Secret's Out: What Women Need To Know About UTI’s & Bicycle Touring

Hey, Ladies! Urinary tract infections, or UTI’s, are a real concern for female cyclists (especially if you have a history of them). But we don’t talk about them much in the cycling community, and that’s why I wrote this post… because knowledge is power.

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In this case, ignorance isn’t bliss: it could result in a medical condition that delays or halts your entire trip.

When we’re gearing up for our first-ever overnight bicycle adventure, we need all the information available to us. In this case, ignorance isn’t bliss: it could result in a medical condition that delays or halts your entire trip. Thankfully UTI’s are preventable. Read on to learn more, and spread the word to fellow cycling sisters!

Urinary Tract Infections

Any cyclist can contract a urinary tract infection (UTI), but female cyclists are at a higher risk. Most UTI’s are caused by E. coli bacteria entering the urethra, which can happen during sex, while wearing dirty bike shorts, or failing to “wipe” properly after relieving yourself. The most common symptoms of a UTI include discomfort or pain during urination and a frequent urge to relieve yourself.

Like most infections, UTI’s can start slowly or hit like a sledgehammer: I had one in 2016 that went from a tickling sensation to peeing blood within three hours. By the time I got to the clinic, they said I was at risk for sepsis (that’s when the infection spreads to other parts of your body, and can cause septic shock, which can be lethal… don’t mess around with UTI’s.)

UTI Prevention:

Wear Clean Clothes. I know it’s gross, but your cycling shorts are a breeding ground for bacteria: damp with sweat, mashed against your body, with very little ventilation. The best way to prevent a UTI is to keep your cycling shorts (and yourself) clean. This usually means you’ll need to wash the absorbent pad of your bike shorts every night, and wear a clean pair while those dry for the next day. Also, don’t “hang out” in your cycling shorts than longer than necessary: immediately after your daily ride, change into clean, dry, loose-fitting clothing.

Clean Yourself. Carry baby wipes and clean yourself multiple times per day, wiping front to back. This is especially important if you’re sexually active during your bike tour, as bacteria is sort of mashed against you during intercourse (Gee, Olivia, you’re so romantic).

Stay Hydrated. As if you needed another reason to drink more water! Staying hydrated is important for every aspect of your bike tour, and it peeing frequently helps flush bacteria from your urethra. Especially in the morning, I recommend drinking at least a liter of water in camp, before you begin cycling for the day. This will give you a fresh start after mouth-breathing all night, and rehydrate you for the day ahead.

UTI Treatment:

Drink Water. If you suspect you have a UTI, drink as much water as possible and start peeing… a lot.

Cranberry Juice & DIY. If you can, drink no-sugar-added cranberry juice (and/or other UTI-treating herbs or medicines).

Antibiotics. Pedal immediately to a town with a health clinic and/or hospital, and take a rest day while you see a medical professional for a diagnosis. No joke: these UTI’s can get gnarly so fast, it’s better to stay ahead of them. You might need antibiotics!

Was this article helpful? Have other tips to share? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy Cycling,

Olivia