ome call it “hitting the wall,” others call it “blowing up,” but whatever you call it, ride long enough and it’ll happen. The Bonk. It sits on the shoulder of every rider, every ride, whispering malicious dehydration and malnutrition mockery into our ears, trying to make us second guess that extra mile.
I remember my first meeting with Bonk. It was a gorgeous morning group ride through one of my favorite valleys. It’s a magical place where vineyards and wheat fields line rolling hills in perfect uniformity. Between climbs the oak tree-lined road descends mildly like a snake. It’s truly a route I always look forward to. I’m not sure how I avoided the bonk all those years riding mountain bikes, but I did. Not so on the road bike. On my second ride he met me with a right jab to the jaw in the style of Muhammad Ali. I was riding along enjoying the warm summer morning, feeling strong and keeping a steady 18 mph pace when before I knew it I was dizzy, sweating and cold. My legs turned to jello and struggled to turn the pedals over. After 10 minutes I was excited if I got up to 9 mph and cringing at the thought of the next climb. Being my first bonk experience, it took me by surprise to say the least. I’ll never forget that ride.
Bonk is a shifty character; taunting you all ride one day but never delivering, and then hitting like a ton of bricks without warning on the next ride. It’s really a humbling experience. To think that no matter how large your quads are or how many hot air balloons you can fill in one breath, Bonk can still bring you to your knees pleading for mercy. While it’s good to be reminded of how fragile we really are – keeps our heads from getting too big – bonking is quite unhealthy. Not much is worse than forcing your system to feed off your own muscles.
So how can you better prepare for those unexpected days when calamity strikes? I’ve learned that there’s no substitute for carrying your wallet and planning a route around different rest points. A Coke and Snickers bar can go a long way! Carry plenty of energy with you in the form of bars, gels, and water. Clif Bars, Bonk Breakers, and the like are pure calorie goodness. Not the kind of thing you want to eat all day at the office, but amazing for a bike ride. I remember when I did the 24 Hours of Adrenaline; for the last couple of laps, Clif Shot
was my only source of propulsion. I had so little of my own energy left that I could tell when my body had finished turning the gel to energy. Take my word for it—gel’s and bars work. Artscyclery.com has plenty of flavors and brands, so you should have no trouble finding something that tastes good and works for you. If the Bonk monster hasn’t bitten you yet, it will. Best to not be like me and have plenty food stashed in that jersey pocket or hydration pack. Don’t forget about post-ride nutrition, either; you’ve got to replace all the fuel you just burned, and your muscles need protein to repair themselves and grow. Ride before work? Artscyclery.com has all the best recovery products to keep you sharp and focused throughout the day.