They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and that couldn’t be more true when it preludes a five hour ride on a frosty winter’s morning. Lunchtime is usually come and gone by the time you return home hungry and exhausted, so you need some serious fuel in the tank before setting off.
It’s no secret that porridge makes for the perfect cyclist’s breakfast; it’s got all that low GI slow-energy release stuff, sustaining you well through the morning, and it provides some welcome warmth before stepping out into the cold. And it’s cheap, offering far more healthy nourishment for the pound than any other breakfast cereal on the supermarket shelves (most of which are horribly over processed, and over priced). Yet, porridge can also become a joyless stodgy glop that’s a chore to force down if you don’t get it right.
In these austere times cycling can start to become a burden on your finances – club runs at £25, the privilege of riding local roads with some red arrows painted on the ground for £28, or being persuaded by ‘helpful’ club mates to try latex inner tubes only for them to last half a race before puncturing (equating to about 70km for £8, or 8.75p per km). I suppose you could put this all down to inflation (4.4%!) but that would just be the makings of a poor inner tube related pun.
Fortunately there are many areas of cycling life where it’s possible to make savings – I’ve previously covered thrifty solutions to chamois cream, embrocation and recovery snacks. Now I turn my penny-pinching attention to energy drinks.
Some of you may have laboured under the illusion that water is a satisfactory source of hydration, but being a free and widely available commodity this is not something either myself, the cycling media or the cycling industry can endorse. If it hasn’t got a little picture of a man on a bicycle on the packaging and is exclusively available only from specialist suppliers, then I’m afraid it’s not suitable for the serious cyclist.
Fortunately there is a third way. Jim Ley, club run hero and previous contributor to this blog, has put together a recipe of powders that can be mixed together and then added to water – homebrew energy drinks if you will.
Think of it as like buying components for your bike, but rather than relying on the bike shop to do the mechanical work, you grapple with spanners and allen keys and sort it yourself. In addition to frugality, this approach allows you to customise your recipes, add specific ingredients, and then tell anyone who’ll listen about why off the shelf products aren’t suitable for a serious endurance athlete (such as yourself). In short, it’s yet another opportunity to indulge your racing cyclist’s superiority complex and to sneer at Sportivists still paying through the nose for overpriced drinks.
Both these recipes work out at under £5 for 1kg – which equates to about the third of the price of SiS, Torq, High5, Lucozade and various others.
Photograph of Cancellara and the Leopard-Trek boys spotted over at Bianchista
Cycling is not just a sport, but for its participants (and some of those don’t even participate very often) it’s a whole lifestyle too. A lifestyle primarily modelled upon a fictional vision of continental café culture and what it means to be a Euro Pro; perfecting sartorial elegance whilst in the saddle, training at speeds slow enough in order to check your look in shop windows, and supping espressos with your riding chums in a sleepy village piazza.
Unfortunately our aspirations rarely match up to the reality; drinking coffees from Costa in the grey drizzle of Croydon town centre with portly gentlemen in lycra is hardly living the dream.
You can’t do much about the drizzle or unglamorous riding companions, but fortunately it is possible for you, with a bit of effort, to recreate that authentic Euro coffee experience. The Kingston Wheeler’s own gourmet and coffee aficionado Richard ‘Zorro’ Walden (a man regularly spotted commuting to work in full white Italian national champions kit – credentials that speak for themself) guides you through the process…
The gold standard
Cycling and coffee go hand in hand like, well, cycling and coffee. Whether it’s the double espresso buzz before your training ride or a social cappuccino while kicking back with fellow club mates, coffee is the perfect accompaniment to any kind of ride.
But do cyclists really take their coffee seriously enough? The proliferation of high street chains marketing themselves as ‘coffee experts’ or ‘authentically Italian’, but then utilising lazy and slapdash methods has created a very low bar for the general public’s perception of how good coffee should be prepared and more importantly, how it should taste. In reality they are miles away from delivering you the equivalent of a hand crafted Colnago in a cup.
Sticky, sickly sweet, overpriced… Who hasn’t had a long, otherwise pleasurable, ride marred by the claggy-mouth of too much energy drink, or suffered the jittery after effects of sucking down caffeine-addled gunk in the heat of a race?
With all these energy ‘foods’ tasting so awful – and often producing various unwanted side-effects – it’s a wonder why we continue to buy them. But like many other products designed to improve our performance on a bike, the marketing men have discovered the cyclists’ Achilles’ heel – fear of failure.
There seems to be a general myth that bike racers are perpetually fretting about their weight, and what foods to allow into their finely balanced bodies. Admittedly that’s probably true to an extent, but there are those of us whose problem is not avoiding foods, but trying to get enough of it.
During periods of heavy training or racing it can become a chore trying to consume enough fuel to keep going. And for us skinny climbers we haven’t got a whole lot of resources to call upon when too few calories are hitting the system.
When getting home from a hard ride the last thing I want to do is fiddle about in the kitchen preparing something complicated. But then again, a frozen pizza isn’t going to fill the massive whole in my belly either! So this recipe is great – full fat, no holds barred, and easy to prepare in advance. A vegetarian version can be made by leaving out the pancetta and swapping the mascarpone for Gorgonzola.