Monday, October 11, 2010

Responsible Refueling

Refueling your body is an important part of any exercise and even more critical on an extended endurance ride.  Jon and I typically knock out over 50 miles before getting off the saddle the first time.  Leading up to that stop we steadily take in carb rich fuel in the form of energy gels.  Without these gooey packets of sugar we would bonk out as our body shuts down from lack of usable fuel.  You simply can't convert other energy sources, like fat, to a burnable fuel fast enough.  But these little packets of goo have a dark side - they easily turn into roadside litter.  

At some point on the Outlaw 100, Jon was taking in a Hammer Banana energy gel and wondering how they could possibly make artificial banana taste so bad.  To prove the point, he handed over a vanilla for me to try.  I've had the opportunity to try a number of brands of gel and gummies recently.  I can say, without a doubt, Hammer is my least favorite.  The vanilla tasted like that cafeteria style pudding bought in a gallon can from a warehouse store.  You know the kind.  

This was a thick, sticky mess of pasty vanilla that I could barely squeeze out of the foil pack.  I was left wondering how they could make vanilla taste so bad.  I mean, really!  Energy gel is sugar, vitamins, minerals, and flavorings.  You'd think it would be hard to screw up.  After I squeezed as much of the paste out as I could, I folded the foil packet, trying with moderate success to keep the sticky opening to the inside, and slipped it into one of my jersey pockets.

Despite the taste, I was very disappointed to find at the next rest stop that it had accidentally fallen out of my pocket when I was digging for other things, inadvertently becoming flotsam.  Even more disturbing is the number of riders I have witnessed jettisoning their spent fuel packets like booster rockets that have fulfilled their only use.  These foil packets are covered inside and out with a plastic lamination giving them an indefinite roadside life span.  Why do people still think it is okay to litter?  I would have hoped that cyclists were more conscientious as whole, after all, we are out travelling under our own power under the big sky enjoying the fresh air and scenery.  

If you use any type of energy gel or gummy packet, here are two simple rules:

1) Do not tear the top off completely!  Leave it attached and fold it down out of your way.  If you detach this little top you will likely lose it to the wind.  Keep it all together.
2) When your done, hang on to it and dispose of it properly.  Fold it so you wont get all gooey and stick it in a pocket somewhere.

I've come to strongly prefer refillable gel bottles.  These 5oz bottles come with a pull top like a water bottle that is easy to open and dispense from.  I started making my own gel from a honey base that I greatly prefer to any of the commercial products.  It is much less expensive and easier to manage than little goo packs.  I refill two 5oz bottles at a cost of about $1.50 - the same amount of commercial gel would run close to $15.00.  So I save money and generate less waste which means less chance of tiny foil packs sullying our roads. 

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