Sticky, sickly sweet, overpriced… Who hasn’t had a long, otherwise pleasurable, ride marred by the claggy-mouth of too much energy drink, or suffered the jittery after effects of sucking down caffeine-addled gunk in the heat of a race?
With all these energy ‘foods’ tasting so awful – and often producing various unwanted side-effects – it’s a wonder why we continue to buy them. But like many other products designed to improve our performance on a bike, the marketing men have discovered the cyclists’ Achilles’ heel – fear of failure.
Zipp will instill the doubt in you that without the advantage of lightweight carbon wheels the podium finish will always be out of reach. Look will convince you that a 10g saving on a set of pedals will be the difference between achieving your potential or ending up another also-ran. And so PowerBar will have you believe that no one has ever scaled Alpe d’Huez without glugging back something sticky and artificial.
No surprise then that after hours of training toil, no cyclist will forgo any ‘competitive advantage’ they can lay their hands on. Of course the only valuable ‘competitive advantage’ an amateur cyclist can acquire – whisper it quietly – is through damn hard training.
Admittedly energy products have their place, but as with so many facets of cycling adopted in the pro peloton, the blind faith in powder and gels has trickled through to amateur racers, down to sportivists, and is now getting its gooey grip on even the lowliest of weekend warriors. There is almost no reason that anyone needs an isotonic energy drink, or a PowerBar, or a ‘Shot-Blok’, or a caffeinated gel to power them through a leisurely ride in the countryside. And yet every Sunday you’ll be sure to spot the colourful foils of sports food poking out the back of slow-moving jersey pockets.
The sort of quick release energy provided by these bars, gels and drinks just aren’t required for long steady rides, and will give no advantage over normal, tastier, cheaper – normal – food.
My favourite mid-ride snacks are cereal bars, bananas, flapjack… And maybe a scientifically formulated bacon sandwich and isotonic cup of tea at the café stop. Bon appetit!