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Skedaddle Twaddle about Lifestyle

How to get fit for your cycling holiday

Here’s our second installment of a series of handy two-wheeled tips written by cycling journalist Hannah Reynolds, offering advise on everything from nutrition to cycling technique.

Hannah 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. Now, let’s jump into this weeks topic, which is all about getting fit for your upcoming cycling holiday…

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Getting fit for your cycling holiday will help you to make the most of the trip and have more fun!

Once you have booked your cycling holiday it’s time to think about preparing yourself for it. The fitter you are the more enjoyment you will get out of each day’s ride; you will have more energy in the evenings for sight-seeing and enjoying the local cuisine and you will recover better overnight ready for the next day.

Getting fitter doesn’t have to mean an arduous and serious training plan. For most cycling holidays specific training isn’t necessary however ensuring the daily distances are well within your capabilities will mean that you remain fresh enough to enjoy the stunning scenery and interesting culture around you. The first step is as simple as spending a bit more time on your bike.

Distance
Find out the typical distance you will be expected to ride day to day on your trip. If this is not a distance you are already comfortable doing on a regular basis, then it’s time to build up your mileage. Try adding as little as 10% to the distance of your longest ride once a week so that over 6-8 weeks you can cover the full distance. You don’t have to be able to ride it all in one go as on a trip there will be regular stops and of course the infamous Skedaddle picnic.

Day to Day riding
When you are on a cycling holiday the challenge is riding comfortably day after day. Once you are used to the daily distances it is worth getting in some practice doing back to back rides. One easy way to incorporate this into your week is to cycle to work. The distances don’t have to be the same as you will do on the tour but it will help your body, brain and bottom to get used to sitting on a saddle and pedalling several days in a row. If you are short on time you will improve your fitness more with several regular short rides a week instead of just one long one.

Comfort
We’ve already mentioned your bottom, saddle discomfort is no joke, making sure you have decent padded cycling shorts and your bike is correctly fitted should prevent any pains in this area. Regular riding will help you to get used to your position on the bike and strengthen your muscles, particularly those of your torso, neck and shoulders which can start to ache after a long day’s ride if you are not used to your cycling position. Learning some stretches for cyclists can also help during your preparation and whilst on your holiday.

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Hills
There are few cycling trips where you can avoid hills altogether (and for those who seek pancake flat riding, we recommend you check out our Holland trips) but climbs are not to be feared, the stronger you are the more you can enjoy them. Believe it or not, some cyclists even deliberately seek out the toughest climbs on our mountain challenges. You can prepare yourself for hills even if you live somewhere completely flat, the key is to pedal continuously at an effort level that leaves you feeling slightly out of breath. If someone asked you a question you would only be able to answer with one or two words at a time. To accustom your legs to the strain of pushing up a gradient use a harder gear and a slower cadence of around 60 rpm, so you do one complete revolution of the pedals per second.

Health
Slowly building up your cycling fitness with regular rides before your trip is much better than jumping in at the deep end with a full week of riding if you are not used to it. It also gives you a chance to find out what foods and drinks you enjoy whilst you are cycling to fuel your ride. Don’t forget, it’s important that you learn to drink plenty of fluids while on your bike, particularly if your trip is in a hot climate.

TOP 5 SKEDADDLE TIPS:
– Build up the distance of your long ride by no more than 10% per week.
– Short rides done regularly is better for your fitness than the occasional really long ride.
– Ride back to back days to get used to life on tour.
– Learn some stretching and strengthening exercises.
– Practice riding for 5-20 minutes at an effort level where you are slightly out of breath.

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Bike maintenance tips from our expert

We’re always eager to help you make the most of your holidays, so, if your trusty steed hasn’t seen the light of day for a few months now, fear not! We have caught up with our chief guide, Steve Woods, to find out his top tips for getting your bike pedal-ready:

Clean your bike
Advice: Cleaning your bike is a very important start to the season and helps you get to know your bike again. It will help spot any problems that have built up over winter.
Top tip: Cut off the top of a plastic water bottle. Fill it with a water-based degreaser, like Green oil bike cleaner, and place it in your seat-tube bottle cage (for easy access). Use a paintbrush to apply the degreaser to the chain. Finish by holding a soapy sponge around the chain and turning the cranks. Hose off the excess and let it dry.

Checking the tyres
Advice: Tyres bear the brunt of the action when cycling so it’s essential to keep them well maintained.
Top tip: First deflate the tyre and nip the side walls together with your fingers; this will help to see perishing, which is a typical first sign of wear on a tyre’s sidewall. Ultraviolet rays in sunlight and the chemicals in cleaning products are just two factors that can cause the sidewall to degrade. Don’t forget to reinflate to the correct tyre pressure, which can be found on the side walls.

Check for debris 
Advice: Most punctures are caused by debris – thorn, glass, flint – and if you don’t find and remove this object, it will pierce a tube.
Top tip: Complete a visual check of your tyres after the winter season and before every ride, looking for small slashes that may allow a small stone or a piece of glass to work through the carcass of the tyre to the inner tube. The offending items can be removed by any pointed object, but take care to ensure you do not cause further damage to the tyre.

Take care of the chain
Advice:  The chain is one of the most important parts of a bicycle, but it’s often overlooked.
Top tip: Too much lube will attract dirt and grime, which wears out your drivetrain. A good test is to wipe your finger on your chain. It should come away with just a small amount of oil.

Take care of that frame
Advice: 
Keeping your frame in tip-top shape doesn’t require a ton of work, but likely a little more than you think.
Top tip: Every third or fourth wash, give your frame and fork a layer of car wax. I like Meguiar’s Cleaner Wax. It restores the paint’s luster and keeps road tar, bugs, and muck from sticking.

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Some final wise words from our chieftain…
Ride new roads once in a while, bust out a map and go explore! The variety will help you stay engaged and may lead to some exciting new discoveries. And take your mind off those “cheeky climbs”.

Remember, the pro-cyclists you saw swooping around France in July didn’t always have those wiry calves and ninja-like reflexes. At some point, they all had to learn how to train smart and even how to shift gears. While only a select few of you will ever take in the view from a top podium, we can all rejoice in the fact that no cycling skill is impossible to master. So just start steady and enjoy your cycling.

Keen to join us on two wheels this year? Click here for our full range of exciting cycling holidays.

Café culture. Why cyclists love the café stop

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…

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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!

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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.