Eating tactics mid ride/race

What are some tips/tricks that everyone uses to get food into their mouth while riding/racing? I’m perfectly fine forcing myself to eat, but it’s more of an accessibility issue for me. How do you make it easy for yourself to get to your food while riding?

On a recent MTB race I accidentally lost an entire pack of gels on the trail because I was fiddling around in my jersey pocket for some other food. I think part of the problem was wearing full-fingered gloves, and another reason was that I was trying to move quickly while the trail was relatively non-technical.

I’ve heard of pros taping gels to the water bottles they receive (the idea being it flops around and is annoying, motivating them to eat it) but this doesn’t seem to suit unsupported amateurs who would have to ride for a significant time period with it on if they wanted to save it for later.

If I just want easily accessible (and cheap and tasty) sugar then my go to option is a pocketful of jelly babies or Haribo. Can eventually turn into a bit of a sticky mess on long, hot, sweaty rides, but they’re normally in my tummy before that happens…

Other option is to put calories in the bottle. I don’t use gels that much in racing because they’re a bit of a hassle to get out and open (and I then need water afterwards as well), plus they’re expensive, plus you then need to stuff the empty wrapper back in your pocket (can’t abide the people who just toss them on the road). I have quite a few gels sitting around at home from when they’ve been given out in race bags, or freebies at registration, I tend to have one or 2 on me as a last resort but don’t use them that often.

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You can screw the lid of a bottle onto the top of a Gel, that way you can rip it off and consume, or have them upside in your pocket, when you get them out, they are already the right way up to tear and consume. Same goes with bars, also cut the top of the packaging of the bar so you don’t try and tear it with your teeth.

And never drink or eat in a cross wind or when your on the front.

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For my XC races I use liquid nutrition in bottle or pack (Camelbak Chase or Uswe), then tape 1 gel on top tube with electrical tape if needed. If you tape only the top part of the gel, you can rip it open and off the bike quickly and easily with one hand. After I eat it I then stow it in my jersey pocket. This whole process should take only a few seconds.

For longer rides/races needing more gels, I use a Hammer gel flask. It holds 5 gels, but I usually use 3 parts gel and 2 parts water mixed and stowed in my non-dominant hand jersey pocket. I can reach for the flask, open with my mouth and drink it easily all one handed. I’ve tried other nutrition strategies but I realized I don’t like chewing anything when racing.

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What is the length of the event? For anything under 2 hours, carbs in the bottle. If over 2 hours have a gel with the top already open in your pocket which i take with at least 20 minutes to go. Any training or racing over 3 hours I’d take a banana and a small flapjack and eat every 30 minutes or so. Preperation is key and getting well hydrated and a good evening meal the night before is crucial.

For a race that lasts up to about an hour, I don’t really need to top up my glycogen storage. Usually I barely drink, too. For longer events or rides, I usually put gels in squeeze bottles (I bought 3 PowerBar ones for 1,000 ¥/$10). I hate fiddling with wrappers, because (1) I don’t want to litter and (2) I don’t want gels all over my handlebars and gloves. I can usually avoid (1), but rarely (2).

I sweat a lot, so I need to drink a lot. For rides of 3-4 hours or less, I pack 1 bottle of water and 1 bottle with SIS energy mix. I usually put in less than the recommended amount, though, I can’t drink super sweet stuff. When the duration exceeds 4 hours, one bottle contains SIS energy “concentrate” mix, where I add 2–3 times the recommended amount and use that to replenish the other bottle by mixing it with tap water.

The longer the ride, the more would I opt for solid foods. For much longer rides, we usually stop at convenience stores here in Japan. Some people like rice balls (onigiri), but I just go for either gummy bears or chocolate bars. That is in addition to the gels I brought along.

TL;DR: Find a gel you like, buy in bulk, and use a gel flask. Use carb drinks.

Most of my rides range between 1 hour and 3 hours. I subsist entirely off of liquid and gel calories for that duration (and for my 70.3s). For higher intensity rides, I’ll take one bottle per hour with about 200cal in it (currently using and liking Tailwind). I supplement that with gels from a flask. I like to buy gel in bulk, and carry a single flask which holds up to five servings. I strongly recommend that strategy if you can find a gel you like in bulk. (I’ve used both Honey Stinger and Hammer gels in bulk).

I’ve done the same flask strategy with SiS Go gels, but the 5 serving flask only holds 3 servings of the SiS gels. Still, it’s viable because the SiS gels pour easily from their packets into the flask.

On my 70.3s this past season, I fed solely with gel, coming out to about 2.5 servings per hour on the bike, and then 3 servings per hour on the run. All of the gels on the bike were flasked. I drank water when I was thirsty. That worked well for me at those intensities, but admittedly I fuel way more “aggressively” and with more sugar and volume when I’m just riding the bike with no run after.

In my rides over 3 hours, I’ll bring a Clif bar or an oat-banana-egg pancake slice. I like one of those for every hour over 3 hours, supplemented with bottles as above.

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I run calories in my bottle for all races. There are still times that I want something to chew. I normally place pre-opened packages of Nature’s Bakery fig bars in my jersey pocket.
Back when I used gels I would often place them inside the leg of my bibs on top of my quads and leave just the end hanging out. Easy to grab and not too fiddly. Depending on your shorts that may prove to be a bad plan. I once got 3/4 through a race and desperately needed a gel only to look down and see they had fallen out. They were new bibs that I had never tried this with before. The leg gripper did not grab the gels very well.

I wanted to revive this thread to see if anyone had any more advice on improving gel accessibility mid-race. Specifically for XC marathon mountain bike racing.

My plan is to consume only liquid calories (either SIS Beta Fuel or Maurten 320) and SIS gels.

I am going to test the GU Energy Gel Flask, but since I’m planning to use SIS gels (2 oz) which are isotonic and do not require water to consume, I will only be able to fit a little over 2 into each 5.5 oz flask, therefore I will be carrying two flasks.

My other query is if I plan to use something like SIS Beta Fuel or Maurten 320 in my bottles, do I also need to carry additional water? Or is the water used to mix these products sufficient for hydration? I know @Jonathan stated on the podcast he used only Maurten 320 in his 2 bottles during the 1st lap and in his pack for the 2nd lap of Tahoe Trail 100 last year, but he didn’t mention if he also carried water.

Thanks in advance. This forum is excellent and I greatly appreciate all of the wise words of advice and knowledge I have gleaned so far.

I do marathon xc and last year I did everything with CarboRocket 333. I had two bottles with mix and a third with water in my jersey I used at the start til the first aid station. Grabbed another bottle of water. I used the two mixed bottles as much as needed with teh water here and there. Mostly to keep me cool.
I stashed two more bottles at the end of lap 1/aid number four. grabbed those and kept going.
I might have had two honey stinger gels and waffles with me as well.
FWIW - I finished second in my group. Just over five hours. That’s with stopping twice due to some issues. I was in the lead the entire race till nature called and closed down a 10 minute gap to 30 seconds on the final descent.

The science on hydration says absolutely you need to carry additional water. Beta fuel and maurten 320 are fueling products, not hydration products. I would think of those products as gels.

Very interesting. I generally run 1 bottle of Beta Fuel and 1 bottle of water. Drink the Beta Fuel until gone then start on the water. Once I reach an aid station I refill and remix a new bottle of Beta Fuel meaning some events I’ll take in 2 to 3 bottles of Beta Fuel and 1 bottle of water.

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This is probably a very person-specific anecdote, but I did an entire IM using almost nothing but liquids.
I had a gel immediately before the swim.
I had a gel in the first 5 minutes on the bike.
I had planned to take in gels and ClifBars during the ride, but I just didn’t feel like it. Instead, I used tailwind, and SIS beta fuel in my bottles, which I replenished from my special needs bag half way through. Towards the end I changed to the on-course electrolyte mix (I ran out of my own stuff), which didn’t sit well with me. I think I ate about half a clif-bar in the first half of the bike leg, and that was the only solid I had all race!
For the run, I had gels every few km, and had electrolyte at each of the aid stations. I was definitely running low towards the end though, because I just couldn’t stomach the thought of any more gel!

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