Thursday, 19 September 2013

Urban Smoothie Bikes

My daughter Becky making a pedal powered smoothie
Everyone knows how healthy smoothies are for us.  Everyone knows cycling is an equally healthy way of going from A to B.  Put them together and you get a fresh and really good pedal powered smoothie.  Here we see the Urban Smoothie Bikes at the local Family Cycling Festival last Sunday.

What is it?
You need an adapted bicycle with a Fender Blender.  This is a special gizmo with a little roller that is driven by the bicycle tyre and in turn causes the blender to whiz around and make your smoothie.

These gizmos are called Fender Blenders (and must be North American!?) and available more locally from .

It seems a well made piece of equipment that was certainly being put through its paces.

It reminded me of our Kenwood bomb-proof mixer which has an attachment which looks very similar.

There's a glass jug with a built in blade - you simply put your chosen pieces of fruit in, plus a little fruit juice and then pedal like crazy for a few minutes.

What kinds of smoothies can you make?
I guess the answer is the same for this as any other smoothie maker.  On the stand at the Cycle Festival, there was a choice of smoothie you could have.  In practice it was boring grown-ups like me saying "yeah may I have a mango smoothie please" quickly followed by the ingredients being put in, all free of charge.  You will typically get some mango pieces, banana pieces and apple or mango juice as the base.  Then you need your teenage daughter for some high speed pedalling.

Urban Smoothie Bikes
I chatted to the proprietor, Murat Basaron, who's a really nice guy.  He clearly loves what he's doing and the whole thing brings a smile to everyone who stops to watch.

Are smoothies good for you?
Yes of course they are!  You knew that all along, didn't you?

You might be wondering why they are good for you.  I'll tell you.  Fruits such as bananas, mango, oranges and so on are all good for you with vitamins, phytochemicals and fibre.  Worth bearing in mind that some smoothies you can buy in the shops have rather a lot of fruit juice in them.  This isn't bad but the 'bits' in the fruit are also quite good for us, not just the fleshy juice.

A glass of smoothie will normally count as two portions of fruit.  That is really important and a crucial part of maintain excellent health.  I like having a glass of smoothie with my breakfast; always better if it's at room temperature.

Smoothie are also quite easy to digest, top up hydration levels and, most importantly, add to the variety of fruits we consume.

So I hope you like smoothies.  They're good for you.  I hope also you can have a smoothie if you are at some event and Urban Smoothie Bikes are there!

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Running the Bus Way and ticking over

Early morning cyclist on the Bus Way
We have a new Bus Way (connecting Dunstable and Luton) about to open near where we live and I've been exploring it!  The actual Bus Way is one of those new fangled tracks for special buses that can use ordinary roads and then adapt themselves at the touch of a button to drive along these new routes.  There are meant to be all kinds of reasons why these are so wonderful but that's not really what this blog is about.

Instead, let me concentrate on the cycle track which runs alongside.  It has been a little controversial with the surface being too rough for cyclists but this seems to be settling down now.  Yep it is certainly a delight to see cyclists using it, as I noticed early one morning when I took the above photograph: it was cool, misty with the promise of a great day.

Running the cycle track
Aside from the issues faced initially by cyclists, I have found this to be brilliant for running!  The track is, for the most part, about 2 metres wide with a gritty texture and pretty flat.  It really is ideal, especially for people who want to have an easy run, not complicated by running on the streets with roads to cross, other pedestrians, cars, loose paving slabs etc.

If you're new to running, perhaps just starting out, this could be a good place to go as you can join it in many different places along the route.  Here's a few things to keep in mind:

  • If you run and listen to music through your Smart phone or MP3 it could be a great place.  There are no cars to listen out for but be aware of cyclists coming up from behind you.  Now the track is smoother, bicycles can easily cruise along at 15-20mph
  • Keep to a straight line, don't go weaving all over the track: you might be making yourself into a hazard for a cyclist
  • Cycle tracks can be isolated places running on the fringe of urban environments, so consider your own health and safety.  Hopefully the new Luton Dunstable Bus Way will always be a safe environment.  Do report any issues to the Police which might be useful in simple intelligence gathering, or, to the Council as appropriate.
  • It is an ideal width for runners to go alongside each other.  So it's ideal for you and a running buddy and you can encourage each other

A spot of interval training
I found myself spotting a tree, or some other landmark, and simply sprinting towards it for all I was worth and then easing back to a gentle jog to recover.  This, by the way, is interval training: pushing your heart rate right up high for a short burst and then allowing it to come back down.

The purpose of the run, just today
I haven't run much lately so this was just a 30 minute run to stop my "running muscles" thinking they were no longer needed.  I did the same yesterday, just a gentle run then.  For runners I think it's important to have a little jog or run in periods of rest and recovery if it is possible to do so.  Okay some injuries may result in a Doctor or physiotherapist advising someone not to run at all for X months and this is naturally sound advice.  But here I'm not talking about injury myself, just going through a little phase where I'm spending more time cycling than running.

So there you go, a little "reminder of a run" and a thoroughly enjoyable run nevertheless.

A word about the success of the Bus Way
The "powers-that-be" might be looking to see lots of people using the Bus Way as the measure of success.  I'm sure the providers of the bus service will be looking at their income and trading surplus and the bottom line.

Myself I think success will be:

  • Fewer short journeys taken by car
  • More people opting for non-car transport
  • More people cycling
  • More people running, jogging or walking
  • Children becoming more independent
  • The health within local communities improving

Another blog I noticed generally on focussing on Bus Way issues

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Which is best, running or cycling?

I have been going through a funny phase lately and it has caused me to give some thought to the age old question of which is best, running or cycling?

Does this make any sense to you at all?  If like me, you enjoy both, do you ever find yourself asking that very question?  Almost as if to ask is it better to ditch one and try and concentrate on the other.  That then leads on to another question about how "good" I could be at running, if I just concentrated on running.  Same goes for cycling: how "good" could I become if I concentrated on simply cycling?

You might have clocked before that I go through phases where I run every day for a fortnight.  This I normally do for a specific reason such as burning off all those extra calories at Christmas time plus yearning for some daylight no matter how meagre it is.  There are some real benefits from this but I also find myself getting a bit obsessive about it as well.  I find myself plotting longer routes, perhaps tracks or roads I've never run along before.  These newly planned runs generally get longer and longer.

Then by contrast, I go through phases when I concentrate on cycling almost at the expense of running.  Again I find myself mapping out longer rides, sometimes tours.  I chew over the possibilities of cycling with some of my friends who also cycle as I'm sure we can get together to do something together.

The pros and cons of each
Recently I have found myself chewing over the advantages and disadvantages of both running and cycling.  Trouble is, I like them both but for different reasons but this is a blog post in its own right but for now the advantages of running seem to be:

  • seems to be much cheaper than cycling
  • burns more calories
  • more "bang for your bucks" i.e. an hours' run does me more good than an hour on the bike
  • less faffing around i.e. getting out for a run seems so simple compared to finding all my bits of clothing and putting them on, helmet, spare inner tube, unlocking the garage, getting the bike out and so on
And then the advantages of cycling seem to be:
  • fantastic way of seeing more of the countryside
  • I can cycle to work (20 - 28 miles each way) and this is too far to run
  • I love stomping up a hill and the thrill of whizzing down the other side
  • bicycles can be nice objects to enjoy owning and taking care of
The next challenge?
I got a real buzz from running a marathon earlier this year, coming in at a whisker under 4 hours.  I feel I have achieved some reasonable times (for an ordinary bloke in his 50s) in running races and I can savour these when I'm an older bloke in my 90s.  Physically and mentally running has had a profoundly positive effect.

So following on from that I am toying with the idea of cycling much more, I have only done 1200 miles in the last 8 months.  My friend Jeremy and I have toyed with the idea of doing a Coast to Coast event in June 2014: this is a 150 mile bike ride in one day (which also involves 4,500 ft climbing).  The way things we are right now probably going for this!  That'll mean plenty of training, which should be good.

Not sure about doing both
Yep, right now I am unsure whether I am getting the most out of running and cycling by doing both.  I feel faithful to both and yet disloyal to one if I favour the other.  I want to do well and accomplish things, to do my best and go to the limit - and yet I struggle to do this by doing both.

Does any of this make sense?
The best way I can rationalise this would be to think of it in different seasons.  Either calendar seasons (winter, spring, summer and autumn) where I run mostly from October through to April, then spend the summer cycling.  Seasons can also mean seasons in life.  I could spend a couple of years running and getting a lot out of it, then take up cycling and concentrate on that for a couple of years.  

I do like the notion of seasons being broader than the calendar seasons.  Being me, I just wish I could always do both and get total satisfaction from doing both - having my cake and eating it!

My guess is a few people are going to say to me (either in person, or in comments below) not to worry and just enjoy doing both......

Sunday, 1 September 2013

The Health Benefits of Red Clover Tea - guest blog

I am delighted to welcome Karin Feldinger as a guest blogger.  My first contact was in May 2012 when I reviewed Langarten Organic Snacks (click here) and more recently I invited Karin to contribute an article to my blog.   In her article below, she discusses the benefits of Red Clover Tea, something quite fascinating and completely new to me....

You may have been hearing a lot about all these different teas recently, all of which are supposed to help you lose weight, become more healthy, give you more energy and all the rest of it. No doubt you have been a bit dubious about some of them, especially the ones that make you sign up for a free trial and then charge you a fortune at the end of it. However, there is one that may catch your eye online, that is backed up by plenty of medical research. 
Red Clover Tea is made from 100% red clover, which is a wonderfully British herb. Many descriptions of this organic herbal tea will tell you that it is the perfect way to cleanse and refresh the body, as well as being caffeine free. We all know that caffeine isn't the best thing to plough into our bodies, but many of us can't help enjoy a nice warm drink in the afternoon. This is the perfect healthy alternative to a cup of tea or coffee, on occasion.
There are doctors singing the praises of this herb and for plenty good reason too. If you search for Red Clover Tea online then you'll soon find plenty of medical research, health magazines talking about the herb, and plenty of people who use the tea for medical reasons. Here are just some of the health benefits that have been discussed, about the herb and tea:
  • Red clover tea is a blood cleanser – This means that it gets rid of all those nasties lurking in your blood stream. In fact, there has been research into this herb for cancer healing properties, although nothing is completely black and white just yet.
  • It alleviates menopause symptoms – There are several helpful phytoestrogens in red clover that have a really positive impact on menopause symptoms. Research has been carried out into this clever stuff getting rid of hot flushes and hormonal problems.
  • Antioxidant properties – Perfect if you want to completely refresh your body, after a heavy weekend or a week of eating junk food. A detox can be the perfect way to better your overall health and well being, either once every few weeks or more often if you prefer.
  • Reduction of cholesterol – Another study that is not 100% conclusive yet, but the results are looking positive. Drinking red clover tea on occasion can help lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of related diseases. 
You will find a lot more health benefits that were being spoken about online, but these will certainly be the main topics of conversation. It seems that the blood cleansing properties of red clover tea are the most talked about, especially as they could reduce the risk of certain cancers. The general health and well being benefits of red clover tea are perfect for those who want to detox and truly refresh their body. 
What is even better is that the tea tastes incredible, as well as being healthy! You can drink it hot, cold, and with a teaspoon of honey (great for those with a sweet tooth). Even people who don't enjoy detoxing drinks agree that this has a lovely flavour to it. The fact that there are plenty of health benefits to it will make it taste even sweeter! 
A cup of red clover is a great and healthy start in the day.
If you would like to find out more about red clover have a look here:

About the writer: Karin Feldinger is an amateur herbalist, passionate cook and skier. Originally from Austria she lives in the UK with her daughter since 2009. Her company imports premium organic herbal tea and supplies Health Food Shops across the UK.