Do-It-Yourself Rocket Fuel for Bikepacking
Matthew Kadey, author of “Rocket Fuel – Power Packed Food for Sports + Adventure,” is an adventure cyclist and dietitian. Matthew’s two-wheeled travels have taken him to numerous countries including Ethiopia, Syria, and Thailand, just to name a few. We asked Matthew for some bikepacking-friendly recipes from his cookbook, and as an added bonus he whipped us up our own special energy ball recipe.
Words and photos by Matthew Kadey unless noted otherwise.
Whether I’m riding in Vietnam, Chile, or Ethiopia, my performance fuel often doesn’t involve neon sports drinks and sticky gels. Instead, I’ll stuff my bike bags with local delights like the cheese and tomato empanadas that powered my legs over Argentinean mountain passes or the ultra-addicting banana leaf parcels of sticky rice and coconut custard procured from bustling markets in Laos. Real food can grease your wheels.
As a sports dietitian and adventure cyclist, I’m all too aware that taking nutrition lightly during a long day on the saddle is a recipe for the dreaded bonk. For this reason, the endless stream of calibrated lab-designed gels, bars, and their ilk can seem like the perfect solution to meeting energy needs. Sure, they’re ultra-convenient, and in recent years have become a lot more wholesome, but there’s a good case to be made that great ride fuel for a bikepacking sojourn should also originate from your own kitchen.
If nothing else, packing some of your own fuel helps break up the performance-food monotony. Several hours into a herculean ride, it can be a lot more agreeable to wolf down a bacon rice cake than another chocolate energy bar. Homemade fuel is supremely satisfying to eat while on the trail. It’s comfort food that is fun to munch on and also bound to be delicious. By crafting your own energy bites you also have better control of the ingredients, so you can raise the bar, so to speak, on your overall nutrition. Rely too heavily on overly sweet packaged energy foods or gas station grub and there is always a risk for gastro woes. No wonder little foil packets of goodies are a staple of the Tour de France peloton. Heck, you may even save a few bucks by ditching some of the store-bought stuff in favor of DIY options.
To help you get motivated to get in the kitchen and rustle up some of your own fuel that goes well beyond the good ol’ peanut butter and jelly sandwich, here are two recipes from my cookbook, “Rocket Fuel: Power-Packed Fuel for Sports + Adventure” (VeloPress, 2016) and a performance-boosting energy ball recipe developed just for you bikepacking folks. Bon appetit!
- Dairy-free, Freezer-friendly, Gluten-free, Vegan or Vegetarian
- Servings: 12
- Active time: 20 min
By employing a mini muffin pan, there is no need for a bowl and milk to luxuriate in crunchy hippie food when you’re pedaling in the wilderness. The winning combo of carbs, protein, and fat makes these portable granola rounds the quality gas you need to prevent your energy reserves from running dry during all-day excursions. And feel free to customize them to whatever nuts, seeds, and dried fruit you have on hand.
Who says granola has to be served from a bowl? These little bundles of nutrients are an on-the-go way to carry your beloved hippie food. You will be perfectly happy getting lost in the woods or stuck on the steepest of inclines if you have these nearby.
You can also make these in regular-sized muffin cups for a more substantial postworkout nosh or a take-and-go breakfast option. Just increase cooking time by about 5 minutes.
- 1½ cups quick-cook oats
- 1/3 cup wheat germ
- ½ cup chopped pecans or almonds
- ¼ cup hemp seeds
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- ½ cup chopped dried apricots
- 1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 large egg
- ½ cup honey or brown rice syrup
- ¼ cup melted coconut oil
Use oats labeled “gluten-free” or replace oats with quinoa flakes, barley flakes, or spelt flakes + use almond flour or ground flaxseed instead of wheat germ + stir in sunflower seeds instead of hemp seeds + swap out cranberries for dried cherries, chopped dried pineapple, or goji berries.
Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, stir together oats, wheat germ, pecans or almonds, hemp seeds,
cranberries, apricots, coconut, cinnamon, ginger, and salt. In a separate bowl, lightly beat egg and stir in honey or brown rice syrup and oil. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix until everything is moist.
Divide mixture among 24 greased or paper-lined mini-muffin cups and make sure to pack it down tightly to help hold everything together. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the edges begin to brown. Let cool several minutes before unmolding. Chill in the refrigerator for up to 1 week and transport in a small zip-top bag.
- Servings: 5
- Active time: 25 min
Even if you’re in the backcountry and the nearest sushi joint is hundreds of miles away, these bundles of nutrition will add a bit of sophistication to your fuelling strategy. They’ll hold together well, even when negotiating bumpy terrain. Most importantly, your palate will appreciate that they add a savory note to what might be a ride dominated by sweet fuel. Try these and then experiment with using egg roll wrappers to roll up all sorts of savory and sweet fillings.
If you’re looking for portable fuel that offers a change of pace, don’t overlook the egg roll wrapper. Easy to fill and roll, when baked they hold together very well, even on bumpy terrain. And the filling options are almost endless, so once you get comfortable with this sushi-inspired one, feel free to play around with all sorts of savory and sweet combos.
- 1 cup cooked short-grain or medium-grain white rice
- 1 (5-ounce) can tuna, drained and broken into chunks
- 2 chopped nori sheets
- 1/3 cup chopped pickled ginger
- 3 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
- 1½ tablespoons rice vinegar
- 10 egg roll wrappers*
*Not to be confused with smaller wonton wrappers, egg roll wrappers can be found in most supermarkets, often near the produce aisle.
Preheat oven to 375°F. In a bowl, stir together white rice, tuna, nori, pickled ginger, soy sauce, and rice vinegar.
Place an egg roll wrapper on a flat work surface with a corner pointing toward you. Scoop about 2 tablespoons of the tuna mixture onto the center of the wrap. Brush the top and bottom corners of the wrap with water, and fold the bottom corner of the egg roll wrapper over the tuna stuffing to meet the top corner, creating a triangle.
Brush the two outside corners with water and fold them in toward the center. Roll tightly from the long bottom edge up toward the remaining triangle point at the top. Place seam-side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Repeat with remaining tuna mixture and egg roll wraps. Brush tops with oil. Bake for 15 minutes, flip, and bake for an additional 5 minutes. Let cool to room temperature, preferably on a metal rack, before storing in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Transport in small zip-top bags.
Apple Pie Balls
- Servings: 18 Balls
- Active time: 15 min
These energy bombs are guaranteed to keep you properly fueled during a long day of bikepacking bliss. They transport well, so can be stashed in your bike bags for a number of days. They are also tasty treats to pack for a plane ride if your two-wheeled adventure is taking you far from home.
- 1 cup pitted dates
- 3/4 cup rolled oats
- 3/4 cup pecans
- 1 1/2 cups dried apple rings
- 1/3 cup dried coconut
- 1/4 cup hemp seeds (hemp hearts)
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
Soak dates in warm water for 15 minutes.
Place oats and pecans in a food processor container and blend until finely chopped. Drain dates and add them to container along with apple rings, coconut, maple syrup, hemp seeds, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, and salt. Blend until mixture clumps together.
Using damp hands, roll mixture into 1-inch balls. You should get about 18 balls. Keep chilled until ready to ride. Transport in a zip-top bag.
For more recipes like these ones, check out Matt’s cookbook, Rocket Fuel: Power-Packed Food for Sports + Adventure (rocketfuelfoods.net). Also, make sure to follow him on Instagram (@Rocketfuelfood) for more DIY fuel inspiration..
“Rocket Fuel is more than a cookbook of easy, healthy recipes. Kadey simplifies the rocket science of sports nutrition into easy-to-follow guidelines that will work for anyone in any sport or activity. Rocket Fuel foods are grouped into Before, During, and After Exercise so your body will get exactly what it needs at exactly the right times. For those with special dietary restrictions, each recipe is flagged as dairy-free, freezer-friendly, gluten-free, paleo-friendly, and vegetarian or vegan-friendly.”
Republished with permission of VeloPress from Rocket Fuel: Power-Packed Food for Sports and Adventure by Matt Kadey, RD. See more recipes at www.rocketfuelfoods.net.