Half-baked ideas: Chips-flavoured gels, wearable bragging rights

We run some crazy cycling ideas by experts. Their answers may surprise you

At BikeRadar, we strive to bring you the best inventions and innovations from the bike world. But in this column, contributor Fred Dreier explores his own wacky bike ideas, and consults various experts as to their validity. Warning: these ideas are anything but fully baked.

The sports nutrition world has provided us with an arsenal of bars, gels, chews and even pancakes to help us reach peak performance as cyclists.

But how often has this happened to you: you’re on a particularly long, hot and sweaty ride, and you start craving nachos, frites or pizza? You reach for that caramel-fudge-diabetes-brownie energy bar in your pocket, and your stomach vetoes: If you stuff any more chocolate into me, I’m going to vomit all over your Garmin.

Problem 1: I’m craving a plate of nachos, pizza and chips, but all of my energy food is sweet.

Half-Baked Cycling Idea: Create a line of sports nutrition that tastes like real food that you crave. 

What if Clif Bar had a nacho cheese bar, or if GU sold gel that tasted like marinara sauce? Think of the sugary agony you’d avoid with real food-flavoured energy food, not to mention the cash you would save by skipping the mid-ride burger.

To see if there is an actual market for real food-flavoured bars and gels, I phoned up Chris Randall, a senior brand manager at Clif Bar.

Randall said Clif sends new flavors through anywhere from three to 27 rounds of prototyping, and it relies on sponsored athletes and employees for taste feedback. He said the entire sports nutrition industry has leaned toward sugary foods because it’s easier to deliver carbohydrates in sweeter flavors. 

“When you talk about real food flavours, either they don’t exist in a format you can put in a gel or chew,” Randall said. “Or it just doesn’t taste good.”

When I posed my question about nacho and pizza-flavoured products, I expected Randall to snicker, or at the very least roll his eyes. His reply was surprising. It turns out, Clif is working on a line of these flavours right now.

“It’s pretty interesting timing, because we’re close to launching a savoury and salty product that meets those types of cravings,” Randal said. “When you want [chips] with a bunch of salt on them — that’s the flavour profile we’re going after.”

So there you have it — perhaps nacho energy bars aren’t a pipe dream after all.

Nachos energy bar? why not?: nachos energy bar? why not?
Nachos energy bar? why not?: nachos energy bar? why not?

Cyclists can be a self-congratulatory bunch, as I’ve learned from the plethora of Strava results that appear on my Facebook feed. What if you could walk into a bar and literally show everybody the mad biking skills you possess?

Problem 2: I rock at cycling but nobody knows the degree to which I rock.

Half-Baked Cycling Idea: “RESULTS, BRO” T-shirts for roadies and “I CLEANED IT” shirts for mountain bikers

The Results, Bro customized T-shirt Company would agree to print your results and other cycling achievements onto a shirt, so that the entire world could see how amazing you are. But there is a caveat: a Results, Bro representative would need to see proof of your achievements before approving the design.

For roadies, this would be simple: a screen grab of your race results should do the trick. I would hesitate to accept group ride results, but if you could provide proof via a GoPro video clip, or perhaps the testimony of the angry motorist you cutoff while going for the town-line sprint, that should suffice.

For the “CLEANED IT’ mountain-bike version, a Results, Bro representative would need to see video proof of your clean ride. Proper cleaning rules apply: if you put a foot down, sorry, no shirt for you.

Strava has already begun to sell jerseys for those that complete certain distance-based challenges.  "On the cycling side we have the monthly Grand Fondo jerseys, and on the run side wehave running tech tees for our 10k and half marathon monthly challenges," said Strava senior communications manager Michael Oldenburg. "Occasionally we do offer t-shirts as challenge gear, like the one for our recent Challenged Athletes Foundation challenge and for the recent Rapha Rising challenge."

But why not push this further, down to specific events and tough sections of trail? I see no reason why this idea can’t blossom into a lucrative business.

Cleaned it, bro: cleaned it, bro
Cleaned it, bro: cleaned it, bro

Every bike community has the old curmudgeon who rants and raves about how much better bike racers were back in the day. These mature cyclists poo-poo newfangled inventions like electronic shifters and carbon-fibre frames, and belittle today’s racers for relying on technology to get them over the hills: Jack Anquetil could whip this Albert Contadoro if they were both riding with friction shifters!

But how will we ever know if this is true?

Problem 3: Racers these days rely too much on technology.

Half-Baked Bike Idea: Organize the Antique Bicycle Olympics, which only allows vintage bicycle tech

What if there was a cross-country mountain bike race that forbade disc brakes, tubeless tyres or anything more technologically advanced than a Tioga Disc Drive wheel or a Softride suspension stem? How about a road race where participants had to ride on old steel rigs from the 1950s? Would the Antique Bicycle Olympics really show us which rider is the strongest?

The crux to this idea is whether it would generate any revenue from participants or viewers. There are examples of success in the market. Italy’s Strade Bianche gran fondo in requires steel bikes with down tube shifters, and each year it attracts a sizable crowd.

Steve Brown, owner of Brown Cycles in Grand Junction, Colorado, organizes his own 102-mile L’Eroica antique bicycle race each May. Brown doesn’t require participants to race on old bikes, but he awards “points” based on antiquated technology and even old-timey outfits.

What would happen if you cut way back on the technology in athletic competition?: what would happen if you cut way back on the technology in athletic competition?
What would happen if you cut way back on the technology in athletic competition?: what would happen if you cut way back on the technology in athletic competition?

It sounds like a pretty amazing event: at the one aid station, Brown’s volunteers have food, water, a jug of whiskey, and even a makeshift firing range where racers can shoot guns at tin cans.

“The quickest guys finish at 2 p.m. but people are still trickling in at 7 p.m.,” Brown said.

Unfortunately, Brown’s event isn’t a cash grab. After four years, only 35 to 50 riders participants. He estimates he loses about US$1,000 on the event, but makes the cash back in the media attention he generates for his shop.

Perhaps the Antique Bicycle Olympics would not line your pockets. But it could help advertise your own bike shop, or your firing range. And there’s nothing half-baked about that.

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