Wednesday, July 22, 2009

How Do You...

This is a tender and delicate subject, but I’m going to broach it anyway, because the Tour de France is going on at the moment, and the Tour de France always makes me think of this. (Some people just enjoy the sport. I think of things like this. Oh, well.) It is what Phil Liggett would call a “nature break.” You can always tell when a nature break is occurring because dozens of riders all pull off to the side of the road at the same time to…um…attend to their business. I don’t imagine that this is the sort of event the discerning fan particularly wants to witness, but there it is. When you get two hundred guys on the road for several hours at a time, there are things that need to be done.

Bob Roll tells a story (which I will not repeat here in all of it’s hilarious and intimate detail) about surprising some fans during the Tour de France when as urgent need overtook him suddenly on the road. (Just for the record, my mother was appalled, but my aunt almost hurt herself from laughing so hard, so I can’t say how you would react if you read the story, but get a copy of Bobke II: The Continuing Misadventures of Bob Roll and read it for yourself if you want to find out. (This is one of my two favorite cycling books, and you get an undiluted dose of Bob Roll’s personality in the bargain.)

The fact is, when you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go, and this is, oddly enough, one of the things that people ask me about the most – what do you do when you’ve got to go during the middle of a ride.

I did meet a guy on the road once who’s solution to this was to ride home as hard and as fast as he could. This was a guy I had seen once or twice on the road. I caught up with him and he immediately explained the situation. Apparently it was pressing on his mind. I passed him, let him draft off me (from which you may conclude that he couldn’t have been going all that fast after all) and then watched him nearly get splatted by a car because I, not having his clearly urgent need, stopped at the red light and he didn’t.

The obvious answer to “what do you do” is that you find a convenience store and make convenient use of it. This is the optimal solution. But what if you can’t find a store? What if you’re out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by trees and nothing else? Well, you’ll just have to find your own solution. I wouldn’t have any idea at all how to deal with a situation like that.

Sometimes, at a pro race, you can find a guy who really needs to do something but just doesn’t want to stop. Such a rider will sometimes call on a teammate to put a hand on his back and hold him up while he deals with the situation in motion. Sometimes, on a casual ride, you can find a guy who wants to do the same thing, but he isn’t usually able to find anybody willing to help him stay upright at such a moment, so he has to attempt the feat singlehanded. We do not recommend this.

First of all, wrecking at a time like this would probably be an exceedingly bad thing. I will not elaborate on this, but my imagination is vivid enough to paint an unpleasant picture, and I bet yours is, too. I now offer a formal apology to anyone who might still be reading at this point for putting pictures into your head. Sorry about that.

I do know of a case where someone did attempt this feat on a ride. (Let us be perfectly clear here – I am not talking about me. I have more sense than that.) He managed to perform his task and to stay upright, but he did suffer a slight problem. His water bottles were apparently…um…in the line of fire, so to speak, so he didn’t want to drink from them for the rest of the ride.

Now, when I started riding, this topic was not discussed in any of the books I read, and nobody I talked to mentioned anything about it. This is not surprising to me. Only a very strange person would write about this stuff.

Wait a minute. That didn’t come out right.

For reasons beyond my control I didn’t get a ride in this weekend, and it rained all day yesterday, so, though I could have ridden, I admit that I chose not to. That’s why posts like this happen. This just goes to show that the world is a better place when I get a chance to ride, doesn’t it?

I’m sure that I haven’t exhausted this particular topic, but I’ve probably said more about it than you ever thought you’d read, so I think I’m done for the time being.

See you on the road.


  1. LOL! That's great! I have not done an actual bike RACE yet, so I haven't had the occassion to feel like I wasn't willing to stop somewhere to do my business. If I was in a race, I'd just hope to hold it. As a woman, I can't "aim" anywhere but my chamois, and I really don't like the idea of a wet chamois. Yuck! Maybe someday I'll race and put this situation to the test. But for now, I'm happy to find the nearest gas station or porta-potty. Funny post!

  2. Wet chamois. Bleah...that sounds truly unpleasant.