Featured User Review: Hammer Nutrition Gel
Random city rides
Ritchey Breakaway Steel Cross (Cyclocross) 2011 model, with 105/Ultegra components. Tested with Mavic Aksium and Easton EA70 SLX wheels, as well as 700x23 road racing and 700x35 cyclocross tires.
If you are training for long distance endurance events (5+ hours), you may have found, as I have, that fueling gets a bit more complex than just gels. I've been training for the LOTOJA Classic 2011 which is a 206 mile ride over 3 mountain passes from Logan, Utah to Teton Village, Wyoming. I've logged over 3000 miles since April this year with many rides well over 100 miles in temperatures approaching 100F. My two longest rides have been a bit over 10 hours long.
I have experimented with a wide range of fuels but found that every product containing simple sugars gave me stomach distress when the temperature got above 75F, which happened on all of my long training rides. I finally settled on hammer products. They contain no simple sugars and are instead based on maltodextrin as the main carb source. I use one packet per 10 miles, alternating between a caffeinated and non-caffeinated gel each time.
When the temperature gets above 85F, I back off to one packet every 20 miles. My hydration drink is perpetuum, also a hammer product containing no simple sugars, but having a small amount of protein which is essential for rides over two hours. I mix this 1.5 scoops to 500ml water for temperatures up to 65F, 1 scoop to 500ml water for temperatures up to 75F, and .5 scoop to 500ml water above 75F.
While this does not keep pace with calorie expenditure, I have found that it supplements fat burning sufficiently to sustain multiple climbs and flat 18 mph pace for 10+ hours. My stomach seems unable to cope with intake much higher than about 300-400 Cal/hr.
Hammer has good customer service, but free shipping requires purchase over $100. My LBS carries the products at a cheaper price than Hammer when I buy from them in bulk. I use Hammer's electrolyte product called endurolyte at a rate of 3 caps/hr when it is hot, less when it is not. Every rider is different so this advice may be ultra-conservative and perhaps irrelevant for shorter rides.
For me, riding endurance events without stomach distress and with adequate fuel makes a huge difference in both performance and attitude. Whether you chose to use hammer products or not, I would suggest that your long distance fuel be free of simple sugars.
Steady fuel, no peaks and valleys. After much agony with simple sugar containing products, finally solved stomach distress in hot weather with hammer gels/fuels.
Price can be high when you include shipping costs. Work a bulk deal with your LBS.
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I've used every gel/fuel you could name, but finally found that simple sugars are the culprit for stomach distress and inconsistent energy over the long haul. There are plenty of "real food" choices that accomplish the same thing - boiled potatoes, banana's, bagels, etc, but the convenience of gel packs and hydration supplements make fueling and hydration much simpler when you are trying to concentrate on the pace line.
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