Kath Bicknell is one of the lucky ones whose professional work combines riding, research and writing about cycling. A mountain bike lover, she has raced in Australia and overseas over the last ten years. She is the only person to have written a PhD on the experiential side of mountain bike racing - the things that happen on a race track that you can't discover as easily in a lab. As a new addition to the Cycling Central blogging team Kath will share her insights from the dirt and on cycling as a lifestyle.
7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:38 PM

It's generally agreed that coffee and cycling make each other a better experience. At least that's what the coffee lovers believe.

Most road bunch rides finish with a morning coffee, or stop at one part way through a longer haul. More and more bike shops include a café as part of their business plan, their fit out and the training of their staff.

I raced the Kowalski Classic mountain bike marathon in Canberra recently. At the 30km mark a barista, in the middle of Kowen Forest, asked me what I'd like. I was so happy to see him I got off my bike and lay it on the ground.

Race schmace. I was riding for the experience of it all, and the experience had just become so much better.

Three weeks ago I had a stomach bug, which resulted in an accidental detox from my favourite way to start the day. I somehow got the caffeine out of my system without any horrible withdrawal headaches or particularly motivated thinking.

It had been about eight years since I'd gone a day without my bitter, aromatic friend. I travel with a percolator and an emergency Red Bull, and keep No Doze in my toiletry bag just in case.

I thought maybe I should set a 30-day challenge just to see what life is like on the other side.

It's no secret that caffeine helps to improve performance on the bike. My curiosity in going without was more about discovering what happens, in a holistic sense, when you start drinking too much, too often.

Had my addiction reached a point where it was holding me back as much as it was helping forward?

It turns out that life on the other side isn't that different. The 'normal' I felt most of the time while drinking three coffees every morning, is on par to the 'normal' I feel without it. Bodies are very adaptable like that.

I still feel alert on the bike, my sleep patterns haven't changed and I generally feel much the same.

The biggest difference over the last three weeks is improved digestion. I'm not killing my system directly before food, so instead I have more chance of absorbing the nutrients I eat. Foods have a stronger taste as well, and sensations of hunger feel more natural, rather than hitting me hard all at once.

There are a few behavioural changes as well. I'm not crawling out of bed first thing to light a fire under the percolator, I'm starting my day doing something else. I can't cook up a cup and become an instant action woman as a way of dealing with stress, I have to learn other ways of getting things done instead.

I also have an extra half hour to keep pedalling on the bike in the morning, although the social side of post-ride coffee stops is important too.

For all that people go on about how much coffee improves performance on the bike, drinking less of it can have a positive impact as well.

In fact, it appears that how, when and why you drink coffee has a greater impact than the amount that you have, within reason. This also has more influence on what you'll notice, if anything, should you go without.

I doubt I will ever really be that person who drinks coffee in moderation, but it has been nice to disconnect it from cycling for a few weeks just to find out more about one without the other.

My hope is that separating the two for a short time will make be better at combining them in the future; reaping its benefits through choice, for an even better effect.