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Dehydration—a cautionary tale

I’ve been riding bikes for a very long time, and although I’ve had breaks, I can safely say I’ve been riding bicycles throughout my whole life. I am lucky to have never had any serious accidents or injuries while cycling, other than the occasional my-shoes-are-still-clipped-into-the-pedals thing,1 I’ve never been doored, I never smashed with my bike into things that generally don’t like being smashed into (that’s a lie; it’s just that injuries were never serious), and I was rear-ended by other bikers only on a few occasions.

Today I went for a quick ride. It was a short one, but since I only got a non-city bike a couple of weeks back,2 I’m still building up my strength and endurance, and, sadly, 50km-long rides are my standard for now. It’s a sunny Sunday in Munich, with a temperature of about 31°C (this is like 88°F, ‘Mericans), clear skies, and I decided to explore some trails around the Isar river. It was all going well, until I reached a part of the trail which was really more akin to a single track than a road of any sort. Riding there on my 32c tires, and climbing even small hills, and being in the proximity of a river which makes the climate hot-and-humid was very exhausting. When I reached the asphalt road and headed towards Neufahrn, I realized I’m running out of water. By the time I turned into Olympiastraße, I was getting a bit weak, and about 10kms from Munich I had to stop.

What do you do when you have no food, no water, there’s little-to-no shade around, the temperature goes up to 32°C, and there’s no shop or creek or anything like that within a kilometer?3 You call your wife and cry for help, that’s what you do. You call her, apologize for being an idiot who only took one 500ml bottle of water (17oz, ‘Mericans) and no food, and ask her to bring you some. And then you fall on the ground and just lie there, trying not to pass out. And then luckily a group of cyclists stops by seeing you dying, and they give you water and sport-bars (which are just like regular chocolate bars only more expensive and in a more shiny packaging), and you jump on your bike and slowly ride home, and you meet your wife on the way and everything is fine again.

It’s an embarrassing story with a happy ending, but I’m sharing it here as a warning for anyone trying to be as stupid as I was. Dehydration in cycling is a serious problem; it actually is a direct cause of many deaths during famous road races, and should never be taken lightly. I got lucky, because some very good people stopped and helped me (even though I wasn’t able to speak; I was in a really bad shape), and because I have a wonderful wife that rode to my rescue like a knight in shiny armor on a white horse. But I was lucky, and it could’ve ended in a hospital.

Stay hydrated, kids!

  1. The thought process is always the same: “Will I manage to clip-out on time? I surely will. Definitely. There’s still time. Just a bit more. Oh shit.” ↩︎

  2. There’s a post about the bike coming. ↩︎

  3. In my defense, years of cycling in Western Norway don’t really prepare you for riding in the heat. ↩︎