On being a girl.

At home I have over 180 pairs of shoes, mostly impractical, mainly high heeled and a number with an accompanying handbag. Clothes for all occasions, lipsticks in almost every shade and too many toiletries to fit in the bathroom. I sleep in a four poster bed, adorned with six pillows and keep blankets behind the sofa for when it gets a bit chilly. All in all, pretty comfy, pretty girly and no doubt way over the top. Well, we all have our vices.

Now, obviously given I enjoy a bike ride and have run a few marathons in my time, I’m not frightened of sweating, looking a bit rubbish momentarily and getting muddy splashing through puddles.Despite taking a hairdryer to Glastonbury festival, I am very much able to leave the house with scruffy hair and no make up.

This trip however has been something else. Yesterday I cut my own hair….with a swiss army knife; I carry just one lippy….yet to be used on this tour and; I have just two pairs of shoes…one pair with cleats for riding and the other, some crocs, lightweight and suitable to wear with socks if needed. However, before you go thinking all is lost, I do have one silk dress for those smarter occasions; still carry a large bottle of conditioner to avoid dreadlocks (already done that!), shave my legs ( like all serious bikers!) and insist on matching underwear.

Consequently, I carry more luggage than my companion and I do always look to explain why. This, is in part then, some of the background to this blog on cycle touring – the female perspective. If this has already been too much for male readers then I strongly suggest you pause……and probably even wait till the next blog update.

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Still reading…..ok then. Here goes.

Periods. Quite frankly they are literally a pain. Legs ache, stomach hurts and finding frequent enough toilet stops in some places on our tour has been impossible.

Having made a strong case for conditioner (Asian women tend to use oils), suncream (often not available in high enough factors outside tourist areas) and additional items of clothes I required (bras, sports bras and just extra cus I feel the cold more ) I decided that I could reduce the tampon selection down to a months worth. Unlike Africa, where I took enough to last the trip and beyond, I figured South East Asia would be better. Wrong. Really worryingly wrong. Cycle shorts are already not a girls best friend, they already come with padding and as a Caucasian in such high temperatures with even higher humidity the alternative…well, I didn’t want to find out. And tell me, why is you travel for weeks, staying in rooms with1970s bed linen, until the first days of a period when crisp white sheets suddenly appear to be the new norm! Sometimes you just have to smile.

I’d tried the pill on my first trip but there’s only so many months you can do that continuously. Dealing with unpredictability and then the results of a four month block were even worse. Tampons are the only solution…..if you carry enough or  can find them. In the recent trip through Malaysia I spent three consecutive days in numerous mini-marts, a couple of larger supermarkets and a number of pharmacies -eventually I found some…32 to be precise. I bought all the shop had, parted with the equivalent of eight pounds  sterling and left the store with a huge smile. Eight quid! Ridiculous but I would have paid more if necessary. At least the monthly endurance would not see me hailed up in some cheap hotel room unable to ride simply cus it would be too messy to do so! Rest assured, I will definitely be stocking up in Bangkok despite additional baggage!

So, periods are a hassle, shopping on a bike tour is out of the question and taking a dip in the cool and inviting pool has also been a no no. I simply don’t carry a full length wet suit to hide every bit of my dry, peeling skin with odd cycle tan tans away from prying eyes! Thankfully, as we have now travelled beyond stricter Muslim areas my swimsuit is now deemed appropriate and I can even enjoy a cold beer at the end of the day. It’s not all bad.

The advantage of course, being the girl is just how impressed folk seem to be. Aside from the extra weight (!) it’s no harder for me but as we ride through places where it is most unusual to see female cyclists there is certainly a greater element of surprise when I rock up. I know more fellow riders cheered me up Alpe d’huez than the boys and people certainly seem go think it takes more guts to do this as a girl. Aside from the flippant rant and lack of tampons it’s pretty much the same. I’m glad I have a guy for company, I do feel safer but my gender makes me no braver than my  companion despite often getting more of the applause.

At some point I plan a blog on kit..a bit like revealing what lives in a womans handbag but for now, just to make you realise some femininity has been retained while taking weight allowance into account…. nailpolish. I’m off to paint my toe nails. Pink.

P.S. NO! I’ve not lost any weight yet!!

5 thoughts on “On being a girl.

  1. Loved this one. As a former 3-day-at-most tourer who also normally enjoys a bit of glamour I have now mastered the art of one small panier with room to spare. I take my hat off to you for managing this epic trip without requiring motorised transport for all your kit.
    And you know what you do deserve more applause, it’d be good to see more women. I remember when I did the Pedal for Scotland Sportive (100miles) I spotted hardly any women. I’m not cycling much at all now but your blogs make me want to get back in the saddle.
    PS: I found when I was doing lots of long distance cycling I didn’t lose any weight either. Though now I’m not, I have. Still you must be feeling as fit as a flee!

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