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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2016

    newbie with questions! (UTI stuff)

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    Hi there. I'm new to this forum. I found this forum while searching for info on cycling and UTIs in women. I saw an ancient thread here on the topic and thought I would ask again now, since there may be more/different people around and since my questions are a little different anyway. But first, brief intro!

    I've been biking my whole life but never as a serious sport (although I would like to turn it into a serious sport at some point - maybe do some races or, more likely, take a summer and try to bike across the country in which I live). I'm 40, have owned many different bikes (many different styles), have tried many different kinds of bike gear, and so on. I currently own a hybrid road bike (the road part of it is that it has road bike wheels and tires but the hybrid part of it is the gearing mechanism and handlebars, which are more city street friendly) with a women's seat that has a bit of gel where the sit bones contact it and a big open space with mesh where the more sensitive parts of the crotch sit. Very airy and I get no noticeable chafing (the seat was advertised as something that could remove the need for bike shorts with padding). Up until about 2 years ago, I only rode for fun and shopping. Now, I've added in commuting. I spend a good deal of time in normal clothing (mostly on shopping days), so removing the need for specialty bike shorts was important (I'll wear the typical spandex setup on commute or joy ride days). My commute is 20 km round trip and I seem to be able to tolerate this without any UTIs provided I don't do it too many days in a row. My typical speed averages around 25 km/h if I'm not pushing, but this does cause a fair amount of sweat (I can't help it - I am mentally wired to go fast even if I try not to. The only thing that slows me down is bumpy road). So on commute days, I bring a change of clothing.

    The problem seems to happen if I add any additional distance onto that 20 km (or, as I suggested above, do it too many days in a row). There's a joyride I really enjoy that's about 40 km, and if I do *that*, there now seems to be a very strong correlation with onset of a UTI. Annoyingly, I can also trigger a UTI with an intense workout at home, with weights (and if I mix the two, i.e. do a ride in the morning and weights later, I'll be in for a hospital trip with symptoms you don't want to know about). I believe I have a hydration problem. When I've been tested, they not only tell me "yup, you're positive for bacteria," but they also tell me my urine is really concentrated, a sure sign of dehydration.

    So... I have a few questions.

    Let's try to tackle the dehydration problem first, since it's probably my biggest issue. How do I deal with this? Part of the problem is that I hate developing the need to pee while out on the bike (or in the middle of an intense workout). There's NOTHING worse than a full bladder on a bike!!! OMG! I hate it! So I admit up front that I ration my fluids to avoid this. Obviously I've gone too far. How do people deal with this? How much do you drink and how do you avoid getting a full bladder on the road? And what do you do if you *do* get a full bladder? Find a restaurant or gas station or something? Wear a diaper? lol! Where I live, it's mostly country road and winding trail so my only choices are diaper or find a ditch and hope no one spots me (and of course there's always someone else out there LOL). I presently drink about a half a liter per 20 km in decent weather. I have found that this will not lead to OMGNEEDTOPEE while on the road. If it's hotter, I will often not bring more (I forget to bring more to be honest) so perhaps unsurprisingly, most of my UTI problems have occurred in summer. But cooler weather can do me in as well because I'll overdress and sweat like crazy.

    Can the type of drink contribute? I will go for the sports drinks because they have some sugar in them. Saves me from having to eat. Even for plain commutes or shopping, I just feel physically better if I use a non-diet sports drink. I've tried bringing food but I find myself just not wanting to eat. Biking has this weird effect on me in that I get an OMGHUNGRY feeling, but I don't really develop an appetite (I believe there are studies that show that intense workouts actually kill appetite). If I don't get anything into me when this happens, my legs will get really weak. I had a ride earlier this week where I forgot I hadn't eaten/drunk for a few hours before; got on bike, rode hard, and thought I was going to fall over from jello legs...lol I was so mad at myself. The drinks work better because I can sip on them throughout the ride and get both energy and fluid from them, and my lack of appetite doesn't stop me from wanting to drink. But if they're contributing to UTIs then I am absolutely willing to try something else. Or maybe my present UTI is because of that one oopsie ride where I forgot to drink beforehand or bring anything. Ugh, I hope I'm not so sensitive now that one bad ride can throw me off (actually, the ride was very good lol, but you know what I mean).

    Finally, should I change anything about the bike and/or my clothing? I'm going to be seeking professional help as well, but I'm not sure I'll be able to get help on the biking angle (it will more likely be just general overall medical advice). I really don't know who to talk to about bike stuff. I've always treated it as an utterly solo activity - just buy a bike and ride. But clearly my body is telling me I have to start taking things more seriously, now. Maybe it's age, maybe it's because I've been biking a LOT more lately, or maybe it's some combination. I don't want to cut back on the biking. My body has never been stronger (er um, aside from the bladder, lol).

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Concord, MA
    Dehydration and cycling are never good together. You need to drink while you ride. For a 20K commute, maybe you could just make sure you are hydrated before, but I always have a bottle with me, even for errands that might be 10-12K. You can rely on plain water for shorter rides. I use Nuun tabs with electrolytes and no sugar for mid range rides and/or shorter rides when it is hot. For long rides, especially when it is hot, I use Skratch Labs powder, the one with carbs and protein (they have one that's just electrolytes) to mix with water. There is an endless amount of different drinks, most have way too much sugar, so look at the proportions of protein to carbs. Short rides, you don't have to eat. But anything longer than an hour, an hour and a half, you need to eat.
    As far as peeing on the road, we tend to ride in places where there is at least one place we can stop, sometimes it's even a construction portapotty. I have no problem peeing in the bushes, either. You have to drink and you have to pee... and it's dangerous not to, especially in hot weather. It sounds like this is a combo of a lot of things, so you need to change one thing at a time. Sometimes, gel on a saddle makes things worse. In my opinion (and others don't have to agree) a thin chamois in a pair of shorts or liners wins out over a padded saddle. I've toughened up a bit, so now when I commute or do errands I can wear bottoms with a almost non-existent chamois that is made for triathlons. Get out of your shorts right away and wash yourself right away! Very important. And I wash my shorts in hot water, then air dry.
    I would recommend getting a bike fitting. It could be the set up of your bike, how your saddle is angled, etc. You might need a different combo of shorts and saddle. Bike shops will often let you test a saddle, with a demo saddle for a week. That means riding your normal rides with it, not just around a parking lot.
    2015 Trek Silque SSL
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  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2008
    northern Virginia
    Hi bikesforever, welcome to the forum.

    I have been lucky enough to not have to deal with UTIs (at least not so far), so there's only so much I can offer. But fwiw, I try to drink about one water bottle per hour when I'm on my bike, which is about 20 oz. According to the label on the Diet Coke that I am drinking right now, 500ml = 16.9 oz. So I try to drink a bit more than what you're getting. Note that I ride for fun and exercise, not commuting or transportation, 90 min - 2hours (15-20 miles) during the week and 2-6 hours (30-65 miles) on the weekend.

    I don't know what the climate is where you live. We have hot summers here. So during summer rides if I'm drinking less than 1 bottle in a hour I will chug when I get to a rest stop, which is usually every 1 - 1.5 hours. This seems to be sufficient for me. In cooler weather I probably drink a little less because I'm not sweating nearly as much. As annoying as it is to have to pee during a ride, it is not something I try to avoid because becoming dehydrated can cause more than enough problems. I also ride often with older men who need to stop pretty often, so we try to plan bathroom stops into the route every 1-2 hours. Ideally these stops are at convenience stores, community parks, grocery stores or fast food restaurants. If necessary we will go behind a tree, though it's not always easy to find one with sufficient privacy.

    I generally alternate between plain water and Gatorade; I'm not aware of sports drinks contributing to UTIs, but I've never done any research in that area. If you're getting that jello feeling in your legs then you are bonking -- running low on blood glucose. I understand not wanting to eat during a ride, because my stomach doesn't handle food well either, especially on hot days. But with trial and error I've found some things I can tolerate, like carbohydrate gels (Gu or PowerGel), Jelly Belly sports jelly beans, cereal bars and fig bars, Honey Stinger waffles, crackers or pretzels for salt. I will force myself to have 200-300 calories at each stop whether I am hungry or not.

    - Gray 2010 carbon WSD road bike, Rivet Independence saddle
    - Red hardtail 26" aluminum mountain bike, Bontrager Evoke WSD saddle
    - Royal blue 2018 aluminum gravel bike, Rivet Pearl saddle

    Gone but not forgotten:
    - Silver 2003 aluminum road bike
    - Two awesome worn out Juliana saddles

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    WA State

    Are you sure they are actually UTI's

    If you have any sort of irritation to your urethral area and are dehydrated and have been sweating heavily it can burn like BLOODY MURDER when you finally do pee, but not be a UTI. Testing positive for bacteria doesn't necessarily mean you do have a bladder infection - unless they look for the presence of white blood cells too, it could be a false positive from a contaminated sample or from normal body flora.
    "Sharing the road means getting along, not getting ahead" - 1994 Washington State Driver's Guide

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  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2016
    Thanks so much for the tips! Update: I'm actually pretty sick and it has turned out to either be chronic problem + UTI or just chronic problem (waiting for culture to rule in or out UTI). Either way, big nasty antibiotics for me. The chronic problem can cause weird things like nasty infections that need "big guns" and hah, I learned yesterday that it's also associated with UTI, which was news to me after 20 years. So I guess I have to rest now, like it or not.

    Crankin: This bike is actually professionally fitted. I'm a big fan of that and +1 your suggestion, since my professional fit has managed to work out a lot of little nasty problems that creep up with ill-fitting bikes, like sore knees. The shop is one that actually lets you take the bike out for a test ride, provided you leave your credit card with them lol. Funny aside: When I tested this particular bike, a guy on the street saw me taking it out of the store and thought I was stealing it. And I'm in complete agreement that some gel seats can cause more problems than they fix. I had a couple like that before and I couldn't last more than 20 minutes in them - I would sink down in them and all the pressure would end up in the wrong spots. This seat (I really ought to go remind myself of the brand but I don't want to go outside) is different and I get no pain from it at all (provided I keep it aligned, which is a continuous battle thanks to the fact that I actually like to sit on it).

    So yeah, I think I need to work on finding spots to do a restroom break lol. I'll just have to adjust my mindset a bit for that and be more forgiving of bodily needs. I think mindset is a real problem - I hate stopping. Oh and I used to use those edible gel things a long time ago. I've been meaning to get more. It wasn't that I didn't like them - just wasn't going as far so there wasn't as much need back then. I used to bring (and enjoy!) granola bars but it's hard to find those without inulin/chicory root these days. Used to be you could get a nice honey nut granola bar with fruit in it. Not anymore. They all have chicory root in them now, and are all low carb or whatever. Darn health food market is not helping.

    I made a point of asking a few of the medical professionals I saw yesterday if Gatorade/Powerade (I'll use either) was OK for what I'm doing. I got a lot of emphatic yesses, including that the level of sugar in them was fine and that any UTI problems I may be having are not related. So that was relieving. (I'll agree that the sugar in these drinks is probably not so great if all you're doing is drinking them and sitting on the couch, but if you're using them for their intended purpose, then they're fine)

    And yeah, I knew jello legs meant looooow glucose, but I kept forgetting to stop. It was like, "Oh, there's a store. Oh crap I forgot to stop. Oh, there's another store. Oh crap, I forgot again." I got in "get home now" mode and couldn't break out of it. The body reacted in an interesting manner. And I assume I eventually drew heavily from liver stores because about half way back, I felt fine, just really thirsty. Interesting experience (don't care to repeat it but it's interesting to note the pattern, including the obviously modified thought processes early on).

    Eden: OMG that used to happen to me with overly soft seats. Holy crap that was awful. The seat I have now doesn't do that. Night and day difference. It has been a good 10 years since my last seat that did that but I vividly remember that pain. I used to ride standing up a lot, lol. I had a baby trailer in the back and was riding standing up. Got lots of stares. "Oh how cute! Look at that mom out with her kid. Wait, why is she riding her bike like that? Is the kid that heavy?!"

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2013
    north woods of Wisconsin
    Eden is absolutely right. My doctor correctly diagnosed what I thought was a UTI when I told him about it being painful to pee, sometimes. He told me it's usually caused by letting things dry out too much and that I just needed to drink a good slug of water and it would pass. He was right. He warned me, though, letting things get too dry is still risky, because it leads to chaffing and that could produce a UTI. You need the moisture; it acts as a lubricant. Don't forgo hydration for fear of having to stop and pee. One thing I always do before a ride is hit the bathroom, even if I don't particularly feel the urge. You'd be surprised how much you can drain.

    As for commuting, I made it a point of noting places I could stop, if needed, be it a quick stop or other business. As for going in the bushes, I do it all the time because I do so much mountain biking. The bears don't seem to mind.

    Also, give yourself time for your body to adapt to your bicycling routine. It doesn't happen, overnight. You'll be amazed at the difference after six months of regular riding.

    As a diabetic, my dietary routine is quite different than most. I seldom eat during a ride and can go all day without even a snack. Nevertheless, I now carry a sports bar when out in the woods, because there have been rare occasions when my blood sugar got too low and I bonked (ran out of gas). Doesn't happen, often, but very dangerous when I'm a long way from civilization.

    I also know from personal experience how very dangerous dehydration can be in hot weather. It's very serious. On a recent trip to Florida, I nearly passed out for not taking enough water with me when I was out on the trail miles from a water source. The combination of lack of water and heat stroke could have been fatal. Thought my usual one bottle of water would be enough. It wasn't, not even close. If I lived in that country, I would probably add a camel back setup when riding. Again, hydrating is, by far, the most important thing. Finding a place to pee is minor by comparison.
    Last edited by north woods gal; 11-19-2016 at 09:35 AM.



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