Copied from the Fat Cyclist

What bothers me is that my two favorite things — eating and biking — go so poorly together. I mean, I love food. When I’m not eating, I’m thinking about eating. And after I’ve eaten, I evaluate what I’ve just eaten, often considering how I might enhance a similar experience in the future (hint: it usually involves more salt or mayonnaise).

But I don’t enjoy eating when I ride.

Consider this for a moment. In order for me to remember to eat when I’m on a long ride, I’ve set up an alert on my Garmin 500 to go off every half hour.

Yes, that’s right: I’ve set up an artificial device to make me eat. I promise you that no such device is necessary in other parts of my life.

Which is too bad, really.

The Part of Lists (Or Actually, Just One List)

There are, of course, very good reasons why my life’s central preoccupation is suddenly so unappetizing (Oh boy, a pun!) when I’m on a bike.

I shall list them.

  • Sweet sweetness: I bet I’m the first person to ever notice that most every energy gel, bar, gummy chewy, and drink is sweet. And generally, I’m OK with sweet. For a while. But after six hours of washing down a sweet gel with a sweet drink, I’m ready for something less…sweet. And trying to disguise the sweetness with flavors doesn’t work. As an experiment, try this: eat (I don’t think that’s the right word) nothing but Gu for six hours, swapping out different flavors. After that six hours has passed, eat (slurp? consume?) another Gu without taking a look at the package. Ask yourself if you know what flavor it is. Take my word for it: you won’t be able to tell. I know, I know: carbohydrates are fuel, sugar is a carbohydrate, and so sugar is an effective fuel. But you know, bread’s a carbohydrate, too, and it’s not sweet. I would like a buttered toast-flavored energy bar.
  • Stuff sticking in teeth: Energy gels and bars are specially designed to get trapped in your mouth. Energy bars with little pieces of nuts are the worst offenders, because those nuts get lodged between teeth, between teeth and gums, and in your molars. And once it’s there, no amount of swishing will get it out. Nor will hours and hours of probing with your tongue, during which time you will stop noticing anything about your ride, because you are obsessed completely with getting that stupid piece of peanut out of your teeth. And it’s not like you can pick it out with a fingernail, because you’re wearing gloves. This will become distracting to the point that you will either go insane or make an emergency call to your dentist.
  • The weird coating on your teeth: You’re riding. You’re eating gels and energy bars. You’re drinking energy drinks. And after a while, your teeth feel almost exactly the same as they would if you had never brushed them even once in your life. This phenomenon is known, technically, as “disgusting.” I have, at times, nearly wept with joy when I could finally have a post-ride tooth brushing. OK, not “nearly.”
  • Texture: Think of your favorite food. Now think of your second, third, fourth, and fifth favorite foods. Do any of them have the texture of an extra-resilient gummy bear, or of an extremely gritty bar of soap? No? Gee, I wonder why not?
  • Breathing: When, someday, I make a list of all my superpowers, “being able to breathe during an aerobic effort” will not be on that list. However, “having extremely tiny, to the point of being basically useless, nasal passages: might be on that list. Which is not a very great superpower to have, by the way. My point is, if I’m riding, my mouth is open. And if I’m eating, that’s a problem for two reasons. First, it’s super gross-looking. Second, the food falls out as I chew it, producing a hilarious “cookie monster” effect. Sadly, at this time I do not have a video of this to share.
  • Spitting: Certain energy food combinations do not play well with each other. Suppose, for example, you eat a particular energy bar and wash it down with a particular energy drink. They — to your suprise and horror — chemically bond in the same way that epoxy glue does, except the result is extra-colorful-and-thick mucus. Which is awesome to spit. At first.
  • Bad combos: Thick mucus is really a pretty mild form of bad energy food combinations. Other foods might chemically interact in very bubbly ways, but only once swallowed. And shaken. At which time, a very serious case of the loud stinky farts is the best outcome you can hope for. And I probably don’t need to explain that the worse outcomes are much, much worse. And not just for you.

I should, I think, point out a couple of very important energy food exceptions. The first is that a couple of the new Clif Bar flavors are really, really good. In particular, the White Chocolate Macadamia Nut bar is delicious enough that I recently caught The Runner eating one recreationally.

The other exception is what I think may be the most perfect on-bike energy food ever created: The Salted Nut Roll. They don’t melt or get squashed in your jersey. They aren’t just pure sweetness, thanks to the brilliantly complementary taste of the marshmallowy stuff (”nougat,” I believe they call it) and the peanuts. They’re carbs and protein. And you can find them in every convenience store I’ve ever been to.

And when — inevitably — half of it falls out of your mouth as you try to open-mouth-chew it, well, some squirrel out there is going to think that’s just awesome.

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