We know, there’s no such thing as a stupid question. But there are some questions you might not want to ask your local shop or riding buddies. AASQ is our weekly series where we get to the bottom of your questions – serious or otherwise. Hit the link at the bottom of the post to submit your own question!

Triathletes are cyclists too, right? Sure they are, though both groups don’t always like to admit that they participate in the same activity (with some obvious unique requirements for their equipment). Though I think that we should get over our differences and just be friends, there’s one nagging question that really needs to be addressed: Do triathletes really pee on their bikes?

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Photo courtesy Chris Bucher.

While we often go to outside sources for our AASQ series, we also field the questions ourselves from time to time. I’m still the new guy at Bikerumor.com (hi!), and you can find my existing work here. I’ve been asked to answer this particular question because, while I’ve competed in road races and ridden all types of bikes, I got my start in triathlon and raced competitively for over a decade including a several-year stint as a pro. I soon realized that I was a better mechanic and explainer than I was an athlete, so here I am.

On to the matter at hand – yes, some triathletes do, in fact, pee on their bikes. Full-disclosure, I am among those who have done it. Gross, right?!

Yes, it’s at least a little bit gross. But let’s talk about why, how, and when it’s done – to gain a bit more understanding about this unpopular idea.

Ironman-Hawaii-bike-course-Queen-K-Chris-Bucher-credit
Photo courtesy Chris Bucher.

If it’s not obvious, triathletes pee while riding their bike so they don’t have to stop – saving precious time for competitive races. If you’ve spent a decade of your life trying to qualify for the big race in Hawaii, soiling yourself to save 60 seconds doesn’t necessarily sound like the worst idea. It’s free speed!

Let’s be clear: the ONLY time that peeing on your bike is an acceptable practice is during a race. I’ll further clarify with my own opinion that it should only be done during half-Ironman distance or longer (consisting of a 1.2 mile swim, a 56 mile bike, and a 13.1 mile run). Olympic or sprint-distance races typically last three hours or less, and shouldn’t be an issue if you relieve yourself before the race begins.

Once you’ve made the decision to throw your modesty to the wind, you’ve got to decide when and where to leave your mark. This is actually a huge consideration, and one that can make the entire experience not-quite-as-bad. Here’s the deal: You want to pee while going down a hill and ONLY when there aren’t other athletes behind you. Just stand up, coast, and let ‘er rip. If you’re carrying enough speed, most of it just flies out behind you. If you’re unlucky, it might go down your leg and into a shoe. I know that’s disgusting, but reality isn’t always pretty. The other key is trying to time the deed reasonably close before an aid station. That way you can pick up an extra bottle of water to rinse yourself and your bike off.

Doesn’t this whole ordeal soak your shorts and chamois? It can. The good news is that the chamois used in triathlon-specific shorts are pretty thin compared to cycling shorts, reducing the amount of liquid they can hold. And as previously mentioned, rinsing off with water helps a lot to dilute everything. Don’t look at me like that – I know that 95% of you have peed on yourself in a pool or in the shower.

What about the bike? Can the urine damage it or cause long-term issues? Having been in and around triathlon for over 15 years, I’ve never heard of any catastrophic failure or caused by it (i.e. a chain breaking). The most common consequence is that cables, housings, and rear brakes get gummed up with a mix of sweat, sports drink, dirt, and yes – pee. I always made a point to wipe down my bike with mild de-greaser right after the race, and then wash it the day I arrived back home (most races don’t have provisions for washing bikes on-site). This is an area that many triathletes fully deserve some shame, as many bikes get badly neglected. I didn’t normally wear nitrile shop gloves while wrenching until I encountered some awfully smelly, sticky, disgusting triathlon bikes. Now I always wear gloves.

Ironman-Hawaii-triathlete-bike-check-in-AASQ

Do ALL triathletes pee on their bikes? Of course not. There are a lot of sensible ones that take a break, accept the time penalty, and go on with their lives. If I had to venture a guess, only about 25% of triathletes ever do it, and you’ll often see people at portable toilets or on the side of the road, a la cycling road race. I truly hope this has been informative, and that you can all live with greater peace and one fewer burning question. You’re welcome!

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11 COMMENTS

  1. As a former wrench and first responder… If you pee on the bike WASH it BEFORE you take it to the shop. I wash my hand after peeing in the bathroom, why should I be touching yours wet or dry?

  2. I’m a bike mechanic and have seen triathlete’s bikes arrive with white saddles that are stained yellow. I was pretty sure that I knew why and this article confirms it, thanks for sharing the details. I recommend for triathletes not to choose a white saddle, and try to wash it before bringing it to the shop.

    • When I was wrenching we had an excess cleaning fee. If it was too dirty upfront we offer the fee or a brush and the hose outside. But we never had a pee-saddle…I wouldn’t even allow that in the door!

  3. i worked in a retail shop that was a pick up / drop off location for a bike transport company. after races, we would have 20 to 50 bikes in the back room and the stench of pee was remarkable. the transport company started applying a protective seat cover to the saddle post race. pro trip, NEVER lay your bare hands on the saddle of ironman finishers bicycle!

  4. ps, having completed multiple IMs, i never pee’d on the bike. in my wetsuit during the swim – hell ya. (pro tip #2, do you really want to rent that wetsuit?)

  5. There’s a difference between peeing FROM your bike and peeing ON your bike. Both of which even (male) pro bicyclists have been known to do.

  6. Have to confess to doing this on a rainy tour de tucson. Wanted to beat 6 hours to get a gold medal. One shoe took the brunt of it and it took a while to get the pee smell out…

  7. How difficult is it to whip it out and pee off to the side. Assuming you’re not a woman this seems like not a difficult thing to do. I’ve drained the morning Mountain Dew when I got in the winning breakaway of a target road race, zero urine on my bike seems like it would be slightly but not impossibly more difficult on a TT bike.

    • If you are wearing a tri suit, “whipping it out” can be a bit complicated, as those suits usually are in one piece and the zip (if it is in front at all) starts about at the height of the navel…

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