\’m a male, so I don\’t have any insight into the menstruation issue itself, but I agree that riding a recumbent is more comfortable on the groin, hands, wrists, shoulders, back, and neck than a conventional upright bike. On my bike, the riding position is very similar to the posture you have when driving an automobile. You sit on your ischial tuberosities rather than your perineum, so I imagine this might simplify some of the menstruation-related difficulties.

    Keep on riding, y\’all. Women on bikes ROCK! (This includes my wife, who biked to work today. I sent her a link to this thread, so perhaps she\’ll comment later with her experiences.)

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  • Josh's Wife July 1, 2008 at 10:24 pm

    Don\’t forget semi-recumbents!

    I ride an Electra Townie, which is like riding a sofa. Its very upright, very ergonomic and very soft on the girl parts… even shortly post-partem! There\’s more pad room if you want it, or enough comfort to forego padding. That said, I have a short commute, so I can see how a distance ride would be a totally different animal.

    Ladies, I\’m inspired. Excellent problem solving. Learned a few great things here today….would even consider a longer ride now. (And a Diva cup…fantastic! Hey honey, could you pick one up for me next time you\’re at the grocery store?)

    Three cheers for those, male and female, whose dedication exceeds their delicacy!

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  • Amber July 2, 2008 at 7:40 am

    I just found this post, so a bit late. I use the Diva cup and it works pretty well, although my biggest problem is how CRAPPY I feel for a few days. Often I\’ll just ride the bus on those days if it\’s really bad. For me, exercise helps with cramping WHILE I\’m exercising, but then when I\’m done I feel twice as bad as I did when I started, so it\’s a bit of a conundrum.
    Thanks for the post, I\’ve never felt comfortable asking other women how they handle the time of the month, so it was nice to see responses.

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  • Mountain Tenor February 20, 2009 at 6:57 pm

    If a mere male may ask without suffering the usual fate (per Euripides) of a man who spies on women’s mysteries, would switching to a recumbent machine help?

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    • Esther 2 June 28, 2012 at 10:47 pm

      Not all of us have the luxury of being able to simply switch to a recumbent. They’re pricey, and I would feel very vulnerable in traffic with lower visibility than I have.

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  • KYouell December 21, 2009 at 1:26 pm

    Wonderful thread! I have a suggestion for April (#23) who didn’t like the snap on the cotton pads. I took old cloth diapers (twill Gerber diapers that were originally purchased at Babies R Us in 2005 — reuse in action!) and my serger and made myself some pads. Just use the width of the diaper for the length of your pad. What was once the thinner side of the diaper is now an anchor or handle so you can put it right where you want. I’ve doubled them up for nighttime and heavy days and had no problems with shifting around that I don’t have with the one Glad Rag I own (so I think it’s me).

    I think for a long ride you’d need to do what I need to do for a long trip out with toddlers: bring lots of spare dry ones and a wet bag to bring home the used ones.

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  • KYouell December 21, 2009 at 1:28 pm

    Oh, in the interest of disclosure I should have said that I’m car-free but not a bicyclist. Still saving up for a rig to haul around me & the kiddos so for now we walk (with double stroller) and take the train to do what we need to do. So I haven’t personally tried out the mama-pad-from-a-diaper idea on a bike.

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  • Riding the crimson tide | Grist October 12, 2011 at 7:15 am

    […] and bicycling mom Marion Rice voiced this frustration in an article a few years ago, and dozens of responses rolled in giving accolades to silicon cups […]

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  • MamaT November 9, 2014 at 5:35 am

    I feel tha same way as the author during my period. I pick my kids up from school everyday with my bike and it is a real aggravation to me during that time of the month! I’m so glad the subject was brought up!!!! I honestly I don’t feel like riding with pads or tampons or anything it just feels wrong and uncomfortable to have the pressure from the seat on the bike in that “area” at that time of the month. I’m sure the diva cup is the best option, but my lady parts just don’t feel comfortable sitting on a bike seat for a few days! :/
    You gals who go on long trips and deal with it are amazing, strong women!! 🙂
    My issue is also traveling with little children. Have you ever had to deal with toddlers and your diva cup/pads/tampons in a tiny public restroom with them in tow?? Oh man, it’s not fun! Haha

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  • Qaz July 1, 2016 at 7:47 am

    Are you kidding? Women bleed. It’s part of our life cycle

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