Here’s my first blog entry for 2016. Back in October 2015, the Missus and I had a 4 week European Holiday that included a few days in London. I spent more than a few hours visiting a list of bike shops and scooping up bargains were I could find them. One of the best shops was a café that I used to frequent when I lived in London. In fact, I can remember when it opened in 2010. Tired of really crappy coffee offered by Starbucks, Costa and Café Nero, I was becoming quite desperate for a decent Australian style latte or flat white.
Fortunately, ‘Look Ma No Hands’ opened up and offered much better coffee crafted by staff that had a much better understanding of their expresso machine. The shop had free wifi, a sunny aspect and a fledgling bicycle workshop. Also, it showed old 70’s & 80’s TV coverage of the grand tours and monuments. It was mainly frequented by students and bicycle couriers with the occasional suited trespasser like me.
So when I dragged my footsore wife from Old Street Tube Station to the there in late October 2015, it was with fond memories and quiet hope that it hadn’t changed much over. I checked out the Café’s website and it seemed very promising. Happily, reality for once matched the glamour and gloss of website. The café was full of people viewing a crowd sourcing pitch for short film about how cycling was helping a young man get the better of his clinical depression.
The coffee was much better than I remembered it and we spent a lazy 45 minutes soaking up the vibe and trying on shop branded merchandise. I purchased a short sleeve jersey and cap. Both have been given a few test rides and have passed the ‘marv’ test with flying colours. Its kind of cool to own a jersey that no one in Melbourne has or at least I haven’t seen on the back of another rouleur around my locale.
So to quote ‘Molly’ Meldrum and that irritating TV ad that’s on high rotation at the moment, when you are next in London ‘Do your self a favour’ and visit one of the great cycling cafes in the UK, Look Ma No Hands.
I can’t imagine going for a ride without having a good coffee before and after the event. I would class myself as a functional addict, although my wife may dispute the “functional” part of that description. Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant of the methylxanthine class of psychoactive drugs. It is the world’s most widely consumed psychoactive drug and unlike most other psychoactive drugs, it is completely legal. The actual caffeine molecule looks the picture below.
Regardless, it’s the magical properties of caffeine, to ward off tiredness, that makes it the average office workers and cyclist’s best friend. It’s also been proven assist fat oxidation and reduce glycogen depletion. Both of which are very useful for the long distance cyclist.
The downside is that it is a diuretic and can cause dehydration. For that reason, it’s been treated suspiciously by anti-doping authorities who regard it as a masking agent for other performance enhancing drugs. Too much of the stuff results in overstimulation with anxiety and rapid heart heat. So it’s worth not overdoing it. While the UCI don’t ban the drug, the IOC still do.
I can remember Alex Watson, the Australian pentathlete, who found himself turfed out the Seoul Olympics in 1988 for imbibing way too much of the stuff and the tough battle he had to clear his name. At present the UCI allows up to 12 micro grams of caffeine in a litre of urine. WADA has been lobbying UCI to ban caffeine, which no doubt irritate many cyclists. To get above that level, you would need to have about 6 cups of instant coffee or 10 expressos to hit that level.
So for those of you that are serious competitive cyclists, keeping an eye on your intake is a sensible approach, lest sharing the same fate at Alex Watson. Here’s a list of drinks that contains caffeine that a cyclist should be aware of:
Milligrams per a cup
80 – 90
Can of Cola
100 to 200
I haven’t bothered with the energy drinks that may or may not give you wings, as I don’t consider those to be drinkable 😉