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.

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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Benefits of riding clipped-in to your pedals

In our forth instalment of the Hannah Reynold’s series, we talk about clipless pedals. Some fear them, others swear by them. Here Hannah looks at benefits, risks and options of riding clipped-in to your pedals…

A secure connection between your shoes and your pedals can make cycling feel easier so before your next trip get to grips with clipless pedals.

One of the first things to clear up about clipless pedals, and a source of confusion for many, is why they are called clipless when you ‘clip-in’ to them. Bike pedals originally had toe-clips and straps but in 1984 a ski-bindings company called Look decided to apply the same technology to bike shoes, allowing cyclists to use a cleat on the sole of their shoes to ‘clip-in’ to the mechanism in their pedals. Toe clips and straps were made redundant so the ‘clipless’ pedal was born.

When you first consider using clipless pedals the idea of attaching yourself firmly to your bike can seem a little bit rash. Some people worry about what will happen if they can’t get their feet out in time or if they crash. Compared with the old style toe clips, clipless pedals are in many ways safer. To release your shoe, it just requires a firm twist of your foot and if you were to crash the pedals automatically release making it much less likely that you will remain attached to your bike which could result in greater injury. The only risk when you are learning is the slow motion sideways fall, normally a result of having forgotten that you are still clipped in and we have all been there, even the pros.

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Being clipped into your pedals will help you feel more at one with the bike. Your feet are less likely to slip off as you pedal or shift your weight around. Being clipped into your pedals allows you to pedal more fluidly as your pedals and cranks become an extension of your body. At the end of a long day in the saddle people who have ridden clipped-in to their pedals often feel less fatigue in their legs because the pedal stroke is more smooth.

Riding clipped in you can feel the terrain and grip of your tyres through your feet and by pushing weight down through the pedals you can use small adjustments of your bodyweight to help steer and control your bike. If you are mountain-biking and haven’t fully mastered the skill of bunny hopping being clipped in allows you to cheat a little bit in getting your wheels of the ground.

On steep terrain, on or off-road, when you are pedaling slowly, being clipped in allows you to pull up on the pedals to keep even power transfer throughout your pedal stroke and maintain your momentum and traction. When you sprint or accelerate hard you also pull up on the pedal forcefully which is hard to do if you aren’t clipped in.

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Things to consider
If you decide to take the plunge and give clipless pedals a try the first thing to consider is the type of riding you are doing. Mountain bike pedals are dual sided, so you can clip in to either side of the mechanism. Dual-sided pedals are also useful when you are first learning. Some pedals such as Shimano DX have a wide, flat cage around the pedals so it is easy to locate the pedal and your foot remains stable even if not fully engaged with the mechanism. These can be really useful on technical terrain or if you like to take your foot off the pedal to dab.

If you are on a leisure trip and likely to get off your bike to wander around the village and visit a café (let’s face it – who doesn’t?) then touring or mountain bike shoes with recessed cleats are brilliant as you are still able to walk with ease.

Road pedals such as the popular Shimano SPD SL are single-sided with a broad platform and large cleats for a firm connection. They can be a bit trickier to get used to and are designed for long road climbs, high-power sprints and fast cadences. They can feel a bit stiffer to get in and out of than mountain bike pedals, but most pedals have adjustable tension so you can increase it as you gain confidence. Road shoes are altogether sleeker to look at than mountain bike shoes, they have super stiff soles and no tread as they are not designed to be walked in. If you are on a road cycling holiday a set of cleat covers can be handy to keep in your back pocket to help protect the cleats from wear.

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Ask in your local bike shop about how to set up your cleats as it is important that you align them correctly to protect your knees and in order to pedal smoothly.

If you are using clipless pedals for the first time give them a go before you go on your trip so you are confident and happy with them before you travel.

Check out our full holiday range to inspire your next cycling adventure! When in doubt, be sure to give us a call and our friendly team can help you choose your perfect cycling holiday, as well as chat you through clipped-in riding options.

Ride, Rinse, Repeat – how to keep your kit clean during multi-day cycling trips

In the third instalment of our Hannah Reynold’s serieswe look at the age old dilemma of trying to keep your kit clean whilst traveling by bike. Read for squeaky-clean kit advice

Cycling every day of your holiday means washing a lot of cycling shorts. Here are our tips for getting the job done quickly so there is more time to relax and explore.

Wearing clean shorts every day of your trip is essential; not only will it help you to look and smell good it is the most important step in avoiding the dreaded saddle sores! Few of us can carry enough shorts to last a whole trip so washing them is inevitable but it needn’t be a chore.

Shower or sink
A super quick technique is to jump in your shower still wearing your kit. Lather up some soap and rub it over the outside of your kit before stripping it off and lathering the inside paying particular attention to the pad inside your shorts. Wash yourself and let the soap you have used rinse through your garments and then give them an extra good rinse with the shower head. Gently wring out the water and stick them in the sink to drain.

I have been doing this for years and even the experts agree with me that it works! Simona Febbi – R&D Textiles Officer at Assos, makers of very fine and very expensive kit, told me “using what you have available is better than leaving your shorts sweaty, even entering the shower with your garments on and rinsing them is a good compromise. Ordinary bar soap is ok to use. Kit can also be washed by hand, if a label says wash as 30 degrees this can be done by hand. Our body is 35.5 degrees so we need to use water that feels cold, if it feels warm to your hand it is already more than 30 degrees.”

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Washing liquid or plain soap
The product you use to wash your best cycling kit needs to be very mild otherwise it can damage technical materials. Your Lycra will become baggy, its colour will fade and any technical coatings will be removed. You should never use fabric conditioner as this destroys the breathability and wicking properties.

Plain bar soap, conveniently provided by most hotels, will do the job absolutely fine and is much better for your kit than cheap biological detergents. However if you are really protective of your expensive cycling outfits then specialist wash such as Halo Sports Wash, Assos Active Wear Cleanser or Odo Revive will look after the technical fabrics as well as being anti-bacterial to ensure that no bad smells follow you around on your next ride.

Drying your kit
When packing for a trip the best plan is a minimum of two pairs of shorts so you can alternate them just in case they don’t fully dry out overnight. Lycra dries fast but you can help it along by squeezing out most of the water before hanging them up, however to keep your kit in good condition you should avoid wringing or twisting fabrics.

My favourite technique is to lay out the bath towel on the floor, after you have dried yourself, then arrange all your kit on it. Roll the towel up and then walk up and down on it so you are pressing the water out of your clothes into the towel. Think of it like treading grapes!

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Drying Lycra is easy in a hot country but do consider your neighbours and the hotel owner. There is a belief that drying your shorts chamois pad outwards in direct sunshine can help to kill bacteria but be sensitive about where you hang up your undergarments! We were once asked to make sure that everyone in the hotel dried their kit out of sight and that shorts were turned inward so no offensive chamois pads were on display!

Eager to put these top tips to the test? Check out our holiday range to inspire your next cycling adventure.