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.

New Year, New You

We’ve made the whole New Year, New You thing much more simple by coming up with just the one answer to all of the top ten New Year’s resolutions (according to a survey of over 2000 people). Can you guess what it is? Here goes:

1. Exercise more (38%)
Easy, cycling! The number one thing people say they want to do is exercise more. To be motivated to spend more time on one thing often means giving up something else you enjoy, even if that is boxsets on the couch, so it has to be fun. And in our experience of more than 20 years organising holidays, cycling is most definitely fun! Booking a cycling holiday doesn’t just get you on your bike during the trip itself but gives you motivation to get riding in preparation. Invariably you will come back from your adventure with even more desire to keep riding. We warn you now, regular cycling (and cycling holidays) can prove addictive!

Photo by David Bentley

2. Lose weight (33%)
Yes, cycling again comes out as the answer. If you only have 30 minutes to spare cycling is up there with swimming and running in the top ten calorie burners. 30 minutes of bike riding can be fitted into your day relatively easily if you cycle to work or to the shops instead of taking a car or public transport. Cycling is easier on your joints than running as it is non-load bearing and everyone can do it, regardless of how fit you are to start with. Riding at a high intensity for a short time, in terms of calorie burn at least, can help you lose as much weight as riding at a slow intensity for a longer period. Whichever approach you take riding your bike is a great route to weight loss.

3. Eat more healthily (32%)
Exercising actually helps you to want to eat more healthily so getting out on your bike, although it works up an appetite, also helps you to make better food choices. This is known as the transfer effect and has been studied extensively, making one good change to your lifestyle often prompts others. Ride your bike and eat well is the answer. We love a Skedaddle picnic. Good food makes you feel good and pedal faster!

Photo by Lighttrapper Photography

4. Take a more active approach to health (15%)
Health isn’t just something that happens to us. Yes, we can be lucky, or unlucky, with illness and disease but we can also do a lot to help ourselves by leading a healthy lifestyle. But you can’t buy health, even the most expensive gym membership won’t actually make you healthier, and we can’t promise you that a Skedaddle trip will either, but it will ensure you have a fun, active and healthy holiday which might just be the inspiration you need for other changes. Following steps 1,2 and 3 above will certainly set you on the right path.

5. Learn new skill or hobby (15%)
Well, this one is easy! Get on your bike. What we love about cycling is that you can do it in so many different ways; track riding, mountain biking, road cycling, gravel bikes even uni-cycling or tricyles!  There is a whole world of different one, two, or even three wheeled options out there, each with their own skills and fitness demands.  May be this is the year to give mountain biking a go and develop your off-road technical skills? Or make the leap from flat, easy bike rides to tackling your first Alpine col.

6. Spend more time on personal wellbeing (12%)
Spending time cycling isn’t just about exercise and weight loss, it has many far less tangible benefits. Cycling provides space for reflection and calm, there is an almost meditative quality to the repetition of pedals spinning and wheels turning. It allows you to put your troubles behind you for a while, and often on returning to work or home you find a fresh outlook and new solutions. Bike riding has been shown to benefit mental health in several ways, mental health charity Mind has many examples.

7. Spend more time with family and friends (12%)
Cycling is a great thing to do as a family or with friends. Exploring somewhere new together, helping each other and even a bit of gentle competition can help families bond. Cycling with Mum or Dad is the basis for many happy childhood memories. Riding bikes with your mates harkens back to adolescent days, and is still just as much fun now, especially now you can ride to the pub together! If your friends aren’t into cycling (yet) then a Skedaddle holiday will help introduce you to like-minded people, its not unusual for Skedaddlers who meet on a trip to carry on cycling together once back home.

8. Drink less alcohol (12%)
Well, this is a tough one as we do like a post-ride beer! We aren’t talking about giving up alcohol here but drinking less and yes, cycling can even help you do that. From experience cycling with a hangover is not much fun so knowing you have a long day on the bike ahead often reigns in the excess the night before. But nothing beats an ice-cold lager after a hot day on the bike.

9. Stop smoking (9%)
Getting healthier and giving up smoking often go hand in hand. Sometimes you only give something up when you want the alternative more, and that something could be as simple as wanting to be able to ride to the top of a hill without coughing and gasping for breath. Riding a bike won’t help you give up smoking, but it may make you want to give up smoking.

Photo by Lighttrapper Photography

10. Other (1%)
What else might people wish for in the New Year? Well here are a few other things cycling can do for you, just in case these were on your list:
Cycling is good for your sex life
Cycling can help you find true love
Faster cycling makes you more attractive
Get a better looking backside

Top 5 foods for cyclists (and why)

Food glorious food! On a cycling holiday you will be spending a good amount of time pedalling, so it is important to think about your fuelling strategy. Our guide and cycling journalist Hannah Reynolds gives hers top five food options to get you going and explains why you should reach for them before, during and after your ride…

1. Beetroot
Often found on the Skedaddle picnic table beetroots are great for more than just turning your wee pink. Regular beetroot juice has been shown to have a remarkable effect on cyclists, it enhances blood flow, increases muscle efficiency and extends your endurance. Drinking beetroot juice can make you faster in a 10km time trial, it may only be by 12 seconds but that is enough to win a medal instead of being a runner-up. Pretty impressive for a root vegetable.

To get the effect you need half a litre of beetroot juice a day, more than most of us would normally choose to consume, so for performance benefits professional athletes have concentrated shots. If you aren’t gunning for an Olympic medal just having beetroot in your salad still has many health benefits including reducing blood pressure and strengthening your gut health.

2. Bananas
Nature’s own energy bars. High in carbohydrate, easy to eat and digest, plus they come in their own handy packaging that doesn’t create waste or damage the environment. Bananas are the number one cycling food. They are perfectly balanced to replace the electrolytes lost through sweat, particularly potassium as well as providing 25g-30g of carbohydrate to supply energy to our cycling muscles.

Bananas are interesting in many ways, their GI (how quickly the sugar in the food absorbs into our blood stream) changes as they ripen. A green banana is more fibrous and has a lower GI, a brown banana has a much higher GI so releases its energy faster. Bananas are good for long rides and eating before a ride as other than the very brown ones they reduce energy steadily over time.

Don’t just eat bananas on your bike, the fibre in bananas called pectin helps to moderate your blood sugar levels and can reduce your appetite, making them a good snack between meals. They also make a great recovery food for after a ride, add them to a smoothie or eat one with a glass of milk.

3. Coffee
Not strictly a food but we can’t ignore the huge benefits, and pleasures, of a pre ride espresso. We all know a coffee helps us get going in the morning and keeps us awake when we are nodding off but when it comes to riding bikes it does even more. It increases alertness, as we know, but it also reduces perception of fatigue and discomfort. We feel less tired and cycling feels easier when we have had a coffee!

Over time our bodies can get used to the amount of caffeine we are using so to get a more effective coffee hit while cycling keeps your espresso habit for pre-ride treats and the café stop.

4. Dates
Dates are the natural fruit equivalent of scoffing Haribo or eating gels. They are incredibly sweet as they are 80% sugar so they fill your mouth with the sweet sticky sensation we sometimes crave and provide the carbohydrates you need for cycling. But unlike eating sugary sweets they also pack a high number of nutrients for good health. As with bananas they are high in potassium, also magnesium and copper which help to maintain a healthy nervous system and blood pressure.

The sugar in dates is usually glucose, fructose and traces of sucrose and maltose providing you get a quick burst of energy and also a slow release over an extended period of time. They are great for satisfying a sweet tooth when not cycling as the fibre in Medjool dates slows the rate at which the carbs can be digested, so you avoid spikes in blood sugar levels and energy remains more constant. You only need one or two dates at a time as they are so intensely sweet and energy dense.

5. Ice-cream (yes really)
After cycling, particularly if you are on a long trip and need to cycle again the next day, you need the right foods to help your body recover. The two priorities are carbohydrate and protein. There has been a lot of noise about why chocolate milk is the ultimate recovery drink, it contains a three-to-one ratio of carbohydrate grams to protein grams which appears to quickly replenish your body’s energy stores, as well as potassium, calcium and vitamin D. Chocolate milk is easy to digest ( for those who normally eat dairy) and it contains exactly the right balance of fast-absorbing proteins from the milk, such as whey protein for muscle growth and repair, and slow-absorbing proteins such as casein which gives your body protein building blocks to keep repairing over time.

However, these facts also apply to that holiday favourite – ice-cream – and what better way to round off a day in the saddle than licking a lovely big cone of your favourite flavour. Ice-cream slips down easily, even if you are feeling hot and tired at the end of the day, and helps give your body the fuel it needs without making you feel uncomfortably full.

12 pros and cons of using GPS

In our latest instalment of a series of handy two-wheeled tips written by cycling journalist and expert Hannah Reynolds, she gives us the low down on GPS navigation…

GPS, like so many things in our modern technological world, is a great tool but a poor master.

Riding with GPS has a whole host of benefits, the most critical being the sense of freedom and independence it affords you and the confidence that you are on the correct route. It won’t prevent you from getting lost, but it will help you know where the correct route is if you pay attention to it.

GPS devices vary wildly, as do the software programs used to route plan. Put the same route into three different programs and you will often get three different results for distance and altitude gain. At the end of a ride a group of cyclists may have altitude gains that are different by several hundred meters, even if they rode side-by-side all day.

This is mainly down to the way each device or program smooths out the data (and also how each user has their device set up), if your device records a point every 1 metre then the points on the maps are too unwieldy to process so the data might be smoothed to show every 5 metres, over a 100km ride this can create significant differences. If you don’t update your device’s firmware frequently it can also start to show errors.

Using your autopause function can change your data from someone else’s on the same ride as parts of the ride when you were slowing down can be eliminated. There is nothing more frustrating than finishing a 100km ride to see the upload actually reads 99km!

Who is the boss?
There are two powerful computers on your bike, your GPS device and your own brain, your brain is the most powerful and where responsibility lies. The mistake comes when people credit the GPS with too much of its own intelligence!

Even very intelligent and astute riders can switch off their own brain when handed a GPS, for instance the rider who claimed that they had ‘got lost’ in a tunnel because the GPS had lost satellite signal! If you start leaving all the decisions to the little box on the handlebars things can go wrong but take charge of it and be its boss and it can transform your cycling experience.

Pro: If you are on the purple line the guide and the rest of the group always know where you are, even if you are ahead or behind. If you have a problem, it is very easy for us offer assistance.

Con: You can become so fixated on the purple line that you are unable to relax and observe what is going on around you missing the sights, scenes and sounds that we ride our bike to experience.

Pro: Whilst GPS stats are not always accurate and vary from device to device it can help you to pace your effort and answers the question ‘how far to go?’ and ‘how long is this climb?’

Con: Following the line means you might not bother to check your location on a larger map. Without looking at a map for an over view of the region you are less aware of the context of your ride and geography of region you are travelling through. It is also more easy to get disorientated if you don’t have awareness of your surroundings.

Pro: Riding with a GPS gives you independence. You can ride at your own pace and stop when you want without feeling concerned that you will lose the rest of the group be being faster or slower.

Con: The purple line is great for navigation but it is a very narrow view point, without a look at the full over view of an area you could miss out on something just off the line. You may pass within metres of something you would have been interested in.

Con: Following the line on your GPS builds a dependency so you stop using your own common sense. If the purple line takes you down a dead end, over a cliff edge or onto a motorway the danger is you just follow it without thinking – “is this the right place for me to be riding my bike?”

Pro: A pre-loaded GPS saves time and worry as you are not checking your own navigation. It gives you confidence that you are on the right route and that the route has been well-designed to be safe, enjoyable and show you the best sights and scenery.

Con: A GPS is a great tool but it is not a guide, it will not carry your bags or give you interesting stories about where you are riding, feed you Haribo or offer encouragement. Thankfully on long-distance Skedaddle trips you get the best of both worlds with pre-loaded GPS and guides for our iconic journeys.

Con: Watching the screen can remove your attention from the road and traffic when at junctions, the time you need it most. Always ride safely and if you need to check navigation pull over to the side away from traffic till you know exactly where you need to go.

Pro: If you aren’t good at remembering instructions or reading maps it takes away a lot of pressure and allows you to just focus on enjoying riding your bike.

Con: It is easy to get very fixated on the stats and sometimes they are wrong. If you think the summit is 14km and its actually 14.5km that extra 500metres can feel like hell because you were preparing to finish 500m earlier. Stats and figures can detract from using ‘feel’ and just enjoying the ride and the scenery.

One final point…

Don’t forget to regularly recalibrate your device, this is essential if you want to record the most accurate data!

 Photos by Lighttrapper Photography