Thursday, August 31, 2006

First you have to admit it......BPA

Self: Hi, my name is TriEric and I pee on the bike.

Support Group: Hi TriEric. Welcome. We all pee on the bike also.

Yes, that is how my first meeting with Bike Pee'ers Anonymous started. I first had to admit what I do. It felt refreshing, like the warm stream of water running down your legs from a bursting bladder. I was able to share my secret without someone saying EWW or GROSS. Of course most of the people in the group were triathletes, except for the 5 year old who had his training wheels recently taken off and it scared the piss out of him. Such a sad little story.

Coming fresh off my recent Ironman I was presented with this question time and again, "What do you do when you have to pee?" I look people straight in the eye and tell them the truth. If necessary, I pee my pants. In fact the only time I unclipped from my pedals was during my stop at the special needs bags. Otherwise the bike and I were one for 112 miles.

During my IM training I had talked with Coach Angela about peeing on the bike. She highly recommends the practice and knew I could handle it. Okay that didn't sound quite right. Angela said, "If you have plans to race a Half Ironman or Ironman event, one thing you want to do ,or be able to do, is PEE ON THE BIKE! This means you pee while riding, while moving, you do not stop to go the bathroom."

The hardest part is the mental aspect of the act. Except for when we are babies and learning to use the potty, we usually don't pee ourselves. Maybe that occasional drunken evening out or the uncontrollable laughing will make you squirt, but we try to avoid urinating on ones self. But during a bike race or triathlon the time it takes for a natural break is costly. Consider the following.......

Decide you have to pee.
Slow down to pee.
Get off the bike.
Walk over to the port-a-potty / tree / bush / etc.....
Walk back to your bike
Get on the bike
Get back up to race speed.

WOW, you've just spent 3 or more minutes going nowhere. No forward progress. Now for an Ironman race multiply that by 4 or 5. Even if you "only" spend 3 minutes per break that could be between 12-15 minutes. I don't care how fast or slow you are, this could have an impact on your race. For the quick this be the difference in placing or qualifying for Hawaii. For the back-of-the packers this could mean missing a cutoff time and not being able to continue. For everyone it could mean missing that goal time.

So there are advantages that go with peeing on the bike. But how do you actually do the "dirty" deed? I have enlisted Coach Angela to offer her words of wisdom for the women and I will provide some personal insight for the guys. Either way peeing on the bike, as well as yourself, is a mental battle.

Mental Preparation:
What is pee? Water. Okay with some "waste" mixed in for color. The main components of urine are (salt) water and waste products. The major waste product from cells in the body is ammonia which gets broken down by the liver. That yellow tint is the waste products from the blood. Read more here Ask a Scientist or here MadSci Network.

Remember the time savings during the race.

You will already be sweaty and stinky. You probably won't know anyone around you. You will look hardcore, or crazy. If it's hot out you will dry up pretty quick. Wash yourself off with a water bottle.

Believe me, it's not easy. It took me a bit of convincing the first time I peed on the bike. Since that first time I have learned some important things to think about.

For the guys:

Face it. We have it easier with two options for peeing on the bike. Stand up and "whip it out" or simply open up the gates feel the warmth.

"Whip it out" Method:

You need a slight downhill for this to work. This way you can keep your forward momentum while not pedaling. On the side you are going to pee, drop your leg to the bottom of the stroke and stand on your pedal. With your opposite hand maintain control of your bike, possibly even on the brake in case you have to stop. Pull down your shorts and take aim. The stream usually makes it to the road without getting on yourself or the bike. Now I have read where it's bad form to pee off the right side of the bike because of the drive train but that is where the side of the road is, away from traffic. I usually don't hit my bike. I also watch my speed. You don't spit into the wind, so why would you piss into the wind. I have found that speeds approaching 10MPH produce enough wind to blow your pee back onto your leg or bike. At that point you should have just peed your pants. And no matter how much you "shake it" that last drops will wind up in your shorts.

"Let it Flow" Method:

Now we are getting hardcore. Just go. Your tri shorts will provide the path for the water to flow. Usually down and around the back of the leg. Speed doesn't matter at this point. Actually speed is sometimes a friend as it will blow the water off the back of your leg. There is also the drying affect of the wind. I usually don't worry about my bike shoes getting wet because there is not as much movement like with running, so there is no aggravation or chance of blisters.

With peeing in your shorts you will want to have a spare water bottle available to wash off with. If you are fortunate enough to pee before an aid station you can get a bottle from there and have a quick mobile shower.

For the Women:
I enlisted the help of Coach Angela to help me with this section. Here are some excerpts from her e-mail to me.

Peeing on the bike… yes girls do it too!!

For women this is a harder thing to practice during your training, because we cannot whip it out, so to speak. Yes, you are going to the bathroom on yourself. If you are on a long ride by the time you have to go, you should be peeing water anyway. If you hydrate properly, needing to pee will take care of itself during race day.

Preferably you are drinking at least a 20 oz bottle of water per hour, not including Gatorade or other sports drinks. Assuming you were hydrated before the race, along with the length of the race you should be able to go to the bathroom.

I talk myself into having to go. I start thinking about having to go. I think about how much I have drank, or being cold, or think of running water. Use whatever method or thought that will trigger your brain to make you want to pee.

If possible I try to time going right before an aid station, because then I can get a bottle of water to rinse off with, throw away the bottle I just went the bathroom on. Most of you have a bottle below your seat, just make sure the bottle that is down there is one you can dispose of and not one full of fuel for the race. To some of you this may seem disgusting but you are only peeing water. Also you may have bottle cages behind your seat. I have never had a problem with that because the pee is running down the leg of your shorts away from the bottle. No "spray" makes it to the rear bottles.

WOW, thanks Angela for that helpful insight into peeing.....for women.....on the bike.

Here are some other tips for bike peeing.

I find there is a make or break temperature for peeing on the bike and being comfortable. I think somewhere around 75 degrees F I stand up to pee. Below 75 nothing dries up and you are a wet sticky mess longer. It just makes things uncomfortable. Guys are fortunate to have options. Above 75 degrees you will eventually dry up with the heat ad wind.

If it's raining out, anything goes. You get washed off by the rain while you pee.

You can quickly drop those people that have been drafting behind you illegally.

Wash your shoes after the ride ASAP. I've heard vinegar works well to kill the smell, and if left unattended IT WILL SMELL. Remember, there is a form of ammonia in urine.

I know this is hard to deal with. There is a support group out there to help. If you have any questions or comments that you do not want to post publicly just e-mail me. Coach Angela is willing to entertain questions from the women in the blog-o-sphere. She can be reached at and she says, "I always pee on my bike."


The Spandex-King said...

I'm afraid to whip it out. Just think of the possiblities. Road Rash!! Accident, knock out, **** Hanging out. Just what the hell was he doing anyway. I'll stick with the wetting the pants.

Oh my gosh what if your whipped out, have a whipe out, and you've got those spokes just a flying around. Who knows what ends of where and WACK!!!! Suddenly your Tri-Bobbit!!! I've goto move on from this subject. I'll stay with girlie style.

TriSaraTops said...

OMG, what if I'm peeing my pants right now laughing from this post and the above comment?

I'm not, really...but I could.

Thanks for the pee tips! This one's gonna have to be a game time thing for me. I ain't practicing ahead of time. I will violate the "nothing new on race day" philosophy with pee.

OMG--my word ver is "ppeeed"

nancytoby said...

But ... but.... I've practiced and practiced and it still doesn't work. The closest I've come is pulling off to the side of the road and standing there straddling the bike. Otherwise, no luck. It makes for very nasty bike shoes.

Show me the way.

Robin said...

Okay - Wash your bike shoes "ASAP". Well, don;t they need to sit there for a 13.1 or 26.2 (looong) time befroe you can really do this? No permanent smell affect from that "sit time"?

Eric said...

ASAP. If you have to run for a couple hours first that's fine. If you spray water on yourself during a race that helps rinse the shoes also.

It may take a while but the smell will go away. I used vinegar yesterday and it worked well. the vinegar smell is better than ammonia.

triteacher said...

I am so glad I found you! My workout & blog today were consumed with this very issue. As a woman doing my first IM next weekend, I had to give it some thought. Now I'll have to give it more, cuz I had resolved to "Just say no." Hmmm... could I? Should I?

Dante said...

Nice post, you know, it's always been a question I've been afraid to ask. Well, I don't know anyone personally who's completed a half or full ironman, so it's a topic that's never needed to be raised before, but I have often thought about it.

I wonder why the books avoid the topic...

Chris said...

"hak" sent me.

Vinegar is something that I didn't try last year. It took me *forever* to get that smell out of my shoes. I tried Oxy-clean, febrease, normal laundry detergent, etc. It was bad enough that I vowed I'd never do it again. Although I'm thinking of buying new bike shoes next year because mine are getting old anyway. Hmmm...

Jodi said...

Thanks for the post, Eric! I hadn't even thought about the temperature cutoff... Although if history repeats itself that won't be a problem at CdA. But the stinky shoes thing freaks me out a little. Those shoes are expensive!

qcmier said...

This is the most info I've read on this topic, so it prompted me to try it.

trifrog said...

Not gonna d' it!