Next to riding mountain bikes, drinking coffee is easily the most enjoyable part of my life. Ok, so beer may come in at equal second, but that holy trinity of pleasures is (for me) the great perpetual engine of life that keeps the globe turning in the right direction. Particularly when deadline is approaching.
Coffee is to cycling as what sketchy peptides are to the AFL. It’s been ingrained in our culture for many years, and it likely always will be. Whether it’s fuelling up in the morning before a big ride out in the hills, or stopping into a café mid-ride for a quick pick-me-up, there’s rarely a ride that goes by without coffee being involved in some way or another.
Coffee is also a big part of mountain bike events. Alongside the hot chip van, the smoothie stall, and the Lions Club BBQ hot plate, you can guarantee that there’ll be a mobile barista serving up hot cups of takeaway coffee to all the agitated cyclists nervously awaiting race start.
Aside from being helplessly addicted to caffeine, most cyclists are well aware of the benefits of having a quick shot of espresso before race kick-off. Caffeine is not only proven to increase blood flow, it’s also associated with a slight increase in stamina on longer distance rides too. Of course like anything you can over do it (just checkout the queue outside the portaloos at the next cycling event you go to), but a quick shot of pre-race espresso can do wonders to your overall performance on the bike.
That said, how many times have you turned up to a race event to find out that the “awesome onsite coffee” that was promised on the event website turns out to the equivalent of a Nescafe Blend 43 jar on wheels?
I’ve definitely experienced my fair share of average mountain bike event coffee over the years, but rather than continue to whinge about it (though I’m pretty good at that), I decided to bring a solution instead.
Like a lot of mountain bikers, I love camping. I also love getting away to a mountain bike event, bringing all my gear along and setting up a sweet basecamp for the weekend. But sometimes the stars don’t always align, and that epic weekend getaway you wanted instead turns into a solid day-trip with a whole lot of driving either side of a mountain bike race. Instead of waking up to the sound of galahs, you’re on the road at 5am with two other overtired riders crammed in the car who are also desperate to get to the registration tent.
In these instances where you need to travel light and efficiently, there are some gear choices you can make to ensure you have a much smoother start to race day. In my case, one of those choices has been a compact Optimus cook stove to help me get fuelled and caffeinated on the morning of race day.
If you haven’t heard of the Optimus name before, you probably should have. Optimus is a Swedish company that has been manufacturing outdoor cook stoves since 1899. Like most Swedish outdoor companies, they’re damn good at what they do.
These days, Optimus makes a range of high-tech cooking appliances for outdoor enthusiasts who need to provide for themselves out in the wilderness. That includes liquid-fuel stoves designed for use in alpine environments on the side of a mountaintop, as well as user-friendly gas stoves such as the Crux Lite.
The Crux Lite is Optimus’ smallest and most lightweight 3-piece cook system. It revolves around the miniscule 72-gram burner, which features 3 folding arms to support a saucepan on top. The burner uses a standard thread that attaches to a Butane/Propane gas canister, which you can get from your local camping store for about $10. In my experience, a gas canister based system like this tends to be more user friendly than a liquid-fuel stove.
The Crux Lite isn’t designed to cook a banquet for 6, but it is designed to boil water efficiently for you to make some porridge, a cup of coffee, or some soup. Optimus claim that the Crux Lite will boil a litre of water in just 3 minutes, though obviously wind and ambient temperature will affect this figure. With a 230gm canister, you should get nearly 90minutes of burn time. However, I would recommend investing in a heat shield to keep the stove burning hot in windier weather. Optimus make a nifty windshield for this very purpose, and it simply clips onto the gas canister to help shield the flame.
The Terra Solo Cook System is made up of two hard-anodized alloy saucepans. There’s a larger saucepan for boiling water, as well as a lid that also acts as a small frypan. Both have clever folding arms that tuck easily out of the way. Along with the mesh bag for the burner, the whole setup is a cinch to stash in your gear bag.
The Amazing Aeropress
The other component to my pre-race caffeine plan is the ever-amazing Aeropress. This is another one that you should have heard of if you haven’t already before, as the Aeropress has pretty much revolutionised the homemade coffee scene. It’s cheap, easy to use, and it’s also self cleaning too.
Like the Crux Lite stove, the Aeropress is also lightweight and compact, making it an easy device to take with you on your camping expedition. I actually take mine overseas when I travel, as you can never be sure what the quality of coffee is going to be like once you’re outside of your home turf.
If you’re still wondering what the magic of the Aeropress really is, allow me to take you through the process from start to finish. After seeing just how easy it is to do, I can guarantee that you’ll never need to rely on a ropey barista for your pre-race caffeine hit ever again!
After threading the Crux Lite burner onto the gas canister, light up the flame with a match and get your water on the boil. While you’re waiting for the water to heat up, get out your hand grinder and your coffee beans and get grindin’! If you’re pressed for time and/or space, you can always bring pre-ground coffee, but the fresh stuff is oh so much better.
Plug the Aeropress plunger into the outer tube, then flip it upside down. This is called the ‘Inverted Brewing Method’, and while you can make Aeropress coffee the regular way, this method is a little easier to manage in the outdoors. Put your coffee grounds into the Aeropress.
Once your water has boiled, turn off the Crux Lite stove and let the water sit for 30 seconds to cool down a fraction (Aeropress recommend the water be around 80-degrees Celcius).
Pour your hot water into the Aeropress and fill it up at least ¾ of the way.
Using the provided plastic stirrer, give your coffee and hot water a stir to combine. With the provided paper filter loaded into the plastic cap, screw the cap onto the top of the Aeropress and let the coffee steep for just under a minute.
Flip the Aeropress upside down over the top of your mug. Using pressure from your hand, push the plunger down inside the outer tube, so that the water is pushed through the filter and into the mug. Take about 20 seconds to plunge the coffee.
And there you have it – freshly pressed coffee!
From here you can add some milk or additional hot water depending on your preference. You can also experiment with different types of beans, but I’ve found that softer and sweeter roasts tend to work best with the Aeropress.
Since using my Aeropress and Optimus stove combo, I’ve developed an enviable reputation amongst my friends for my efficient coffee setup. It’s quick, easy, lightweight and takes up very little space in the gear bag. Plus the Aeropress is self-cleaning, so there’s little to worry about at the end of the day when it’s time to pack up and scoot back home.
As for the Crux Lite Stove, I’ve also taken it with me on overnight rides too. It’s ideal for boiling water to use alongside dehydrated meals such as the Backcountry Cuisine range, and it means you can pack light and efficiently. If you’re into hiking too, the Crux Lite will make for an effective investment, particularly when you factor in the hard-anodized finish on the Terra Solo cook system. Just add in a windshield for cold-weather protection, and you’ll be set for adventure!
Phone: (02) 8717 7300
RRP: About $50