the pleasure and the business

There is much that I do not know about cycling. Much.

When I need LIVING IN CAPS, I go to the New Timer. Who does not need to come back to you like hipsters to blogspot because he is already there.

And when I need some Caffeine Fuelled Cyclemania, I go to Anna B. Ordinarily Anna is making serious business with regards to  the National Cross Country MTB Series, and then making me laugh via her blog. It takes a lot to make me laugh, seriously, I find it hard.  This year, however, she is also making serious business with a baby. So she took some time out from her busy schedule and I took some time out from my busy time wasting to discuss a little riding while pregnant.

(this is Anna; arguably, this is the image of myself I would want shared, so you can look at her blog for pictures of her doing awesome cycling related stuff).

Mainly because, as a woman who cares about cycling and women who cycle, sometimes people ask me about what’s hot and what’s not for the pregnant cyclist and sadly – I don’t know. I’m barely able to handle riding for one, let alone two.

Now, Anna is going to be giving a much more nuanced, sensible and sub-edited round up of MTB/pregnancy madness in Enduro Magazine, which I bought once or twice and felt genuinely Serious About Sport, so you can look out in good newsagents for that.

And  in the meantime, here’s 5 questions you didn’t even know you wanted to know about riding while pregnant answered by an awesome rider, coffee freak and new mum with the skinny on what it means to ride with your bump.

1. Should I? Can I? (obviously, I would need to get pregnant first!)

Can you? Should you? Well the experts say that you shouldn’t suddenly take up exercise once you’re pregnant. Going “hey, I’m knocked up, I think I should start riding some gnarly trails and maybe knock out a couple hundred clicks every other day on the roadie” is not a good idea. That being said, if you have a healthy, uncomplicated pregnancy and you were already riding your bike beforehand, then most health care providers will state that it’s ok to continue riding—just monitor the intensity and your hydration levels.

In my experience talking to other cyclists that have been pregnant, there are many obstetricians that are hesitant to condone riding on the road or offroad—especially after 12 weeks when your uterus pops out of your pelvis.

On the other hand, have people like the group of midwives that looked after us throughout my pregnancy who were quite happy to let me continue riding my bike throughout the entire pregnancy, trusting that I wasn’t going to go and enter any downhill races.

Seek advice from the professionals, but also do your own research if you’re pregnant and concerned. Ultimately, the choice is yours. Ride within your limits and experience is the only kind of advice I’ll offer.

Personally I felt very lucky to be able to ride up until the day prior to my waters breaking. It definitely helped recover quicker and get back on the bike just after a week post-partum. It may have even helped speed along my (very quick) labour and help with the grunt required for the pushing phase!

2. On my bike, or do I need a more uprighty fit for my baby bump set up?

I found that I was fine initially. Up until about 5-months pregnant I was relatively comfortable, but it will be a personal thing. I gave away road riding after the first trimester. It wasn’t a safety worry so much, more so that riding road, for me, was always a supplementary training for the mountain bike.

Once I found out I was pregnant, I sold the roadie as I wasn’t training for anything. I rode the singlespeed and ran up until about 6months and rode the geared mountain bike and commuter bike throughout the whole shebang.

After I developed a bit of a bump at about 5 or 6 months, we invested in some riser bars and a super highly positive stem (one that points towards the sky—very unfashionable on a race bike but unfolded my belly a bit!).

Furthermore, I traded in my regular saddle, which is a little on the lightweight and wooden-feeling side of things, for a slightly wider more plush women’s cross-country one. I found that my sit bones were getting sore on the old one—likely from those pesky hormones that loosen everything up so that you can, you know, push a baby out your hoo-ha.

3. What say you to the “pregnant rider” safety signs that I have seen about? Good idea? I mean, who can tell you’re pregnant necessarily from behind? Maybe this will stop other commuters from having heart attack issues if you’re riding slowly. Or are they only marginally worse than those odd “my family” stickers? Waste of time?

I wasn’t aware that they existed? Considering the filth and vitriol that spews forth from the mouths of motorists WITHOUT a sign illustrating a baby on board, I’m pretty sure there would be a fair few ‘pro-life’ people out there willing to give you an earful. But maybe I’m wrong? If you’re pregnant and it makes you feel better, then do it. Surely there’s no harm.

4. If my lycra won’t hold my tummy in now, will I have to upgrade to bib knicks by second trimester?

Not too sure on this one either—I’ve been a bib-knick kinda girl since I began to ride bikes. All that lovely comfort without worrying about muffin-top on your fat days. Win-win!

What I found with pants etc (and it possibly transfers across to lycra) is that I wanted something really low under the belly or something that pretty much went up to my chest. I found the bibs handy at all stages as the front could kind of just keep expanding out, then in the last 5 or so weeks where I’m looking noticeably spaceship-like, I just tucked the bib part into the jersey, thus being a lot lower down than knicks.

The downside with bibs—peeing. This becomes an even bigger downside when you have a small person tap-dancing on your bladder and you need to pee, like, every 10minutes. Mountain biking is much better for road riding in this regard too—there’s always a tree to pee behind.

5. Did you get any schtick from others about riding while pregnant? Again, as a not-pregnant person, I am still surprised at how women’s bodies become public property when pregnant. While I am no doubt guilty of it myself, did you find that others (rider/non-riders) had opinions on your cycling while pregnant?

Not really, as I mentioned my midwives at the Birth Centre were the best kind of rad and really supportive. I had heaps of people ask when I was planning to stop riding, and I would just say ‘hopefully not until I go into labour’.

A friend recommended not riding outside in the last trimester, but that seemed boring. My husband wanted me to ride only until the last month, then that came and went.

We rode on some local firetrails and easy singletrack at 8+months and he said ‘maybe this should be your last off-road ride’ as I hauled my lardy butt up this (seemingly) huge hill. But I said I would quit when I needed to. I wasn’t in any pain (except emotional pain the time a trail runner passed me riding up a hill!) so I didn’t see the need to stop.

Yes, it was damn uncomfortable sometimes, and I just wanted to be at home on the couch other times, but without a doubt I felt far more fabulous at the end of each ride than at the start, so that’s why I kept riding!

Do you have other perspectives on riding while pregant?

(does resemble this picture, which is an after shot, dammit)

By Eleanor Jackson

Eleanor Jackson is a Filipino Australian poet, performer, arts producer, cyclist, writer, gal about town, feminist, freewheeler, and friend.

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