Getting Used to Your Stank

When we were planning to do our ultralight 6-week Pacific Coast cycling tour, one of the questions most of our friends asked us was, “Wait, how are you going to wash your cycling clothes? I’ll bet you are going to stink to high heaven when you get back!”

We initially thought about bringing more than one kit with us, but aside from the weight and volume, there were several other reasons we opted to bring just one:

  • Simplicity – with just one cycling kit, there are no decisions to make. “What are you wearing today?” became part of our silly wake-up routine at camp each morning. You know what you are wearing every day, and you know that each day you will try to find a way to wash it.
  • Drying – Many of our days were cool and damp, and didn’t have enough time to dry completely when washed. If we did have multiple kits, whichever one was wet would have had to be packed damp, potentially getting everything else in our pack wet as well.
  • Continuity – Kind of a silly reason, but it’s pretty amazing that we are wearing the same thing in all of our photos!
  • Pride – We chose a kit from a team who we trained with for the AIDS/LifeCycle ride, the Pork Pedalers. We absolutely love the pork-inspired kit and all of the hidden details and inside jokes on it, and we were proud to be able to represent them on our journey.

So how did it work out?

Well, each day that we arrived at camp, we had to make a decision of whether to wash the kits. We had showers at almost every camp, and some camps even had wash basins, so it was almost always possible. So the tradeoff was: how bad will they smell in the morning vs. how horrible will it be to put on a damp chamois?

Some days like in the Redwoods, it was warm and dry, and we had partial sun in camp, plus wash basins, so it was a no-brainer. They’d be clean AND dry in the morning. Steve tended to opt more towards getting used to his stink and avoiding the shock of a wet diaper in the morning, while I preferred a soggy chamois for a few minutes to ripe spandex.

The thing is, you’re going to stink after an hour of cycling anyway, and your body heat will quickly dry out any clothes you’re wearing. At least that’s how we justified it to ourselves; come to think of it… it could explain why some store personnel refused to acknowledge our presence…

We were also lucky enough to have a chance to use a laundry machine about once a week, which kept everything from getting TOO smelly. Of course, with only one change of clothes, what do you wear when you’re washing them?


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