Long Rides = Headache

mr_eddy Posts: 830
Finished a 65k road/gravel ride on Sunday and I finished up with a monstrous headache, The same has been true of my road ride the week before (75k). It seems that any ride I do of more than about 2 hours gives me a mean headache.

My first obvious thought was dehydration but I don't think it was that - I started my ride about 90 mins after my breakfast (massive bowl of oats with banana, Apple and blueberries) and I had made sure to have a big cup of tea with breakfast (courtesy of a pint sized Sports Direct 'BIG' mug). I took a 750ml water bottle with me containing a lemon hydration powder and when I finished my ride later on in the day my pee was almost clear so can't be that.

I also ate a flapjack and 2 oranges mid way through and at no point did I feel hungry. I also rode out with my helmet as loose as I felt safe in case this was the cause.

Could it be the angle of my neck or something causing my headaches? I do find that my neck aches after a long ride and this is the same on both my road bike (had a bike fit for this one) and my MTB which is a much more upright position.

Any other ideas


  • graeme_s-2
    graeme_s-2 Posts: 3,382
    I've had horrendous headaches on rides before which turned out to be my helmet was one click too tight and putting pressure on the back of my neck just below the base of my skull.

    Might be something else entirely, but worth checking.
  • mr_eddy
    mr_eddy Posts: 830
    Yep I did try loosening my helmet did not seem to help , I do have another helmet I could try so will give it a shot.
  • daniel_b
    daniel_b Posts: 11,620
    I used to get headaches in the afternoon after a long ride, and was perfectly well hydrated.

    I since use a High 5 electrolyte tablet in one bottle, and one bottle of just water, and the problem has vanished.

    These are the ones I use, with added caffeine:

    Pink Graprefuit is my favourire - tastes like refreshers to me, if you remember them.

    But non caffeine ones are also available:
    Felt F70 05 (Turbo)
    Marin Palisades Trail 91 and 06
    Scott CR1 SL 12
    Cannondale Synapse Adventure 15 & 16 Di2
    Scott Foil 18
  • mr_eddy
    mr_eddy Posts: 830
    Ok thanks for the info - I will look into those. Maybe its a electrolyte thing or something
  • sungod
    sungod Posts: 16,629
    it's not a long distance/duration, and assuming this is in the uk it's not hot weather, dehydration shouldn't be a problem unless you started parched, same with electrolytes

    might be muscular/position related, or there're umpteen headache types to choose from, post-exercise there's...

    https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/ ... -headache/
    my bike - faster than god's and twice as shiny
  • step83
    step83 Posts: 4,170
    Graeme_S wrote:
    I've had horrendous headaches on rides before which turned out to be my helmet was one click too tight and putting pressure on the back of my neck just below the base of my skull.

    Might be something else entirely, but worth checking.

    I had what I can only describe as an ice cream headache right on my temple. Cause a sodding cap I had under my helmet, took off cap ten minutes later it was gone
  • webboo
    webboo Posts: 6,087
    Have you tried googling post exercise headaches to see if that matches what you are experiencing.
    It's not uncommon to get a headache after exercise.
  • Seconded re post exercise headaches. Used to get this after playing an 11 a side game - especially if playing in midfield! I found that a coffee and something sweet to eat would help. Wasn't dehydration for sure.
    I'd also agree with the comment re wearing a cap which has given me a headache too on very odd occasions especially when the cap was new and a bit tighter than now.
  • ck101
    ck101 Posts: 222
    Good luck finding the cause of this, having struggled with killer headaches for years still cant find the reason. With a combination of Iron, Vitamin B supplements, hydration and cutting out nuts and oats they have reduced in frequency.
  • sungod
    sungod Posts: 16,629
    Ck101 wrote:
    Good luck finding the cause of this, having struggled with killer headaches for years still cant find the reason.

    if they're bad and your gp(s) can't diagnose, get a referral to a headache clinic, or do some research and go private

    back in the 1990s i ended up buying a large pricey book 'the headaches', used it to figure out the likeliest, and booked an appointment with one of the authors of that section, job done - this was preceded by years of several different gps, a few consultants and a ct scan, none of which recognised what were definitive symptoms of the headache type
    my bike - faster than god's and twice as shiny
  • rick_chasey
    rick_chasey Posts: 73,082
    Few questions.

    1) do you always get headaches? If not, when do you?

    2) does temperature affect it?

    3) does time of day affect it?

    4) Does your position affect it?

    5) does your effort affect it?


    I get headaches verging on migranes when my head gets too cold, for example.

    I also get them when I give it too much beans after a few days off; need to warm up properly.

    I also get it when I'm too tense on a bike; have to actively focus on relaxing from time to time.

    After a while it can become very manageable.
  • DeVlaeminck
    DeVlaeminck Posts: 8,751
    Try a ride without your helmet. I've found the wrong helmet can give me a headache, not a bad one but still, whether it's pressure on a different part of my head or directing air flow to a certain spot I don't know but it's simple enough to eliminate it as a cause.
    [Castle Donington Ladies FC - going up in '22]
  • Mikey23
    Mikey23 Posts: 5,306
    Ride without a helmet? Grabs popcorn... ;-)
  • mercia_man
    mercia_man Posts: 1,431
    Could it be uncontrolled high blood pressure? I used to get headaches after long rides and even more so after doing running races. I put it down to dehydration combined with extreme exertion. Drinking even a moderate amount of alcohol also triggered headaches. I was taking painkillers for headaches two or three times a week.

    I started taking amlodipine earlier this year for borderline high blood pressure - it's been creeping up as I get older - and my headaches have vanished.
  • mr_eddy
    mr_eddy Posts: 830
    edited October 2017
    Thanks for all the info - I have been looking into some options, I may try and tweak my diet although I am hoping this weekend I can test the new helmet approach. It can't be alcohol as I don't drink. Either way my diet does need work !

    I tend to get the headaches no matter what the weather, I have also suffered headaches most of my life. I spent sometime on Beta blockers prescribed by my GP but they did not help, I also have elevated blood pressure (not massive just elevated and its unfortunately genetic as all my family have it even my marathon running sister who is super healthy).

    I am also looking at it being weight related - Whilst I consider myself fit (cycle 20 miles a day M-F plus big ride at weekend and also occasional swimming etc) I am a bit overweight, I don't think its massive - I am 5'10" and I weigh around 86kg (most excess around my mid section). As mentioned above my diet needs improvement, its mostly ok as I start the day with porridge and fruit and have a hot lunch (usually soup or something home made like veggie spag bol etc) however I do usually have a couple of snacks at night ( chocolate bar / Nutella on toast etc).

    Thanks for all the advice - I am hoping its something simple as the GP's I have seen in the past seem to treat 'headaches' the same as 'backache' i.e they don't offer much more than obvious advice.

  • mr_eddy
    mr_eddy Posts: 830
    I should add that I have started taking a baby Aspirin (75mg) at night before bed, Various studies have shown that a Aspirin at night can reduce blood pressure for 24 hours - The headaches have been around before the Aspirin tho.
  • webboo
    webboo Posts: 6,087
    Isn't chocolate supposed to be a no,no if you suffer from headaches?
  • chrisw12
    chrisw12 Posts: 1,246
    Interesting answers here, both me and my wife take in a lot of caffeine in one form or another. When we do something different or unusual we both get headaches. For her going on holidays and she wasn’t having the same amount of coffee, if I go on a long ride in the morning without my early coke cola then I’m a long time without caffeine. In both these scenarios we both have suffered headaches.

    Now like you, I put the headaches down to something bike related, but they weren’t, they were caffeine related. There are two posts above that solved the problem by doing something xxx, but when you read closer, that something xxx involved caffeine.