Ask Beardo: What should I eat while riding my bike?
Editor’s note: Beardo the Weirdo is our resident spiritual advisor and greasy wrench, expert. You can usually find him in the pages of Bicycle Times but sometimes he fires up the dial-up modem and logs in here. Ask him anything at email@example.com—ANYTHING—and he’ll answer you. Be forewarned.
I’ve begun adding distance to my weekend rides, and I’m having a hard time finding food that doesn’t upset my stomach but can still be eaten on the bike. Any ideas?
The first thing I gotta ask: why eat on the bike? The allure of pre-packed snacks is obvious, but the idea of eating on the bike has always struck me as something done by racers and those training to race. If that’s you, it might be a good idea to set aside some of your budget and experiment with the various options on the market. Gels, powders, bars, pills, fizzy lifting drinks, lots of options for the many types of bodies, metabolisms and activity levels.
Personally, I neither race nor eat what most people would consider pre-packed sports snacks. Not because I have anything against either thing; I think it might have to do with all the formaldehyde I was exposed to while hauling stage props as a roadie for Slayer, but ever since then I’m on a pretty strict diet of canned meats and white rice. Children’s vitamin supplements have kept the scurvy at bay to this point, but man, some days all I want to do is eat an orange and take a nap on the beach.
Potted meat is surprisingly easy to find at many supermarkets, and modern pop-tops make it possible to eat while riding without needing to carry a can opener. But why bother? I find it much more enjoyable to find a proper lunch spot, crack open a can of preserved meats, slurp the layer of fat off the top, and take a breather while chewing contemplatively on unknown muscle groups.
I’ll hazard a guess that my dietary oddities aren’t shared by many other riders, but I’ve found most other people enjoy stopping, getting off the bike, and taking on nourishment like a civilized human. Sitting down to eat with friends is a custom shared by many cultures, and regardless of how many gels you’ve sucked down while in the peloton, there isn’t really time to discuss world politics or what it smells like when you drop a glass jar containing a pig fetus of unknown age.
Some of my favorite big rides have been planned around a new or favorite lunch spot. Eat a big breakfast, pack a proper lunch (canned meat and rice soup is a favorite, and travels well in the Thermos), and enjoy the break as much as the ride. Even racer types might find this a welcome respite to the frantic consumption of plastic-wrapped goodies. A nice sandwich—eaten between intervals—might make for a more motivating training ride.
Portrait of Yours Truly by Stephen Haynes
This review originally appeared in Issue #34 of Bicycle Times. To make sure you never miss an issue, order a subscription.