Ultimate Guide to Bonking on Your Next Race (You must try these)

I am not really into racing bikes. However, I sign up for quite a few different races because I think that they help provide structure to my riding. I am not into a rigorous detailed training schedule because, let’s be honest, this is bike riding not nuclear psychics. I ride bikes to be healthier and see the unique places where they take me.

Nonetheless, I still participate in races to gauge my fitness and ride new places. Honestly, I go to races with a desire to finish them in good shape and have enough energy to enjoy the after party. But you’ve undoubtedly seen a bonker: distant stare, delusional and often incoherent ramblings about how this has never happened on a training ride, bits of dried gu pukies on the chin, begging for the dregs at the bottom of your pack. It’s no fun bonking during a race. We have all been there. Some are more astute bonkers than others.

I’m Yonkers, and I have been in the dirt lab carefully testing various bonking strategies for years in an effort to keep you upright on race day. Having fallen victim to at least 4 of the strategies below I consider myself an expert in the field. I have lofty goals of seeing you all at the finish line. However, if you want to see what bonking feels like for yourself then do the following:

  1. Try something new on race day. There are two types of new things that you should try: new gear and a different fuel source.
    1. Gear: I highly suggest switching bike seats or handlebars, lacing up a new pair of shoes, and/or loading that new hydration backpack up to the zippers. Implementing these new pieces of gear will not feel quite right causing constant readjustments and discomfort. All of this extra unforeseen fatigue will bring you to your knees faster than stick in the spokes.
    2. Fuel:
Yes that is eggnog on the seat. What’s it to you?
    1. You have trained for months at this point. You’ve ingested countless sport-specific snacks with varying degrees of success and indigestion. You’ve chosen the lesser of many evils: enough calories to keep you upright, some metallic “fruit” flavor which you just push down like a midwesterner’s emotions, and a sugar content that has no doubt created a strange stomach callous in order to keep it from ejecting. But in your race bag at packet pick up you have found a cure-all powder that just dissolves in your water bottle…. and look at the end of the expo line-up they have a tent. Why not go sniff around and see if this wonder dust is really all it’s cracked up to be. Turns out that you have no clue where the ingredients of your fuel are sourced from! Also the FDA has not validated any of the health claims of your fuel… Also the amount of sugar in your fuel is essentially high fructose corn syrup, you know that stuff you are eliminating from every single corner of your diet! Thank the endurance gods for sending this mystery powder charlatan to save your race day. Good news, buy 5 bags and the 6th is 25% off! Plus you get a free t-shirt (with a mail-in offer) AND you can put a sticker on your car or helmet AND if someone takes a picture of your sticker and submits it with their next qualifying order they get the 6th bag 50% off and you get a nice little commission which you can use towards your next qualifying order. KEWL so I guess I’m an influencer now!!!! BUY it; bottle it; slug it down at an alarming pace; puke it up an hour later; wish you had not filled all you bottles with it…
  1. Lie to yourself about your pace. See that racer at the start line? Yeah, you know them. You have seen them at the trailhead. Your Strava times are about equal on a few segments. You should line up next to them. You don’t want to start too far back in the cue and have to claw your way past the other weekend warriors to get to where you rightfully belong. Just push yourself, surely they can’t all keep the leadout pace up for the whole race, right? What’s that saying about burning matches?
  2. Skip aid stations. Those people there relying on the good of others and the questionable fuel choices they are offering are lessers. They haven’t taken the time to hone their nutrition needs. And besides, altering your caloric intake method would be akin to running gas station fuel into a highly-tuned race car… Wait… how many energy gels do you have left taped to your toptube?

Feel free to try any of the above at home, but for pete’s sake, don’t try them on race day.

I would love to hear your bonk recipes or stories.