I had the opportunity to try out a coffee that is recommended for drinking before a workout. GymBrew is from The Runner Bean Coffee Co. They have a roastery in Thatcham, 3 miles from Newbury in West Berkshire. This coffee is promoted as one of the strongest you can find in the UK, so let's find out what it is like.
The branding on the bag gives you a good idea of what this coffee is all about with phrases like 'powerful kick' and 'volcano erupting'. This is clearly for people who like their coffee as strong as can be. Although I love my coffee, I was somewhat nervous that this was going to be too much for me to handle when I went to make my first brew.
First the sniff test. When I opened up the bag for the first time the coffee smell was indeed bold and strong. Right away I knew that this was the most powerful coffee smell I had ever experienced, but in a good way. A very good way, if, like me, you love the smell of bags of coffee.
The rear of the bag tells the story of this coffee, from Brazil, and the efforts that have gone into creating it.
Okay, so here we go with the taste taste. Does it live up to the claim to be one of the strongest coffees? Yes, yes and yes! It is wonderfully strong, with a kick, but not overwhelming. It is full of flavour- chocolate, caramel and nuts. It is smooth and easy to drink. I was concerned that a coffee this strong might be too bitter, too powerful, but not Gymbrew. It manages to combine a significant caffeine hit with a great flavour profile. This coffee is not just about waking you up in a functional way, but delivering a delicious taste that I was happy to go back to morning after morning.
I also tested out what the coffee does for a workout. In my case it was a cycle ride. It is a normal part of my morning routine to have coffee before riding my bike. Gymbrew felt like it was in my system for longer than my usual cuppa and giving me a boost for longer. I did not have that sluggish feeling when I first started out on my bike- this can sometimes happen with other coffees and it means I take a bit longer to get going. I wondered if a stronger coffee might result in a bigger crash from coffee withdrawal later on, but this didn't happen with Gymbrew. I could only report a positive impact on my 5 mile ride and for the remainder of the day.
I really enjoyed this coffee. I think it is a brilliant idea to develop a coffee for workouts. Not only that, it tastes great and even if you don't use it for workouts it makes a great morning brew to get your day off to the best start.
Runner Bean Coffee Co. are strong on sustainability. They plant a tree for every order and their 250g bags are fully compostable. They have several other coffees available so have a look at their website to see what takes your fancy.
A good rain jacket is a cycling essential. Even if you only cycle in the summer months there is always the chance of getting caught in a rain shower. Vulpine's rain jacket is both practical and stylish- the kind of garment that you would feel comfortable wearing both on and off the bike.
Vulpine's clothing is the best of both worlds- stylish (i.e. looks like normal clothes) and also performs the technical function of cycling clothing. Think, being able to go from bike to work or bike to meeting friends for drinks and not having to change clothes or worry that your clothes shout 'cycling geek.' This design brief can also be seen in the other products I have reviewed - the socks, rain trousers and polo tops.
I tested this jacket in some horrendous conditions. On one of the days the rain was relentless and being blown horizontally into my face, but this jacket kept me dry. The waterproof and windproof qualities performed brilliantly. I did not get wet and I did not feel cold. The jacket is also breathable, so I did not feel uncomfortable when working up a sweat on uphill climbs.
For many road cyclists a rain jacket that is as light as possible and can be folded into a tiny bundle when it isn't raining will be a priority. Although this jacket is not the lightest that you can get, I thought it could be folded up to a small enough size to easily shove in a backpack without it taking up too much room. If you need a jacket that can be folded up even smaller than that then this may not be your first choice.
Quality and style
This jacket feels like a quality product. It feels like something built to last. It feels up to the job of protecting you from rain and wind. There is a lot more weight in it than the lightweight jackets that road cyclists may prefer, but that's what makes it feel like a jacket that you can wear both on and off the bike. I felt comfortable wearing this out and about, whereas I feel a bit more self-conscious when wearing one of those jackets that are specifically for cycling, particularly the ones with high visibility colours.
Is charcoal too dark?
I reviewed the charcoal version of the jacket, but it also comes in an orange colour if you prefer something that stands out more. All cyclists have their views about the effectiveness of high visibility colours. Personally, I was happy with the charcoal colour as I am not the biggest fan of high viz. The jacket does have some reflective elements for being seen by traffic.
One of my favourite things about this jacket is that it has two pockets. I cannot tell you enough how brilliant it is to have somewhere to put all those commuting essentials like keys, wallet, phone etc. The cycling jackets that I have owned in the past don't have much in the way of pockets as they are designed more for their function than practical features. Plus, the pockets of this jacket have a fleece lining on one side, which is a wonderful feeling if you are using them to keep your hands warm. The inclusion of the pockets is another feature that makes this jacket fit that design brief of working well on and off the bike.
The neatest feature on this jacket is the splash guard. It is tucked out of sight by means of magnets and you can easily pull it out to give your backside extra protection from spray and mud. The splash guard also has reflective details on it, so that it can be deployed to increase your visibility.
This jacket currently retails for £100. This is good value when you consider that the jacket has a dual function of providing practical cycling clothing and a stylish garment that can be worn after you park up your bike. The waterproof qualities are excellent and the build quality means that this will last for years.
Read my reviews of other Vulpine products
Merion wool socks
Henley and polo tops
Dunning is a Perthshire village famous for the Dupplin Cross, a carved Pictish Stone. One way to get there is this 10 mile route from Perth. It's mainly on the quiet B9112. This is largely a functional route, a road to get you somewhere, but there are some delightful moments.
It begins in Perth's South Inch Park which is one minute from the train station. This is a lovely green space and its worth setting aside some to time to enjoy it. There is a large pond with a boardwalk and plenty of benches to have a quiet moment.
Look for the cycle signage, in the park, marked for Bridge of Earn and follow it.
It will direct you under this low tunnel, to exit the park:
The path follows Craigie Burn for a short distance and then takes you through residential streets. It's all pretty ordinary until you pass a waterfall adjacent to one of the housing developments. It must be special to see this each time you leave your home!
Once you reach the end of Windsor Terrace turn left at the roundabout to go up Queen Street, then straight ahead at the next roundabout onto Queens Avenue. Head straight along here and the road turns into Woodside Crescent. Look out for a path on the left heading uphill. Take this and you are on a cycling/walking path behind the housing. I was here in spring when this path is decorated with snowdrops.
The path takes you to the Low Road, which joins the B9112.
This is the dull part of the route where the road climbs and climbs. It is a bit of a slog, there is nothing to look at and it passes beneath the M90 motorway. The good thing is that the road doesn't get much traffic and it is wide and smooth.
Once the climb is over the vista suddenly becomes wonderful. There is a horizon of those rolling hills and farmland that Perthshire does so well. For a couple of miles the road looks down on the River Earn valley. It is spectacular and somewhat of a revelation after the previous couple of unpromising miles.
Alongside the road at Aberdalgie there is one of those rural red telephone boxes that I love so much. It sits on a grassy patch with trees and an adjacent house with interesting church-style windows. Inside the box it was thick with spider webs, showing how little it is being used.
Make the short diversion to Aberdalgie Parish Church. It's worth it. The location is tranquil with birdsong and the gently flowing Milltown Burn the only sounds. The building dates from 1773 and features Georgian arched windows. The bell is housed in an elegant canopy, rung by an external rope that is secured with very neat knots to the wall.
I loved the welcome sign at the entrance. Here's an extract from it:
"We extend a special welcome to those who are single, married, divorced, widowed, gay, confused, filthy rich or dirt poor. We even extend a special welcome to wailing babies and excited toddlers. We don't care if you're more Christian than the Archbishop of Canterbury, or haven't been to church since Christmas ten years ago. "
A walk in the graveyard reveals plenty of moss covered stones and there is a very significant tomb overlooking the burn. This is the final resting place of Stirling Castle's Governor, Sir William Oliphant, who defended it against English forces in 1304.
Back on the B9112 you soon come to an 11% downhill that's fun to ride.
2.5 miles from here takes you to a wonderful stone arched bridge, dating from the 1760s. It suddenly appears among the trees and took me by surprise that something this old and beautiful is still part of the modern road network. Once you ride onto it you will notice the triangular shaped refuges that jut out for pedestrians to stand in when vehicles pass. I stopped to try one of them and enjoyed looking out at the river for a few minutes.
The bridge crosses the River Earn onto the B934 road. A short distance after the bridge the road travels over the railway line at a level crossing, Three more miles, through flat farming country, and the road arrives into Dunning.
If this ride has inspired you to find out more about the world of bicycle racing then the best betting sites for cycling is a great place to start.
Looking for something to eat and a place to stay in Dunning? Read my review of the Kirkstyle Inn.
My name is Colin Baird and I want to see all of Scotland by bicycle.