Hydration is Important When Cycling

Cyclist drinking water on the beach - hydration is important for cyclists
Cycling is a great way to stay active and enjoy the outdoors. However, it's important to remember that cycling can be a strenuous activity that requires a lot of energy, especially when you're going on long rides. That's why hydration is important when cycling, as dehydration can cause fatigue, muscle cramps, and even heat exhaustion. In this blog post, I will discuss the importance of hydration when cycling and how to outfit a bike with bottles.

Before going further I want to describe a ride that I was not hydrated properly and how it almost cost me life. That will never happen again. Hydration and cycling is important.

I was riding from Carlsbad, New Mexico to San Angelo around 2004. The first day was a pretty easy 80 mile ride to Hobbs, New Mexico but day 2 was a ride I was not prepared for and it affected day 3 to the point that I could have died.

Day 2 was a 120 mile ride from Hobbs to Big Spring, Texas. I knew it was going to be hot and prepared to take plenty of water with me plus, anybody who has ever done long distance tours knows, convenience stores are your saving grace. I stopped at almost every single one along the way to fill up my bottles and to carry water bottle in my hersey pockets too.

As I turned at Andrews, about 40 miles from Hobbs and 80 miles from Big Spring, I was met with 25 mph winds in my face the rest of the day. The convenience store I was expecting on this long lonely stretch of rode had permanently shut down and I was suddenly faced with about 30 miles with limited water resources.

I did conserve my water and I made it to Big Spring but when I got to my hotel I started cramping real bad and did not understand how it would affect me the next day even though I tried to rehydrate.

From the moment I left on the final day of my ride to San Angelo I never felt right. I made it to a small town about 30 miles from San Angelo to eat lunch and to fill my water bottles and I thought I was good to go for the final 30 miles. Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you that the temperature on these two final days was around 104 degrees.

About 5 miles after leaving the little town I started feeling weird. The best description I can remember is that it felt like each mile was taking about 2 hours to ride. I had absolutely nothing left in my legs and my head was feeling dizzy.

I came across a roadside park and got in the shade to rest. Luckily I had a Nokia cell phone. Cell phones were not great then but I was able to call my wife and tell her I was in trouble and there was nobody in sight to help me. She was driving to meet me in San Angelo and was about 30 miles away. I told her to get some ice bags and to put them under my armpits and my groin if I was out when she got to me. I knew I was in trouble but I had the foresight to tell her this but I do not remember doing it.

When she got to me I was out and she did what I told her to do and it brought me back quickly. We put the bike on the back of the car and drove into San Angelo where I recovered as fast as I could but I did not feel good for a while.

The reason I am telling you this is that hydration is important when cycling and even though I was in good shape and had trained for months to get ready for that ride, I did not listen to my body and could have very easily died. Now, I am prone to over prepare.

On my ride across Texas in 2020, I had to ride a section from Riviera to Raymondville that had no convenience stores or any kind of facilities for water other than one roadside park a few miles outside of Riviera. I was much better prepared this time. I had about a dozen water bottles in my trailer, 3 bottles in my jersey pockets and the 2 bottles in my bike cages. That was enough to get me that 60 hot miles even though it heated up without any ice but pouring hot water over your head still cools you off after just a few seconds.

Why Hydration is Important When Cycling

When you're cycling, your body temperature rises, and you start to sweat. This sweat is your body's way of regulating its temperature and preventing overheating. However, when you're sweating, you're also losing fluids, which need to be replenished to prevent dehydration. When you're dehydrated, your blood becomes thicker, making it more difficult for your heart to pump blood to your muscles. This can lead to fatigue, cramps, and other issues that can affect your cycling performance. This is what was happening to me when I started feeling like it was taking hours to ride each mile.

In addition to fatigue and muscle cramps, dehydration can also cause dizziness, headaches, and nausea. This can be dangerous when you're cycling, especially if you're on the road. Dehydration can also affect your mental acuity and reaction time, making it harder to stay alert and focused.

How to Outfit Your Bike with Bottles

When it comes to outfitting your bike with bottles, there are several options available. The most common way to carry water on a bike is to use a water bottle cage. These cages are usually made of lightweight materials such as plastic or carbon fiber and attach to your bike frame. Most cages can hold water bottles of various sizes, ranging from 16 to 24 ounces.

You can also use hydration packs, which are backpacks that hold a water bladder. These packs are ideal for longer rides as they can hold more water than a standard water bottle. Hydration packs usually have a tube that extends from the pack to your mouth, allowing you to drink water without stopping your ride.

Another option is to use a handlebar mount for your water bottle. This is a great option if you need to access your water bottle quickly and don't want to reach down to your bike frame. Handlebar mounts usually come with adjustable straps, so you can attach them to any part of your bike's handlebars.

Conclusion

Staying hydrated when cycling is essential to prevent fatigue, muscle cramps, and other issues that can affect your performance. By outfitting your bike with water bottles or hydration packs, you can ensure that you have easy access to water during your ride. Remember to drink water regularly, even if you don't feel thirsty, to prevent dehydration. With the right hydration setup, you can enjoy your cycling experience and perform at your best.

After this ride I started looking for ways to be smarter about hydration and cycling. I tried a lot of different products but finally found Elete Hydration Drops and continue to use them. My cramping and overheating issues have dropped quite significantly. Check them out on Amazon. That is where I purchase them. If you purchase through this link, a nonprofit that I support, Nick's Treats Dessert Truck, will receive a small commission that will help it fund its mission of providing safe jobs for young people who have developmental disabilities.

Here is the next post of my blog: Electric Bikes for Senior Cyclists: Arguments For and Against 

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