It’s amazing the difference a well-timed bar, gel or piece of fruit can make to the enjoyment of a ride. Even a little bit of sugar taken at the right time can prevent you from entering the depths of hell that is bonking.
There are a lot of options when it comes to riding food, but so much of it contains teeth-melting amounts of sugar, and bars and gels aren’t cheap to boot. But if you're anything like me then the prepackaged, store bought options seem to find their way into your pocket more often than the natural homemade variety.
What’s more, everyone’s stomach can handle different things. My Dad, for instance, can down a foot-long meatball sub in the middle of a 120-mile ride in the dog days of summer and still beat you to the top of a climb, a move which would leave many (including me) riding the vomit train all the way home.
There’s also something to be said for knowing what you’re using to fuel your body and if you’ve ever taken a gander at the ingredients list on the back of a bar or gel it can be a bit like trying to read something written in another language.
One of my favorite things used to be Dr. Allen Lim’s egg and chicken sausage rice cakes. It sounds like a weird combo I know, but the salty, savory flavor was a nice break from the sickly sweet selection of bars and gels usually on offer.
The trouble is, whenever I’d take the time to make them life would get busy and I wouldn't have time to ride before the egg, sausage and rice would pass its use-by date and become a gut busting danger. Also, my girlfriend and roommates weren’t too keen on our refrigerator looking like something out of Scarface stocked full of tinfoil wrapped bricks.
Then there’s the prep time, they’re not particularly quick to make. Maybe it’s my ineptitude with any cookware that’s not a barbecue, but it always took quite a bit of time for me to cook all the elements, mix them up and then package them.
Fruit also makes great riding food, and bananas are some of the best because they’re pre-packaged and taste great too! The trouble is, in the summer heat I’ve had more than a few bananas pass their prime in my back pocket leaving me with a flowery, unsatisfying snack. The other problem with bananas is packing them out, there’s nothing worse than cleaning out your pockets post ride to find them full of lukewarm banana goop.
However, quite often out of utility (i.e. laziness) instead of prepping some rice cakes or grabbing a piece of fruit I opt for the third option, store bought bars and gels. My favorites are banana flavored Powerbars (yes I do see the irony here) and Blackberry Gus.
So now over to you, what’s your favorite riding food? Do you have an iron stomach like my dad or have you got a story about intestinal distress out on a ride? Do you take the time to prep your own riding food? Or are you like me and order box after box of pre-packaged riding fuel? Lets us know in the comments below!