Anyone remember the old Jelly Belly cycling team? Did they get jelly bean hand-ups? Photo: Jonathan Devich/epicimages.us
When it comes to riding food, sometimes nothing beats the sugar rush you get from some good candy. Many riders even prefer candy over sport-specific products like gels and chews.
So what’s the best candy for fueling bike rides? To find out, I asked all the sweet toothed riders here at TPC what candy they would choose. There are some classic picks, but the most popular candy (spoiler: it’s NOT gummy bears) is one I didn’t see coming.
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The Classic Favorite: Gummy Bears
“Black Forest Organic Gummy Bears” - Andrew Austin, Associate Category Purchasing Manager
“Haribo gummy bears are my favorite.” - Chris Blick, Business Analyst
“I don't usually bring candy on rides, but if I do, Haribo gummies are the best!” - Dana Shin, AP Specialist
“If we're eating candy, it's got to be standard Haribo gummy bears.” - Angus Bohanon, Social Media Specialist
For many, gummy bears are a nostalgic comfort candy. When you are hours deep into a ride, suffering like a dog, popping a handful of fruit-flavored gummy beary goodness into your mouth can instantly bring you back to life.
Stick a pack of Haribo bears in your bar bag and you’ll be ready to ride a century or more. If you find the traditional Haribo Goldbear a bit hard to chew (I do), then consider Andrew’s suggestion of Black Forest Organic Bummy Bears, which are nice and soft.
The Old-School Choice: Snickers, PayDay, M&Ms
“Snickers and a Coke.” - Justin England, Sr. Category Purchasing Manager
“Snickers are great but often too melty for a back pocket.” - Angus Bohanon, Social Media Specialist
“PayDay doesn't melt and is somewhat filling. Can be found in any gas station.” - Mark Moser, Ride Guide
“Peanut M&Ms are my favorite candy for both riding and vegging out on the couch.” - Bruce Lin, Senior Writer
Chocolate and nuts — sometimes you just can’t beat the old classics. Snickers have always been a favorite for mid-ride gas station stops. They’re the top pick of our former pro, Justin. They do tend to melt in your jersey pockets though.
If it’s heat stability and peanuts that you crave, then PayDay is the way. If you just have to have chocolate in your jersey pockets, then the candy coating means M&Ms melt in your mouth and not in your hand (anyone remember those ads?).
For the Young at Heart: Sour Patch Kids and Skittles
“SPKs (Sour Patch Kids). Bonus points if they're the watermelons. I'll die on this hill.” - Charlie Madden, Fraud Investigator
“Purple (wild berry) bag of Skittles. When they're hot and sticky they also help keep your gloves grippy!” - Joey Gault, Ride Guide
Anecdotally, Sour Patch Kids (or “SPKs” as the cool kids call them) and Skittles are incredibly popular among the mountain biking crowd. Personally, the bright colors and flavors remind me of childhood. I don’t usually buy Sour Patch Kids or Skittles now that I'm older, but if I’m offered any on a ride, I definitely won’t turn them down. The intense flavor of Sour Patch Kids could even help with cramps by stimulating and redirecting the attention of your nervous system.
For Peanut Butter Lovers: Anything Reeses
“When I stop at a convenience store to refuel I don't miss the chance for a Reese's Fast Break bar. Or a Reese's NutRageous or Outrageous bar. Or any chocolate + peanut butter option which I think is the absolute best marriage of candy flavors/ingredients.” - Ethan Martin, Product Manager
It turns out that our Product Manager Ethan is a connoisseur of all things Reese's. I’m not a peanut butter fan, but there are definitely plenty of peanut butter fiends out there. If you’re one of them, some form of Reeses may be the right candy for you.
For Endurance Specialists: Red Vines
“I started eating Red Vines when I was 24-hour racing because they can be handed off easily, and then stuffed in a jersey pocket, but they stick out so they’re easy to grab. They're easy sugars that are engaging and enjoyable to eat while riding.” - Mary Metcalf, CRM Manager
Mary was the first woman to complete the Tour Divide, so she knows a thing or two about eating to fuel long rides. I’ve honestly never had Red Vines outside of a movie theater, but with Mary’s endorsement, I might have to give these tasty licorice straws a try.
For Peak Performance: Clif, Skratch, but also Swedish Fish
“The Skratch Labs Energy Chews are a performance-enhancing drug. I get the ones without the caffeine, and after I eat a whole packet, I feel like a rocket ship :).” - Clint Hobbs, Inbound Operations Manager
“Clif Shot Bloks are sort of candy, right?” - Angus Bohanon, Social Media Specialist
“I’d get Swedish Fish because they do have a good mix of glucose and fructose.” - Trevor Connor, Nutritionist
If performance is your number one priority, then a sport-specific gummy or chew is formulated with the ideal ratio of glucose to fructose.
In search of a potential candy compromise, I asked Trevor Connor, who has a Master’s degree in nutrition and is the CEO and co-founder of Fast Talk Labs. He picked Swedish Fish because they actually have the right combo of glucose and fructose. Interestingly, I’ve heard of many pro gravel racers also enjoying Swedish Fish. I'll let Trevor explain why these are the best choice:
“We can only absorb so much glucose and fructose per hour, and it varies by person. Glucose is often absorbed at 60-90 grams per hour. Fructose is only 20-30g/hr. You want food or drink mixes in a 3:1 glucose/fructose ratio. A lot of candies, particularly in the U.S. are sweetened with high fructose corn syrup — 40-55% fructose — so that’s the wrong ratio. I generally look for candies (like Swedish Fish) with glucose as the first ingredient.”
For Health Nuts: Yeah, this is not Candy
“I try to avoid 'candy' while riding, but sometimes you don't have much of a choice. Other times you are so bonked that a sweet treat is needed to jump-start your body AND mind. In these instances, I go for Golden Oreos or Grandma's brand vanilla sandwich cookies. It's satisfying to have multiple cookies per package, so you can spread them out over an afternoon and keep yourself going.” - Steve Gardner, Warehouse Manager
“Maybe dried mango slices are a healthier choice.” - Dana Shin, AP Specialist
“When I go long and I'm worried about a bonk, I bring oatmeal cream pies. Best bonk breaker.” - Chris Blick, Business Analyst
Sigh. Remember the disappointment you’d feel on Halloween after visiting that one neighbor handing out granola? This feels like that to me. Sure, these are all great food options for riding, but they’re definitely NOT candy.
The People’s Champ: Nerds Gummy Clusters… Wait, really?
“The best ride candies are Nerds Gummy Clusters, hands down, no contest.” - Nick Leng, External Compliance Specialist
“Nerds Gummy Clusters.” - Spencer Storck, Ride Guide
“Nerds Gummy Clusters. For real, they don't get your fingers sticky or sugary like other gummy candies.” - Andy Heuser, Ride Guide
“Nerds Gummy Clusters.” - Nik Lavrisha, Ride Guide
“Nerds Gummy Clusters are fantastic. It’s a gummy that has a protective Nerd barrier. Other candies, including the ‘sport’ ones like Skratch and Clif, get glued together in the heat.” - Angus Bohanon, Social Media Specialist
“I agree, Nerds Gummy Clusters sound amazing. I feel like the Nerds Rope (a similar candy) might stash really nicely in some cargo bibs too. You can bite off as much as you need.” - Nick Cai, Senior Designer
“I did recently snack on some Nerds Gummy Clusters shared by a rando in the 18 Road campground and can confirm that they are tasty hot trash.” - Steve Gardner, Warehouse Manager
This pick caught me completely off guard. Our External Compliance Specialist Nick was the first to bring up Nerds Gummy Clusters. When I questioned his choice, it seemed to ignite a revolution, with many others coming to the candy’s defense.
I’m absolutely disgusted. I’ve never been a Nerds fan, and the idea of sticking these little misshapen sugar kernels onto a gummy core just seems wrong to me. Am I being trolled, or do people legitimately like this candy? Do these sickos all actually enjoy eating it on rides? I’ve never tried them, so I guess I have to now.
For the Unhinged: Warheads & Fun Dip
“Warheads for when you need some jolting mental stimulus, Gushers for the placebo hydration, Fun Dip to remind yourself to sit and enjoy something for once, and Big League Big Chew for when you want something on the go that's also hands-free.” - Chris Gaeta, Creative Production Manager
Okay, Gushers I sort of get. But Warheads and Fun Dip. WTF, Chris?
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