Kurt and I are not nutritionists, but we are cyclists who have learned over many years that what we eat off, and on, the bike matters. As we crested over our fiftieth birthday's, we became even more aware of the importance in the way we eat for our long-term health and a continued active lifestyle. Taking care of ourselves has always mattered, even more so now and going forward.
For 2022, I am writing a series that shares our experiences as cyclists in relation to our nutrition and health(care) in hopes of inspiring you to take care of yourself, so you can be the best human AND best cyclist you can be.
This is Part 2 in our 3 part series: How a Cyclist Eats ~ How We Travel
In How We Travel we will be discussing and sharing:
- Tips for meal preparation for a week off the grid.
- What we eat on travel days and how we make special food stops part of the äventyr.
- What we eat at camp.
These tips are great for campers, and Airbnb-ers, who are cycling during their travel.
How a Cyclist Eats Part 2: How We Travel
Many years ago when we started camping again (2013 to be exact), we quickly realized that fast food lunch stops, trying to make elaborate camping meals (and worse cleaning them up - in bear country no less), and subsisting on backpacking food only, lost its appeal for us (did it ever appeal?). We just didn't know there was a better way.
We started simply, by bringing sandwich fixings on the road, but like our eating at home ~ our travel eating has progressed and evolved to a much healthier, much easier to cook and clean up, and much tastier trip.
How we eat as cyclists doesn't stop when we go on vacation. We take what we have learned at home, and take it on the road. Being a healthy eater does not have to stop when you go on äventyr!
As with our weekly meal practice, traveling, and eating well while doing it ~ takes a lot of planning and preparation. But it is absolutely worth it. Especially if you are cycling during your travel.
Planning in advance, and using your time wisely in the weeks leading up to a trip, is your key to success.
Results of a food prep afternoon extravaganza! Cookies, pancakes, muffins, almond bars, oatmeal, gorp, kale pesto from our garden.
We aren't ridiculous ~ of course there is lots of wine and chips!
General Approach Before Campbiking trips:
- Make a menu. Lay out every meal, for every day, in an excel spreadsheet. Create five columns: Make, Made, Grocery List, Pack, Packed. This is your shopping list, the beginning of your cooking game plan, and your packing list.
- Plan out how much you can reasonably cook and bake in one day. Making a week's worth of food all at once would be a nightmare, pace yourself!
- Freeze in advance if you can. If you know you have a trip coming up in a month or so, make something you know you are going to have on your trip, save half, or make a double batch, and freeze it. One less thing to make when it is crunch time the week before you leave.
- Give yourself Flex Options. Bag Food: Our first and last nights of a trip we always plan to eat backpacking food. All we have to do is open a bottle of wine and pour boiling water on dinner after a long day of driving. Dinner Out: If there is civilization around where we are going, we plan to pick up or eat in (conditions allowing since we have dogs with us) at a place we like. It is a real treat to not have to cook for at least a night!
We usually have two breakfast options. Eating breakfast as a cyclist (and as a human) is incredibly important. Especially if you have a morning ride planned.
More important than getting food in your stomach, is choosing something that will stick to your ribs to give you healthy fuel AND taste good. We have two main breakfast options we bring ~ both are pre-made before our trip.
- Pancakes [Fluffy Cinnamon Oat Pancakes] with jam and fruit. This is one of those items where I will make a double batch in the month before a trip and freeze 3/4 of it to bring on a trip. Then we just throw the frozen cakes in the cooler or camper fridge. They last almost all week (even in sometimes questionable refrigeration).
- Oatmeal [Make Your Own Instant Oatmeal Mix] with dried fruit. This used to be our main breakfast, now it is what we bring 'just in case' and for the end of the week since it doesn't require refrigeration.
And of course there is always:
- Coffee & Tea. I grind up a big batch of beans a few days before we go so I will have enough for the trip. I have a small pour over and filters I keep in our camper.
- Oatley. For the coffee and tea every morning.
- Second Breakfast item (after morning ride snack).
For quite awhile we stuck to pbj's and salami & cheese sandwiches. Since our days living in Colorado that was a pretty standard backpacking lunch we hadn't really reconsidered.
Making some PBJ's with our favorite Rigoni rolls in Michigan
- Yummy cheese
- Micro Greens
- Red pepper
- Red Onion
- A little olive oil, salt, pepper
This is both a great lunch on a travel day, and for lunch after a morning of gravel biking.
- Nuts (almonds, cashews).
- Fruit (apples, oranges, grapes)
- Green Olives
Dinner when you are camping can be a total drag, or the highlight of your day. We have successfully transitioned from drag to delight.
Solrig is the rare dog who can sleep through dinner. Here he is modeling during some of our favorite meals:
- Tomato Basil Pasta: SUPER simple to make. Boil Pasta. Add fresh Sungold Tomatoes and Basil (both come from our garden), a dash of olive oil, salt, pepper.
- Burrito Bowl: Boxed rice, can of black beans, red onion, kale, tomato, Salsa Verde, feta cheese.
- Kale Pesto: Kale Pesto with kale from our garden made weeks ahead of time, frozen in cubes in an ice tray, thrown in cube form into our cooler. Serve with your choice of noodles.
Here Inge models an easy to make soup and pre-made falafel.
- Provencal Soup: We make half the recipe and still have left overs enough for lunch the next day. This is a nearly weekly winter meal when we are home.
- Falafel:. We make this for a meal weeks in advance and freeze at least half of the batch. Then you can easily toss the frozen falafel in your cooler and pull out when you are ready to eat. Tastes best with plain greek yogurt and fresh garden tomatoes, kale (we grow it in our garden), and boxed rice pilaf.
Some of our favorite cookie recipes:
- Maple Oat Chocolate Chip Cookies (I am not so big on chocolate, so we usually only do half a bag of chips).
- Pumpkin Cookies. The dogs LOVE these.
- Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies.
On a number of occasions we have searched on google to see if the next town has a local coop not too far off the road if we need to refresh our ingredients. Way more fun than that fast food drive through!
Casper, WY stop (on the way to Jackson) for coop sandwich fixin's.
Northwind Coop, Ironwood, Michigan.
Out of food after a week on the Gunflint ~ Grand Marais load-up at Cook County Coop.
And when we need to restock during the week, local coops are the first place we look for. It's a great way to get a sense of the local community, and support people doing good things.
Give Yourself a Break and Eat Local
And sometimes you need a break from cooking! If it works out, we try to go out for lunch or dinner at least once or twice during the week.
Some of our favorite stops:
- The Rivers Eatery. Cable, WI [Top picture above]
- Door County Creamery. Sister Bay, WI [Middle picture above]
- New Scenic Cafe. Duluth, MN [Bottom picture above]
- White House Tavern. Aspen, CO [not pictured]
Yes, this is a lot of planning, and a lot of prep, but trust us when we say it is worth it. One of the hardest things on a cyclist's body is eating out meal, after meal, and expecting your body to perform like it does when you are home. Hint ~ it won't. The saying 'you are what you eat' is absolutely true, but it goes a bit further than that ~ your body and your endurance are what you eat when you cycle.
Planning Well and Eating Well go hand-in-hand. We hope you find our way of doing things, and our tips, inspiring and helpful, and that this post enhances your next trip ~ near or far.
*Your bonus for reading this far: A sample version of our excel spreadsheet for planning our meals. Click here. [This sample is from a recent three night Campbiking trip to ride gravel near Cable, WI].
Coming up in How a Cyclist Eats Part 3 ~ Aging Matters:
Aging as a cyclist ~ and what, and how, you eat matters. I will specifically be talking about my experience as a GenX cyclist, and discuss real-life situations I am working through. I will be discussing the importance of considering life transitions and how you can best take care of your body through diet and nutrition. And I will share some of the resources I am finding most helpful during a major physical and emotional life transition.