Advice for Women for Long Distance Cycling Tours
HOW TO PREPARE: An 8 part series to get you ready for your first TDA tour. Click here to read more.
I feel I should start off by saying the obvious – women love cycling as much as men and maybe even a little more if you ask me! We love an adventure, can handle a lot and are fine to endure a little discomfort along the way. This blog is intended for women new to long distance touring but those who have previously toured might also learn a thing or two.
A common question asked by women and men when it comes to touring in different and often remote places around the world is, “Is it safe?” Safety is always the top priority on TDA Global Cycling tours. Sometimes, unfortunately, women have to worry about this more then men do. On any trip it’s important to know there is always some level of risk involved even if everything is done right. It’s important to be culturally sensitive to how things may be very different in other parts of the world then what you’re used to. Always do your research about the places you are travelling through, ask questions and use common sense. A good rule is to ride in pairs and be alert while constantly monitoring your surroundings. If you ever don’t feel safe, immediately let someone know. Riding with a group in a supported tour environment is one way to decrease risks. When I spoke to a past rider from Tour d’Afrique she said something that really stuck with me, “Even when you riding alone, you’re never really alone.” You always have the choice to ride with others and you don’t have to be alone if you choose not to be.
While you are doing your research on the places you will be travelling through, make sure to read about cultural clothing norms and expectations. Depending on where you are travelling, how you dress and what you wear can be an extremely important factor in preparing for a tour. When I asked a past rider about her thoughts on this she put it very nicely, “As visitors even though we might not understand why different cultures are the way they are, it’s important to respect them. Which sometimes means covering up.” A good rule of thumb is to always pack a comfortable pair of pants, loose fitting shorts and pieces you can use for layering. A headscarf or any light scarf is a great item to have as it can be used for multiple ways to cover up. A buff is a common choice too for women and men. If you arrive to the start destination and you aren’t sure, don’t be afraid to ask the local guide or staff on the tour. When it comes to cycling gear, be sure to have a few pairs of good shorts with a chamois. These will be key in helping to avoid saddle sores and wick sweat off your skin. Bring a few pairs to ensure you can always have a clean option. This is an important part as wearing dirty cycling shorts can cause bacteria to grow, which could lead to unpleasant issues.
“As visitors even though we might not understand why different cultures are the way they are, it’s important to respect them. Which sometimes means covering up.”
Your period and feminine care
We all know the feeling of waking up with cramps, a headache and a serious urge to punch something. Getting on your bike and cycling for hours in these conditions might not be your first choice. That being said, exercise can really help relieve PMS symptoms, so maybe it could be seen as a great idea! Other important factors include staying hydrated and making sure you don’t skip any meals.
An important rule is to not attempt any new systems while on tour. Stick with what works for you or at least give yourself months of time to get used to anything new. Depending on what your preferred system is, consider how it might work while wearing cycling shorts all day, or being in hot or humid weather. Depending where you’re going the options or types available could be limited. It’s not a bad idea to stock up and bring your own if you know your body is particular. If you know tampons work for you, stick with them but do keep in mind those without applicators are ideal to avoid extra waste. On all of our tours we strive to leave no trace. This means you should bring some sort of bag you can use to carry garbage until you are somewhere you can dispose of it properly. This might feel odd at first but it’s necessary and expected on tour. Lastly, it’s always a good idea to speak with your doctor if you have concerns about having your period while on a tour. There could be options to try to stop your period for the duration of the tour or decrease your natural flow. Again, this has its own complications and be sure to try it out before you hit the road.
- Shaving and waxing – While you may think getting a wax or shaving before the tour will help keep things clean, remember that you don’t want to cause any unnecessary issues. When you are sweating and riding long days, you won’t want to encourage a pesky ingrown to pop up, or open pores that could allow bacteria to sneak in.
- Pain killers and antibiotics – Even if you rarely get headaches or issues like UTI’s or yeast infections it’s smart to be prepared if something out of the ordinary happens. As we all know our bodies to tend to slam us with surprises when we least expect it. This can often happen when we are in new places or doing things a little differently then normal.
- Hand sanitizer
- Biodegradable wipes
- Pain medication
- Yeast infection and UTI treatment options
- Antibiotics and/or antifungals
- Tampons (without applicators), pads or menstrual cups
- Chamois cream
- Ziploc and/or paper bags
Your packing list and clothing to bring will vary widely depending on the tour, where it passes through and how long you will be on the road. Another factors to consider – is the tour you are on all hotel, all camping or mix of both? We are all very unique and have our own way of doing things which is part being a woman. You should think ahead about these things and prepare yourself accordingly.
I spoke with a past rider about her experience on the 2019 Tour d’Afrique and asked what she felt were the most important items she brought. “There are a few; I would say baby wipes, Vaseline (can be used for aftercare, chamois cream, small cuts.. etc), a lightweight scarf (can be worn for so many things, modesty, head covering, warmth, towel, swim cover up), and a notebook for journaling. Comfort is key, have a good rain jacket and dry bag!”
With a little preparation, mindfulness and a passion for cycling you can expect to have an incredible and life changing experience on any tour!
How to Prepare
An 8 part series to get you ready for your first TDA tour. Click here to read more.