Here’s how to make your next ride flow.
Getting enough fluids can turn a ride from a nice day out on the bike to a transcendental experience. It can also go the other way if you allow yourself to become dehydrated. There’s lots of science-y material to explain why you need to stay hydrated on the bike, for instance cycling can fire up your muscles to produce exponentially more heat than at rest. To put out the fire, your body increases its sweat rate, which causes you to lose fluid more rapidly. British Cycling covers more bike hydration facts in the article “Hydration on the Bike” on its website.
How to stay hydrated on the bike involves some practical advice and more than a little common sense. This question is also the driving motive behind hydration pack designs dedicated to on-the-bike hydration. The best hydration pack for biking is one that’s sized appropriately for you, and that has features (like storage pockets and straps to stabilise the pack) suited to your riding style. Here are some tips and solutions for staying hydrated on the bike.
1. Before the first pedal stroke, ask yourself how much do you drink on a daily basis (alcohol, caffeinated or sugary beverages don’t count)? If you already drink 2-3 fluid litres per day, that’s a good place to start from. If not, that’s something to work toward.
2. How much hydration can you carry? Most bike frames can accommodate at least one water bottle cage on the downtube. If your bike can manage two cages, installing a second one is a cheap, easy way to increase your carrying capacity. If there’s not enough space in the main triangle for a second cage, choose a road bike hydration pack that can be mounted behind the seat tube. Recommended fluid intake amounts vary from person to person so what’s enough for one person may be the minimum for someone else. For short rides of 60-90 minutes, always take a water bottle that holds 500 ml at the very least.
3. Check the outside temperature – If it looks like it’s going to be a hot day, plan to carry more water than you thought you’d need.
4. Snack on salty foods, while this may not sound exactly refreshing, salt helps your blood absorb and retain water.
5. Boost your water with electrolytes – When you sweat, you lose important minerals that help you retain water, like sodium. If you lose too much sodium, you may run the risk of developing hyponatraemia, which is the result of an abnormally low level of sodium in the blood. Replenish sodium along with the rest with electrolyte tablets or powders, or sports drinks that can restore your balance of minerals.
As a general rule, if you feel thirsty, you are already on your way to becoming dehydrated so a best practice is to get in the habit of sipping your drink frequently. If you’re habitual about staying hydrated in your daily life, you may only need to increase your intake when you go out for a ride. If staying hydrated is less of a daily habit, it may take a little practise at first but once you get into the routine, you’ll find that you can focus on other, more important things, like enjoying your ride.