Tuula And Hannah Try A Different Kind Of Happy Meal On Their Tour Of U.S..
Sustenance and Saddle Sense – Why a Brooks is like a well balanced meal.
By Tuula Rebhahn
Every Brooks saddle owner has had this experience. You pull up in front of the store, school or work and some non-cyclist approaches you to gawk at your saddle. It’s sleek, they say, but where’s the padding? You couldn’t pay me to sit on that thing!
On our tour through the southern United States, my partner Hannah and I have these interactions frequently. But the odd looks we receive outside the grocery store are nothing compared to those we receive inside. Passing on the fried chicken, ramen noodles and “sports” drinks, we stock up on eggs, prunes and salad greens, then refuse the plastic bag at the checkout line. We know we’re marking ourselves as weirdos – but hey, we already did that when we walked in with spandex and metal in our shoes.
Since we left the progressive west coast and began heading across the southwestern deserts, we’ve stuck out like sore thumbs, but that’s okay. Seeking out pockets of the local food movement across the “Belly of America”, we’ve also found a new definition for the term “eating sustainably”. It’s how we keep ourselves moving forward day after day, to complete our goal of riding 6,000 miles in six months.
Food is fuel, and when you put water in your gas tank, you know you’re not going to get very far. Like investing in a good saddle, taking the time to eat well while cycle touring – or while at home – pays off in allowing you to ride farther and feel great while doing it.
There are no hard and fast rules and guidelines for a healthful cycling diet, except for this: Pay attention to what your body is telling you.
On a recent day riding along the gulf of Florida, an older fellow pulled in front of us and stopped a good car length short of a stop sign. I managed to hit the brakes and unclip, but Hannah forgot her feet were attached to her pedals and made a perfect slow-motion arc to the concrete.
After dusting her off and finding no broken bones, it didn’t take us long to discover the root of the problem: An empty-calorie fast food breakfast at a waffle joint colloquially known as the Awful House. Our stomachs lined with indigestible goo, we’d skipped lunch and had been running on empty, which severely hampers one’s decision-making abilities. Nearly four months into the trip, you’d think we’d have learned this lesson by now. But hunger can make you do stupid things – like fall for the endless billboard marketing of a cheap and filling breakfast chain.
Usually, Hannah and I hit up farmers markets or roadside produce stands and plan our meals from there, dipping into our pannier full of quick-cooking lentils and high-protein grains like quinoa and amaranth. Protein is key. Since we try to avoid factory farmed meats, we top our salads with walnuts or sunflower seeds – which are also good for loading up oatmeal in the morning.
Eating this way takes a little bit more planning and work, but it’s time well spent. You invest time and money in your saddle, and you wouldn’t use anything but Proofide to keep it soft and supple. So why do so many cyclists dump cheap carbs and sketchy protein into their fuel tanks?
Hannah and I are not puritans by any means, and it’s not that every bite of junk food sets us back. In fact, we’re also surprised by how forgiving our bodies are. Maybe it’s because we’re young or because we’re burning so many calories that we can sneak in a few “empty” ones and not get dinged for it. But every donut, cookie and pint of ice cream is a gamble. An hour later, we may feel fine, or we may be crawling along at seven miles an hour wondering why we can’t seem to kick it into gear.
Carrot sticks don’t have the appeal of a cream pie, and a cushy gel saddle certainly might feel nice at the beginning of the day. Will it be there to support you after seventy or eighty miles? Not like a Brooks, and not like a good meal. Let them call us crazy; we’re unconventional and proud.
Tuula Rebhahn and Hannah Cooper are touring across the United States to explore and expand the local, sustainable food movement. Their blog is here.