Bonking – A non scientific look at the dreaded bonk!
No, we are not talking about the rather more pleasant, but rude version of the word, we are talking about a cyclist’s worst nightmare ….
So what is it exactly? Well this is what Wikipedia has to say on the subject
“In endurance sports such as cycling and running, hitting the wall or the bonk is a condition of sudden fatigue and loss of energy which is caused by the depletion of glycogen stores in the liver and muscles. Milder instances can be remedied by brief rest and the ingestion of food or drinks containing carbohydrates. The condition can usually be avoided by ensuring that glycogen levels are high when the exercise begins, maintaining glucose levels during exercise by eating or drinking carbohydrate-rich substances, or by reducing exercise intensity.”
Yep, that sums it up in a nutshell, however replace “sudden fatigue and loss of energy” with “sudden feeling of extreme grumpiness, hating cycling, hating life and a craving to eat a whole chocolate factory” and you get a better description .
The bonk is most commonly felt by novice cyclists totally under prepared out on their first big ride. More experienced riders will generally know how to fuel better and having almost always experienced it at some point, will know how to avoid it. Of course that doesn’t mean that it can’t creep up on you at any point.
Generally it comes when you are least expecting it, you can be going along at a decent pace, feeling fine but then without warning legs start to get heavy, the pace starts to slow, you feel yourself getting dropped from the group. At this point a rest, or slowing down for a while and refueling would probably be enough to avoid all out bonk, but no, you battle on trying not to get dropped while muttering angrily in your head about the pace that is being set, you desperately try and hang on but you see them getting further and further away….until that’s it, nothing left. All of a sudden you ground to a virtual halt. Of course this always happens in the middle of nowhere, miles from any civilization. Stranded and feeling like death, pissed off at the others, yourself, your bike and your dog, there is nothing left to do now but eat in desperation whatever food you have left in your pockets and make the slow, painful and lonely journey back home. if you are lucky enough that you have enough food to fully refuel, generally you will get a second wind, but because your body is working overtime to recover from the deficiency, a second bonk is never far away.
So you finally get home…then what? Usually a head first dive into the fridge to eat and drink anything you can get your hands on, and in my experience these cravings can last up to a few days after a severe bonk ..Coca cola and Nutella being the preferred remedies of choice!
So apart from stuffing your face guilt free, it really isn’t a pleasant experience and should be avoided whenever possible
So make sure you plan properly – to fail to plan is to plan to fail! Do some research on how to fuel properly before, during and after rides, keep well hydrated with Active Root energy drinks , oh and a couple of emergency energy bars from the awesome Chia Charge in your saddle bag helps!