Coffee - The Life Blood of Cyclists

It seems that every cyclist I know is in love with the dark aromatic drink. Coffee. What is it that makes us love this bean-based drink so much?

Is it the caffeine kick we crave to keep our legs spinning? The warming feeling when you are getting ready to brave the elements? Or, is it just tradition, and part of a long running café culture for our sport?

In this post, I take a look at the natural stimulant that makes so many of us tick. I try to identify what it is that really makes coffee as valuable as liquid gold, for many two-wheeled enthusiasts.



Stimulate the mind

We cyclists like to see ourselves as a hardy bunch, often rising at the crack of dawn to train throughout the year.

Those brisk winter mornings are often a struggle. Plucking up enough will-power and strength to pull heavy legs from beneath the duvet, and get them turning the crank-arms, can be a challenge.

A fresh coffee provides a unique source of motivation. Warming you from the inside, it stimulates the mind to be alert as you skid round those icy corners by the farmyard, and get out of the saddle on the first climb.

For me, a coffee before a ride is almost mandatory. It is as important as any energy drink or bar that I pop in my jersey pocket.





Performance enhancement

Significant research [link] has been undertaken into the beneficial effects of caffeine, before and during exercise.

In general, the consensus is that caffeine has a positive effect on performance, especially in endurance sports of more than 30 minutes.

There has been research that has suggested that the benefits may be lost in very hot climates, when the increase in core temperature has an adverse effect. But, for most athletes, coffee is a good pre-ride supplement, along with a bowl of porridge and a banana.

As the body becomes more accustomed to the effects of caffeine the stimulating benefits do begin to depreciate, yet the pleasure and psychological gains remain. There are few cyclists that will discourage a coffee pre-ride, and probably even less that will turn down a steaming espresso mid-ride.




Café culture and The Continent

Although the British are now pretty good at cycling, anyone that has been to France, Spain, Italy, The Netherlands, or Belgium, will vouch that the real heritage of the sport lies with our continental counterparts. Similarly, although many Brits love coffee, it was the Dutch traders that first brought the black-bean to our shores.

Coffee is undeniably European in nature. So too is the café culture that has sprung up around the sport of cycling.

Many bike clubs now have a Sunday morning café-run. The café stop provides a chance to rest your legs mid-ride, as you sip espresso and enjoy a slice of cake. We can thank our continental cousins for that match made in heaven.

For me, nothing compares to the pleasure gained from an espresso and a patisserie, before climbing a legendary col.




Part of cycling life

I started this post thinking that I might be able to narrow down what it is about coffee that I love so much, and what makes it part of the oxygen rich blood pumping round many cyclists' veins.

Yet, I don't think I can narrow it down. Coffee is quite simply a part of cycling in so many ways.

Coffee seems as important to cycling as chain oil. As embedded in its heritage as is the iconic Brooks England saddle. Without it, not only would many cyclists not be able to function as well, but we also wouldn't gain as much pleasure from our sport.

So, for that reason, go make yourself a steaming coffee. Embrace the tradition, and mull over how many of your special cycling memories are in some way linked to the dark and aromatic drink.




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