How to make your own Energy Bars

It wasn't until I completed the 40 mile version of Piggy's Revenge, my first endurance mountain bike race that I realized how much energy cyclists use. Nutritionists say that you must ingest 200-300 calories for each hour spent on the bike. That's 3 snacks for a 3 hour ride. Since that race I have been running out of money buying bars and gels just to stay fueled on the trails. There must be a cheaper way.

My lovely wife Terri B had the great idea of making our own energy bars. She looked up a recipe online and said it would be easy. If it had been anyone else I would have been skeptical but Terri is a trained pastry chef with a decade of experience so she knows food. It was time for an experiment.

I'm not much of a cook so whatever Terri had in mind needed to be easy, cheap and plentiful. We took a trip to the Richard's Whole Foods store on Indiana ave right next door to Real Bikes Englewood. Richard's had the perfect selection for our needs. We bought 2 pounds of a dried fruit and nut mix which contained bananas, coconut, peanuts, raisins and apricots. Next we grabbed 1 pound of California pitted dates which acts like nature's glue when blended with other morsels. That was all we needed.

Back at home we placed the mixture in a food processor and chopped it into the smallest possible pieces. This took a couple refills of the processor because we had so much trail mix. The end result was a thick, malleable clump of food. Terri kneaded all the extra bits into the mass and then placed it on a sheet tray that had been covered with aluminum foil. The clump was flattened against the pan, covered and then placed in the refrigerator.

Recipe: Equal parts Dates, Dried Fruit and Raw Nuts.

Two hours later we pulled out the hardened pancake. After measuring the bars to a size that would be easy to carry while riding, we cut them with a straight edge and wrapped them in aluminum foil. Done, simplicity achieved. The entire procedure including processor, shaping, cutting and wrapping took little more than thirty minutes.

Now let's talk about cost and abundance. Our bars most resemble the popular snack known as Clif Bars but at about half the size. A 12 pack of Clif bars goes for $30 but you'd need about 24 of them to equal what we blended in one batch. Our homemade creation chopped out 40 bars for a total cost of $13. They are now chilled and ready for use.

Of course the ultimate test was a matter of taste. There is no point in making something to snack on if you don't like the flavor. Terri and I both enjoyed the bars but would the trail thugs? I brought a pocket full of these goodies to an early morning trail building session at the Carlton Reserve and let the guys from SCORR dig in. The response was encouraging.

"I think they taste better than Clif bars," said the first volunteer. The sentiment was echoed by others who not only enjoyed the flavor but also noticed the difference that "freshness" can make. Many all-natural store bought bars tend to be dry while the gooey ones are often full of preservatives. When I told them how little it cost, suddenly this sounded like an idea that needed to be adopted.

So there you have it. A simple recipe that can be assembled by anyone. You need only buy the ingredients, which can vary depending upon your tastes. You must have a food processor for blending and a roll of aluminum foil or plastic baggies for storage. The bars we made were small but densely packed with carbohydrates and protein. They came out to about 150 calories each. One batch in this size could get a cyclist through 10-15 rides and save them about $40. Then you can put that money towards something that really matters on the trails, perhaps a new bike? Enjoy.

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