One of the things I decided after Romaniacs was that I should have taken more variety of energy snacks to eat on the trail. Frankly I was a little annoyed with myself because I already knew that, but somehow forgot to do it. I was thinking of endurance racing more like the ISDE where there is a pit stop every hour and someone is always there with cookies or fruit to stuff down you. At Romaniacs we were alone in the mountains for hours at a time. What was needed were “on the go” products that could be consumed while riding with a minimal amount of effort. After a few days of gels, I was ready for some variety.
For last week’s trip to Baja I stocked up on a number of different things to see how they performed for me (yes, I was really working). The Hammer Gel has been my go to product for some time. Here are my thoughts as to how it compares with some of the competition. All of these products come in different sizes and calorie counts, so I have converted everything to an approximate 100 calorie serving size as a standard measure. I also took into account how easy it is to eat while riding.
I didn’t try any of the caffeinated versions of these products, nearly all are available in that form. I do use the caffeine on occasion, but sparingly. Typically I will use it for the last loop of a long race to give me a little extra mojo for the finish.
Honey Stinger Chews – These taste just like candy, basically like gumdrops. It takes six pieces to get achieve the serving size. They are sort of waxy tasting and take a bit of chewing. It was possible to squeeze a piece out of the package while riding, but not easy. Overall rating – Fair
Gu Chomps – Again these are sort of candy like. They are not as waxy as the Stingers. At 4 pieces per serving, it still takes a bit to achieve the calorie count. The package was very difficult to open. It was impossible to squeeze a piece out of the package with one hand. Overall rating – Fair
Cliff Shot Bloks – I like these. I chose the extra sodium version and like the salty bite they have. At 3 pieces per serving it is easier to get the calories in. They chew and dissolve slightly faster than the others. Overall very pleasant to eat. The package design makes it easy to eat with one hand. Then fold over the end and it keeps the contents from getting dirty in the pack. Overall rating – Very Good
Hammer Solids – These are something completely different. They are like putting a malt ball in your mouth. They are hard at first, then quickly soften to a gum like consistency. It takes a fair bit of chewing to get one down. They have a nice milky taste, not very sweet. They also have a food like quality that is a nice departure from the other chews. It takes far more time to consume 3 of these than anything else. They are the only product here that also contains protein. It is easy to pop one in your mouth from the plastic container. I recommend these simply based upon variety, they are a great change from the other products. They are the most expensive of the group. Overall rating – Good
Hammer Gel – There is no quicker way to consume 100 calories than with a gel. The Hammer products go down very easy, no “stick to the roof of your mouth” quality and no aftertaste. It is still the clear winner in all aspects. It takes a little practice to eat a gel while riding with your helmet on. The worse part is having to put the sticky package back into your pocket, but it is not a deal breaker for me I guess. Overall rating – Very Good
So the gels are the winners for practical use. But if you are looking to add some variety to your endurance training and racing, check out the Hammer Solids and Cliff Shot Bloks.