Posted: June 20, 2011 in 2011, General

If you are anything like the bods on Singletrack you will have a mild obsession with all things coffee related. It seems mountain bikers like nothing better than a huge, steaming mug of aromatic coffee stuffed full of caffeine. It smells, good, it tastes good and it gives you that chemical kick up the butt that we all need in the morning, the afternoon, the evening, pre ride, post ride…whenever. The universal panacea, it should be given out free by the National Health as the route to general well being.

I used to love coffee, there was nothing I loved more than walking into a room filled with the heady vapours that drew me in, sucked me down into the mug and almost without exception, failed to deliver. Now this is not a diatribe against the failure of coffee to live up to it’s promise but rather to briefly explore another side to it. My love of coffee was limitless, quality was a variable option, the main thing, as far as I was concerned, was strength. The stronger the better, the more bitter the better. I loved the sharp acrid taste, the fumes wafting in and around me, the whole thing. What is more, I needed the stuff, I was so tired all the time and coffee gave me the boost I needed to fire up my system until it began to slow down again, when another injection of pure caffeine spurred me on to my next effort.

Several years ago now, I was persuaded to give it up. Apparently I was a miserable, grumpy baggage and let’s not put too fine a point on it, not always the most rewarding person to live with. Apparently it was changing my character. Now, as far as I am concerned this is absolute tosh. I am, and have always been, a ray of light and a breath of spring air to those with whom I come in contact, their lives are enhanced by my presence and I do nothing but spread happiness and joy to all. Well, apparently not. My wife and work colleagues independently hit upon coffee as the culprit so that was it…curtains for coffee.

Quite a lot further down the road the whole coffee thing is in the past. I remain the most wholesome and cheerful person on the planet, maybe even the galaxy but, and here’s the rub, I no longer feel perma-tired (sic). Whereas I would be struggling to stay awake past 9.00am without a coffee, now I am bright and perky all day… well until I sit down to goggle box late in the evening. This sort of got me to questioning whether coffee actually makes you tired rather than simply giving you a boost. In the cold light of day, the whole coffee thing seems redolent of smoking. I used to ‘need’ a smoke to pick me up in the morning, I used to keep myself topped up with nicotine all day and it took nothing more than the faintest whiff of smoke to get the urges going. Does coffee have a mild narcotic effect and is it as addictive as other drugs? I don’t know the answer but, last week I was at a business event all day. Their tea was awful so I drank a couple of cups of coffee between bottles of water. The first one gave me a bit of a rush, the second less so and in no time I was feeling tired once again, that familiar, heavy, soporific feeling of lethargy squatting on my consciousness like a malevolent toad. There has to be a connection.

Anyway, I won’t be making that mistake again. So what is the relevance to cycling apart from the initial singletrack reference? None really but, if it dulls your brain it must have an impact on your body and therefore on your riding performance. Any coffee addicts out there care to give it up and monitor improvements as the chemicals leave your body?

I have now developed a thoroughly English tea habit but have begun to consider how life might be in a totally caffeine free environment.


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