How to Stay Hydrated Whilst Mountain Biking

With summer in full swing in the Southern Hemisphere it’s never been more important to be prepared for the hot weather and stay hydrated on your mountain bike. The last thing you want is to be out riding in the heat and run out of water or become dehydrated. The Australian summer is harsh and here’s our top tips to stay hydrated for summer mountain biking….

By Mike Branch | Photography by Jess Branch

Dressing to the weather is helpful too – steer clear of long sleeves and full face helmets

Drinking water is an absolute fact of life and despite what some people may think, there’s a need to drink more water the more active you are. The Science says that our bodies are mostly water and we sweat to try and maintain a normal body temperature, meaning that we lose fluid and need to replenish our stores as we go. Simple right? Maybe not…

Start your ride right

It’s easy to get carried away and just grab a coffee as you walk out the door for your ride, but we also need to remember that with our coffee should come a reasonable amount of water on the way to the trails. The best way to start your hydration strategy is to start hydrated, so make sure you drink at least 250-500mls of water before you start your ride.

Plan your ride

It’s easy to get on the trails and get carried away and what started as a one hour ride soon turns into a four hour ride and you have no water left to keep you going. Make sure you plan to have as much fluid as you need for your ride, this means as much as you will need when you get back to the car as well. Try and make sure you either have access to a water source to refill, carry enough water with you or at least have water back at your car to refill your empty bottles and keep you on the trails.

Electrolytes for Mountain Biking

There’s a multitude of different products out there to stay hydrated and to maintain you electrolyte levels, therefore steering clear of the dreaded cramp zone. As we sweat we not only lose water but we lose minerals, salts and electrolytes. This means that along with the water, we should be replacing our electrolytes.

There’s a few different methods to maintain your electrolyte levels and it becomes more important on longer rides in hot or warm conditions. You can add electrolyte tablets that contain sodium, potassium, magnesium and other electrolytes to your drink bottle to keep these levels up. Another way is to combine your carb or energy intake with electrolytes such as a sports drink or purpose designed cycling fuel.

Carry the right Hydration Kit

There’s a number of ways to carry water or fluid and every rider will have a different preference dependent on where they ride, how long the ride, conditions and needs. For many of us we like to keep the packs off our backs and keep the water low and our back sweat-free.

  • Hydration Packs – these packs such as the Sendy hydration pack are designed to carry a bladder full of water and everything else you need to keep riding. They are great in cooler conditions or for long back country rides where larger amounts of water need to be carried.
  • Hip Packs – Hip packs are a more common or popular way to carry water particularly water bladders. These are common with the enduro and trail crowd and keep the water off your back, keep the weight down low and give you the ability to carry 2-3L of water as well as food and other items.
  • Water bottles – It’s pretty well known that every rider wants a water bottle on their bike, in fact there is very few bikes that don’t come with the ability to carry a water bottle in the main frame. Water bottles are great for short rides or where you can refill easily, but if you are going to be riding longer and don’t have access to more water or the ability to refill, it becomes difficult to stay hydrated.

Photo Jesse Chirizzi

The Best Hydration Solution

The best hydration solution is a hydration solution that works for you. We all have different riding styles, ride different terrain and have different needs. Some of us will ride longer rides in warmer conditions with no access to other water supplies, some will ride shorter or have access to water supply the whole time. When deciding how to stay hydrated you need to take into account a number of things such as:

  • Length of ride
  • Type of ride (high intensity / low intensity)
  • Weather conditions (Warm, cool etc)
  • Access to water sources
  • Fitness level – the less fit you are, the more hydration you may need

There’s no one hat fits all, we all have different needs and we shouldn’t let someone else dictate what we are comfortable with – the last thing you want is to be out on a trail ride 10 km from the car with no water and nothing but the sun beating down on you.

At the end of the day it’s about staying hydrated, finding a solution that best works for you, one that keeps you riding hard and having fun. Let us know what you prefer to run in the comments below!

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