When we think about our big events, particularly if it is a gravel event, we tend to concentrate on things having to do with our equipment: tires, tire pressure, gear ratios and perhaps even lube. All of these are important. But, the thing that will probably have the biggest impact on your day is how well you fuel. Particularly when we start getting into longer events like the Unbound Gravel.
The cycling world is waking up to the importance of proper fuelling. Everyone is talking about it. Be careful though, doing it properly isn’t as easy as you might think.
In preparing for our Unbound Gravel adventure we spent a lot of time working through the details. When putting our ideas into practice at a couple of test rides, the thing we found most challenging to do well was our fuelling. That’s because fuelling well means taking in lots of calories. Even though we had been practicing it was a lot of work to get them all in.
Calorie goals: typically the goal is 300 calories/hour. This used to be thought of as something of a high end target. Now though, riders are eating upwards of 400 calories/hour. That takes some work.
Over the years the quality of liquid fuelling options has improved tremendously. For Unbound Gravel this year we chose to use two different products: Gruppo Ride and Skratch Labs Superfuel. Each of these offers a high caloric drink mix, 280 and 400 calories/bottle respectively.
We found that using a variety of products and flavours helps keep your palate from getting fatigued. Drinking one flavour all day, let alone 12+hours? No thanks.
Added to the liquid calories we used a variety of bars: Hornby, Clif Nut Butter, L’arabar, and Kind bars. Then a final layer of quick calories in the form of Endurance Tap gels.
As a quick example for an hour of fuelling:
Gruppo Ride bottle: 280 calories
Clif Nut Butter bar: 230 calories
Total Calories: 510 calories
It looks easy to do. But hour after hour? You need to track what you are taking in and stay on top of it. That is the hard part. We found that using the elapsed time on your head unit was the key. Each hour we’d take an inventory of what we had eaten. Add it up. And figure if we were on target.
The last thing you want to do is find yourself 2 hours into your day and realize that while you thought you were fuelling you have only taken in say 200 calories. Oh oh!
To help plan all this out we developed a fuelling calculator. It is designed specifically for Unbound. But the concept and calculations can be applied to any event.
Fuelling well, being comfortable with it, and not getting gut rot takes practice. But most of all it takes diligence and awareness to stay on top of your caloric count for the day.