Category Archives: Hannah Reynolds Series

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.

7 kit bag essentials – do not leave home without them!

Let’s talk about your cycling kit! Or more importantly about what you should remember to pack with you when heading out for multiple days in the saddle according to cycling journalist Hannah Reynolds. It’s a great idea to use this as your pre-trip checklist!

Spares specific to your own bike…
Obviously you are not going to forget your bike, shoes, pedals and helmet (!) but it is also worth including any spares that are specific to your bike. These include items such as a replaceable rear mech hanger, spokes especially if yours are fancy bladed ones and brake pads. If you are riding a bike equipped with electronic shifting, then remember the charger and importantly the battery!

Chamois cream…
Even the most hardened of behinds (and most Skedaddle guides are in that category!) occasionally needs a little bit of extra soothing. On wet days, long days or even sweaty mountain days’ chamois cream can help provide a little bit of extra comfort and help to prevent saddle sores. There are loads to choose from but we like luxury chamois cream from Muc Off as it is full of natural ingredients, smells nice, is anti-bacterial and washes off your shorts easily at the end of the ride.

Enough socks…
Nothing feels better if you have got wet or cold than putting on clean dry socks. It barely matters what the rest of you is wearing as long as you have fresh socks on. Bring plenty, they take up hardly any space, so you can change them at lunchtime if needed. If you follow cycling fashion then you know that looking down to see socks that are bright, co-ordinate with your bike and show off your tan and calf muscles adds at least 5 watts to your power output –  #sockdoping.

Ear plugs…
Whether it is to drown out the snoring of your room-mate, cut out the laughter from the bar below or silence the cicadas when they are making a racket a set of ear plugs can make a real difference to your night’s sleep when you are staying somewhere unfamiliar.

Favourite ride treat…
Skedaddle guides are great at hunting out ride food in countries all over the world so you will be well-fueled for your ride, but if there is something that you absolutely have to have to get you through your day on the bike make sure you take it with you. We like dried fruit, nuts, marzipan, bananas, cake and Haribo and there will always be plenty of these but if you have a favourite brand of energy gel or sports drink that you like to stick to make sure you bring enough for your trip.

Dirty washing bag…
It is inevitable that you are going to build up a stash of stinky kit by the end of the trip, even if you try to wash it regularly. However, you don’t want it to impregnate the rest of your clean stuff with smells. Rinse your kit and let it dry completely before putting it into a dry bag, such as one of these from Sea to Summit which will keep the smells contained until you can get home. Be prepared to stand well back when opening it again!

Mesh bags…
If you are on tour, moving on to a different hotel each night, then you need to be able to find things and re-pack your bags quickly and efficiently. The more you unpack the more likely you are to leave things behind. Mesh bags are the easiest way to avoid kit bag explosions! Put your daily cycling kit in one, your wet/cold weather cycling gear in a separate one and your off-the-bike casual clothes in another. This way you can easily grab the items you need without having to pull everything out of your bag.  Try these colour coded stretch sacks from Osprey.

And what to put them in….

Big kit bag, small day bag…
Ideally you will have only two bags to think about when you are moving hotel every morning. One kit bag for all your clothes and wash kit and a day bag big enough for the essentials you will need whilst on your bike for example; sunscreen, flip flops and wet weather gear. Make sure you can fit everything in and close it securely so you don’t have any over spill.

If you are cramming all your clothes and kit in your bike bag or box don’t forget to include a lightweight kit bag, so you can keep all of your things together in the Skedaddle van. It’s embarrassing to check-in to a hotel clutching handfuls of carrier bags! Two good options are a nylon duffle bag  weighing just 620g or a super-light large dry bag; both are from Alpkit and won’t take you over your weight limit or take up much space.

Seven Stages of a Guided Cycling Holiday

It’s time for the next (and probably our favourite so far) instalment of a series of handy two-wheeled tips brought to you by our guide and former Cycling Weekly Fitness Editor Hannah Reynolds! Here are seven common stages Skedaddlers go through before, during and after being away on a guided cycling holiday with us…

Stage 1: Decision making

Peruse the Skedaddle website like a kid in a sweet-shop. So many places to ride your bike and every picture is filled with sunshine and smiling cyclists. Do you go for the hills and delicious foods of Tuscany? The historic roads of France, touched by the wheels of professional cyclists? Is it the relaxed vibes of Spain and plates of tapa that attract you or do you want to challenge yourself on the big mountains of the Alps, Pyrenees or even Colombia?

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One destination catches at you more than the others, your imagination is sparked. In your mind you are already flying along on your bike, sun on your face and wind at your back. Shake yourself from your daydream and phone the Skedaddle office for a chat.

Stage 2: Anticipation

Your holiday is booked, you have sorted the logistics of how you are getting to the arrival point and whether you are taking your own bike or hiring a Skedaddle trusty steed. Now is the time to iron out your last minute concerns ‘how big are the hills? Do I have the right gears? How should I pack my bike bag? Will I be the oldest? Am I fit enough?’, the patient Skedaddle staff answer all your questions assuring you that these are questions they hear from most people on most trips!

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Pack your bags and treat yourself to some new kit for the trip, even if it is just a pair of cycling socks.

Stage 3: Bonding

Arriving at the airport you start looking around for other potential cyclists; ‘ooh he’s got a bike box, is he on my trip? Oh look they have a cycling T-shirt on. I think that guy shaves his legs, they look really smooth. Am I really staring at a stranger’s calf muscles?’ Thankfully you spot your Skedaddle guide who corrals the random gaggle of strangers into a group, makes introductions, grabs the bags and directs you all to the transport. Conversation in the van is subdued and polite, mainly focused on the journey so far, but gradually it moves onto some cycling chat and things start to get livelier.

Meeting for your first evening meal you wonder if it looks bad that you’ve gone for a pint instead of a half, after all you do have a bike to ride in the morning, but then the person next to you starts discussing the wine list and before long everyone is chatting and talking across each other.

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Stage 4: Trip Bubble

By lunch time on day two you will be well ensconced within the trip bubble. Your group are now close knit friends with their own jokes (often at the expense of the guide). Nicknames will be developing (in fact you might never use their ‘real’ names again after intros on day one) and you’ll be recognising your fellow riders by helmet, bike and jerseys as much as their faces.

Your day will now start with putting on your Lycra and your routine established into a simple pattern; breakfast, ride bike, coffee stop, ride bike, picnic, ride bike, cold beer, wash kit, dinner, sleep. Life on the road becomes very simple.

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Your biggest concerns are whether the climb comes before or after your coffee stop, whether your guide has bought enough bananas and who ate all the cola bottles from the Haribo pick-and-mix. Oh, and how cold the beer is at the end of the day and whether the hotel has a pool.

Stage 5: Challenge and achievement

Did we mention the C word? Everyone is going to encounter at least one ‘cheeky climb’ on a trip, on some trips there will be many! Everyone approaches the first climb of the trip with trepidation, even those who are very fit and strong. It is the first test; has your training paid off? Will you make it to the top? Can you do it without stopping? Will you be first or last? The truth is no one knows until the first climb has been tackled.

You learn to interpret Skedaddle guide speak; ‘this one is a bit cheeky’ – its short, a bit steep and it going to challenge you, if your guide says it is ‘tough’ you know it will be. As a group you support those who are nervous and cheer for them as they appear at the top. You learn the difference between drags and climbs, between hills and mountains. With the encouragement of your guide and a van full of cold water and Haribo sweets to bribe and cajole, you slowly but surely reach the top.

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As the trip goes on you recalibrate what you find a challenge. After a few days you find yourself saying, ‘well that wasn’t too bad’ and ‘worth it for the view’. Climbs that on day one would have daunted you are now a piece of cake, just a little aperitif to build up an appetite!

Stage 6: Separation and Denial

You reach your final destination of the trip, corks fly and bubbles are drunk. You flex your pleasantly tired legs, now complete with cyclist’s tan and rippling muscles not there at the start of the holiday and climb off your bike for the final time. The bikes are packed away into their boxes for travel. Your trusty hire bike stripped of your saddle and pedals is loaded into the van to wait for its next rider.

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Dinner is a final chance to reminisce, stories are told, photographs shared and contact details exchanged. Those without an early flight to catch wander off into the darkness to explore the possibility of finding a local night club, seeing as they don’t have to ride bikes tomorrow.

Breakfast the next morning is subdued, no one is in Lycra! Where the morning before there had been a cohesive band of cyclists today there are only organised travellers in civilian clothes towing suitcases ready to head in their different directions. Hands are shaken and good-byes said but already thoughts are turning to time tables and take off times, and the heap of stinking washing in the kit bag.

Stage 7: Looking to the future

The holiday is over and its back to normality, after days on the road at first you enjoy the comfort and pleasure of home. Finding clothes in a wardrobe instead of fishing around in your kit bag but putting on proper clothes instead of cycling kit feels strange and your plain bowl of cereals is not as exciting as the hotel breakfast buffet.

Instead of working through the pile of missed emails you start your first day back in the office uploading photos to the group’s Dropbox folder, desperately clinging onto the last feel-good vibes of your trip away. Despite a full in-box you ignore emails from your co-workers but immediately reply to anyone who had been on your trip or anything with the subject line ‘cycling’ or ‘holiday’. You compare notes on how you would much rather be riding your bike in the sunshine than sat at work, bemoan the poor quality of coffee and snacks available compared to on the trip.

Start discussing your next destination with the new friends you have made. Look up the trips mentioned by your guide who seems to have ridden their bike in every interesting and sunny destination in the world. Casually download some trip notes, even though you aren’t actually planning on booking anything just yet and you aren’t sure how much holiday you have available. Check calendar just in case you do have some extra free time you had forgotten about. Phone Skedaddle office for a chat, enquire about a couple of different trips, find out they are nearly guaranteed. Put in your application for holiday.

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Feeling inspired? Check out our full range of cycling holidays on our website to embrace that Stage 1!

A breakfast for cycling champions

Here’s our fifth instalment of a series of handy two-wheeled tips written by cycling journalist Hannah ReynoldsThis week she talks about what makes a good cycling breakfast and how it is different around the world…

Eating a good breakfast will fuel your day of cycling and help you to feel fitter and stronger.

One of the great joys of a cycling holiday is the food, particularly if you are pedalling in a different country to your home. You can relax and relish new dishes you may not have tried before and with a full day of cycling you can eat and drink without guilt!

Our mothers were right, breakfast is one of the most important meals of the day, particularly when you are on a cycling trip. At home we get used to same monotonous meals every morning; porridge, cereal, toast but on a trip you will be offered a whole host of different foods for your breakfast. Different cultures also put different emphasis on breakfast, many skipping it in favour of a mid-morning snack. This can feel strange if you are used to starting the day with a large meal, but we can guarantee a light breakfast has never slowed down Italian or Spanish cyclists! Here are typical cycling breakfasts from some of the many destinations Skedaddle visits.

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What makes a good cycling breakfast?
Fluids – If you are cycling in a hot country make sure you start drinking with your breakfast as you will have become dehydrated through the night.

Carbohydrate – Slower releasing carbohydrates ensure that your energy levels stay topped up for longer. Whilst porridge is a main-stay for UK cyclists you can also try rice, beans and some fruits or vegetables.

Protein – A little bit of protein helps you to feel fuller for longer and when you are cycling day after day is important for maintaining your muscles.

Caffeine – Not essential but nearly every culture in the world has some form of caffeinated drink to help wake them up in the morning!

When in UK…
Most places you stay will offer you the ‘full English’ or ‘full Scottish’ once you are north of the border. Fry-ups have a poor reputation but a cooked breakfast doesn’t have to be a bad start to the day. Select a few items instead of ‘the works’, eggs poached or scrambled instead of fried are a great protein source, tomatoes and baked beans increase your fruit and veg intake and granary toast is a good way to get slow release carbohydrates.

Scottish accommodations might offer your smoked salmon and scrambled egg on toast, a winner as far as healthy breakfasts are concerned thanks to the healthy fats in the salmon.

When in France – Petit déjeuner…
Breakfast in France is generally very simple compared with the rest of the day’s food options with many people skipping breakfast and opting for a mid-morning pastry and coffee instead. A coffee and pain au chocolat on its own will leaving you buzzing with caffeine and sugar but could see you running out of gas mid-way up the first climb.

In many French homes breakfast will be little more than bread, jam and coffee. Hotels however will offer breads, cheeses, cold meats, jams and preserves and of course croissants. You may get a boiled egg or yoghurts and almost always there will be fresh fruit. If you go easy on the pastries but make sure you eat some of the more savoury items and fruit as well then your protein and carb needs will be taken care of until picnic time!

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When in Spain – Desayuno…
Spanish aren’t hugely keen on breakfast first thing but will eat a bit more around mid-morning. A typical food to start the day off is pan con tomate – bread rubbed with the pulp of fresh tomatoes a bit of garlic and olive oil. It is simple but the fantastic olive oil and ripe tomatoes means it is bursting with flavour, vibrant and colourful. A little bit of meat or cheese might be added to this if you need some extra substance. Tortilla, omelette with potato and onion might also be served cold.

In Spain you are also allowed to enjoy cake for breakfast with little magdalenas often served with coffee. Churros are long donuts, sprinkled in sugar while still hot and then dipped into thick, rich hot chocolate. Delicious at any time of day and a favourite street food for the night owls on their way home in the early hours of the morning.

When in Italy – Colazione…
Italy is another country famed for its cuisine who opts to take it easy at the breakfast table. With larger meals at lunch time than we are used to in the UK Italians are reputed to go to work on nothing more than a coffee and a cigarette and it may not be that far from the truth!

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Breakfast is the only time it is really acceptable to drink your coffee milky, accompany it with bread or pastries and you have a fairly typical breakfast, that would often be eaten at the counter of a bar or bakery on the way to work. If you are asking for coffee avoid saying ‘Americano’ even if you want a long black coffee, in most instances asking for this will get you a jug of filter coffee that has been left to stew. Freshly made Italian coffee is one of the perks of a trip to Italy.

When in Costa Rica – Desayuno…
Breakfasts in Costa Rica are proper meals with vegetables, rice, beans, meat and fish on the menu. Delicious fresh fruits such as bananas and pineapple are freely available and the perfect way to round of your meal. Gallo Pinto is the most common dish for breakfast, although you may get different variations the key ingredients are scrambled egg, rice mixed with beans and stir fried plantain. This is one of the healthiest and generous breakfasts you can get with a great combination of slow release carbohydrates, protein, fibre and vitamins from the fresh fruit. If you are more used to a coffee and croissant type of breakfast this larger meal may seem unusual but as the day heats up, you will feel less inclined to eat a big meal at lunchtime.

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