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What does bonking "feel" like?(26 posts)

What does bonking "feel" like?Kristin
May 31, 2001 9:24 AM
This morning I went out for a quickie...15.6 miles. Last ride before the rain begins tonight. That's nothing right? Completely flat terrain too. After the first 8 miles, I find myself in a pathically high/low (whichever) gear, barely moving. My muscles weren't burning, but I couldn't keep my cadence up. I just felt weak. I had eaten a fibar before the ride and was drinking enuf water. Plus, I didn't ride at all yesterday. I can't imagine why this happened. I decided that there was absolutely no reason to quit early, and I pushed out the other 8, but it was slow going. I'm just curious to know what happened in this body of mine. How often to people "bonk" anyway? Is bonking always bad?
it sucksishmael
May 31, 2001 9:33 AM
the only time it ever happend to me it was all of a sudden and then i rode in practicly the granny gear... when i finally made it home i was shaking and spilled my orange juice all over me...those last couple of miles i was invisioning all the foods i wanted to eat, everything seemed so was very memorable...i dont rely on powerbars in my back pocket, i always eat well an hour before riding..
you'll know it when it happenspeloton
May 31, 2001 9:45 AM
Bonking is an experience that you won't forget, or have any question about when it happens. The last time I bonked at a race, I curled up in a ball on the side of the course. I was so out of it I didn't want to eat or drink, even though that was probably what I needed. Your head doesn't feel right, and you don't think straight. It's like having the worst flu and confusion at once. Your coordination and motor skills are shot too.

It sounds to me that you were probably tired from some other exertion in the day or two before your ride. Maybe you have been riding a lot lately, or didn't get enough sleep or adequate food in the day before the ride. The symptoms that your describe are how I feel sometime if I have been riding hard, overtrained, or not taking care of myself well enough in terms of sleep and food. Your body reacts to a lot of things.
Kind of like "obscene material"mike mcmahon
May 31, 2001 11:38 AM
I don't remember which Supreme Court Justice uttered the famous line about obscene material that is not entitled to free-speech protection. Something like: "I don't know how to define it, but I know it when I see it." Was it John Paul Stevens? You've just got to experience it before you really know what it's all about.
Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said it in 1964 (nm)Brian C.
May 31, 2001 12:09 PM
Nice work. Thanks. (nm)mike mcmahon
May 31, 2001 12:12 PM
True bonking is something that I've never experienced, butbill
May 31, 2001 9:39 AM
it is supposedly like being dead. The normal chemical pathways by which your muscles use your body's energy sources simply stop functioning, which I doubt is what happened to you.
I was just reading about what I think you experienced, and what I believe I have experienced as well, which is that you probably didn't warm up properly. Without warming up, your muscles used up your glycogen (your fastest energy source) and then sort of never properly got your secondary aerobic chemical pathways into gear, so to speak. Apparently, you need to ease into your aerobic energy pathways in a way that maintains balance among the chemicals you are using, including the chemicals involved with your anaerobic pathways. I am mangling the chemistry, I know, but, basically, the lesson is that you need to warm up or things won't go well. My need to warm up has increased with my conditioning, so that, with better warm up, I can do more than I used to, but, with lesser warm up, I'm a mess.
I think bill has nailed itRhodyRider
May 31, 2001 11:11 AM
I've found everything in bill's comment to be 100% true. I've ridden with people that like to hammer right out of the garage (so to speak) and it has always resulted in poorer performance for me. Not a bonk, exactly, but seemingly much greater effort with less results. I need a thorough pre-ride stretch session (10-15 minutes) followed by about 5 miles of 13-15 mph before I perform at my peak. Do not underestimate the importance of the warm-up!
May 31, 2001 11:29 AM
What you guys said makes total sense! I do tend to launch out of the gate and push hard right away. I do this especially on rides under 20 miles. I view short rides as a time to attempt much higher averages. I don't figure on needing to pace or conserve energy. I guess I was wrong. I certainly didn't improve on my times today!

I'll try warming up whenever I get to ride again...The 10 day forcast has lightening bolts on every day. Of course, I've never seen an accurate 10-day. I have a feeling its gonna be a long, cold June for midwesterners.
Glycogen depletionJ.S.
May 31, 2001 9:39 AM
I don't think you had a classic "bonk", it usually takes a little time to use up glycogen storage. Both my bonks occured after 5 hours in the saddle. It's a strange feeling, I felt great right until I bonked then I literally wanted to get off my bike and go to sleeep. A can of coke and a snickers saved my ass on one occasion.
All of your faculties diminish - strength, will, judgementAlex R
May 31, 2001 9:51 AM
It isn't just a matter of fried legs. I get profound food fantasies followed by total loss of strength, a wave of self pity, a desire to spend the night in the grass beside the road rather than ride one more mile to a telephone, and a mean-spirited desire for the world to suffer with me.

This has happened to me twice. Both times were on windy days when I didn't eat enough, and a tail wind coaxed me into a much longer ride than I had prepared for. Needless to say, the tail wind becomes a head wind on the ride home and that's where things went bad. Both bonks happened at about the 4 hour mark of the ride.

I am curious to know if one can bonk on a short ride. I would think that it takes at least a few hours to drain your body of all its glycogen reserves and bring on "the knock".

I did it once at 25 miles but ...Humma Hah
May 31, 2001 3:10 PM
... I'd ridden hard the previous day and was not fully recovered, and then got into a serious coughing spell (either allergies or exercise-induced asthma) right after a hard climbing session. The trigger may not have been the usual thing, but the result was an absolutely classic bonk.

It usually takes me close to 50 miles of hard riding (probably closer to 60-70 on a roadbike) to bonk, if properly rested and nourished. But if already tired and the rider didn't carb load the night before, I suspect a bonk could happen much sooner.

But feeling tired from the start is likely something else. Illness, tired from previous exertion, maybe got into something mildly toxic.
re: What does bonking "feel" like?Len J
May 31, 2001 9:53 AM
Agree with other posters but..

I have experienced what you are describing, almost a lethargy, no real zip, legs feel like they are dead. I think for me this is a pre-Bonk warning. Every time I have felt like this, If I eat something and sit for 10 minutes or so my legs come back. I'm not sure if it has to do with my individual metabolism (which is very high) or what. My guess is that I'm having a mini sugar shortage. (that's what it feels like anyway.) I have learned to eat before and during a ride to keep my engine fueled.

Everybody is different, keep experimenting to you find what works for you.
re: What does bonking "feel" like?steeveo
May 31, 2001 9:54 AM
Here we go ...
re: What does bonking "feel" like?Mel Erickson
May 31, 2001 10:16 AM
A bonk comes on relatively suddenly, although not without warning. The previous description of feebleness is a good one. When you truly bonk you are not able to continue until you get some food and water into your system. Usually takes a minimum of 15-20 minutes to recover enough to continue. You may feel like passing out. You might start seeing "bugs" in front of your eyes. You might get nauseous. You're definitely extremely weak. Bonking is ALWAYS bad. If you don't fuel yourself right you are more susceptible to bonking. It would be unusual to bonk on a 15 mile ride. I came close to bonking, maybe had a mini-bonk, yesterday during a 2 hour mountain bike ride. My problem was poor eating. Cereal for breakfast, P,B & J, yogurt & cookies for lunch and that's about it. Not enough to keep me going. Might have also been a little dehydrated. I was seeing spots for sure! I've definitely bonked doing the Birkebeiner XC ski race. Not pleasant, for sure!
feels "like" body mind discorporation.The brain says to the legs128
May 31, 2001 11:18 AM
"OK! Lets go!"
and the legs say:"no."
And the brain says "oh, too"
And the legs say:"Huh?"
and the brain says: "this road looks longer today."
And lastly, the eyes are considering the interesting texture of the still pavement beneath your feet...

(and then you remember the super energy pill in your secret decoder ring!)

Then you realize "I've been talking to my legs and thinking about Underdog" and if you look up there will be a little thought bubble above your squash..It'll be empty.
Like you are wearing a concrete bayou
May 31, 2001 11:24 AM
First off, I'd have to say you did not bonk in your mentioned ride. Usually it will take 4-6 hours of operating at 70% of your max, fuel and water are getting scarce and some good 'ol fashioned sunshine.

Others include:
Ascending an easy grade checking the rear cogs--thinking you must have a lower gear. Then checking every 2 minutes thereafter.

Feeling your cyclometer is out of calibration.

Too tired to curse yourself.

Wondering what the others ate for breakfast. Must be called "drop quick".

Thinking you must have a slow leak in the rear tire.

Stopping and praying you have some $$ to get food and drink of any kind. Even if it means taking a hostage.

That's how the Bonk laughs at us. And he laughs loud. You'll hear him.
So that's what it was - a bonk?Brian C.
May 31, 2001 11:39 AM
Six hours in the saddle, in the 85th mile, still 10 miles from home, when suddenly, it felt like I was going to fall asleep at the wheel. I just wanted to quit right then and there. I felt depressed, too.

Supplementary questions please:
Are there any warning signs that you're heading for a bonk?
Is a sugar fix all you need to pull out of one?
Does a bonk suggest something lacking in your nutrition before and during the ride?
Could've been a Boink. Or a Pre-Bonk Doink. Tough call...128
May 31, 2001 11:52 AM
In your case, I'd say bayou
May 31, 2001 12:07 PM
The warning signs are different for each person. In general, if you are expending more energy than you can process (not just eat, turn into energy) have less water and fewer electrolytes, you are headed into the arms of the bonk monster.

Sugar fix? Depends. If you are done for the day, sure high glycemic foods will help, but if you are going to continue, the fru/su/glucose gets burned up fast, like starting a fire with Kleenex.

Lacking in nutrition? Well it is a function of availiable energy and comsumption rates. One effects the other.

Training and riding in this zone can become tolerable, even can be a goal to try and train in the pre-bonk zone. Much like sprinters work in the lactic zone.

Unfortunately, experience is the greatest teacher. Ride your same route, in the same conditions and alter your fuel uptake. See if you get different results. Pyscologically, you are better prepared because you know it is coming....laughing all the way.
Thanks, good information to know (nm)Brian C.
May 31, 2001 1:29 PM
feels lousy!4bykn
May 31, 2001 12:07 PM
I've bonked one time, early in my riding career. Eighty mile day, about 65 into it, I suddenly lost the ability to pedal. I still had some strength left, but couldn't use it. Any effort to ride over 10mph would have me feeling as if I were about to puke. I limped home and passed out for a couple hours, woke feeling like I had the flu. After what seemed like gallons of fluids I slowly started feeling human again. Do anything you can to avoid this, it is NOT pleasant.

And incidentally, in my opinion, you probably do take off a little too fast at the start of a ride. When we rode together I was thinking at the start that you were going to kill me, if you warm up at this speed, I was afraid of what speed you would continue at! :)
Bonking and the warning signs ...Humma Hah
May 31, 2001 3:04 PM
A REAL bonk is called that because it is like getting hit over the head. If you don't recognize the warning signs, it seems to hit fairly suddenly. There's usually a mental aspect, not just feeling tired. People report feeling dazed, confused, or defeated. Severe cases may result in tunnel vision or blacking out. Once you've bonked, even allowing for recovery you are probably pretty shot for the day. You may be able to limp home after some rest and calories, but not ride hard.

Warning signs: you may feel a little light-headed or detached, or feel some tingling in your extremeties. These are time to stop immediately and get some fuel in your system.

You want to avoid full bonks -- they may even do some damage similar to insulin shock (the symptoms and causes are similar). You want to learn to avoid even getting to the warning signs, but the only way to do that is to learn what your body needs. For me, that means occasionally tiptoeing up to the edge and peeking over while on training rides. Since I'm interested in fitness and losing weight, I want to know how little nourishment I need while riding. I'll often ride until I start to feel the warnings before taking nourishment. But I try to avoid that on formal rides, really long rides, or rides where I'm after maximum performance.
why you bonkmilsk8
May 31, 2001 5:22 PM
Bonking is when your body uses up all of it's stored carbohydrates and you can prevent this by eating or drinking food or drinks such as Gatorade, etc. which contain large amounts of carbs. Miguel Indurain lost the 1996 Tour because he bonked on a climbing stage when he ran out of carb drinks and he turned down an offer for one from Alex Zulle. Because of this he came in 11th place overall and did not win his sixth consecutive TDF.
re: What does bonking "feel" like?Dutchy
May 31, 2001 5:54 PM
Lets get one thing straight. Bonking is a slang word for sex in Australia. I can only guess you guys are getting sex while at the 60 mile point of your rides. Where do I sign up? Anyhow, I have experienced "fatigue", usually it is on cold days <15ºC, and just as the hills start on the way home. One minute your riding fast, the next you just want to pull over for a sleep. One day I was so fatigued I was craving red meat, the bad part is I don't eat red meat, haven't for ten years. The main reason for "bonking" is pushing your body too far/too hard. I have done it, everyone has. You just need to plan for long rides (>80kms/50miles), eat and sleep well for a few days before, warm up proplerly and don't push too hard in the first hour. I'm going for a quick BONK. CHEERS.
Isn't, umm, everthing slang for sex in Australia? nmbill
Jun 1, 2001 8:17 AM