Pissing At The Back

natural break pissing off the bike

The natural break. Le besoin natural. Face it. Pro bike races are long. At one point or another you’re going to have to stop and pee. One of the most important skills for a cyclist is the ability to do so without having to stop. If you look closely at the Tour de France coverage, you might see something like what’s pictured above. In this example, Amaël Moinard of the BMC team is taking a short respite at the back of the field. If the pace is slow enough, a mass of riders will all stop on the side of the road, then ride back en masse.

I’ve perfected this technique over the years, though I don’t have much use for it these days since I no longer to such long races. When I practice on training rides, it must be unsettling for a driver coming around a corner to see a guy on a bike skewed to one side. What? Is his water bottle leaking or something? I’m long gone before they’ve figured out what was happening. I have to be extra careful now. Apparently getting pinched for public urination (indecent exposure) will put you in the CORI database.

There have been a few times over the years where I’ve had problems with this method.

In the Tour of the Adirondacks one year, I had to pee so badly but the pace was so I high that I couldn’t successfuly empty. I carried a full bladder all the way up the ascent of Whiteface Mountain (a category 1 equivalent climb). It never felt so good to pee off the top of a mountain over such a grand view.

Another time, I was racing the Fitchburg-Longsjo Stage Race. It was the 4th of July, 50 degrees and pouring rain. I was so cold that I didn’t bother to whip it out. Instead, I peed alternately on my left and right legs in a futile attempt to warm my quads.

The most frustrating occurrence was racing the Maclane Pacific Road Race in Snelling, California. I stopped for a piss 40km into a 200km race. At the same time, a flurry of attacks came from the pack and the speed shot up dramatically. I chased for 25km, yo-yoing in the caravan until finally a truce was called and I rejoined the field. I made all the splits in the final 20km of the race as the pack shattered in the crosswinds and I sprinted to a 10th place finish. But I was relegated to back of the group by a race official who claimed I had been drafting off the team cars in my chase back.

The funniest incident was at the Killington Stage Race. I was pushing Tyler Hamilton, a teammate at the time, while he was relieving himself. As we turned a gradual corner, the forest of trees parted and gave way to a small village. All the schoolchildren had come to side of the road to cheer on the racers. As Tyler and I passed by, their cheers and adulation turned to cries of horror and disgust. We apologized but were too far gone for them to hear us.

Finally, while I’ve never attempted this myself, I know of men who’ve tried to work the other end from the bike. Some guys just shit themselves, feeling they have no other choice. That’s really bad etiquette for riding in a pack or paceline. Others are classier. At the U.S. Olympic Trials in 1996, I rode alongside a green-looking Saturn rider who described awful stomach cramps and GI problems. I suggested his race was over. A lap later, he had worked his suspenders off and graciously warned, “Clear the way, boys,” dropped shorts and let fly. A class act. I didn’t stick around to see how it would all turn out. I also couldn’t shake the fact that this was a multiple lap race and we would pass this same spot at least 5 more times.

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