I am a female cyclist. As a female cyclist, I do have to deal with one of the inevitable facts of being a woman approximately every twenty-eight days. However, considering how this fact of life affects transportation cyclists who lack the Y chromosome had never occurred to me until my editor sent me a link to an article titled, "Riding the Crimson Tide: Bicycling When You Have Your Period." (Thanks for thinking of me, Ted).
I read the article. I agreed with a few of the points made, including the assertion that menstruation is "hardly a singular, universal experience" for all women, and that it is important for every person to listen to his or her body. This advice is applicable not just for women once a month, but for anyone dealing with minor or serious health issues when riding.
However, I did not agree with the overall theme of the post that might lead readers to believe that riding during that special time of month is unmanageable, embarrassing, dangerous or the most uncomfortable task ever.
Rather, dealing with the relatively small inconvenience of menstruating once a month is a reality that more than 50% of the population encounters (or has or will at some point in her life), and acting as if those days are just like every other day of the month is, for me, the best medicine.
Experts agree! One of the most common, drug-free recommendations for dealing with menstrual cramps is to "get regular exercise. This improves blood flow, produces pain-fighting endorphins, and may reduce pain." As a lifelong athlete, I have always found that a good workout, whether it is a bike ride or other cardiovascular exercise, makes me feel much better physically, restores some of that energy that may be lagging the first day or two of my cycle, and does wonders to clear my head.
The other point of concern, how to contain the wonderful by-product of this "purifying and "˜rebooting,'" is also one that I feel is quite manageable in these modern times. I don't write for a strictly "green" blog (although encouraging people to ride bikes is certainly "green-ish," right?), so I can publicly say (although I can't believe that I'm publicly saying) that tampons are a very viable solution to this containment issue. I'm sure that someone will respond and let me know that I'm exposing my body to toxins on a monthly basis and that I'm wasteful, but is swearing off tampons and not riding a bike more green and healthy than the alternative? Sorry, but I'll take my chances with a cardboard applicator rather than stay at home in fear of a red saddle or a chafing reusable cup situation.
In short, I do not think that our monthly cycle is a large factor in why more women are not transportation cyclists (or cyclists in general). In the Netherlands, 55% of all cyclists are women, and I suspect that Dutch women get a monthly visit from Aunt Flo just as American women do. I am not opposed to women discussing how they deal with this issue and how it relates to their cycling experience, but if we are going to have a public conversation about why more women don't ride in the United States, let's talk about safety, utility and other issues that prevent women from choosing a bicycle for transportation purposes- issues that we can actually change.
And to all of the men who made it to the end of this post, congratulations.