Long ride and cramping

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Long ride and cramping

Postby marty_one » Mon Aug 20, 2012 8:46 am

Hi All, I went out for a training ride yesterday (I also hit a new record distance for myself 85km) and things were going quiet well until I hit the 70km mark. During this ride I had been eating energy bars drinking water (probably not often enough), gatorade as well as consuming energy gels. From what I have been reading that this should of been enough to help keep my energy levels up. But I think my legs hit the wall at the 70km point which is when they started to cramp up bad anytime I stopped and stood or went up the slightest hill. Is it just because I have not hit that distance before? I was in the saddle for about 4 hours where my previous longest ride I was on the road for about 3 hours.
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by BNA » Mon Aug 20, 2012 9:13 am

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Re: Long ride and cramping

Postby malocchio » Mon Aug 20, 2012 9:13 am

Well done marty_one! you'll hit the magic ton in no time :-)

Do you mix anything into your water bottles? If you were sweating a bit on the ride you might have lost a few electrolytes / salts as well as fluid. Even a gatorade could be beneficial in staving off the cramps.

It also comes down to conditioning, getting used to being in the saddle and employing the same muscles for a long amount of time.

Stay hydrated and electrolyted and you should be fine!
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Re: Long ride and cramping

Postby DavidTomic » Mon Aug 20, 2012 9:51 am

marty_one wrote:During this ride I had been eating energy bars drinking water (probably not often enough) ...


That's where I'd be putting my money ... insufficient fluid intake.
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Re: Long ride and cramping

Postby bychosis » Mon Aug 20, 2012 10:01 am

I've done some enduro MTB events as my longest rides, general riding gets no where near the time in the saddle as the events. The cramping is a regular event for me, usually not long after the duration of a regular ride. Ie regular riding up to 2.5 hrs, cramping kicks in around 3hrs. The MTB enduros of 100km are around 7hrs for me. Got the wollombi wild ride 75km coming up and am underprepared so I will cramp, it's just a matter of how long I go before I get them.

I suspect i am just predisposed to cramping, but Things that help:
More time in the saddle, in longer rides, not more rides of short duration.
Increasing magnesium intake prior to the event, using supplements.
Ensuring that my 'training' tapers a bit in the week before an event.
Maintaining carbohydrate rich foods for a week or so before the event.
Ensure excellent pre-hydration for a few days before the event.

Note: I am not trained in any of this, but have done a lot of net readin, a bit of experimenting and a bit of consulting medico's
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Re: Long ride and cramping

Postby marty_one » Mon Aug 20, 2012 10:31 am

malocchio wrote:Well done marty_one! you'll hit the magic ton in no time :-)
Do you mix anything into your water bottles?


Well the aim is to hit 120km before the 6th of october, Genovese Kinglake Ride. I did have gatorade with me in a full size drink bottle and I did finish the bottle as well as drinking a heap of water (had to keep refilling it up as I was doing laps around albert park). At the moment I am experimenting with nutrition on these longer rides so that when the day comes I can actually finish the ride.
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Re: Long ride and cramping

Postby Grim » Mon Aug 20, 2012 1:50 pm

Using Magnesium Supplements helps with the cramping, take some the day before the ride and after if you are doing all the other things correctly, fluid intake, nutrition and isotonics aside.
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Re: Long ride and cramping

Postby ldrcycles » Mon Aug 20, 2012 2:23 pm

Hydration is one thing, massage is another. I used to get cramping in my legs almost every other day, regardless of how much or little i drank (or what was in the bottle), until i got into the habit of giving my legs a rub down every time i have a shower. Have only cramped once or twice in the year and a half since. Getting a proper massage every now and then is also a great thing, it doesn't have to be every week, it will still really help (mentally as well as physically).
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Re: Long ride and cramping

Postby adrian_d » Mon Aug 20, 2012 2:42 pm

I am also suffering from the same causes, it seems like drinking water even though you don't feel like it definitely helps to push yourself to getting used to drinking more.

Thanks very much for posting that link to the Genovese Kinglake Ride event. I have decided to participate in it. See you there :)
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Re: Long ride and cramping

Postby Reman » Wed Aug 22, 2012 9:32 pm

As per previous post about magnesium, potassium is another anti-cramp vitamin.

Bananas are perfect for staving off cramps and providing energy too! And of course plenty of fluids.
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Re: Long ride and cramping

Postby Addictr3 » Wed Aug 22, 2012 9:39 pm

salt is your friend, carry some salted peanuts that work wonders for me on 200km+ rides
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Re: Long ride and cramping

Postby marty_one » Thu Aug 23, 2012 8:46 am

Reman wrote:As per previous post about magnesium, potassium is another anti-cramp vitamin.
Bananas are perfect for staving off cramps and providing energy too! And of course plenty of fluids.


Banana's and me dont really agree with each other (really dont like the taste but will eat them if there is nothing else). I think based on peoples experiences I will look into magnesium and potassium supplements, chances are that I am not getting enough along with a lot of other vitamins and minerals in my diet anyway. I think that I also need to start spending more time on my wind trainer to start conditioning my legs as the soreness from the cramps finally disappeared after 4 days. I might even ask my physio tonight (she was the head of running victoria and is an avid runner).
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Re: Long ride and cramping

Postby Alex Simmons/RST » Thu Aug 23, 2012 10:29 am

There really isn't a lot understood about the real reasons for cramping, but in your case I'd say it's simply a matter of fitness for the duration.

You will probably find that if you repeated the effort this week, you would not struggle as much.

People can overplay the food/drink/electrolyte thing a bit. Yes, some is useful and making sure you do eat/drink is important, but you just can't consume at the rate you are using (as that can cause other problems), so it comes down to training your body to ride that hard for that far.

Two things help the most:
- improving your threshold power output through good quality training, as the adaptation arising from that strongly support endurance
- increasing the volume of endurance training you do (gradually)

Stick with it and keep having fun!
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Re: Long ride and cramping

Postby adrian_d » Thu Aug 23, 2012 11:53 am

Alex Simmons/RST wrote:There really isn't a lot understood about the real reasons for cramping, but in your case I'd say it's simply a matter of fitness for the duration.

You will probably find that if you repeated the effort this week, you would not struggle as much.

People can overplay the food/drink/electrolyte thing a bit. Yes, some is useful and making sure you do eat/drink is important, but you just can't consume at the rate you are using (as that can cause other problems), so it comes down to training your body to ride that hard for that far.

Two things help the most:
- improving your threshold power output through good quality training, as the adaptation arising from that strongly support endurance
- increasing the volume of endurance training you do (gradually)

Stick with it and keep having fun!


That is Awesome Advice .

I have found that going from 0km a week to 100-150 (to reach 200-250 next week) my body (particularly legs) have been struggling especially when i'm off the seat pedalling upright. It seems that the more I do, the more my body gets used to it and the easier it gets (or moreso the longer it takes for the muscles to take to build up lactic acid).

Is it just me or is there a certain point when Lactic Acid builds up and it feels like your ride is over.
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Re: Long ride and cramping

Postby marty_one » Thu Aug 23, 2012 9:55 pm

Well after speaking with my physio and describing my fluid intake to her it seems one of the biggest issues was not enough fluid at the beginning of the ride, as cramping can be a result of dehydration. She suggested that I weigh myself before riding and after the ride to see such weight I have lost in fluid alone. Which I might try on Sunday if the weather holds out.
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Re: Long ride and cramping

Postby Mrfenejeans » Thu Aug 23, 2012 10:16 pm

Personally I'd say to a big degree its that your legs are just not used to the distance, I remember when i first did my 70km's and my thighs were the tightest they've ever been.

Nowadays my legs feel like they can keep going and going and going and going, the only way they cramp is going to the gym and using them in a way that i don't on the bike.
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Re: Long ride and cramping

Postby Ken Ho » Fri Aug 24, 2012 9:28 am

I see this as more of a conditioning issue, rather than hydration/nutrition. I would do 80-100km on a coffee (in a thermal mug on my bike) and one bidon of water and feel fine at the end, as would plenty of people here. Have done that plenty of times. Usually I would have a couple of bananas in my jersey, cos I love bananannnananananannas, but I would not die without them.
Keep riding longer distances and the endurance will come. Too much water can cause hyponatraemia. Too much magnesium will either give you gutzache or the trots and make your legs weak.
Too much riding will cause.....................ah forget it, no such thing !
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Re: Long ride and cramping

Postby marty_one » Sun Sep 09, 2012 4:46 pm

Well i managed to hit out another 85km ride today. Had the same amount of water and energy gels/bars. The big difference this time was that I start drinking my water and gatorade earlier than last time and it made a huge difference. I'm thinking that this has been my problem the last two years. Not enough water early/often enough. Towards the end of the ride it felt like my quads might start cramping again but it stopped almost as quickly as it started. If the weather holds next weekend i might try and hit 90km and see how I go.
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Re: Long ride and cramping

Postby PawPaw » Sun Sep 09, 2012 6:15 pm

Do all of your peeing into a bottle from 8pm the night before your ride to just before you start. You'll get around a litre if you weren't dehydrated the day before. If you jump on your bike with just an espresso, your a litre into negative fluid balance.

Sweat rates vary depending on temp humidity effort genetics and body fat. 0.5 - 1.5 l/hr are common.

Four things will predispose to cramps according to the sports physiology literature:
- not enough fluid in the muscles to carry away acidic metabolites, especially with appropriate concentrations of electrolytes.
- increasing exercise intensity and volume too quickly.
- old injuries within a muscle that compromise blood flow to parts of the muscle.
- running energy stores down.

The remedies:
- before getting on your bike, drink the net fluid you pee'd off since the night before
- during exercise, make your hydration rate similar to your sweat rate.
- include electrolytes in your drink. see formula below.
- post ride, over a couple of hours drink electrolyte equivalent to 1.5x your net ride weight loss.
- get a few deep tissue massages from an experienced masseur to break up old musular adhesions, and stretch a couple of times a week.
- build your training volume and intensity up gradually.
- replace energy at the maximal carbohydrate oxidation rate. 1g / kg bodyweight /hr.

Make up this formula:

- 190 grams of sea salt blended into a finer powder.
- 65 grams of low sodium salt (50% KCl) http://www2.woolworthsonline.com.au/Shop/ProductDetails?Stockcode=35622&name=diet-rite-lite-salt
- add 30 rennies antacid tablets (calcium and magnesium source) http://www.myshopping.com.au/PR--429390_Rennies

This is enough to make 100 litres.

To make 1 litre of electrolyte solution, add
- 2.8 grams of the salt solution (bit over half a teaspoon).
- 50-100 mls of cordial
- top up with water.

This yields the following ion concentrations/litre
- Na 800 mg
- K 150 mg
- calcium 25 mg
- magnesium 12 mg

- sugar 3-6%

This approximates the newer endurance sports specific electrolyte formulas that have been introduced in the last 3 years.
Commonly available electrolytes from supermarkets intended for use by the general population, are around 50-75% of this concentration.
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Re: Long ride and cramping

Postby Reman » Sun Sep 09, 2012 7:27 pm

PawPaw wrote:Four things will predispose to cramps according to the sports physiology literature:
- not enough fluid in the muscles to carry away acidic metabolites, especially with appropriate concentrations of electrolytes.


Recently debunked
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/04/060420235214.htm

Refined by
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18379211

This is why training for cycling (or distance running) should include easy efforts over long distances which helps train the aerobic/fat burning/mitochondria systems.
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Re: Long ride and cramping

Postby dynamictiger » Mon Sep 10, 2012 8:25 am

Slightly to the left. I suffer from cramps for all of my life when exercising. To the point where when I was a young fella the doctor had me on a script for it.

In our more enlightened training system my current coach took one look at me and said how much do you drink. I replied 2 litres or so a day. His response was that a bloke my size has to drink 4 litres or more a day.

It took a while but when I did eventually train myself to drink this much my cramps have all but vanished. The most interesting part is I have to drink this before I exercise and only drink a small amount when I do exercise.
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Re: Long ride and cramping

Postby PawPaw » Mon Sep 10, 2012 9:30 am



The latest is there's no one specific explanation for cramps.

That paper's observation doesn't explain

- severe cramps that come on post event. Many cyclists don't get leg cramps until 15 minutes or more later, especially after lying down for a rest causes what is left of body fluid to distribute more evenly through the body, and leaves the legs less hydrated. This is very common after mass participation events, such as the Brisbane Gold Coast Bicycle Challenge.

- why simply increasing electrolyte intake prevents cramps in chronic crampers.
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Re: Long ride and cramping

Postby dobby » Sun Dec 23, 2012 2:42 pm

I have suffered from cramp pretty often, and pretty severe to the point where I felt the effects for days after (one particularly bad series had me unable to walk without pain for about a week), but seem to have shed the "curse" now.

Three things have helped me:

keeping my cadence higher on long rides = 85 to 90 rpm over 100kms and not pushing big gears unless I have too
taking Toppin Salt tablets, usually 4 the day before a big ride and 4 on the morning of the ride (in conjunction with Endura in my water bottles and GU gels)
regular high cadence base rides, 2 to 3 hours at 90rpm
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Re: Long ride and cramping

Postby g-boaf » Sun Dec 23, 2012 4:51 pm

I used to have this problem, it was affected by cleat positioning, too far forward.

But also, hydration and just general training to get used to longer distance and riding harder for long distances.

I generally now take a salt tab and do the e-load along with some energy bars. I stay away from the gels, they don't agree with me.

Paw Paw is quite right about cramps coming on after the ride. I've had that too. Massaging the legs helps a lot.
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Re: Long ride and cramping

Postby foo on patrol » Sun Dec 23, 2012 6:38 pm

I had many a night at the dinner table, where my father would have to lift me up off the chair as both legs would cramp so severely, that he could see big hollows in the back of my legs. :shock:

I went to the Dr and said I needed salt tablets and he near ripped my head off. :oops: He put me on calcium tablets and within three days the cramps had all but stopped and by the end of the week I could, sit sleep and ride without the cursed things crippling me. I would also have pain from them for a couple of days after. :(

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Re: Long ride and cramping

Postby Disappearin » Fri Dec 28, 2012 9:39 am

I've had a few issues with cramping over the years on long rides. It wasn't till I started racing a few 24hr mtb races solo that I really got things under control. As mentioned by others previously cleat position can make a big difference but good bike setup in general is important too. I had some major cramping in my calves in my first 24hr race. After the race, on advice from a fellow competitor I lowered my saddle 5mm and moved my cleats back a little and haven't experienced it since.
Secondly is electrolytes. Magnesium is good but I find it doesn't agree with my stomach. I've tried a few brand name electrolyte mixes with mixed success. Everyone is different but In the end I found what suited me the best was staminade powder from the supermarket. One bidon an hour works fine for me in most conditions.
I believe that good nutrition and hydration is half the battle on long rides. Unfortunately everyone's body behaves different so their is no magic answer. A bit of trial and error is required to find the best strategy for you.
Good luck.
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