Solid Food for Singletrack

I’m a big fan of Gels-Blocks-Bars every 30 minutes as the Big Cat prescribes, but am gearing up for 3+ hour mountain bike races, and have had a rough time finding bars/solid food that i can scarf down on the rough stuff. 1/2 a clif bar is ok, but awfully dense to chew through, and Honey Stinger waffles get really crumbly and can make me cough, no fun.

This weekend I tried a session with just gels & blocks and my system did not approve, so I want to keep solid food in the rotation.

Does anyone have a favorite energy bar or snack for getting carbs in quickly over uneven terrain? Bonus points for being easy to unwrap, or just shove in a jersey pocket unwrapped.

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Hey @joshvc !
When you are on the single track going hard, I honestly would not advice eating solid food as that will be hard for your stomach to digest. Now if you are stopping for a minute on a weekend ride, you could reach for stroopwafels (I love Boons and break them in half inside the package before putting them in my back pocket), a homemade rice cake, dates or other baked good, a banana (I’d eat this early on in the ride) or a tortilla filled with some peanut butter and honey… or if you are feeling fancy, this almond butter from boon. It is DROOL WORTHY. With any of those, I advise eating them earlier on in the ride as tolerance to solid foods tends to decline the longer you ride.

When you are pushing anything past SS I suggest the gels and blocks with adequate water for digestion, which is ~6-8 oz per gel. Fun fact: 1 mouthful/gulp is ~1oz which makes ensuring you drink enough with each gel pretty easy.

Now, if you are racing a course that is predominately single track, a pro move is to put your nutrition in your camelback (e.g. gu roctane). That way you do not have to risk making any mistakes pulling out your bottle (or losing them) and stay on top of your hydration better.

My hunch about this past weekend is that it was a bit hotter and you were eating those gels and not taking in enough fluids… which is what caused the GI upset. It could also be that you took in more carbs per hour than you have done in the past and your stomach has not adjusted to that amount. Start small and then work your way up and you are much more likely to tolerate the gels and blocks.

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Like @Lacey_Rivette was saying - in order to race singletrack you are going to have to develop the skill I call " handed nutrition".

2 handed nutrition is not an option for mountain biking (taking both hands off the handlebar to unwrap a bar and eat it)

This is why gels and blocks were invented - they require 1 hand from your jersey pocket or similar AND you can swallow them when your heart rate is > 160bpm. Often times the harder you are breathing the less likely you can chew and swallow.

So really really developed the skills and the gut tolerance (hydrate) to be able to consume gels. When I raced Steamboat Gravel last - did the whole thing on gels and blocks because I was breathing too hard the whole race stop chew and swallow.

This is an important skill we teach to all National team riders that race in Europe for the first time to because they wind up racing so hard they forget to eat. Work on it!

Another strategy is to use drink mix like GU Roctane and you’ll get some energy from your hydration pack which is NO Hands nutrition - the beauty of using a hydration pack - you can have both hands on the bard handling your bike all the while hydrating and taking in carbs :muscle:


@joshvc The struggle is real man! I’m doing a long MTB race this weekend.

Here’s my “handed nutrition” plan… I eat soft bars like Larabar and Arbor Fruit bars. I open the wrappers about 75% of the way prior to the race and set them in my bib pocket. That way I can just about one-hand them from my bib pocket without fiddling with a wrapper too much. It’s still a challenge.

Then I will also tape gels on my top tube. I will slightly tear the tab so that when I pull the gel off the top tube it tears completely. I use electrical tape. Wrap the tab tightly and wrap the bottom loosely so it pops off when you need it.

I’ve also need to eat “real food” to avoid bonking. All I can say is I’ve had to slow down so I can breathe and eat at the same time. It’s tough.

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You know, I had sorta forgotten about higher calorie drinks- I usually use a Clif drink which is only 60 calories, so it’s designed to just top off the 2 others per hour. I’m gonna order a can of Roctane, I bet that’ll help bridge the gap. I’ll keep planning to race on gels & blocks, and throw a stroopwafel in the pocket in case of a nice gravel or pavement section along the way. Thanks y’all!


@joshvc Yeah the clif mix and other products like Gu’s Hydration tabs are good for shorter rides when it is hot and you are able to get in enough carbs through food or gels, but they aren’t ideal for longer rides .

The Roctane Mix has adequate sodium like most mixes do these days, but also contains more carbs and BCAA’s which emerging research suggests helps offset fatigue, which is ideal for those long hard rides :ok_hand:t3:
I also suggest you do a sweat test to ensure you are consuming enough fluids on your rides. You can learn how to do that in this video:


It’s difficult and can change from race to race, mainly because of the terrain, but what works for me is the GU gels on the top tube (don’t pre tear them, or they will tear when you are descending on singletrack).

Clifbar is a good option, just don’t choose any cliff bar. You can open them with one hand by tearing them with your teeth, and go by bites. It usually takes like 3 bites per half clifbar.

The secret is to choose wisely the flavor, some are easy to eat others, like Oatmeal Raisin, will just make you choke.

Try the chocolate ones, they are usually easy to eat.

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