01 May, 2013

Eat to Ride to riding to eat

by Scott

Cyclists are a funny bunch when it comes to food. I've never seen such a crowd that has such diverse interests/needs when it comes to food. Some cyclists are all about food as fuel, while others ride to be able to eat.

When touring in Australia 20 + years ago, my eating habits were formed by two things- the cost of the food and ease of preparation. Considering I was 19 years old and not a great cook at home, this is not surprising. So a tin of pineapple for breakfast, a Chiko roll (a deep fried beef and veggie roll http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chiko_roll ) and some fries at lunch and chunky soup out of a tin for supper. The pineapple and soup could be bought at any small town store in Tasmania and the Chiko roll could be bought at any gas station or such along the way. A combination of this diet and 60-70 miles on hilly roads on a loaded touring bike led to a 30 lb weight loss on that trip over 3 months.

Before working here at VO, I worked for GU energy gels in SF bay area. I worked in the production end of the company, organizing the delivery of the mountains of ingredients that made up the gels that we produced in Berkeley. I was surrounded by employees of GU who regularly ran marathons and took part in long distance cycling events. As a long distance cyclist myself, the easy access to energy gels was a great part of the job, as was the culture of endurance athletics. My fuel choice as an endurance cyclist was still driven like it had been when I was 19 and touring- ease of delivery and cost. The gels were easy to eat on the road, came in a variety of flavors to suit my palate, were easy to transport on long rides and fairly cheap given the number of calories.

Now as I ride, I find myself using gels and such less and less and trying to eat more “normal” food on our rides that pass through rural areas of Pennsylvania, Virginia and Maryland. When I rode the Endless Mountain 1000 brevet a few years back, I carried gels with me, but I also used rice crispy squares as a supplement while riding and tried to have a good sit down meal during the day to keep my energy levels up. During the course of a three day event like the 1000, my taste buds would rebel against the sweet taste of the gels, so stopping to eat a pizza or other savory items made getting the calories needed easier to get. On our fleche ride this past month, one of my team mates had made his own rice bars to eat on the ride and we stopped for a great lunch at the Little Grill Collective in Harrisonburg VA. The meal and the questions about bike touring from the workers at the grill were a highlight of the ride.

(Chris Niebylski at our lunch stop on the Fleche)

Lots of riders have a favorite coffee shop to end a ride at. Judging by the number of comments we got when Annette asked about coffee makers, I think coffee may be the most popular "fuel" for cyclists.

With a rising interest in some rural gravel rides this year and some touring lined up for the late summer and fall, I think more small town deli's and cafe's may be in my future as I go from eating to ride to riding to eat.

What do you eat on long rides? Any suggestions for good foods to carry?


Anonymous said...

Now that they're available, a tall carton or two of coconut water. They fit in my bottle cage.

Robert said...

Just mentioned this on my ole bloggo. On a longer ride this past wknd I brought apple sauce and pretzel crisps. Sounds gross but..good.

Unknown said...

My favorite subject!!!

I've been influence by the Feedzone, sounds like one of your buddies made the rice bars from this book as well.

Now that I've gotten into the habit of wrapping up my own portables, anything goes!

Cookies, waffles, rice balls (onigiri), homemade Lara bars http://cookieandkate.com/2013/homemade-larabars-apricot-almond-bars/#more-7720, rice krispie treats, chocolate chip pumpkin bread, chocolate shortbread cookies.

You name it, once you start wrapping up your own food, the possibilities are endless.

:) Alice

Mike said...

Normal food as much as possible for me. I make my own flapjacks with a bit of crystallised ginger chopped into them for regular rides, plus take a banana as well. I'll often stop for a coffee and a cake if I'm out on my own.

Last year on the UK's Dunwich Dynamo overnight ride I made a Shooter's Sandwich and shared with a friend, and took a small bag of coffee plus an aeropress maker. That was a thing of beauty. http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/gallery/2010/apr/07/how-to-make-shooters-sandwich

Mike Bx said...

Anything with peanut butter in it. I like Lance brand crackers or such. I also like cashew nuts, roasted with light salt.

Anonymous said...

Coke and beef jerky.
M Burdge

Doug said...

Real food for me. I never have used the gels and highly processed energy products. I have severe food intolerances stemming from Celica Disease. So I carry all my own food. Ham sandwiches, homemade granola bars and cereal bars, apples, GORP and other nut filled trail mixes. I don't really eat differently on my bike than I do when I'm off the bike. A 16 oz Nalgene bottle of water frozen the night before a ride keeps everything cold when buried in a handlebar bag or trunk bag. Even on the hottest days.

Anonymous said...

I like jerky, trail mix, small cookies, flat bread (naan or pita) and mini Babybel cheeses. The Babybels are great because they'll keep for days without refrigeration. I've been thinking about packing some small bottles of olive oil and balsamic vinegar along with the bread for some extra calories and flavor.

Anonymous said...

If I'm carrying: trail mix or Hot Tamales. (For those who may not know Hot Tamales, they are essentially cinnamon jellybeans.)

if I'm stopping at a store for a break: Snickers, Peanut Butter Snickers, or Reese's Fast Break bars.

Jon said...

Dried figs, PB & honey on pita, tamari almonds, granola, and bread pudding are frequent staples of my rando bag buffet. I like to get orange juice, v8, chocolate milk, bagels, ice cream, and yogurt at shops.

I find having some really tasty treat allotted for a specific point in the ride is very rewarding. Maybe that's a packet of marzipan, a pint of beer, or planned ice cream stop.

I keep some gel or Clif bar in my bag as emergency rations. Hopefully I never have to eat the stuff; I often hand it over to starving riding partners.

A said...

Pb&j w/ banana sandwiches and spam musubi are my top options on the road. A big hamburger and a few pints when I reach the end.

Shane said...

good stuff so far! i use long rides as an excuse to eat dessert. donuts rule. brownies? rice crispies? chocolate bars? sure.

I ALWAYS carry a gel flask filled with honey in case of bonking.

Peter said...

Wow I can't believe you lost weight eating Chiko rolls. I love Chiko rolls but never thought they were low calorie!

Anonymous said...

Dehydrated whole bananas. Not banana chips which have sweeteners added, just a whole banana that is partially dehydrated. Nice and chewy and packed with calories. Goes great with peanut butter and bread/tortillas/etc.

Anonymous said...

So many foods, so little time. If I'm just going out for a day ride, I try to stop by a Panera and get an Italian Combo and an apple. That plus water seems good.

If I'm on a long ride and hungry and come across a convenience store, I'll buy a hot dog. Yes, bad for you, salty, fatty, the works--and totally scrumptious under the right circumstances, rather like Gatorade.

In an emergency, I'll stop at grocery for dog or burger buns, peanut butter, and chocolate chips. I've made sandwiches from these that are quite satisfactory after a day or two.

I'm diabetic, so my eating may not be like your eating; I don't suffer from post-meal insulin surges as normals do. OTOH, I can go hypoglycemic from exercise, so one pocket of my bar bag always has two 10-tablet tubes of glucose.

Unknown said...

I'm a rando person as well, and I usually munch on Clif bars for the first 100 miles. Then a little switch goes off in my brain, and I can't bear even the sight of them.
After that anything goes, as my stomach sometimes gets a bit dodgy during long rides. I usually trust my instincts and go for what sounds good: turkey sandwiches with pickles and mustard often taste heavenly for some weird reason. Other times a Snickers does wonders, as do those evil little packs of pre-packaged peanut butter crackers. I always laugh that things that I would never consider eating on non-riding days can taste so good during a ride.

enzomatic said...

On rando rides I'll prepare peanut (almond) butter, banana, and honey sandwiches. I have granulated maltodextrin and these concentrated electrolytes in a dropper bottle, I mix it in my water bottle and can honestly not taste the difference, it just has a bit thicker mouth feel. I've carried dates before and find them handy and something I can eat when my stomach doesn't want to take anything else in. I like carrying around almonds for the same reason. At convenience stores I sometimes grab a Mexican coke and an ensure, I'll usually reach for something salty as well like pretzels.
On tour I find rice to be an easy and adaptable base. You mix white rice 1:1 with water and let I boil, after it boils you take it off the heat, you can let it sit a few minutes with a lid on and the rice will cook, you can add honey, bananas and cinnamon for a sweet breakfast or put greens on top of the rice to steam when the lid is on. Add canned beans and hot sauce while you heat up tortillas on top of the lid. You can also make a sort of peanut sauce with pb, oil, hot sauce, etc. this is good when mixing with canned tuna or the like.

Peter said...

lawschool, I'm also a Type 1 diabetic; riding a lot helps me manage my glucose a lot better. I keep a bento box on my top tube with assorted granola/energy bars in it. I find that if my glucose is dropping fast, seeing the thing I'm going to stop and eat helps keep me from panicking.

Gels work for a quick burst, but I find the texture nasty.

I live in a city stuffed with excellent bakers, so I have a lot of options. For breakpoints in the ride, I often carry stuff like chocolate chip cookies, cheese puffs and lemon squares. I test my glucose periodically through the ride, and those getting-close-to-hypoglycemia moments are an excellent justification for the sort of carbo-snackery I couldn't get away with if I wasn't burning it off right away.

For longer rides, a handy carb source is apple, pineapple or banana fritters, depending on taste and what your local donut place makes. Because they break into small nodules, like fresh ginger, you can do better portion control by breaking off a little bit when you need it and not loading up all at once. They also keep fairly fresh over a couple of days. This is easier to manage with a handlebar bag.

Besides: Grease? Sugar? Gooooooood.

One of the best arguments in favor of loaded touring is that it lifts the milkshake embargo.

Goon said...

Little Grill is The Best.

I'm glad that they are now officially Rando-approved.