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    Help! I've got leg cramps!  
    Ok veterans, I need some advice! Carl and I rode 38 miles on Saturday. We ate at mid point and I drank plenty of water. I started getting leg cramps 3 miles from home. Not enough salt? Water? What? I've never experienced them before.....


The only time that I have experienced leg cramps, it was because of not enough water. You said you drank enough. How much? I try and consistently drink a big bottle of water for each hour of riding.

Jim Bombardier

Water and salt are part of the equation. Other contributors include potassium and a host of other minerals that balance your electrolytes.

Although day of ride hydration is important the day prior can have a strong effect. I usually go out of my way to hydrate and eat well the day prior to a ride.

On the day prior were you well? Were you stressed? Did you consume alcohol? etc... All these things can affect you. Has anything on the bike or you changed? Shoes, seat, pedals etc.

Did you feel so good on the ride that you mashed up some hills instead of spun and just flat hurt yourself?

I've been out on rides where I didn't hydrate well the day prior, hammered hard on the ride and ended up fighting cramps in excess of 60 miles distances. Not fun. I've since learned to stretch the legs when the "charlie horse starts to whinny" and by doing so he never bucks :-) On the RACC last weekend I would unclip and stretch a leg on a flat or downhill toward the end of the ride when the hint of cramps hit and finished without cramping.

Don "Instead we dealt with real horses" Bolton

All of Don's suggestions are valid. Mike and I prefer dilute (like, ¼ strength or less) Gatorade in our water bottles to plain water for anything longer than 20 miles. Another cause of cramps is lactic acid build up, but I wouldn't suspect that from a 38 mile ride unless your applied effort was significantly in excess of the state of your training.

Here's a stretch I do while riding to loosen up the calves:

Find a section of road where you can coast.

Bring the cramping foot to the bottom of the pedal stroke, and drop your heel as much as possible.

Push backwards with the other foot to bring your bottom leg out straight and really pull those toes in (oops, I'm assuming clipless pedals, here). You may need to wiggle your heel a bit to get the stretch in the right muscle.

This stretch feels great for me but doesn't work for Mike. He tends to press forward and stretch the top leg while I'm working on my bottom leg, so peace still reigns on Tangerine Dream.

Pregnant Amy [Buondonno]

I guess I was just surprised because I've never experienced leg cramps before, even before I sagged on Day 2 last year! [CO 12] Perhaps it was just a one time thing. I am always good about water (love that Camelbak!) and I generally eat on longer rides. I also stretch a little during and a lot after rides. Thanks for the reply!

Wendi Thornton

I should've said that I had Gatorade too. The cramps were in the quads, which also seemed odd to me.

Wendi Thornton

I got leg cramps last year about 30 miles into Reach the Beach and the only reason I ever came up with was that we had left late (we were doing the full century) and had set off at a nice brisk pace. Normally I don't do this – I kind of dawdle along for the first 10 or 20 minutes and get nicely warmed up before I rev up those rpm's. And then there was that little hill near the start - and I was most definitely not warmed up when I hit that and I could sure feel it in my legs at the top.

Luckily, 1 Aleve wiped out the cramps and they never came back.


PS I also got cautious from this and didn't push the beginning of each day on CO [12] last year (especially day 2). Now we'll see if I can remember on RTB this year...

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I don't know what caused your leg cramps but sometimes what I think is lactic acid builds up in my legs and I find that if I drink a sports drink like Gatorade I don't have a problem. I attribute it to the electrolytes. While doing the RACC on Saturday I had that problem and stopped at a store and got one of those Red Bull drinks. I was fine after that.

Be aware I don't know what the heck I'm talking about. I just know it works for me. I try to keep one water bottle filled with a sports drink. I know lots of people seemed to get frustrated last year at all the sports drink at the rest stops on Cycle Oregon but I was grateful.

Hope you find a solution.

Ann Morrow
Stoker, Team Tangerine Scream

Well, just two more cents on the leg cramp thing. How about "early season out of shape" leg cramps? Just a thought. But I also agree about electrolytes and fluid--drink, drink til you pee, pee. And water alone doesn't cut it.

Amy-I'm sick of Gatorade, what other powders are you using- Ream

OK, OK, one more thing. On cycling days, I add extra salt to my breakfast food, whatever it be. And especially on Cycle Oregon, I added a packet of salt to my eggs, one to my hot cereal, and yet another to my potatoes. That much food? That much salt? And to that I say, yes, yes, yes. Never got a cramp or headache after I started doing that.

Amy-add the occasional V-8 juice-Ream

The all-sport drink we had on CO made me sick - abdominal cramps. I steer away from them now. I use salt tabs and tums (for calcium) and lots of water. During RACC I took about 1 tab and one tums for each 20oz bottle of water - 6 tums, 6 salt, somewhere around 6-8 bottles of water (I know how many pills because I know how many I brought. I didn't count the water fills.)

I was tired by the end, but felt good - no problems.

Michael McSwiggen

On the hydration topic, if you can't pee clear you're not drinking enough. If you can't pee at all, you are severely dehydrated and in danger of all kinds of nasty happenings. I know, this happened to me one day when I was doing a century with some friends and the temperature was in the 90s. We had reached mile 70 or so, stopped for lunch and I couldn't pee AT ALL. Heatstroke is not fun. It was a scary experience and I've been careful ever since to drink lots of sports drink.

Debi Toews

Just read a new cycling book on long distance cycling. They said that mineral levels in the blood of the Hotter 'n Hell riders had been checked and the difference between the crampers and the non- were Magnesium levels.

They also suggested scarfing a couple of Tums when a cramp hits. Another thing that is real popular is pinching your upper lip. Nobody has a clue why that one works, but apparently it does.

Rox Heath

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  Page Last Updated: Jan. 20, 2003  
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