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While your bike might have a fuel gauge, unfortunately, your body does not have a simple hydration gauge - by the time you are thirsty, you have already started on the road to dehydration.
Lack of water impacts mental and physical performance, causes soreness, cramping, headaches and can be a direct cause of injury and illness. Whether you are thirsty or not, drink water on a regular schedule - even in cold weather where you may never feel thirsty (don't think it can happen to you? Read Jonny Volk's experience at Lessons learned from an EMT ).
Although it may seem extreme, we recommend that during the long rides, you give up local tap water and use purified bottled water. Changes in the local make-up of the water supply can lead to upset stomach, diarrhea and in some extreme cases require hospitalization. Besides those concerns, in 1995 the federal government issued a warning that Cryptosporidium, a disease-carrying parasite, can slip through most municipal water treatment systems. While a healthy
individual can fight off this bug, we recommend avoiding it, and other potential water-born parasites while on the road by using purified water. For more information on bottled water brands that use production processes that are free from parasites contact the International Bottled Water Association at (800) 928-3711 or NSF International (a product testing organization) at (800) 673-8010.