Friday Group Ride #251

Friday Group Ride #251

Don’t worry. This isn’t about the weather. I just happened to be standing on the roof, outside the kids’ bedroom window, raking snow to keep the ice dams at bay, when my wife, with whom I’d spent the previous two hours shoveling the driveway and walk, passed a water bottle out to me and said, “Drink this.” It was Gatorade, lemon-lime, and there was a moment, when it hit my tongue of reptile brain pleasure, sugars and liquids triggering all sorts of chemical reactions deep in my brain, deep in my soul.

I don’t normally ride with Gatorade. Smart people tell me it’s not a great choice, so I usually go straight water, or, if I have a bit more time to plan, I set up a couple Nuun tabs to dissolve overnight in the refrigerator. I cleave pretty closely to the lemon-lime line of flavoring anyway. Since the original Gatorade hit the market when I was a kid, I have just come to associate that flavor with thirst remedy.

Like food bars, the powdered drinks available at most bike shops have multiplied like a herd of rabbits in rapture to the dulcet tones of Barry White. Skratch Labs make a popular line of beverages for people who take their hydration very seriously. Osmo and Clif bear mentioning. Gu and Hammer Nutrition and First Endurance, the list goes on.

I imagine that if you work for one of these companies, you have a lot of science to back up the ingredients in your mix. And the problem with science, like the problem with engineering, is that everyone says theirs is better, and the unwashed masses, ignoramuses like me, just don’t know what to think. I confess that, in the morass of my unenlightened mind, I aim first for wetness. Water checks that box, and even I realize I need some salt, too, mainly because I can taste it running off my brow.

Don’t take my approach. I’m a shambles. I’m standing on a roof with a snow rake.

This week’s Group Ride asks, what’s in your bottle? Do you spend a lot of money on the most modern potions? Or do you just run it under the tap and spin away down the road, carefree as a rabbit humming along to a little Barry White.


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  1. Danny Douglass

    Tomorrow I will ski the North American Birkebeiner (51KM nordic ski marathon) and Gatorade Lemon-lime will be in my bottle. Is there better? Almost certainly. Does it make a difference for someone who considers it a success to finish in less than twice the time of the winner? Probably not.

    1. John Kopp

      Congratulations! Are you skiing alone, or will you bring a toddler along in true Birkie tradition? Bring along a change of socks because dry socks half way through will be a real boost. I assume you are not vying for the bronze broom.

      I just bring a bottle of water, and peanut butter and jelly sandwich & GORP for energy. My choice of tunes would be Verdi.

    2. Robert

      Congrats on the Birkie. I finished the classic with hot apple and cinnamon from Skratch. The bridge made the race.

  2. David L

    Water, sometimes with just a few drops of lemon juice added. BTW…I hate to admit it, but I happen to love listening to Barry White!

  3. Michael

    Water, except on really long rides where I’ll bring a couple of high-priced little packets of Skratch (lemon-lime, natch!) with me for a bottle every few hours. I figure I get my energy from food, and will mix in a salty bar (like Kind) every once in a while to help out. It would not work in the pro peloton, but I wouldn’t either.

    1. Jonathan

      This is similar to my strategy: water unless really hot or longer than 80km. Then one water/one Gatorade or similar. If over 150km I’ll bring an extra baggy of drink powder. If super hot (this is Australia after all) it’ll be stops for coke and extra Gatorade and pastries.
      But yeah Water Rules Everything Around Me.

  4. Michael

    Which reminds me of the grossest thing I ever saw poured out of a water bottle. I was catching a guy on the daily commute and suddenly he pulled out his water bottle and dumped it all to the side of his bike. It was brown and awful and I was glad I was not passing him precisely then. As I passed it, I realized it was milky coffee. What a terrible thing to do to a bottle. So, I guess that is what is definitely NOT in my bottle!

  5. Josué

    for rides under 2 hours of 60 degrees or less, one water bottle. once it goes longer than that, or it is hotter than that, at least one bottle of Skratch and maybe another of water. For rides that are over 90 degrees or longer than 3 hours, two Skratch bottles before refilling with one of Skratch and one of water (because I can get tired of the flavored drink when I am drinking so often). I understand that Osmo and Skaratch are (or used to be) nearly identical in substance, but I like that Skratch has done their best to market to cycling and incorporates food knowledge as well, so Skratch gets my $. I do find that if I have water on a cold ride, I drink less than if I have Skratch on a cold ride. Somehow I find Skratch easier to dink in large swigs than straight water, even though the water we have here is very good.
    I save the nuun tablets to recover from very hot rides, since those are usually on saturdays and I end up sitting at kids’ soccer games all day trying to get rehydrated. I do hear that the extreme hydration mix from Skratch is great, but I haven’t tried it yet.

    1. Josué

      BTW, the flavors of Skratch are all good, but I like pineapple best, then orange, then lemon lime, then raspberry. The matcha green tea one is good too, but it has caffeine so I count it as a different category. The apples and cinnamon (to be drunk warm) is very good, but I use Skratch so infrequently during the cold months that I haven’t justified the purchase of a bag of it.

  6. Champs

    Portland tap water is about the only thing I put in my bottle. You can’t get much more pure than Bull Run water, fresh from the glaciers of Mount Hood. Our reverence to this water is such that we refuse to fluoridate, and nary a brow is raised when your server fills a water glass from the faucet behind the bar.

  7. Aaron Thomas Smith


    This one time, at bike camp, I DIDN’T drink Nuun and then I cramped real bad like and so if I don’t have Nuun before each and every ride I MIGHT DIE.

    Also at every stop Dr. Pepper. Because the Dr. implies it’s good for you.

  8. MickR

    I usually go out with two bottles of drink mix and refill one with a Scratch mix bag and the other plain water after 2-3 hours riding. I make a custom powder-based Gatorade mix at home before going out. I go a little light on the mix (slightly watery) and then add salt. Compared to how it is supposed to taste, my mix is easier to put down and adds a good bit of sodium. Scratch taste awful when I switch to that later on, but I’m only using it on the road because it comes in neat little packages.

  9. Scott

    I carry a zip lock baggie in my jersey pocket with Tums, Hammer Endurolytes, NUUN, and Pedialyte (as well as Ibuprofen, Excedrin Migraine, my ID and a credit card). My friends may call me “the pharmacist,” but after 100 miles, they call me for help.
    Tums and Endurolytes go in the mouth to fight off cramps. I’ll sometimes eat NUUN tablets straight for a little excitement. I generally don’t put NUUN in the bike bottle because the bubbles come out the top and can gum up cables around the BB. It’s also helpful to separate the NUUN tablets from everything else because they tend to get gummy.
    Pedialyte is the best trick ever. It’s the same stuff you give children to help rehydrate them when they’re sick. It’s also a magic electrolytes potion that works really well for cyclists. It’s available in little foil tubes in the children’s care section of your grocery store or pharmacy for about $1 a tube. I usually put two tubes in a large bike bottle at about mile 80. Drink up and your legs will feel awesome.

  10. John

    Nuun, because my body leaches salt like a fine cured ham, and I cramp. Badly.

    Took me years to figure out that I needed to ingest more salt, and separate the carbs from the liquid for best absorption.

    I don’t leave home without it.

  11. shiggy

    plain water or water with a packet or two of Emergency-C added. Few added calories with electrolytes and vitamins. Bonus that it helps keep the water from freezing to ~20 degrees IME. Emergen-C has been around forever and has been largely ignored, unjustly, by the cycling community.

  12. Miles Archer

    I used to ride with one of the powdered sugary stuff, but I had problems on longer rides. I felt I needed the salt more than the sugar as it’s often hot. After reading the recent advances in hydration, I’ve started to drink 1/2 strength costco brand gatorade. It’s about the same strength as the Skratch stuff but is dirt cheap. The only thing that’s bugging me is that it comes pre-mixed in plastic bottles. I hate the waste of the bottle plus the waste of shipping all of that water around.

    Maybe i should do what Resty does.

  13. kenl

    On long hot summer rides, I’ll stop at a market and refill my bottles with ice cubes, plain soda water, and a couple of Nuun tablets for flavor. The first time I tried this I had to stop myself from just chugging the entire bottle right there, it tasted that good.

  14. Joe Z

    I’m one of those heavy sweaters, so I drink a lot in the saddle except in very cool weather. My standard two-bottle carry is one energy drink and one tapwater. Many years ago, I was taught by veteran roadies to always carry pure water in case of a pavement nap. You can’t clean road rash with an energy drink, but you can always supplement water with solid food…

  15. Stephen Barner

    Water. I have become annoyed by the inevitable stickiness of a bottle that has held a sports drink. If the ride is long and hot enough, I’ll often buy a cold quart of orange Gaterade (it has to be cold, another reason not to carry it on the bike). If I’m on the second or third stop, I’m probably near the hundred mile mark, and I might go for my first love, an ice cold Coke!

  16. Les.B.

    Jumping on the Skratch bandwagon. LemonLime.
    For long rides I would take baggies filled with the measured amount of powder. In that technique I would end up with the stickiness mentioned by Stephen.
    So I devised a way to scoop out measured amounts of the powder into a silicone rubber ice tray and moisturize them so that they harden into little rocks. So now I carry the Skratch rocks in baggies and avoid sticky fingers.

  17. Ev

    Large bottle of water for rides up to 2 hours, large bottle of water and smaller bottle of Skratch (Pineapple or raspberry pls) over two hours.
    Too many instances of stomach issues with Gatorade…On really long hot rides I’ll switch to it for the last stop if I haven’t brought additional Skratch along.

  18. Jim P.

    Seems as though Skratch is the go to stuff in these parts, so I’l throw in the zig to all y’all’s zag. a few years ago i got turned on to Coco Hydro from Big Tree Farms. It’s a powdered coconut water, so less of the shipping worries that Miles states above. Like John, after a hard ride in the summer I could sell the mineral rights to my skin and kit. This stuff works very well for me. In warmer times, I’ll also use Endurolytes. My second bottle is usually water. In the Central Valley summer, I’ll keep a bottle of the coconut water and a bottle of plain water in the freezer at all times, ready for a ride. If it’s really hot out, I’m not above filling my small Camelbak (gasp!) with ice water. I don’t mind looking pretty Fredly on the hammer fest rides when everyone else is sucking on 85 degree bottles while taking a sip out of the pack is like jumping into a nice cold pool. Occasionally I’ll squirt a little icy cold water on a buddy’s leg as I go by just for the fuck of it.
    This winter I finally discovered the magic of an insulated bottle with hot black tea and honey. So there’s something to learn from the old timers yet.

  19. Ricster

    I’m an Osmo guy. Over two hours in the saddle I’ll take a plain water and an Osmo bottle. One to two hours usually just plain old tap water.

  20. Aar

    On the bike, I drink Osmo. Anything else eventually upsets my stomach, even plain water.

    Throughout the day, I’ve taken to drinking Skratch Daily Hydration (as opposed to their Exercise Hydration product). I’m in the middle of a phase of being bored with water throughout the day and Skratch Daily tastes better than Nuun

  21. Chris Duffy

    For short rides, Skratchlabs. For anything longer than 2 hours, I reach for Herbalife 24 Prolong. I’ve been using Prolong since 2006, when John Heiss was mixing it in his apartment kitchen, and there’s no better endurance fuel on the market.

  22. John Marrocco

    Hammer products almost exclusively. Heed for rides up to a couple hours. Sustained energy or Perpetuem for longer rides. Supplemented with Endurolytes and Anti-fatigue caps for really long rides. Hammer gel as needed.

    1. Michael Schlitzer

      I did the Mountains of Misery for about 10 years. One year it was ungodly hot and I blew through my drink and used their Hammer Heed. About 70 miles into the ride I had the worst sensations ever – I thought I was going to die. Turns out that Hammer doesn’t work for me and I now know to ask about the event sponsors before I start the event.

  23. Shawn

    I tend to cramp easily regardless of temp so I rarely use straight water. Started using Cytomax years ago and it’s not broke so I keep using it. I opt for the orange flavor due to a childhood preference for faux-orange. When under 20 degree F (the norm of late), I add an orange airborne vitamin tablet and a splash of brandy to avoid freezing. Not a performance aid, but it keeps me rolling all winter!

  24. pushgears

    The most important quality is palatability – you have to want to drink what’s in the bottle. I make my own and it’s really easy. Herbal Tea of your choice, stevia to sweeten, pinch of salt, pinch of salt substitute (for potassium) and optional teaspoon of trace electrolyte solution from GNC. Calories from real foods like almond butter with dried blues on Ezekiel.

  25. Michael

    1) Usually water
    2) Sometimes Country Time Lemonade. Don’t laugh! It is made with sugar and does not have too many chemical ingredients and it is very cheap in comparison to exercise drinks and it tastes excellent.
    3) Skatch for the century or fast 100K+ group rides I do occasionally.

  26. chuckster

    Have tried lots. Water usually for short rides. Nowadays for longer rides, Cytomax pre season (relatively cheap, doesn’t seem to mess with my stomach much on cooler days), and EFS and/or Skratch on hotter, longer or harder rides. EFS goes down great with a good and (IMO) salty tart flavor, and Skratch has some great flavors but isn’t exactly cheap when you’re using it often. I had tried Accelerade for a while years ago and it simply shredded my stomach. I think it’s also worth bringing some food along that’s a good complement to the drink.

    1. Full Monte

      Ditto. Love that thing. I’ve tried various sports mixes but each leaves my stomach feeling hinky. I find even eating during a long, hard effort is not worth the hinks. So water. Lots of water.

  27. Grego

    Water, Kind bars, Clif Bloks, and lately, Ted King’s Untapped maple syrup packs. One of the latter really improved my mindset, and quickly, during an extended climb on yesterday’s ride.

    Nothing but water ever goes into my bottles, because you know. I borrowed water on a group ride back in October, got lymon energy drink in my bottle instead. (And drank it, fine.) I cleaned the bottle after the event. Last week, almost four months later, I flexed the regularly-used bottle to drink out of it, and noted a slight citrusy flavor. Time for a bottle replacement…

  28. Matt K

    Usually I start with watered down orange Gatorade. Fill up the bottle with around a half/half mixture. If I stop for a refill at a market it’s always just water for the rest of the ride. I do like the idea of emergen c instead of the Gatorade though.

  29. Don Jagoe

    One NUUN in each bottle and no cramps. Forget them and I can count on leaping out of bed that night in crampy agony. Easy and works for me.

  30. Michael Schlitzer

    I’m such an old-school creature of habit. Two bottles. Plain water on the down-tube, Cytomax Citrus (mixed a little-bit strong, or one of those tablets plus a little Cytomax) on the seat-tube. Never put Cytomax on the down-tube. That’s the one I reach for first and if I drink too much sports drink it will kill my stomach. Drink mostly water with a little bit of the other stuff and life is good.

    1. Oldschool

      Old school would be one bottle and that would be 500ml. If you have two bottles/cages you are not olds chool…sorry. My friends sometimes carry three 750 bottles. I say 3 things to them…
      1/if you were in better shape you wouldn’t sweat so much 2/you are just too cheap to stop at a store to buy a nice cold coke ( buying water is not old school because it was free back-in-the-day…lol) 3/you are drinking too much so you have to stop to pee too much

      Ps..if they say stopping at a store on a really hot day slows them down I say 2 things…
      1/ all their pee breaks slowed me down 2/ back-in-the- day we just got back on our bikes and rode faster to make up for a stop.

    2. Oldschool

      Old school would be one bottle and that would be 500ml. If you have two bottles/cages you are not olds school…sorry. My friends sometimes carry three 750 bottles. I say 3 things to them…
      1/if you were in better shape you wouldn’t sweat so much 2/you are just too cheap to stop at a store to buy a nice cold coke ( buying water is not old school because it was free back-in-the-day…lol) 3/you are drinking too much so you have to stop to pee too much

      Ps..if they say stopping at a store on a really hot day slows them down I say 2 things…
      1/ all their pee breaks slowed me down 2/ back-in-the- day we just got back on our bikes and rode faster to make up for a stop.

  31. RonS

    As I aged, my need for elctrolytes increased, to say the least. I used to be a pan y agua guy, but after I turned 50 I started having calf cramp issues. Long story short, the cramping moved to my thighs and was so bad I couldn’t ride more than 50-60 miles. I tried Osmo and that helped a bit but let me down a few times. I switched to Skratch Labs last year and I haven’t looked back. I rode the D2R2 100k last year without any cramping issues and I completed a couple of road centuries as well. Your mileage may vary.

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