Monday, December 29, 2008


During yesterday's warm spell, I got out for a two hour solo ride on Old Yeller. The warm and sunny weather had me giddy. As a result, I spun it out too quickly and was burning through the carbs at a fast rate. Turning back south at Ft Calhoun brought me into a modest headwind through Boyer's Chute. The fuel tank was getting near empty. By the time I crested the Ponca Hills bluffs, I was running on fumes. At that point, the ride time was 75 minutes. From my running days, I would begin to go into glycogen debt right around this time. I was on schedule.

In the biking world, bonking means a total exhaustion caused by lack of sufficient food during a long race or ride. Everyone has different thresholds. I suppose that I have a fast metabolism that is not very efficient on longer rides.

The only way to correct the condition is to restore the blood sugar (glycogen) levels. Eat. I craved a pop tart. Gatorade would have been nice. Visions of a Dagwood Bumstead style sandwich were swimming in my head. But I had only water. As a result, it was up to my liver to reach into the body's fat stores and begin converting the fats into sugar.

It's a humbling experience and I struggled for the remaining thirty minutes of my ride home. Like, small ring & 23 tooth for a whopping 9 MPH on Cuming Street. And when low on glycogen, the brain's in a fog. In fact, the only time it comes into focus is when something courageously bubbles up into the consciousness, like, "YOU SUCK!!"

There aren't too many things more humbling on bicycle than experiencing exhaustion. I imaging crashing in a time trial would come close; maybe being dropped in the middle of nowhere on a group ride.

What do you think - is there anything more humbling than bonking on a bicycle?


  1. I don't think you've got much fat to spare. I, on the other hand, could probably ride for days in that condition.

    Hey, maybe that's my New Year's weight loss strategy... I'll bonk myself thin. :)

  2. Yeah, I can think of one thing....BONKING after only 75 minutes on the bike, that's the sort of thing you want to keep to yourself, or tell or use the old, "I must be ill" line.

  3. Yeah, what's up with bonking after 75 minutes on the bike? Did you forget to eat for the last week or something?

    At least you didn't mention getting passed by a guy riding no-hands going uphill or into the wind while you were bonking. That humiliating. (Especially if you do it to people that are chugging for all they're worth down on their aerobars.)

  4. How long can you maintain a consistent wattage at just below lactic acid threshold without nourishment?

    If I'm at L.A. threshold w/o supplementing, I can often produce extreme fatigue in my quads & hammys accompanied by foggy brain syndrome in under 90 minutes. This is frequently the case during running and often on the bike.

    In fact, it seems to me that the only way I stave off being dropped from the group on a fast ride is by hydrating & feeding about every 25 minutes. That, or never take a turn pulling.

  5. Exasperated Sign.... Like Yoda whilst talking to Obi Wan Kenobe's ghost....

    Brady, Brady, Brady.....

    First; take a clue from me; put on a few pounds. I have enough fat stores to get me Omaha and back.

    Second; always bring a bonk-bar with you. Nothing better than a Peanut Butter Cliff Bar to kill the bonk like Spinach to Popeye.

    Third; Always bring cash with you so you can stop in a bodega and purchase readily digestible carbs.

    Fourth; Ride with someone else so you can eat their food, or suck their wheel.

    Fifth; See # 1

    I bonked in the NYC Marathon in 1986--could have been because I was up partying with my future wife til 3am the night before the race and hydrated, but didn't eat enough. I was searching for food when I spotted a kid on the side of the road who gave me his pretzel--I think I just took it. It was Manna from Heaven.

    I bonked last Spring with while riding with Prosser--our alpha male. He kept waiting for me at stoplights that would turn green just when I got there--about 4 miles worth--I finally stopped and barely got open my Cliff Bar (see Point 2) and it was my absolution and benediction.

    I'm always looking to eat--in fact, I'll go now and prepare for my next ride, even though it is 2 days away.

  6. Eat your liver, John.

    Normally food stuffed in back pockets, cash and gatorade is the way to go. But this ride was short and spontaneous. I mean nobody bonks after 75 minutes on the bike, or they just keep it to themselves, or tell the old, "I must be feeling like Shim" line.

    Besides, aren't there benefits in training your body to become more efficient in converting fats?

  7. at some point, pretty much everything is embarrassing on a bike. I've been dropped about 30 seconds after a surge very early in a group ride and left to suffer alone, pulled from a crit, towed around because I was too weak to pull ... you name it. On one ride, even Fred was stronger than me.

    It was horrible.

  8. I used to ride for the hope of some glory. Now it's just to keep my ego in check. Thanks bryan. Don't feel bad, though. On various abomination-of-god days, I've been stronger than Kingsbury, Munson and Randell(we were both hungover, though). Once, Shim brought a cross-bike to a road-bike ride and couldn't drop me. So yeah, it happens to everybody. I'm just glad when I can be a source of shame and embarrassment.
    I think falling over trying to trackstand is wonderfully embarrassing (not that I've done it or anything).

  9. I don't get embarrassed about bonking, I get angry at myself. Oh, and I feel bad if I make others impatient like the last group ride we all had. Brady, Bryan, and Shim were all feeling their oats, while Brendan and I were not. I would have loved to push the pace with you guys, but I just couldn't hack it. Not sure if it was more frustrating for you guys to hear me whine the whole way, or for me to realize "cat 2" was such a distant memory. Sigh....

  10. I'm suggesting a steady diet of cow fry's, and for God's sake drink a beer now and then would you?

    I've had more issues with bonking in the summer and its usually due to dehydration, probably due to too many beers.

    Note to Munson: I wasn't feeling impatient on that last ride, I was just happy to be out and going with the flow. Plus you had those sweet knickers to look at.

  11. fred -- everybody has a role. Yours is to lift the spirits of others.