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Still biking? Definitely…

“Still biking Grant?” is a question I’ve been asked many times throughout my life, by friends or different people that I’ve met along the way. Riding a bike has been such a big part of what I do, it’s hard to imagine it not being the case. I think it’s the momentum, freedom and just being outside, that I love so much

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Nutrition

TORQ Fitness: Performance Coaching and Fitness Testing

Blog Post by Emma

Grant and I don’t race our bikes, but we simply love riding and to get the most out of our year, especially our summer trip to the mountains of Europe, we use TORQ Fitness for our training.  So I thought I’d write a little about this, to dispel any myths that training plans or coaching are only for those who compete.

You may be familiar with the brand from their superb range of energy and recovery products. However, TORQ first started out in 1999, set up by Director Matt Hart as a fitness and coaching consultancy, with the nutritional products coming a little later in 2002.

We started going to TORQ in 2007, after a friend recommended it.  We had enjoyed three summer trips to the French Alps and the Dolomites in previous years, and we decided to explore how we might benefit from more structured training.  At that time, TORQ were based in the village of Westbury, near Shrewsbury, so only about an hour and a half away from us.   However, they have since relocated to the picturesque location of Bryn Mawr in Powys.

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Back in 2007 we attended a full day’s education, which also included the fitness testing.  The education covered various aspects of training: energy systems, aerobic and anaerobic training, nutrition etc.  It was also a time to discuss our aims/goals, what we hoped to achieve and what our training capacity was.  I must add that a very fine lunch was also included and the chance to sample TORQ’s products. All of this was to form the basis of our first 6 months training plan.

Since that first visit, we’ve returned every Autumn, to carry out a test, in preparation for the following year’s training plan.  We generally run our plan from January to June, our main objective being three weeks cycling in the mountains.   So let me tell you more about our fitness testing experience.

It’s a good idea to have a substantial breakfast, as you need to leave a gap of 3 hours between eating, and taking the first part of the test.  This is the lactate threshold test, which is carried out indoors using a power meter on your own bike or on a Watt Bike.  A resting heart rate and lactate reading are taken first.  Then you are asked to start pedalling at a low wattage, which you increase at gradual intervals, whilst your TORQ coach measures your heart rate and takes blood lactate readings.  Don’t worry, this is painless! A quick needle click in your ear lobe is all it takes.   Throughout this process you will be asked to confirm your perceived level of exertion.  From this you will ultimately learn what your lactate threshold is, and what your endurance training zones will be (using power and / or heart rate). Continue reading “TORQ Fitness: Performance Coaching and Fitness Testing”

Mountain Essentials

By Grant Williams

The highlight of my cycling is riding in the mountains, both in the UK and Europe. Every year, my partner Emma and I spend our summer holiday cycling in spectacular areas such as the Pyrenees, the Dolomites or the Alps.

As this is the focal point of our year, a large amount of effort goes into searching out places to visit, choosing the right equipment, training, and nutrition.  Mountain Essentials gives an insight into some of the things which have been added to our cycling to make the preparation more effective, and the time spent riding even more enjoyable and rewarding.

Wet Bag

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This bag is such a useful piece of kit. Whether cycling at home or abroad, we frequently travel by car to the start point of our bike ride. For this arrangement to work out, all ride essentials must be taken along.

The Wet Bag is an item of luggage which really assists clothing and equipment being organised and easily transported. This is achieved through a number of great design features.  Before owning this bag, there has been at least one instance of driving several miles before realising my cycling shorts were still in a drawer at home!

For me, the labelled storage compartments are just so helpful in ensuring the kit I want to take is packed, and the process of locating certain items when getting ready for a ride is made so much easier. Then after the ride, it also feels a little more organised, and the potential of forgetting something is reduced by simply using the bag labelling as a prompt.

I have found that the labelling on the bag may not completely match your kit, but a familiarity regarding what is where, soon develops. The bag measures approximately 36cm long x 24cm x 24cm. Although its size is quite compact, it is actually quite cavernous.

The bag I currently use (pictured within this feature), was sold by Rapha, and is no longer available, but Scicon offer a similar bag. Castelli’s wet bag is also worth checking out, although it is of a slightly different design.

Equipment for Hot Weather

White Kit
L1 Gloves and Ultralight Socks by Q36.5

I love riding in the mountains when the skies are clear and the sun is warm, and use equipment which is designed for this. There are a number brands who make kit specific for hot weather, which provide high levels of UVA and UVB protection. This is something well worth checking when you are choosing the clothing you will use.

To complement the hot weather jerseys and shorts now available, I also choose lightweight, well vented, breathable, accessories to minimise heat absorption, and assist comfort. This ranges from helmet, gloves, socks and shoes. I have found Oakley’s Polarised, Black Iridium lense especially good for the bright sunny days in the mountains of Europe, and generally switch to this from my usual choice of Oakley Prizm Road.

I can certainly vouch that on a really hot day, a glove, sock, or shoe designed for riding in higher temperatures can feel much more comfortable when the sun is beating down, and there is a long way to the top of the Col. Continue reading “Mountain Essentials”

Veloforte: Q&A with Founder, Marc Giusti

Blog post by Grant

Introduction

I believe good nutrition forms such an important part of our lives. This encourages me to find ways of eating well when cycling, and learn about healthy foods which can be included in meals when not on the bike.

I had the good fortune to discover Veloforte just before heading to the Pyrenees on a cycling trip with my partner, Emma earlier this year.

The energy bars they offer are made from 100% natural ingredients, and are formulated to provide a sustained source of energy.  The bars sounded exactly what we were looking for. Having used the Veloforte bars throughout the bike trip, both Emma and I found all three flavours to be delicious, and the energy provided by them really suited our cycling. The Veloforte bars will certainly be part of our future ride nutrition.

classico-bar

I was keen to learn more about the brand and the products. On contacting Marc at Veloforte, he welcomed the idea of an article and I was fortunate to have a fascinating conversation with him and his wife Lara, about the brand and their love of cycling.

1) Does cycling and creating food form part of your family history, or are these passions individual to you?

My family are from Italy, near Florence. Creating delicious food, family life, stylish products and high quality ingredients all form a large part of Italian culture. I have many fond memories of family meals, recipes being passed down through generations and always discovering amazing Italian brands and specialities. Add to that mix my wife Lara, (a multiple award-winning chef) and the food thing is pretty well covered!

Cycling came into my life later on. Since then it has become a dominant backdrop to everything we’re doing personally and professionally. I discovered cycling initially through a close friend who’d been riding for years, and it formed part of a long recovery process I had after a major operation. My love of being on the bike, and my understanding of the importance of building up endurance and strength, grew from there.

2) What inspired the creation of Veloforte?

A whole host of different things seemed to come together all at once. Firstly, I was training for the Rapha Manchester to London challenge in 2015 to try and regain my strength. I was looking for the right nutrition and yet everything in the shops was synthesised “gloop” and just tasted disgusting. All I wanted was something real, delicious, high quality and natural, not processed, dehydrated sludge.

Secondly, Lara was getting serious about developing her culinary success, having just been nominated for three awards at the Great Taste Awards. We should mention that prior to becoming a multiple award-winning chef, Lara was a Heart & Lung Respiratory Specialist.

So, when you add my training ambitions and frustrations, Lara’s medical and physiological experience and culinary success together, the idea to create a natural, hand-made nutrition brand seemed the obvious thing to do. So we created Veloforte.

3) Within the Veloforte website there is reference to an ancient Italian recipe called “Panforte”.  Can you tell us a little more about this, and how it influenced the energy bars you offer?

Panforte nowadays is just seen as a speciality food from Sienna, in Tuscany. However, its history is much more rugged and intriguing. It’s an extremely old Italian recipe, dating back before the Crusades. It was used to power Roman Legions and fortify the Aristocracy through its use of herbs, spices and fruits. It was carried, stored and constantly updated with new ingredients and herbs from the growing Roman Empire. It’s as if it was the first energy food.

Continue reading “Veloforte: Q&A with Founder, Marc Giusti”

Recovery: Thoughts & Experiences

Blog Post by Grant

The majority of people I know seem to have busy lives. If an active, fatiguing sport forms part of this, taking time to recover is critical to remaining healthy and becoming stronger.

The time when we recover is the opportunity created for our bodies to rebuild and adapt, and for the motivation to create the more demanding training, to return.

In the past, I have fallen foul of not fully committing to recovery periods, thus not creating a feeling of being rested and not being ready to take on another piece of more challenging cycling. MTB riding during recovery week certainly didn’t work for me…..great fun but not really in keeping with the rest / recuperate theme!!

There are so many things that potentially lead to neglecting the crucial recovery time. Maybe work days stretch a little, catching up on jobs around the house, or if the sun is shining an extra bike ride gets slotted in. Continue reading “Recovery: Thoughts & Experiences”

South Lake District Ride

Blog Post by Emma

The Lake District is beautiful all year round, but especially so during Autumn.  Fortunately, we can reach this fabulous place in around two hours, so we regularly visit the area for road cycling day trips.

Our route in the South Lake District is fifty miles long, starting from Staveley.  It’s definitely a climbers ride with plenty of hills to go at, including a couple of particularly steep ones!  It was a lovely autumn day with very little breeze, unusual for this part of the world.  Headwinds on the Kirkstone Pass can make for a tough start to this ride, but thankfully the air was unusually still.

Our jersey pockets were packed with ride fuel, this is not a ride where you want to go hungry!  We opted for one Le Roulier energy ball each, from The Pedal Bites pack of three, to give us a little pre-ride boost…. breakfast was a long time ago!  I love the flavour of cocoa and the natural sweetness of the prunes.

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Continue reading “South Lake District Ride”

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