My Dad perspired freely in the summertime. He wore this funky 1940s hat, white with a brim all around, a transparent green plastic eyeshade built into the front side. I remember sweat would drip–almost run sometimes–off his nose, and his face would be wet with liquid running down his neck, over his glasses, everywhere. I’m the same, and my younger son’s not far behind.
So when I ride my bike in the summer I lose lots of body fluid, and replacing it is an issue. In the past, despite the family history, I’ve been lackadaisical about drinking enough on rides. Leg and other muscle cramps (after the ride’s over) and a couple of episodes of significant dehydration have been the result. And whenever I return from a ride in hot weather, even if I’ve used my water bottle, I feel like drinking lots of liquid, as much as a quart or more, almost as fast as I can.
So this year I decided to focus on proper hydration, electrolyte balance and replacement, the works. Word must have gotten around, because I got not one but two cycling hydration systems for my birthday. One’s a compact Camelbak, with a 1.5 liter capacity and a small extra pocket for carrying stuff. Light, efficient, for short rides. The other’s a Lezyne, with a 3 liter capacity, a large array of special pockets for carrying everything from a spare tube to an iPod (each pocket with a silkscreen emblem of the intended content), and a separate backpack space for sandwiches, maps, and other needs for a real tour. Everything I could want for an all-day excursion on the C&O Canal towpath or the western reaches of the W&OD Trail.
I’ve now used the Camelbak twice, and I think I am getting hooked. The salient feature is the really large opening, just right for throwing in a couple of glasses full of ice cubes along with the water. The result has been a cool back and plenty of cool water to drink–much more palatable than tepid water from a water bottle. And this system, with its ever-present drinking tube and “bite valve” mouthpiece, makes it easy to keep my fluid level topped off by sipping a few sips every now and then. I know I have felt less dehydrated and in better shape after these last two rides, both done early in the day, but also in the relentless heat of Virginia’s summer of 2010. The system rides high on my back, does not weigh me down, pull me out of position, or get in the way, and it works. Once the weather cools off enough for all-day rides, the big one will come into service.
The “downside,” if you want to call it that, is the death of my delusions about how much I weigh. I’ve always weighed myself right after I exercise, because at that point all the factors of my physical status are as close to identical from day-to-day as they can be. I know the reading is a pound or three low, especially in the summer, because of loss of body fluid. So my weight has varied seasonally from winter highs to summer lows, in sort of a shallow sine curve, with upward spikes for holidays and big eating weekends. Now much of the fluid-loss factor is gone, and what I weigh after a ride is going to be more of a “true” weight. Addressing that weight will require a new mindset, but a healthier one.
©Arnold J. Bradford, 2010.