Now that spring is here, lots of us are contemplating organized rides. Which ones should we do? What do we look for on a ride?
One Bike Noob reader recently contacted me with a report about a 120-mile organized ride that left him underwhelmed. I’ll let him tell the story:
“The thing that really struck me was the low quality of the food at these stops. This was a pricy ride, with no obvious charity beneficiary, so you’d think they would have provided decent food on the road. I mean, I’ve been on some centuries, t-shirt rides and so forth where they ran out of stuff, even water. Those things happen. But, this one seemed like the food had been obtained by sending someone who’d never ridden before into Sam’s Club. There were bananas cut up and orange slices, so it wasn’t all crap. But, aside from the fruit, at most rest stops, there was only oreos and potato chips. Some of them had these uncrustable PB&J sandwich things and one had the real cheap, sugary granola bars – you know, the ones about the size of your index finger. One rest stop had these GU shots, in the original packages so a small percentage of riders got more than they needed and the rest, none. I say that as an early rider who got the package with a half dozen of the things, but they were too sticky to share on the road, except with really close friends.”
Hm. I’ve been on rides where they’ve run out of food, too — but I only experienced that because I was riding so slowly that I was among the last to get to a rest stop. This fella has a legitimate gripe, I think. To continue:
“Each item that they had was something that some rider could be craving at that particular moment, but they didn’t really add up to the sort of fuel that you need to ride long distances. Cookies are good, but you get a lot more mileage out of oatmeal or fig newtons or something like that, even chocolate chip, than oreos. I carried a Clif bar and a Snickers Marathon, but they were more for emergency purposes. I didn’t expect them to provide the bulk of my fuel. I realize that the various energy bars are more expensive than vending machine snacks, but if you are charging $70 for a tee shirt, a meal and sag service, it seems like you could come up with better food options, or at least some variety from stop to stop.”
Our reader wonders if he had just been lucky on other organized rides he’d been on. Are situations like this par for the course? Or, was this ride as “sub-par” as he imagined?
In my experience, the volunteers who man the rest stops put a lot of effort into providing the kinds of foods cyclists need. However, I’ve noted that in many cases, the food is very predictable and lacks variety. Chunks of banana, orange slices, peanut butter & jelly quarters, and the bad Gatorade that’s mixed up in bulk are pretty standard these days. If you come across a rest stop with cookies, especially home made ones, that’s a bonus. Rest stops with fig bars are a pleasant discovery. And as our reader says, if you’re paying a hefty price to take part in the ride, you really shouldn’t have to rely on a Clif Bar or some other energy food you carry yourself.
What’s been your experience? Have you been on organized rides where the rest stops are substandard? Where the food doesn’t take care of your energy needs? I’d like to hear your tales.