Keeping it clean…..

Keeping it clean….

This may seem like an odd cycling-related blog but in a comment on my post yesterday, Shu Pillinger (the first and so far only British woman to have finished solo RAAM) reminded me of how important the topic of hygiene is for events like RAAM.

Follow Cars and RVs can easily become little germ factories. People are tired (ergo immunocompromised), drivers and navigators are eating at the wheel and on the road, others are handling bikes that have been outside in all sorts of conditions, often quickly during changeovers. Food needs preparing in the RV, ice needs putting in bottles, there are dirty bottles needing cleaning, dirty clothes needing a laundrette and hot, sweaty people needing washing – racer and Crew alike.

In this sort of environment, it’s easy for bacteria to thrive and people to become ill. The last thing any team needs is for a racer or member of crew to pick up a bug because someone was handling food having just done a quick wheel change on a wheel covered in road dirt, or from bottles that have sugary stuff all over them that has quietly allowed bacteria to breed in the heat. It sounds gross and a bit of overkill to be worrying about it, but there’s a reason that hygiene gets mentioned in all the RAAM seminars and experienced people go on about the need for good hygiene – because sh*t happens! (pun entirely intended)

I’m already a fan of good hygiene coming from a profession where I was permanently washing my hands from handling animals and their bodily fluids (and sometimes the clients; generally less of their bodily fluid, but very occasionally….) Yes I believe that environments can be too sanitised, but it’s also proportional to the risk. There are well documented cases of cyclists contracting Salmonella from riding along country lanes past farms and getting the inevitable bit of muck sprayed up on their bikes and bottles. The energy drinks and food most use are high in sugar and if bottles and bikes aren’t cleaned, these can potentially provide a lovely medium for bacteria to flourish. The risk is less if you are healthy and have a fully working immune system, but if you’re tired and on your bike day after day for hours on end, that risk increases. It’s good to get into the right habits. I wipe my bikes down after a ride outside if they don’t actually need washing, clean my Bento box and always wipe down Wilbur the Wattbike with some Anigene after sweating all over him.

For RAI and RAW we implemented several procedures in an effort to maintain good hygiene:

1) All bottles got soaked in Milton when crews swapped over. I’m a big fan of Milton – quite literally, if it’s good enough babies it’s good enough for me (whole other product advertisment there but never mind). I normally soak my bottles about once a week for 15-20 min and also things like Bento boxes, Nutripouches and my Camelbak if I’ve used it

2) People wore gloves when handling the bike, wheels and other bike bits

3) The same people didn’t prepare food and handle bikes on a shift

4) The bike got a wipe-down each time i stopped, including with some disinfectant. Kyle wondered at one point why my handlebars were so sticky until Daryl pointed out the apple strudel! You don’t want this stuff hanging around

5) Laundry was bagged straight away until it was done

6) Ice was handled with gloves if required (and ideally it wasn’t handled at all) Different sets of ice were used for bottles and ice packs

7) I had antibacterial wipes for cleaning my hands during loo stops.

8) The kitchen area was kept clean and hands always washed before preparing food.

9) Each car had a bag for litter, some antibacterial wipes and wet wipes for the crew

As with many of these things, it’s about good discipline and setting that way of working from the start so it just becomes natural even when people are tired and under pressure. It’s also about keeping everything simple and making it as easy as possible.

#itsthelittlethings #thisisRAAM #definitelyfewerdaysthanbefore

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