Drink coffee, ride faster

A question that many cyclists have asked: how much coffee must you drink to ride faster and further? Years of studies by dozens of scientists have shown what the pros have known for decades - coffee adds zip. Now research is helping to nail the numbers

Spanish lab gave a group of amateurs a combo of caffeine and carbohydrate gel and has found they rode significantly better than others who had smaller doses or none at all. The big hit of caffeine gave them staying power.

But how big was the hit? The scientists from the Unversity of Alicante gave the volunteers measured amounts of caffeine for every kilo of their body weight. The doses were taken 70 minutes before the experiment.

Then they had to ride easily for an hour, at 70% of their VO2 maximum, followed by a ramp test to exhaustion.

Riders who’d had just 0.2mg of caffeine per kilo of their body weight didn’t perform any better than if they’d had no caffeine at all.

Those who got a whopping 0.7mg per kilo of body weight were the clear winners at the end of the ramp test – riding significantly longer than the rest.

The result tallies with another study, published last year by Birmingham University scientists, where 0.5mg per kilo of body weight was enough caffeine to give riders an advantage in a 45 minute time trial.

Check your doses

Crucially, the Birmingham trial showed that instant coffee is just as effective as a special caffeine drink – as long as each it is drunk an hour beforehand.

So, if you know your body weight, just multiply it roughly by 0.6 to see how much caffeine is going to help you an hour down the road. If you’re a lightweight, you’ll need about 35mg. Heavyweights may need up to 60mg.

The trouble is, while caffeine drinks are often labelled with their caffeine quantites, coffee isn’t. It varies from brand to brand and even within the same chain of coffee shops.

Tests by Glasgow University show that some shop-bought espressos contain up to 300mg and others only 50mg. The Department of Health reckons an ordinary mug of filter coffee has 140mg of caffeine – although they can be far weaker.

So the answer’s simple. One good strong cup should be more than enough to boost your ride. Just don’t overdo it – health experts reckon 400mg a day is the safe maximum.

Max Glaskin is the author of Cycling Science

What is a great coffee shop experience?

Just as the taste of the coffee in different shops is almost always different, the experiences we have, or look to have are unique for each and every one of us. This is my great coffee shop experience, and this is my moment. 

One of the things I love most about working from home is the ability to take my office to a great coffee shop for the day. There’s something about opening the door to a coffee shop and getting that thick scent of freshly ground quality coffee that awake the senses. The sound of milk being frothed and people making conversation is a welcoming experience. When I’m standing in line, I often make conversation with the person beside me. Talking to strangers in a coffee shop feels safe and often can turn around someone’s day. There’s a sense of connectedness that is more likely to happen when you’re at a coffee shop. This makes coffee shops a lifesaver for those who work from home and feel separated from the human experience at times. When I get to the register I am greeted by a happy caffeine powered barista and she takes my order which is always the same, a half sweet vanilla latte. I wait at the coffee bar watching the barista pound out espresso from the pod and froth milk. They multi-task like champions as they take orders, talk to customers and make multiple coffees at once. My coffee is called out and the barista smiles at me as I happily take my latte.

The best coffee shops have oversized chairs that are perfect for reading and relaxing in. Sitting by a large open window taking that first sip of great coffee is one of the most enjoyable parts of life. Good quality coffee is a delight with it’s hints of caramel and robust flavor that I swear can actually energize the body. The warm, frothy sweet beverage ignites my senses and is bliss in liquid form. I look around to see what interesting people are sitting around me. Women talking quietly across the table from each other in a serious coffee chat. Various people on Skype talking serious business details as they sit in casual clothes. I do a little eye flirting with attractive men that happen to have noticed I sat down. On a good day, one of those attractive men will find a reason to talk to me. Maybe they need my chair or are hoping to use the table that is close to my chair. Whatever the reasons, coffee shop time is all of a sudden an open opportunity for romance and maybe even love.

Someday, my coffee shop visit could change my destiny altogether with the meeting of a new friend or love mate. Maybe there is no greater purpose in life than finding a perfect coffee shop near your home serving the best coffee. There’s opportunity for romance, human contact, inspiration, purpose, joy and a great cup of coffee. On perfect days, friendly people greet you and make eye contact, you have the perfect coffee and leave feeling inspired and energized.