You Are What You Eat: I’m A Shrivelled Plum

The original idea for this post hit me at the end of my intervals today when, at the beginning of my cool-down on the D999 coming into town, I reached into my Ziplock sandwich bag and popped a date and prune into either side of my mouth. The slow taste explosion that ensued put a smile on my face. Yes, I was actually going to write a blog post about a dried fruit taste combo – at least it would have been original.


But that thought developed as the D999 ended at the old town and a new, more mainstream one, popped up: Eating on the Bike.

I’ve been through the whole gamut of bars and gels and secret homemade potions, but many many months ago I landed on dried fruits. Figs, dates, prunes and apricots always find their way into my back pouch and I don’t even give a gel a second look unless my ride is over 100 km. In long races it’s the same, except I’ll gladly take a banana, or pain d’épices, if offered. And yes, gels have helped towards the end of a long day. I brought 2 kg of dates to Haute Route last year and pretty much survived on them exclusively.


The reason I bring this up is because I just spent a small fortune on gels and bars for our tour clients and was amazed how many screens I could scroll through on before getting to the end of the stuff they had on offer. The energy-bar / gel / sports drink industry is pretty omnipresent in our sport and I really don’t know anyone except me who rides without something powdery in their bidons, or something gooey in their pockets. I’m probably missing out on something, but I don’t care, especially after discovering how good prunes and dates taste together.

I know I ask a lot of you, dear reader, but you are an intelligent and thoughtful lot. What do you eat on the bike? 

19 thoughts on “You Are What You Eat: I’m A Shrivelled Plum

  1. I hate to admit it but I eat all of the crap… Gu’s, Jelly beans and an ERG bar or two (450-500 cal. each), though I see the wisdom in your way of doing things. Nice post.

      • There is no doubt I am blessed in that regard. I have an iron belly.

        Still the dried fruits sound like a pretty cool alternative. I’ll be sure to give the apricots a try for sure.

  2. I’ve tried the whole gamut of gels, powders, salt tablets etc. I still ended up bonking, dehydrating and lacking in energy. But maybe it may have been worse not using them. But if I were to use the recommended gels of 3 per hour, I would have needed 24 of the little suckers on the one day in the Haute Route . A lot to carry. What I found at the feed stations in the HR last year that seemed to be a wonder drug, were the ham slices they had. My body was craving protein. That and a shot or 2 of coke at the last feed station. But kind of tough carrying that ham in your pocket. Although , like the mongols of old where they would put a of strip of raw meat under their saddles (a precursor to steak tartar I’m told) maybe a slice of ham on the saddle may be the answer. Ham tartar anyone?

    • You’re getting salt from that ham and Coke, too, I guess. This has been one issue for me on long, hot rides – staying hydrated properly. Since I live in a vegetarian household, I think I might have to slap a slice of tofu on my saddle, but I’m willing to try anything.

  3. Gerry: I only use one gel 15min before I race. Never when riding, but do keep one in pocket “just in case”. For 3+ hr rides, I prefer to bring “real food” = a sandwich; also often bring a banana; and always a nut bar. For group rides, food that easily swallows on the bike. If I know there will be a food stop, then a savory sandwich (salami worked great during latest cyclosportive, where they only serve you sweet stuff).

    I also love dates and other dried food. On a ride in southern places, I stop at fruit stands and eat fresh fruit. Last weekend in Santa Cruz, we did a fruit stand stop after 3hrs and had 2 peaches, 1 abricot, and some strawberries = yummy!

    Summary: real food for me.

    (I should add that I have no problem eating what some would say fairly heavily — oatmeal + two sandwiches — 10min before a group ride. Works fine for me to keep me fueled up to 3hr ride and that’s what I do on weekends: get up 6:45am, big breakfast, ride starts at 7:30am 🙂 So I’m blessed with a good stomach; I know some guys need to eat 2 hrs before riding…

    • Is that gel just to wake you up? Never heard that one before.

      Are you saying you that you can ride 3 hours without food on the weekend? That’s incredible! I start to bonk after an hour or 90 minutes, no matter what I’ve eaten. You’re one efficient machine, Jan 😉

      • The gel is before a crit or cross race (both are fairly short: 40-50min < 1hr). May be more habit or mental placebo 🙂
        On the weekend rides typically one food item. I always bring food, trust me. And I wish I was more efficient in producing more watts!
        This Sunday a "gravel metric" century that is not supported. That's a first for me–have thought about tires (mounted 44mm!), next is food: thinking of one sandwich, some nut-oatmeal bars, some Cliff chewing blocks.

  4. My corner shop’s filled egg rolls, sultanas, prunes, dates, bananas, small iced cakes and if it gets up to 100 miles, then I stop for lunch in a pub or cafe.

    Porridge with honey and toast with more honey before I start.

  5. Real food. PB+J sandwich, fruit on long rides here. Those yummy date/nut homemade bars (that you have the recipe for) on group rides here. I also make them with figs and almonds. You have just inspired me to try them with apricots and … maybe pecans. Fig newtons and little cheeses on the little roads of you-know-where, also sometimes little packages of nutella and leftover bread . Bananas and fresh fruit anywhere. There, I ask and have always been encouraged to take food from the breakfast table. For a little while, on faster club rides here I tried carrying chocolate covered coffee beans… might have to try that again and see if it picks up my speed.

  6. I find those gels and drink powders repulsive — my stomach can take them, but my mouth would rather not touch that stuff. Some bars are tolerable so I take them along on longer rides, but the preferred poison is a ham or salami sandwich and bananas although bananas weigh enough that I feel it. The best feed stops are at l’Eroica where they have fruits, prosciutto, salami, bread, bean stew, red wine and other real food, nothing made by pharmaceutical companies. Chocolate covered coffee beans sound intriguing, as long as the chocolate doesn’t melt whilst they sit in a jersey pocket.

    • That’s the first thing I thought about Suze’s chocolate beans, too. Recipe for lots of finger licking. My buddy Erik never leaves home without a banana in his back pouch, but gets rid of it before the first climb, usually. I think that’s a wise way to go. I feel the same way about all those things created in a lab, too. Anything with an expiry date over a year away, can’t be that good for you, no matter how ‘natural’ it looks. L’Eroica sounds really great. I just need to get a bike old enough and I’ll be there.

      • Indeed. Considering the mess possible with chocolate covered coffee beans, just imagine the mess I can make with a little package of Nutella … the size you find on breakfast bars.

  7. Dried fruits sound brilliant. Why have I never thought of this? I did bring prunes on a four-day tour one, but did apricots (and more!) on one – day rides… Brilliant! I carry gels in case of bonk, but I favor jerky, pretzels, apples, and home-made “pizza rolls,” which are nothing like the frozen abomination that goes by the same name. I have been known to bring gummy worms, because I love them and never get to eat them otherwise. I pretend they’re gels 🙂

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