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05-07-2024 | Frank Jansen

Six ways to transport nutrition in a gran fondo

There are several reasons why you might want to be self-sufficient during a gran fondo or long sportive. Maybe you're riding solo without support, prefer not to rely on feed stations, or have a strong preference for your favorite nutrition brands. Bringing everything you need can be challenging, especially on longer rides where you also need to carry extra clothing. In this article, we explore five ways to bring a lot of gear with you during a gran fondo.

1. Stuffing the jersey

With some planning and organization, you can fit a lot into your shirt. However, the capacity can vary depending on the brand and design of the jersey. It's a matter of trial and error. For testing, I used our own CycloWorld clothing from Castelli (specifically the Equipe jersey). In the middle back pocket, I placed a rain jacket. The left pocket held eight bars, while the right pocket accommodated my phone and another six bars. Want to carry even more? Opt for a vest with pockets, giving you six pockets instead of three.

taking food with you during a gran fondo
Photo: a stuffed shirt can get you a long way.

+ No need to purchase additional gear
+ Lightweight
+ More aerodynamic than pouches
+ Easy to access while riding
- Riding with an open shirt can be uncomfortable if overstuffed
- You may feel like a pack mule, especially at the beginning
- Limited space
- Not waterproof

2. Top tube bag

The top tube bag has been a favorite among gran fondo riders and triathletes for years, not just in the gravel world. Available in many shapes and sizes, most models range between 0.5 liters and over 1 liter. Assuming an energy bar measures 10x4x2 cm, you can fit between six and twelve bars in it. Alternatively, you can use it for your phone and keep the bars in your back pocket.

top tube bag
Photo: Subtle and usable while cycling: a top tube bag.

+ More storage capacity than just your shirt
+ More aerodynamic than a bar bag
+ Easily accessible while cycling
+ Often waterproof (not all models)
+ Keeps your shirt emptier, making for a more comfortable ride, especially in hot weather
- Useless when empty
- Adds weight (though usually only about 100 grams)
- Can damage your paintwork

3. Handlebar bag

An increasingly popular option, not only in gran fondos, is the handlebar bag. A small handlebar bag offers ample space and has even become something of a status symbol. Available in various shapes and sizes, the smaller variant is typically used in races, with a capacity of 1.5 to 2 liters. This means you can fit up to 19 - 25 bars. I chose this option during Mallorca 312. Check here for my review of the Agu Venture.

ba bag
Photo: this bar bag was a life saver during Mallorca 312.

+ Lots of storage capacity, suitable for very long races
+ Less chance of damage compared to a top tube bag
+ Often waterproof (not all models)
+ Keeps your shirt emptier, making for a more comfortable ride, especially in hot weather
- Difficult or impossible to access while cycling
- Adds weight (usually about 200 grams)
- Less aerodynamic
- Can rattle
- Useless when empty
- Slightly less room for your hands on the handlebars
- Can interfere with your number plate

4. Taping bars to your frame

A real low-tech solution with several advantages. Taping bars to your frame with painter's tape is not only inexpensive but also very aerodynamic and light. Plus, you won't be carrying around extra gear once the bars (or gels) are used. How much you can fit on your frame depends on its size and your creativity. On my bike, I easily taped three rows of two bars or gels on the top tube. And that's just the top tube.

bars taped to bike frame
Photo: a real low-tech solution: taping bars to your frame.

+ Very aerodynamic
+ Lightweight
+ No extra gear to carry once consumed
+ Inexpensive
- Limited capacity
- Can be tricky to remove while riding
- Potential to damage frame paint
- Not waterproof

5. Hydration pack

A hydration pack (sometimes called a Camelbak) is still taboo among cyclists, while many MTBers swear by it. In longer gravel races such as Unbound, you also encounter them more often. This popularity is not surprising, because no matter how you look at it, a drinking backpack offers several advantages over the above solutions. Of course, how much fits in it depends on which version you take. The smallest models will fit at most a few bars in addition to the 1.5 to 2 liters of water, but there are models with as much as eight liters of luggage space or even more.

A hydration backpack
Photo: the choice of many MTB'ers: a hydration pack.

+ Available in different sizes depending on your needs
+ Drink without having to take your hands off the handlebars
+ The only solution where you can also carry drinks
+ More aerodynamic than a handlebar bag
- Some riders do not find it comfortable
- Taking food out cannot be done while cycling
- The backpack is of no use when empty
- It does not win the beauty prize

6. Cargo bibs

Bib shorts with pockets on the side. This invention also became big in gravel, but is slowly finding its way into riad cycling. The side pockets easily accommodate ten bars, and even your phone will fit.

cargo bib shorts
© Racefietsblog

+ Easy to access while cycling
+ When empty, the pockets are not in the way
+ Hardly any extra weight
- In theory, you sacrifice something in efficiency
- Not suitable for large garments

How do you take all that extra stuff with you? Let us know in the comments.

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