As cyclists we are run by a world of numbers, speed, cadence, watts, gradient and weight. We want to keep out weight to a minimum and power at a maximum. Reading any current professional or ex-pros book, from Tyler Hamilton to Chris Froome, they’ll all start talking about their power to weight ratio. Achieved in vastly different ways but the thinking is the same, be as light as possible and have enough strength in your legs to pump out as many watts as possible.
So, how do you assist your body in building your muscles without gaining weight? Many look to supplements, protein shakes and powders, and it can seem counterintuitive to guzzle down a shake to build muscle and keep your weight low. These shakes are packed full of calories and for the body builders, right? Well, not strictly true, not all of them, anyway.
The guys at MaxiNutrition have been developing a protein powder, which helps you build lean muscle. High in Protein and low in fats and sugars each 25g serving is after your work out. To help repair those ripped up muscles and build them without pilling on the extra pounds. MaxiMuscle ProMax Lean is newly formulated with 25 g of BioMax True Protein, a blend of whey protein and milk protein (casein) providing both fast and slow acting protein.
What on earth is BioMax True Protein? I hear you ask, and trust me I asked the same question too, but to cut through the PR mumbo jumbo, basically food protein concentrations are theoretically calculated based on the total nitrogen content, but this can cause some variances in the derived protein level. MaxiMuscle have gone one step further by validating the protein concentration in ProMax Lean by comparing the weight of the individual amino acids with the calculated factored amount, qualifying this as BioMax True Protein.
And before you start worry that while you’re drinking this you’re going to be another amateur cyclist who gets pinged for a performance enhancing drugs (why on earth are amateurs riding with performance enhancers in their system on a club TT? Blows my mind!) all MaxiNutrition products are screened for banned substances and accredited by the Informed-Sport programme. They also come in different flavours, Chocolate, Vanilla, Strawberry, Raspberry and everyone’s favourite milkshake flavour, Banana.
But don’t worry endurance cyclist – it’s not just about the recovery shakes and muscle-building protein powers at MaxiNutrition. Oh no. They also have a range of products for us endurance athletes too. With gels and electrolyte powders for your water bottle, they have a range of products, which may make you think twice before heading for the SiS equivalent. With standard electrolyte gels and gels with a kick of caffeine to help get you up that final climb. MaxiNutrition have sponsored the Brownlee brothers, who aren’t that bad at riding a bike, are they?
So next time you’re in training for an event or just training in general, why not give your body a little added help with the MaxiNutrition ProMax Lean protein powder. It could be the difference between winning and first loser.
You can buy ProMax Lean from the Maxi Muscle website here
I think we could all agree, the only thing us British people seem to be good at is cycling. Since the Wiggo inspired revolution of 2012, we’ve seen British Cycling grow and grow. Boris Johnson introduced major cycle lanes in to the heart of London and Saqid Kahn looks to extend the cycle route with the new plans of CS11. Each morning I cycle to work, there seems to be more and more cyclists enjoying the commute in to the office.
Over the last 12 months, British Cycling have been able to draw up the following stats:
2,069,200 adults in England now cycling at least once every week
3,628,400 adults in England now cycling at least monthly
Over half a million regular cyclists are women, an increase of 2% in the last 12 months.
385,600 young people now ride bikes frequently
Frequent cycling among people with an impairment is now at 184,000
Considering such a boom, certainly in the male market, it would be natural that the female market would follow suit. However, it seems to be that, even though there is a large proportion of female riders and enthusiasts, the help, bikes and tech may not be there for women as it is for men.
My wife – she wouldn’t of even cared for a bike race or event before she met me, in the years I’ve been with her, she has now; been to see three stages of the Tour de France, watch Wiggo go around a track for an hour and attends regular spin classes to keep fit. I know I’ve done a wonderful job. On the sofa the other night though I caught something in her eye, it was a reflection on from the iPad… She was looking at bikes and she admitted it. She wanted to take on the open road, feel the wind through her helmet on the country lanes and experience cycling on the roads. I was made up. Obviously, I started with all the questions to which I got a blank expression, talking about groupsets got me no where and when I mentioned the length of the handlebar stem I got a roll of the eyes as if I was putting in some sort of sorry cycling innuendo.
So it was a bit of a challenge as to which manufacturer to choose. However, the guys over at Ribble stepped up to the plate. They got in touch, as they too are keen to get involved with the cycling boom. One of the biggest online bike dealers in the UK, Ribble specialises in using quality, thoroughly road-tested frames from the far east as the basis of their customer-specced bike packages. They offer exceptional value, with fully built carbon bikes available for under £800. As an entry level bike, they offered up the Ribble Spotiva, an introduction to the Sportive range of Ribble bikes. With a 7005 frame, an aluminium alloy with amazing strength to weight ratio. It’s the same alloy used on the men’s frame, the only difference is this is set up for female geometry. Meaning it has a lower stand over height and a shorter top tube.
The guys at Ribble were really good, what they didn’t know, you don’t need to know. They chatted my wife through all the selection options and even the length of her pedal arm. Of course when someone else starts talking to you about it, it’s then interesting isn’t it?! I could have sworn I’ve bored her to tears over cycling subjects for years…
Pedal stem chosen and handle bar tape changed to Celeste colour, the bike arrived in super quick time.
After ordering, my wife is a lover of reviews so we both did some digging to see if this outlay really meant this was the bike for her. However, the only review we could find of the bike was in The Good Housekeeping Institute. I find this slightly off, so here we go, here’s my attempt!
The bike arrived in almost one piece, all it needed was the handlebars fitting on, the saddle height adjusted and the pedals screwing on. All of which we did together, not even an issue – we were ready to ride.
While she uses SPD cleats in her spin class and is used to them, using them out on the road is another thing! They’re really good pedals to get used to a new bike and also riding on the road in cleats in. I picked them up on Wiggle for £28.99. With a couple of up charges – Tiagra Groupset, R501 wheels, Continental Ultra Sport tyres, a white handlebar steam and the all important Celeste handlebar tape – the total cost of the bike: £678.89
Even a bike which was ordered online and got delivered in a box to me, the gears didn’t need and fiddling with, changing down and through them wasn’t an issue, each gear changed was met with a satisfying ‘thunk’ in to gear.
First off, the transition from spin class to road brings in different factors; road surface, wind, weather conditions and other road users. The perfect place for us to start the full test and transition was down at the Olympic Velodrome where they have an outdoor mile long circuit, for cyclists only. For £6 you can cycle around pretty much all day, there’s toilet and water facilities on a circuit which has everything but a mega long climb (it is only a mile after all) but it does have a couple of short upward kicks.
Back to the bike – well, in short, it performs fantastically. Not only does it have fantastic weight for it’s price but upgraded the Groupset from the 105 to Tiagra gives miles better performance for only £39.99 on Ribble, it’s well worth it.
For a first time rider who is wanting to tackle road cycling head on I think its a great introductory bike. The balance of the bike is something which is very noticeable, it really gives you the confidence to ride the bike.
Gone are the days of a women’s bike just having a Top Tube which is easier to step over, Ribble have changed the geometry slightly so rather than just shifting the saddle forwards and fitting a much shorter stem, all of which could make for a twitchy, uncomfortable ride. Ribble have made the overall reach so that handling is not compromised. This is super noticeable because on the mile long circuit there are some tight twisty bits which the Sportiva glides through, with ease. Theres no mid corner twitch or worry, you can really get in to the corner at speed with confidence. To this improved handling setup the addition of a carbon front fork and you have a smoother ride that (slightly) reduces bumps and stones which may make you worry on the corners.
On this short and punchy circuit the bike performed admirably, it seemed to eat up the sprint, feeling stiff and ridged and that every pedal stoke had a purpose, to put as much power through the chain as possible. Flat out sprints were strong and sharp rising out the saddle to hammer down the power isn’t an issue and neither is negating a small bump in the road, up and out the saddle the pedals feel light enough underneath you to tap through your cadence with confidence of tackling the climb.
To a slightly longer ride – as the frame shares its build with the mens 7005 Sportive, you get the same sort of no messing from this frame. It’s great for a Sportive or leisure ride. Longer days in the saddle are comfortable and I’m pleased to say that uphill climbs are almost a joy. Almost. Having the bladed forked Shimano R501 wheels also helped here, while they’re not super light and the raciest of wheels, they are solid and they bring the weight down a bit. They’re durable and replacement spoke are easy enough to come by, they’re a welcome addition.
To sum up, its a great first time bike, it brings together many elements; looks, durability, set up and low weight. it’s perfect for an entry level bike which will help you to decide whether you want to start taking things a little more seriously in a year or so. Easily enough to add stuff on to like better wheels, pedals or even electronic gears, we couldn’t be happier with it. Well done Ribble!
With the “worlds greatest sportive” (not my words, the words of Prudential RideLondon) coming up, I thought it was a good time to have a look at what you might be thinking of for that all important ride. It doesn’t have to be the RideLondon 100 miler, it could be any cycling sportive you’ve got planned to train, push your fitness goals or even, push yourself for something you’ve never done before.
With it being good old British summer time, it’s probably best to start with something… Weatherproof. I don’t think you’ll go far wrong than with a good gilet. These things are great if you’ve an early start time on a chilly winter morning with a day that will heat up or even a muggy day with rain showers. The chaps over at Huez* sent me their flagship gilet. The Starman Windproof Gilet. Fancy sounding, isn’t it?
The fancy of this gilet though goes beyond the name. It packs down neatly it to its own carry bag, in my opinion it could probably pack down even smaller than its bag.
It’s windproof and even more than showerproof and will give you a brilliant extra layer in the changeable weather. But wait, what’s this, the gilet has an extra trick up its sleeve – if it were to have sleeves that is. It’s pretty nifty, you can whip this gilet off in seconds by simply hooking your fingers in to the tabs either side of the zip and tugging outwards. The zip simply peels away and you’ll be the first in the peloton to have you gilet off. Providing you can take both hands off of the handle bars that is. The slightly annoying thing about this is though, you have to have the zip done all the way up for it to work effectively. So, you could just unzip…
It’s great, it really is but coming in at £115 it’s certainly got a big price tag. But you can be safe in the knowledge you’ll get plenty of wear out of it. While the fabric feels flimsy, it’s pretty darn durable and something you’ll get plenty of use out of.
Now, you have your clothing sorted, let us talk nutrition. One of the biggest things people forget to do is feed effectively and feed well when riding a big sportive. Do not underestimate it. Personally, I would rather come home with pockets full of food than halfway round cramping up wishing I had another energy bar or gel!
The power of Science in Sport (SiS) and their rapid growth has been extra-ordinary, now supplying Team Sky they always have discounts and their stuff is super tasty and well known across the sporting world.
Maybe it’s just my body and how it breaks down the substances but the SiS stuff is fantastic, plus when you sign up to SiS they’re giving away gels. Their stuff is far superior to any out there, with SiS also supplying Team Sky this year and I think we could all agree their performance and recovery powers at the Tour de France this year was nothing short of outstanding.
SiS actually sent me over some figures; the nine-man Team Sky team consumed over 3,000 SiS products during the 23-day challenge. In a breakdown that is:
570 GO Energy bars
580 GO Isotonic gels
180 GO Electrolyte gels
240 Go Energy+Caffeine gels
940 GO Electrolyte servings
180 REGO Rapid Recovery servings
210 Overnight protein servings
300 GO Hydro servings
You may think that that’s all they eat on the bike, somehow during the stages they also have time for rice cakes and whatever else their chef cooks up for them!
If it’s good enough for Team Sky over 2,197 miles, it’s good enough for me over 100!
Ready to race?
Hey there, hot shot. Are you race ready? Well, here is my little secret… Secret Training. I’m not on about sneaking an extra ten miles on the bike before you meet your club mates for a ride. I’m talking STRIP, or, Secret Training Race Informed Products.
This little pack might set you back £50 (special introductory offer) but my god is it worth it. It contains:
Anti chaffing cream (chamois cream)
Post race wash
Micro fibre cloths
A tin of pins
Let’s pick up on a few of those things, start oil, what’s that? Well it’s a muscle rub to put on pre ride. Word to the wise, apply after the chamois cream, it is similar to deep heat. You do not want to get that where your chamois cream goes! It also puts a protective layer between your skin and the elements, so you can keep going come rain or shine.
The sunscreen is SPF30, the size is perfect though, slip in your back pocket / saddle bag and help keep those tan lines sharp and cultivated (rule 6 of cycling).
The post race wash, many of you won’t need this as it’s for when there are no showers around. More for the racers and races this one but it is good stuff! Same with the micro fibre clothes, for personal use after a race.
While the pack is too big to carry on the bike during a sportive, the essentials are perfect size and great for the ride. They all fit in the travel case perfectly and neatly. Great to give to a family member to meet you at the finish. It really is great; I am really impressed by this pack of secrets and can’t recommend it enough. It smells good and the chamois cream is a good performer for long days in the saddle.
Go get ’em
The biggest thing to remember on your sportive is to have fun. Don’t go under prepared and it’s not a race. The only person you are racing is yourself, challenge yourself but don’t ruin yourself.
It’ll be tough, you’ll probably ask yourself why you’re doing it, you’ll probably question why you’re even doing it and then before you know it, it’ll be over. You will be elated, proud and be able to say you did it.
How are your feet? Are they comfortable, right now? Have you got shoes on or are they feeling the breeze fully sockless?
Don’t worry – this isn’t some sort of weird fetish, I recently got sent an e-mail asking if my shoes fitted me correctly, I thought, “Well, they’re on my feet and don’t fall off when I walk around, so yeah, I guess they do…” However, I took this e-mail as ever with a little bit more cynicism than most, what they were really saying were what sort of profile is your foot? Are you flat footed, have a medium arch or high? And are your shoes fitting your feet as they should?
It’s not the first time I’ve come across this, we’ve all heard the phrase, being flat footed – it’s where your foot is effectively that. More of your foot is on the floor when it’s planted. A high arch means that very little is touching the floor, mainly the balls of your feet and the outside edge of your foot, the inside edge barely touching the floor at all and a medium arch… somewhere in between.
Now I know from past experience I’m like Brian Blessed, a flat footed b*stard. But, how can this affect your cycling?
Well, if your foot isn’t sitting right in your shoe, you’re more than likely causing yourself some extra muscle pain during exercise, your foot could be slipping around in your shoe, moving your joints and muscles all over the place.
I do use a innersole in my shoe currently, made by Curex, these were a purchase I made with my own hard earned cash. The ones I got an e-mail about to try out though, they’re made by Sole and they’re called the Sole Thin Sport Custom Footbeds.
The difference is simple, CurexSole are pretty much pre made, claiming if your flat footed you need the low arch innersole, have a medium arch? You need the medium inner sole and you guessed it, if you’ve a high arch, you need their high innersole. With Sole you have the task of moulding your innersole a to your feet. So, do I prefer the upgrade? Well…
First off, what’s the point?
Since you asked… When you’re pedalling away, during your downward stroke the power from you leg muscles goes through your main point of contact with the pedals, your feet. The more power you exert the more pressure through your foot, this brings about pronation (your ankles leaning inwards) in your foot, which isn’t great, too much and it twists the bottom half of your leg causing knee pain, ankle pain, more muscle ache and just complete uncomfort.
Innersoles help to reduce the pronation and their job is to try and stop it all together meaning more power through your stroke and less muscle and joint aches and pains.
Do I need an innersole?
I’ve used one for a good couple of years now, I wouldn’t ride without them. My foot feels more comfortable in the shoe and it helps with aches and pains.
Also – let me put it to you this way, Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome, Team Sky – they didn’t get to where they were without looking at every single area, making ‘marginal gains’ which then added up to one whole massive major gain and three Tour de France victories.
I’m not saying innersoles are going to transform you in to a grand tour winner, but they could possibly be your secret weapon! Helping you to cycle more comfortably for longer periods time time.
If you’re buying a new pair of cycling shoes, maybe an innersole should be something you consider. Ask the man in the shop.
The Sole Thin Sport Custom Footbeds will set you back a further £38
So I just put them in my shoe?
These Sole Thin Sport Custom Footbeds don’t just slide in to your shoe, they take a bit of work.
First off, put your oven on and allow it to heat up. Yup, these things are going in to the oven!
To mould them to your feet properly, they have to be heated up, the only way to do this is in the oven, the microwave is not recommended.
While the oven is heating up take out the soul, sorry sole, of your current shoe. Yes, it more than likely will remove without any fuss or glue marks. Match the Sole to your, erm, sole and make sure it’s the correct size and fit. If it’s too big, just trim around the top with a pair of scissors.
Is your oven good and hot? Then you should put the Sole in the oven.
When I did this, there’s a little temperature marker on the sole which tells you when it’s at the correct temperature to mould the sole. The marker indicated they were ready pretty much straight away. I left them in a few seconds longer to be sure but I was worried that they would melt in to a gloopy mess on the bottom of my oven and that the inner soles and my oven would be ruined, forever.
There’s still more to do… I know that a nice expensive pair of carbon fibre shoes are moulded in a similar way. So if I were worried about these Footbeds ruining my oven, imagine what I’d be like with a load of carbon fibre in there!
Quickly take the Sole’s out the oven put them straight in your shoe and then put your feet in to your shoes do them up and stand up straight and still for a good couple of minutes.
This then sets the Sole’s to your feet and gives you the correct fitting for your foot type.
Finally the process is complete. Relax. Providing you’ve not singed your Sole’s or ruined the oven or scolded your toes.
After all that, do they work?!
Well, I did notice them in my shoe, yes. I felt my feet were in a different position, not necessarily a more comfortable position mind. I did think this is probably just because the new position was likely the position my feet should be in.
During my ride, I can’t say my legs felt more or less comfortable – but my feet! My feet were in pain. I felt like they were being pinched and pushed inwards, they hurt.
I was able to finish my ride and it was a similar similar maybe slightly better ride than usual but nothing significant, maybe just marginal.
My mind isn’t made up here, I mean, my feet hurt a fair bit. Maybe that was down to me moulding them? I possibly could have left them in the oven for a bit longer just to be sure that they were soft enough to mould but they certainly seemed soft enough when I tried them.
Am I going to buy a pair?
I’m not going to trade my CurexSole in for them, no.
I don’t think they performed very well, all that effort to make sure I’d mould we them correctly and my feet still hurt up to four days later after feeling like they’d been crushed from the sides. Maybe that’s something you get used to but it’s not something I want to put my feet through. I want to be able to perform as best I can as comfortably as I can, not feel like I have to get off my bike just to give my feet a rest.
Sorry, but for me, I’m not going to be buying a pair of Sole This Sport Custom Footbeds.
If you’d like to buy them for yourself, you can do, here
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It’s every cyclists best friend, a cup of coffee to get you going before a ride. But what’s actually in that coffee and why do cyclists love it so much?
Well, caffeine is a natural (and legal) performance enhancer. It’s true. It does nothing to actually boost your performance mind, weird, eh? What it does, in absolute leyman’s terms, is ‘block’ your brains ability to feel pain. This helps you push on that little bit harder for a little bit longer. It doesn’t stop you from feeling pain all together, that would be lethal…
So here’s my next point, what’s actually in it? And why don’t you just have a bucket tonne of coffee before heading out on a ride?
Well, as with most things in life, there’s a fine balance between too little and too much. Too little, no affect and you get dropped, too much and you work too hard, explode with out realising and get dropped.
So it’s difficult. This brings me on to what’s in your coffee? It’s just caffeine, right? And coffee is just, well coffee, right? So if you have two cups before a time trial then you’ll be ok?
The general rule of thinking ‘I usually have a cup maybe two before a time trial, that’s my peak caffeine intake.’ What if I were to tell you that that may not be your peak performance but the two performances could be vastly different. But why is that? Well, the difference is your one cup to the last, the fluctuation in caffeine levels can be anything from, 10mg of caffeine all the way up to a staggering 250mg of caffeine. With this gaping chasm of caffeine it can be super difficult to actually judge how much you need.
Like you, I love a cup of coffee before a ride and the people over at Truestart sent me over their ‘performance coffee’ to sample. Yes, there’s such a thing as performance coffee! There will be performance enhancing water next.
What is this coffee and how does it work?
It’s exactly the same as normal coffee, except a bit more geeky. Where your cup contains anywhere from 10-250mg of caffeine, one cup of Truestart contains a much more regulated 95mg of caffeine. You might find that a small figure and no where near what you’d usually have, but if your two cups before that time trial only contained 10mg each and you felt like you were flying, this is over four times more powerful than that measly 20mg you just sunk… It’ll give you more than wings.
It works the same way as regular caffeine just in a more controlled manor. Drink thirty minutes before exercise, leaving the human body enough time to do its thing and you’ll feel the caffeine in your system.
That 95mg it sounds like too much now…
We’ve all been there when we’ve had too much caffeine and we’re about to have a dreadful caffeine crash. It’s a pretty horrible feeling of a racing heart, shakes, feeling on edge and as if your world is going to come crashing down… Grim.
Imagine this as a slow release of caffeine, feeding in to your system in a much more stable manor. It’s not coming crashing like a bull in a china shop and leaving. More like the fine china collector who will greet you as they come in, be respectful, look around a while, maybe even buy something then, after spending all the time they need to slowly drift off out the door. Sounds quite pleasant really…
Bet it tastes like mud.
Meh, you’d be wrong in saying it but right in thinking it. When I first got it and saw it I thought the same, it’s actually alright though, you know!
It’s made from 100% freeze dried (not spray dried, there is a difference – I’m not going in to it but it’s more natural) Columbian Arabica beans, so it’s not swept up off the floor and put in a sachet. It’s nice, really, try it.
Am I buying a pack?
It depends how you like your coffee. Do you have a cup just to enjoy it before a ride, or, like 35% of people who do exercise, do you have a cup to give you a boost before a ride? If it’s the latter then in my opinion you’d benefit from a cup of Truestart before each ride.
I’m a bit of a geek and I like to see things in numbers, I’m one of those who does have a cup to help boost my performance.
I’d happily replace my pre-ride coffee with a cup of Truestart.
Overall, I think it’s superb. Works really well, tastes nice and does exactly what it needs to. Well done Truestart!
It’s worth mentioning that Truestart performance coffee is not designed specifically for cyclists but all kinds of athletes.
Where you can buy it and the links.
You can buy Truestart performance coffee from their website, a number of Tesco’s NutriCentre outlets and independent stores.
Buy Truestart performance coffee from there website, here