What Should I Eat While Bicycle Touring?

There is one thing that all bicycle touring enthusiasts have in common – they like to eat! No matter where you ride or how long you ride for, there’s nothing better than stopping to a decent meal.

When you are preparing to tour by bike you might ask yourself: “What should I eat while bicycle touring?” Your diet will vary depending on where you are and what your personal preferences are. Perishability, simplicity, and caloric value are all important factors to consider.

In this article, I will discuss tips on what to eat, packing your food, and cooking.

The Best Foods For Bicycling Touring

Freeze dried meals, trail mixes, rice, pasta, beans, nuts, eggs, oatmeal, peanut butter, tortillas and canned meats are some of the best foods for bicycle touring. There are also compact quick energy bars, gels and chews available to riders.

All these foods are high in carbohydrate, protein or fat. They are an excellent fuel for your body on the go. They are mostly non-perishable and do not spoil easily – very important for bike tours.

Hydration mixes are another important item in the food category to bring on your bicycle tour. They boost your caloric intake and contain essential minerals and electrolytes. These ingredients help prevent cramping and keep you hydrated during long days in the saddle.

All the foods mentioned above are compact and easy to pack away in your touring panniers and trunk bag. When you are bicycle touring you are limited on space for food. Packing trail mixes and dried goods in small snack, sandwich or quart bags minimizes the space packaged food can take up. Tortillas are also a great shout when it comes to space saving food. Gels and hydration mixes take up almost no space but can be full of energy.

The other benefit of these recommended foods is that they require minimal preparation time. One simply must boil water or mix a few ingredients together when they arrive at camp. I know when I am touring and pull into camp after riding all day, one of the last things I want to do is spend hours making my dinner. Simple meals are the best meals for touring.

One pan meal of pasta

How Should I Pack Food For A Bike Tour?

When you are packing your food in bike bags on your bicycle tour it is important to consider what food you need to access at what point of the day. Snacks should be easy to access! Trail mix and other high energy snacks should be packed in top tube bags, handlebar/stem bags or at the top of your larger bags. 

I often pack my snacks in my top tube bags or feed bags that attach to the handlebars. This way I can access my snacks on the go, throughout the day. I don’t have to stop and unpack my tent or sleeping bag to find my chews midday.

Food from your primary meals can be packed deeper into your bags. You want to pack these items in a way that they will not spill or leak onto your clothes, tent, and other gear. Foods like eggs require special containers to prevent them from breaking. 

I recommend getting a hard egg case to store eggs in. They are often sold for backpacking from retailers online or at camping stores.  Anything that has the potential to melt or leak should be in a sealed bag or container. You don’t want your sleeping bag or tent covered in gooey chocolate from your bars (no matter how much you like chocolate)!

When you are packing foods such as grains and oatmeal away in your bags, I recommend portioning them into individual meals in plastic bags. This takes away the bulk of a box or full portion bag. It also reduces waste from making extra food along the way. Some areas where you tour may require you to pack out trash and leftover food. The last thing you want to be toting out of a remote area is left over cooked rice.

Freeze dried meals are premixed and sealed. They offer riders a completely mess free set up that won’t spoil. For convenience sake, I recommend these types of meals for a few meals on your tour. Companies such as Mountain Home offer a wide variety of meals including Mexican rice, mac and cheese, and beef stroganoff. 

They also offer desserts and breakfast options. Unfortunately, these meals can be a bit uneasy to a sensitive stomach, at times. That’s why I do not suggest using them for all of your meals.

The most important thing to consider when packing your food away is when do you need to access it? Will it spill or melt in your bags? If so, how will you prevent a mess? Do you have foods you like enough calories to fuel your body?

Brewing a coffee whilst bicycle touring

What Should I Eat While Bicycle Touring? – Cooking Tips

It is important to keep meals simple in terms of preparation and cooking on bicycle tours. Often when you are cooking during a bicycle tour you will have minimal pots or pans with you and a simple one burner camping stove setup. Meals that require more time and effort to cook can be a hassle to make after a day of pedaling when your stomach is grumbling.

Freeze dried meals, rice, oats, and pasta typically require you to simply boil water and add a few spices. Canned meats and eggs can easily be mixed into rice or pastas to add protein and fat to fuel your body. 

I’ve included two simple recipes for touring below:

My Example Meals

Rice and chicken burrito

  • Cook time 15-45 minutes (depending on your rice)
  • Ingredients:
  • Water (Amount will depend on the type of rice)
  • 1 cup of your favorite rice
  • 1-4oz Can of Chicken
  • Your favorite spices
  • Tortillas

Instructions:

  • Prepare 1 cup of rice to your liking.
  • 1 add in 1-4oz. can of chicken. Head the rice and chicken together.Add in the spices you desire.
  • These may include salt, pepper, garlic, cumin, or onion flakes.
  • Thoroughly heat your rice and chicken.
  • Place in tortillas.
  • Eat and enjoy.

Hearty Oatmeal

  • Cooking time 10 minutes
  • Ingredients:
  • 1 cup cooked oatmeal of your liking.
  • ¼ cup of your favorite trail mix
  • 1 tsp peanut butter

Instructions:

  • Prepare oatmeal according to directions for the type you prefer.
  • Add trail mix and peanut butter.
  • Eat and enjoy your meal.

Here are some other ideas for a one-pot meal:

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best energy food for cycling?

Peanut butter is one of the best energy foods for cycling. 

If you follow endurance cycling events, such as the Arrowhead Race that takes place each winter in northern Minnesota, you might know that riders must start with a specific amount of calories packed away in their bags. Many of the riders that have won these types of events carry the same item to meet this requirement: A jar of peanut butter.

When I bikepacked across Alaska, I went through several jars of peanut butter. Peanut butter can be spread on tortillas, added to oatmeal, or eaten by the spoonful for an extra energy boost on your tour. It’s also widely available. Most convenience and grocery stores sell this item. If you run out on your adventure, it’s easy to resupply!

What is the best hydration drink for cycling?

Hydration mixes can help prevent cramping and help fuel your ride. They contain electrolytes and important minerals. I recommend checking out mixes from Skratch Labs. They are available in large multiportion packages or single serving mixes. I recommend packing hydration mixes so that they are easily accessible like snacks.

Hot tip – get the individual portions mixes for touring, as this prevents the risk of spilling powder in your bag accidently. They are specifically made to fuel endurance athletes. If you are on a cycling tour you are an endurance athlete whether you realize it or not!

What should I have in my cookset?

Camping stoves made by MSR and JetBoil are ideal for touring. You will need to consider the type of fuel you carry with each and the climate you intend to use each in. Overall, they are compact and allow one to cook one pot meals with ease.

A small spice kit, compact spatula, saucepan, and small frying pan are all items I recommend for a complete bicycle touring kitchen. These items will allow you to make tasty, nutritional and calorie packed meals on the go.

Cooking on a portable stove

Summary

Size, chance of spoiling, and preparation time are the key things to consider when you are bicycle touring. What you eat on a bicycle tour will ultimately depend on your personal preferences. We all have different favorites and sensitivities when it comes to food. 

I love rice and eggs on my tours. Others love freeze-dried meals and swear by brands like Mountain Home. Peanut butter by the spoonful or in a tortilla can help you push forward on longer days of riding. For that final boost, gels and chews are easy to pack and full of fuel.

Remember to pack your food away in your bags, without bulk. You must pack foods that will keep for the duration of your journey (or plan for resupply stops). You should choose foods that will fuel you without taking hours to prepare. 

When you are done riding for the day making a meal that is complex is likely the last thing you will want to do. Stick to freeze dried packaged meals or simple one pot recipes and your meals will be easy to pack, prepare, and scrumptious as you explore by bike!

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