Participants in next week’s annual bike ride across Iowa are being urged to drink up. Iowa Department of Public Health Medical Director Patricia Quinlisk says her agency conducted a study on hydration during RAGBRAI last year and found water isn’t always readily available, so bicyclists should carry their own.

“RAGBRAI does a great job at making sure there are plenty of water stations, but there were a couple of places where the distance between water stations could be up to seven miles,” Quinlisk said. “For the slower riders, that might be up to a half-an-hour to an hour.”

The study also found while most riders understood the importance of drinking plenty of water, they weren’t aware of the signs of dehydration. “So, we want to just remind RAGBRAI riders that when you’re outside doing something like this, you need to be drinking (water) all the time,” Doctor Quinlisk said. “Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink water, just drink water all of the time.”

Quinlisk also notes that salt and minerals lost through sweating can be replaced with re-hydration fluids designed for athletes. Salt can also be replaced with foods like salted crackers and minerals like potassium can be replaced by eating fruits, especially bananas. RAGBRAI begins Sunday in Rock Valley and ends Saturday, July 26 in Guttenberg.