Cycling journalist Hannah Reynolds has been guiding for Skedaddle for a good few years now and is one of the masterminds behind our popular St Malo to Nice journey. Alongside enjoying France’s best croissants on a regular basis (not jealous at all) she can be frequently found on our road cycling holidays across Europe. Having been the fitness editor at Cycling weekly for 15 years, she is also the author of three cycling books: France en Velo, Get on your Bike and Fitter, Faster, Further; so it’s safe to say she knows a thing or two about the world of cycling. Always eager to share our expert knowledge, we’ve teamed up to share a series of handy two-wheeled tips, offering advise on everything from nutrition to cycling technique. Read on for the first instalment…
Coffee is synonymous with cycling, whether you are a mountain biker, roadie or leisure cyclist every ride benefits from a café stop. And it’s the culture as well as the caffeine that draws cyclists through the café door.
Caffeine has some clear and obvious benefits to bike riders, it’s a mild central nervous system stimulant so can improve your alertness and concentration and perk you up if you are feeling tired or lethargic, so says the British Coffee Association. It has the ability to help us exercise harder and for longer, it encourages our bodies to burn fat as fuel. It can reduce feelings of pain and fatigue. All in all, it is a pretty wonderful substance.
Caffeine might be the active ingredient but whether you take it as a supplement, or in your favourite brew it is just as effective. Which is good news as a supplement, such as a ProPlus tablet or an energy gel, but wouldn’t be anywhere near as pleasurable an experience as propping your bike up outside a café, sitting back in the sun and smelling the freshly roasted beans while listening to the locals’ chat at the bar.
Café culture has taken off in the UK but few places have got it right. Very few countries who take their coffee seriously would even rank the typical high street buckets of milky coffee even as coffee. Anywhere that serves a 16oz milky latte is missing the point. Café bars have always been a way of life in many of the countries Skedaddle tours visit. For example, in any Spanish village, at any time of day, the coffee shop is the heart and soul. It’s where people go to catch up on gossip, discuss politics, argue about football and meet their friends. You won’t find a chocamochachino here, instead join the locals in a café solo, a single shot of espresso that barely fills a shot glass.
Your daily coffee ritual is as much about culture as it is about cycling. A visit to a café is a real chance to meet local people, to sit quietly and watch the world go by and slip into the lifestyle of the country you are visiting. A cheeky coffee is as much a part of a Skedaddle trip as a cheeky climb!
What are you having?
Different coffees suit different stages of the ride. For your pre-ride coffee or early coffee a café solo or caffé in Italy or café in France is best – taken short and black. Mid-ride a bit of sugar and extra water to make a longer coffee will help with both hydration and energy levels. Contrary to popular belief about coffee being a diuretic the fluid in coffee can add to your daily hydration levels so you can enjoy a long coffee during your ride, but top up on plain water also.
Keep your coffee black before or during cycling if you are concerned about your performance on the bike, or if you are prone to stomach upset, as the fatty nature of milk means it does not digest well whilst exercising. Milky coffee is ridiculed by many, Italian coffee drinkers would never order a milky coffee such as a cappuccino once breakfast has passed and never after a meal, but it has some benefit to the tired cyclist at the end of a ride. Not only will the caffeine perk you up but the proteins and fats in the milk will help your muscles to recover from the day’s exertions.
How does your coffee habit shape up?
400mg a day is the recommended safe amount. It’s 185mg for an espresso, 100mg in brewed coffee and 70mg for instant.