Monday, November 30, 2009

Instant workout breakfast

I love my elaborate buckwheat cereal breakfast; a tasty and ideal basis for my hard workouts. But some days I just don't have time for that, like on Thursday mornings when getting to work by 9:00AM is hard even if I get up at 5:15AM.

So I've come up with a quick-and-easy recipe that's almost as good, using this recipe, from About.com, as my starting point:

Blueberry Almond Breakfast Pudding

Ingredients:
  • 1/3 cup almond meal
  • 2 Tablespoons water
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup blueberries - frozen or otherwise
  • Sweetener and flavoring to taste - see list below
Preparation:
Mix almond meal, egg, and water in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for about 45 seconds. Move the cooked part of the pudding towards the center of the bowl and add blueberries and/or any mix-ins you want. Microwave for about 45-60 more seconds, depending on mix-ins (frozen fruit will need even longer cooking, as it will cool down the pudding). Stir and eat.

For a larger serving, increase the almond meal up to 1/2 cup, add 1 Tablespoon water, and cook a bit longer.

Possible Additions:

  • Fresh or frozen berries or other fruit (Low Carb Fruit List)
  • Unsweetened coconut
  • Peanut butter or other nut butters
  • Small cubes of cream cheese (any fat level)
  • Sugar-free maple or other syrup
  • Sugar-free jam or preserves
  • Chopped nuts

I have also been using "Lydia's Grainless Cereal" instead of nut meal, and egg whites instead of whole. If the idea of eggs is unappealing, try adding in some protein powder and milk (I prefer almond milk). Cinnamon and ginger are nice too. And blackstrap molasses and/or honey too, for longer rides.

That's it; tasty and healthy fuel in minutes!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Chain twisting, wear and gear choices

Cycling is so hard, and our bikes don't always cooperate. One major source of struggle between us and our steeds is the drive train. Darn chain!

Multi-speed chains are laterally flexible so they can move between adjacent gears. But only a couple of the sprockets (rear gears) align straight with the chainrings (front gears). So you end up riding a lot with the chain "crossed up," that is, you force it into a slight twist between, say, the outer chainring and the inner sprockets. That in turn causes a few problems. Just for starters, the chain will wear out much faster than if you keep the chain straighter; all of the force is concentrated on one chain-link bearing surface instead of both. It is better to choose gears more in line, like the inner chainring and inner sprockets. Or the outer ring and outer sprockets. That way the force on the chain links is lower and it won't wear out as fast.

Another problem with ''crossed-up chains" is that the lateral load from the twisted chain encourages it to jump off the gear teeth, and even snap under heavy loads. That can be a problem in some races, like Cat's Hill. "The Wall" there is only 15-20 seconds long, but a very steep 20% grade. Lots of guys break chains, or have it skip over the gear teeth, sending them sprawling to the ground. I bet a lot of them try to keep the chain on the big ring and that exacerbates the problems from high chain loads. I've been using a 42-tooth small chainring in races like that instead of a 39-tooth; it's still low enough, but with nice, tighter ratios.

This chain-jumping can also happen in typical sprint finishes where guys force as much as 2000 Watts of power into their pedals. You need to be sure your chain can handle the load. Keeping your chain straighter will help a lot. So, straighten up and ride right!