TCI Friday

I am in favor of performance-enhancing drugs, as long as the performance is mine, and the drugs are coffee and another cup of coffee. Some of my friends don’t understand why, even if we’re rolling out at 6am, I get up early enough to brew, sip, and contemplate before riding.

My relationship with caffeine is an odd one. In my 20s, I couldn’t handle it. I was newly sober then, and I suspect my digestive function had been compromised by an intense period of passing as much alcohol through my system as I could manage. I would guess that it was three or four years before my body got over all that. Doctors had me drinking liquid antacids daily, with breakfast and dinner. Mmmmm. Chalky.

I told myself I was basically no longer able to drink coffee or eat spicy food. It seemed a small price to pay for retaining my sanity and relationships. Fortunately, also, the human body is a miracle of self-regeneration (when you’re young).

As I got older, I got healthier, which equated to better eating and a LOT more riding. I became one of those super irritating pure-as-the-driven-snow types with no vices, other than bikes. Then children came along (mine) to rearrange my life. That’s when coffee reappeared on the scene. The exhaustion resulting from 3am feedings and the general chaos of administering to a demanding proto-human required action. And so, I started drinking coffee.

And it was grand.

Of course, because I’m the sort of person I am (see above), I started drinking a lot of coffee. All the coffee. All the time. I could drink coffee at 8pm and be out on the pillow at 9. Some of that is down to the bone-level-tiredness of parenting young kids. Some of that is just how I’m wired.

And there has always been a natural alliance between coffee drinking and riding bikes. It’s what you do before. What you do during, maybe. And, for me anyway, what you do after. When many of you are drinking a cold beer (in the shower?), I am making an espresso (double). Hell, I even have a group of bike friends who I meet in the woods to sit and drink coffee.

Coffee makes me 4% more tolerable than I am without it. That’s some incremental gain right there.

This week’s TCIF asks, do you coffee? Before? After? During? How do you take it? Do your rides stop at coffee shops? My friend Padraig says ‘yes’ to caffeine, but ‘no’ to coffee. He quaffs exotics, like matcha and Mountain Dew. Are you one of those? Or is all of this just so much babble about a meaningless vice, and nothing to do with cycling at all?

Join the conversation
  1. TominAlbany says


    I prefer mine with just a smidge of sugar. I don’t really want to taste the sugar but, I can tell when it’s not there. I’ll bet it’s not even 1/8 tsp. I like coffee dark but not black. Something about the oiliness of coffee turns me off and the 1/2&1/2 brings it together nicely. But, it’s still pretty dark.

    Like you, I started drinking coffee regularly when I had kids. I couldn’t sleep. Nor could I stay awake. Brutal times. It’s a wonder we don’t die in our cars on the way to work in the morning. (Or under someone else’s if you’re a cycling commuter.)

    I started to dabble in coffee when the ’90s coffeeshop rage began. Screwed up more than one night’s sleep because I’d drink booze. Then coffee. Then fall asleep because the alcohol had a temporary advantage over the caffeine. As the beer waned, I’d lie awake feeling the sobering process begin and the hangover set in and it was miserable because, I was hyper awake and SOOO tired!

    So, no coffee after noon for me because it does screw up my ability to sleep. My old carcass doesn’t process anything like it used to!

  2. khal spencer says

    Huh? What is important to cyclists is whatever is important to cyclists.

    As far as coffee? Black, no sugar or milk. Bit of a morning ritual. Get up, get the cat and dog fed while the water comes to a boil. Grind the whole beans in a burr mill and pour into a Chemex filter with boiling water chaser. Watch the brown liquid collect in the flask. Pour, enjoy, contemplate the day. If its winter, often a ride is followed by coffee. Once it gets warm, its beer season after getting off the bike.

    I can go through a pot of coffee without realizing it. My wife sometimes has to remind me of that when she gets up.

    Sounds like we had similar misspent youths. I spent a lot more time in the student union pub than the library as a young man and it sorta caught up with me. Then it was study hard and ride lots. Trade one compulsion for another. Eventually, I found a bit of a happy medium: work like a dog all day and train for races afterwards. Well, that wasn’t much of a happy medium if one is going to have a family life. So in a rare bit of luck, I injured both knees one year (really bad patellar tendinitis) and had to choose whether to race or ride to work. I chose to bike commute, as I was better at that than winning a bunch sprint.

    The one thing constant through all these years? Coffee. Got hooked on that in graduate school in 1986. By then I was getting a Ph.D. and riding 150-200 miles a week. Went to Amsterdam for a job interview and discovered really, really good Dutch coffee that you could stand a spoon up in and not have it fall onto the side of the cup. Nothing has been the same since. I am as finicky about coffee beans as some folks are about bike components.


  3. alanm9 says

    Plain black and 2 to 3 pots a day. I never drank it until I joined the service. Going from dead asleep at 3am to being in charge of the engineering plant of a warship in 45 minutes requires more than self motivation. These days just staying awake for 10 meetings a day is much harder. As for riding, coffee before and beer after.

    1. Emlyn Lewis says

      2 to 3 pots is impressive. I can understand the motivation during warship days. If anything though, 10 meetings a day seems like a stouter challenge.

  4. ransom says

    Yes, please. I love coffee. I had a couple of years where my body tried to reject it, and it was miserable. I still don’t know whether it was the food poisoning or the antibiotics that nuked my guts, but it took a while to recover. I guess the difficulty helped me tick off the “rivers of Mountain Dew” cred checkbox for computer science students?
    I like coffee, I like the ritual of coffee, I like the accoutrements. I used to have an Italian motorcycle, but now have an Italian espresso machine (and only a lonely Campy crank arm extractor, oddly). I think having both would be better, but I wouldn’t trade if I can only have one. When it’s getting late in the evening, one of the thoughts that helps me look forward to the next day is that the morning brings coffee. My sweetie doesn’t drink as much coffee as I do, but bringing each other coffee is still a ritual we each enjoy both sides of.

  5. southcarolinamtb says

    I like a good strong coffee or a lungo from my super automatic before a morning ride. I love a machiatto or a cortado after a ride. Note, by machiatto, i don’t mean the fru-fru type from some big chains; just simple espresso with a healthy dollop of frothed cream or milk.
    There are rides where we’ll occasionally stop to socialize and have a cuppa during the route, but honestly, that rarely happens in the Southeast. The opportunities are few and far between and usually located in some strip mall hell that no one would dare navigate on a bicycle.
    Kids definitely require caffination (for the adults). Multiple meetings definitely need it, too. but in general, I try not to overdo it. 2 – 3 small cups a day and nothing after 4pm, because, you know, old people gotta sleep.

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