Drinking Enough

One of my continuing problems on the bike is drinking enough liquids to keep me fueled during the ride. In early July, I complained about running out of gas out in the country. The problem, I figured, was a lack of high mileage rides. A few days later, a biking friend of mine suggested something else.

“It sounded to me like you weren’t drinking enough,” he said.

My wife nodded in agreement. But then, she’s always after me to do a better job of staying hydrated and fed on longer rides. I thought about what had happened that day, and concluded that my friend was probably right.

I used to have dual water bottle cages attached to my seat. But I got rid of them last year, because I didn’t like the way they scrunched my seat bag. That left me with one bottle cage on my down tube. I usually carry a 16-oz. bottle, and always felt it was enough. But that’s on rides close to home, where I can always get a refill.

On that early July ride, we had no facilities for refills. No one’s house, no convenience stores, not even a spigot on private property we could sneak water from. I was babying my 16 ounces over a 41-mile ride. That won’t do it.

So, I decided to reform. On a solo ride two weeks later, I decided I would use prompts to remind me to take a drink. Instead of setting my trip computer to distance, I kept it set to elapsed time. Every 10 minutes, I tried to take a drink. Those 10 minutes became a ballpark figure I could work around — sometimes I drank after only eight, more often I drank after around 12. I planned on stopping at a convenience store at the 22-mile point in this 38-mile ride. I bought a bottle of Gatorade G2 there, and downed half of it while resting. I added ice to the water bottle and mixed the rest of the Gatorade with the water. A Clif bar went down nicely during the rest stop, too. I finished the ride relatively fresh.

Emboldened by my new system, I was ready to apply it to a longer ride yesterday (Saturday). The ride was going to be 44 miles. It was a route I had never ridden, but there would be support. The ride leader indicated that a convenience store was about 20 miles into the ride, but we would have to go off course a little bit to reach it.

This time, I didn’t go by time to determine when to drink — I went by miles. I determined to drink every three miles. It worked, too, mostly. I never missed by more than a mile. I had gotten out the seat-mounted water bottle cage at put it on the previous day. I half-filled two 16-oz. bottles the night before and put them in the freezer. That morning, I topped them off with water, so my water supply was relatively cold.

My bike with the seat-mounted water bottle cages. (Pic is from the first time I carried them, over a year ago.)

At the convenience store, I bought my usual bottle of Gatorade G2, and I could stash it in the down tube cage, since that wasn’t taken up by water bottles this time. At a rest stop at a picturesque country church, I trashed the empty G2 bottle and topped off my water. I had been munching on a Luna Bar for a while, and that helped, too. Even though the ride turned out to be 48 miles instead of 44, and finished with a series of challenging hills, I felt good at the end.

Then came today. I was leading a B ride with the club. It was a 30-mile round trip on a route featuring rolling hills. Again, two iced water bottles. Again, I tried to drink every three miles. But today was different. Because of the hills, I had trouble finding a good spot to drink. Flying down hill, I wanted to keep both hands on the bars. Going uphill, I needed both hands to help me pull up the slope. At the 15-mile turnaround, I realized I had drunk only twice. I downed the rest of my first water bottle.

At a convenience store two-thirds of the way through the ride, I got some ice and filled the one bottle I’d drunk from. The break helped, and I drank a lot from the other bottle. I was pleased to note that I finished strong.

“Eat before you’re hungry, drink before you’re thirsty.” We’ve all heard that jillions of times. But it bears repeating.  I have a pretty good idea of just hat I have to do to stay adequately fueled. From here on out, it’s just a matter of making sure I do it.


  1. says

    I carry only 24 oz bottles. For my M-F rides which are an hour long I take one water water. For anything longer than that it’s two 24 oz bottles of water with a tab of Elixir in each.

  2. johnt says

    This summer on any ride longer than 25 miles I take my camelback filled with as much ice as I can get in it and water and fill my 2 water bottles I put in my seat mounted cages with a mixture of Nuun, Vitamin water and water. The camelback helps keep me cool and the stem is easy access while I’m riding and I drink the Nuun Mixture when I stop or am coasting. Even with all of that I’m still struggling with the heat and rarely ride over 40 miles or after 11 am. Will it ever end?

  3. says

    Glad you’re drinking more. While working in high heat, you should be thinking in terms of gallons – not ounces – of water. 1 gallon (128 ounces or eight of your 16 oz bottles) per four hours is a pretty good measure. Personally, I like to drink one 24 oz bottle every 30 minutes.

    If you’re thirsty, you’re probably already a quart low.

  4. Anthony Davis says

    … ditto Steve … think gallons…

    I just completed RAGBRAI and was riding 60+ miles daily in about 5 hours. I drank 44 oz ( a 20 oz & a 24 oz bottle) an hour, plus a couple 24oz Gatorades each day. I figure about 2 gallons during the ride…. and I was fine.

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