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?
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.
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.
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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