This summer a group of friends and I are doing two four-day cycle rides for the expedition section of our gold Duke of Edinburgh Award. Although it is nothing compared to an iron man (a gruelling endurance challenge consisting of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, and 26.2 mile run) the prospect of partaking in four full, consecutive days of cycling is rather daunting. My nervousness was not relieved by a mock practice cycle where we all agreed that after just 3 hours of cycling up and down the hills of the South Downs, we were done, and that going to the pub and getting a lift back from there, was the best plan. Just to clarify, in our expedition we will be cycling on average 6hours a day. Moreover, the South Downs is deemed to be ‘non-wild country’ and too flat so, much to our dismay, we had to change our initial DofE route cards and will now be cycling in the Brecon Beacons and Dartmoor. In the words of a member of my team “bring on the hills”.
Excluding the challenge itself, one of the key components in our preparation is deciding what food to eat on and off the bike. We were instructed by my father, who labels himself as a MAMIL (middle aged man in lycra), that we should be taking on food every half an hour during our cycle and average 60g of carbs per hour. This means that, if we are cycling for 7 hours, we need to have around 12 snacks shoved somewhere easily accessible each day.
Whilst researching what to consume during our cycle, we looked on a BBC Good Food page, which gave us some helpful ideas from an Elite sports nutritionist, James Collins. Some of the foods included were bananas, jellied sweets, energy bars and cereal bars. Other pages suggested similar stuff, with the general foods being high in carbohydrates, low-protein and moderate in fat levels.
On the other hand, drinking and taking on fluids is as important as the food. We will be cycling in the summer, so as well as losing water through the sweat of our efforts, we will probably be perspiring in the heat! It is therefore doubly important to maintain sufficient hydration levels, but water can get a tad mundane. To combat this, energy drinks are recommended to make sure you don’t get bored of drinking. However, these electrolyte drinks will only keep us hydrated, with minimal effect on the bodies glycogen stores. We have been warned not to substitute a Lucozade for a snack.
To summarise, the main problem we face on the bike is ‘food boredom’, a phrase frequently used on the cycling websites, which will effect what we eat and drink during our challenge. To avoid this, it is recommended to change textures of foods, as well as the foods themselves, to prevent us from not-eating. This concept may seem alien to a team of adolescent boys and girls, however, I am not sure the majority of people our age would be wanting to cycle for the length of time we are.
As we head to Dartmoor for our practise ride perhaps we need to change our team motto from bring on the hills to “bring on the food”.