We got our hands on a selection of Cliff Bars to review for you and Sim and Heather took on the taste and energy test.
I had my first taste of CLIF Bars whilst taking part in the Deloitte Ride Across Britain last year – the chocolate chip version kept me going from John O’Groats all the way to Glasgow, so when I was asked to review CLIF bars for CyclingShorts, I thought why not?
So, a large selection of CLIF Bars in all different flavours made their way through my door – There was the chocolate chip version which I had tried before, then Crunchy Peanut Butter flavour, followed by Oatmeal Raisin Walnut, then Chocolate Almond Fudge, with White Chocolate Macadamia Nut bringing up the rear.
I must say that some of them sounded slightly exotic and I wasn’t convinced that I would like them, but I tried them all anyway (it’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it!)…
So, what did I think? Well, some of the flavours and the texture of the bars are better than others. For example, whilst the Oatmeal Raisin Walnut version may appeal to some due to the lower calorific content than the others, I found that unfortunately it was a bit disappointing – too dry to have on its own, especially trying to eat it going uphill. However, I was pleasantly surprised that the most exotic-sounding one (in my humble opinion), the White Chocolate Macadamia Nut was in actual fact the best of the bunch, mainly due to the addition of white chocolate pieces compensating for the dry nature of the bars in general. However, the Crunchy Peanut Butter flavour came a close second, as CLIF have worked hard to make that bar more chewy and therefore slightly more moist.
The Chocolate Almond Fudge was a bit disappointing too – I thought that it would be the CLIF Bar version of Bakewell Tart but it just seemed difficult to eat, as did the Chocolate Chip version. The bars really fill a hole and contain on average 245 kcals per bar and provide plenty of slow release energy from the seeds and grains used.
CLIF pride themselves on using wholesome and nutritious ingredients and having no trans fats, hydrogenated fats or high fructose corn syrup. It should be noted though that under UK regulations CLIF Bar cannot state that the bars are organic or contain no transfats.
The wrappers are foil and although this keeps the contents fresh, it can hurt your teeth trying to rip it open (I can’t ride in a group of people non-handed so I have to use my teeth – but don’t tell my dentist!) however if you want weight for your £1, these are definitely substantial bars – you can feel the heft when you pick one up!
So, for marks out of 100, overall I would probably give the CLIF bar range 70% (good start, but some improvements needed) although I would give the White Chocolate Macadamia version 85%.
I confess to being rather skeptical about using Cliff Bars as I have had mixed experiences using energy or nutrition bars when riding, to the point that I have reverted to using trusty old jam and bread on most rides. My experience is that some are gooey and sticky, others sickly and worse still some that encouraged the production of some rather unpleasant gases, which was not good in the bunkhouse when all ten of us had been using the same product with the same effect! So needless to say I was a tad apprehensive when I was among a group of friends taking part in the Manchester 100 who would be testing a range of Cliff Bars. Fortunately we would not all be staying in the same room at the end of the day!
On the day we had four different flavours, Chocolate Chip, Chocolate Almond fudge, White Chocolate Macadamia Nut and Oatmeal Raisin Walnut, to test and we split them across the group of Team Parrotti riders. My son plumped for the Chocolate Chip and I tried the White Chocolate Macadamia Nut.
Out on the road we were particularly impressed with the ease of opening the packaging and the fact that the bar stayed intact allowing us to nibble on the bar and keep popping it back into our back pockets without making a mess. Which is great if you want to use them for a little pick up as you are riding.
The consistency of the bars is moist but not too gooey and this works really well when riding allowing you to take small bites without the bar falling apart. However you do need a sweet tooth as the bars are very very sweet but then that is not surprising considering nearly a third of the bar is sugar (between 21g – 23g for a 68g bar). This was the general experience of all Team Parrotti riders who tested the bars during our day out at the Manchester 100. We all agreed that the bars are worth carrying as a back up source of energy but we all felt that they are a little too sweet to use as a regular nutrition.
Of the flavours tested the clear favourite was Chocolate Chip with White Chocolate Macadamia Nut a close second. The least favourite was Chocolate Almond fudge which was incredible sweet and rather sickly.
The bottom line has to be ‘would we use Cliff Bars again?’ and the answer is a resounding yes. They provide a good energy boost that be easily nibbled on when needed and they are really easy to digest with no adverse effects (if you know what I mean!).
To learn more about CLIF Bars and their extensive range of products visit their website: www.clifbar.co.uk
Cycling Shorts overall rating for the Cliff Bar Range:
For any fans of the Tour de France, who watch the ITV4 programme avidly during July, you will no doubt know the dulcet tones of Ned Boulting. He has become synonymous with the ITV4 programme, where he interviews the likes of Mark Cavendish post race, or whoever is currently sitting on top of the GC on that particular day.
I was looking forward to reading Ned’s book, as I thought it would be interesting to hear what non-cyclists think of the cycling world, for Ned himself is the first person to say that he had no idea about the Tour de France when he was first drafted onto the production team back in 2003, calling the yellow jersey “the yellow jumper”.
Ned’s book is easy to read, interesting, funny and witty. It might put you off ever wanting to work on a Grand Tour as he tells of incidents where he had little time to sleep, late finishes and early starts, and a lot of driving around France in the customary Renault Espace. But it is insightful nonetheless.
The book in itself is a breath of fresh air due to the dead pan, matter of fact way in which Ned narrates his various experiences. He has the ability to look at what he has done from what appears to be somebody else’s perspective. At certain points, it’s “no holds barred” where he recounts his experiences with Mark Cavendish, Robbie McEwen and Team Sky.
There is also a section about how Cavendish became the green jersey winner in 2011, as well as an hommage to Thomas Voeckler and throughout the book there seems to be an undercurrent of utmost respect for Gary Imlach, and Chris Boardman.
If you haven’t got a copy yet, I would thoroughly recommend this book – add it to your Christmas list at the very least. It’s only £8.99 from Amazon and other bookshops and you can even buy the eBook version, if that floats your boat.
For my part, I am hoping that Ned does a follow up – his behind the scenes view of Team Sky in the 2012 Tour de France would be an interesting read! Bravo, Ned! Keep up the good work! This book gets our Star Buy rating.
How I Won The Yellow Jumper: Dispatches from the Tour de France
Yellow Jersey Press (Random House) & Vintage Digital
Available in Paperback, iBook & Kindle
RRP £12.99 (Paperback), RRP £12.99 (eBook)
On Your Bike! The Complete Guide to Cycling
by Matt Seaton.
For somebody who has ridden a bike for quite some time, I was interested to see what would be included in something dubbed “the complete guide to cycling”. And, I must say that I was quite surprised at the book’s ability to make me see the bike from a different angle.
When you take up cycling, whatever age you are, you don’t think about the bike itself – it is merely the tool by which you can get out on to the road/track/rough terrain (whatever floats your boat) and get “on your bike.” And to be honest, I wasn’t expecting to find a book that was so easy to read, so interesting to read, especially on a subject that can seem quite mundane.
However, Matt Seaton appears to have successfully completed a somewhat impossible task – it has made me think differently about how I look at my bike. No longer do I see it as an inanimate object that helps me keep fit. No, I am now able to see the bike for what it really is – a concept built out of the Industrial Revolution, a tool that has helped normal folk (as in those who weren’t aristocrats) develop a sense of freedom and something which has transformed personal mobility into social mobility. Yes, very deep. But I bet you never even stopped to think that the bicycle was such an important tool. In fact, as Matt Seaton rightly asserts, “cycling [has] become synonymous with progress.”
So, maybe the idea of a history lesson doesn’t set your world on fire. Well, don’t worry, Matt Seaton merely uses the evolution of the bicycle as a tool to set the scene, to make you realise that the bike in itself has its own place in history. Did you know, for example, that Peugeot, Singer and Triumph all started life as bike manufacturers? Me neither.
Matt goes on to cover the rise and fall of the bike’s popularity, including the BMX’s development in the 1970s, to the mountain bike phenomenon of the 1990s to the carbon fibre road bikes that we have today.
Most of my cycling friends would agree with me that my knowledge of mechanics is somewhat sketchy, to say the least, despite my years of cycling. However, this book is quite good in that it explains about the different types of bike and the basic measurements. There is also a nice double page spread on what the different components of a bike are. If you are pretty handy with mechanics, you will probably find this part basic, however if you are new to the sport, then the book acts as a useful aide-memoire. It covers all types of bikes, from road, to track, to cyclo-cross, to BMX and mountain bikes, and it also provides information as to what to look for in a good bike lock and bike light. It even covers tools, clothing and helmets!
Included in the “Your bike – and how to love it” section is also a useful sub-section about how to clean your bike. This may seem quite a useless thing to include however, I do know people who have purchased bikes worth over £3,000 and then not known how to keep it clean. Remember that this book is aimed at all cyclists – both those new to the sport and seasoned riders.
I must admit that I don’t currently commute by bike, however after reading the chapter entitled “Cycling and the city”, it did make me think twice about doing so. It reminds you that cycling is a great antidote to stress, that the threat to your health from pollution is far outweighed by the other health benefits of cycling and that you can also benefit from the Government’s “Bike to Work” scheme. But perhaps most important of all is the chapter entitled “How to stay safe on your bike.” This is a valuable read for anybody who shares the road with other road users, which is most cyclists. You tend to take things for granted, but this helps you to become ‘actively visible.’ Surely that in itself is worth a read?
The penultimate chapter deals with “Cycle sport”, including the pro peloton, how teams work and a piece on the issue of doping. There is also some useful information on other types of riding, including track racing, cyclo-cross and sportives.
If you are looking for a well-written, informative, interesting book on cycling as a whole, then this could be the book for you. It is full of colour pictures, is easy to pick up where you left off (one of those books where you can pick which bits you want to read) and is definitely worth reading if you have just taken up cycling for the first time after having been inspired by Brad Wiggins and Team Sky in this year’s Tour de France. However, it is a bit out-dated, having been written back in 2006, but having said that, the basics and the history of the bike will always remain the same.
If you are looking for a book that will make you a faster rider, this isn’t the book for you, but if you want a book that does what it says on the tin, then you should definitely add it to your Christmas list.
Title: On Your Bike! The Complete Guide to Cycling
Author: Matt Seaton
Published by Black Dog Publishing
Available from 7th June 2012 in Hardback & eBook
RRP Price: £16.95
Interview with the Team Captain of VC St Raphael Women’s Team and lead British Cycling points scorer for Elite Women in 2010 and 2011.
How did you get into cycling?
As a youngster I grew up riding horses and used to compete in tetrathlon, that’s swimming, running, horse-riding and shooting at Pony Club. That ends when you reach 21 so I was looking for another sport similar so ended up trying triathlon. I quickly realised that cycling was the most fun out of all the disciplines and so started to focus on that with a local bike club. I quickly fell in love with the whole sport and so here I am. I never tire of striving to achieve more, cycling is a great leveller so you never quite feel like you’ve conquered everything, leaving you thirsty for more.
You work full time but still manage to be successful on the bike – how do you manage your time?
Managing my time is very difficult. Some years I have reduce my hours over the season to give myself a break but then it’s still not easy and I have raced the last 2 seasons having worked full time. I’m very lucky to work for such an understanding group of people as they are very flexible with me allowing me to work from home and flex my hours so that I can train and race. I love my job and it’s the reason why I have never tried to be a full-time bike rider, for me I have to have other things in my life other than riding the bike. My partner Jason also helps me out a great deal and is often ferrying me around to races…allowing me to sleep on the way!
You’ve won many races and have a number of National Champion jerseys – which would you say is your proudest achievement and why?
The Masters titles I have won mean a great deal to me but my proudest moments have come this year taking the sprinters jersey at the Bedford 2-day and getting on the podium at the Hillingdon GP, finally perhaps putting myself on the radar as a sprinter. I always take pleasure in doing the best I can and if a result comes from that then that’s a bonus.
What would you say to anybody who is thinking of starting racing, especially as it can be daunting getting on a start line for the first time? Any top tips?
First of all I can’t stress how important it is to develop your bunch riding skills before attempting to race, going out with a local bike club is a good way to learn some of these skills and gain confidence of riding with people around you and at speeds you wouldn’t by yourself. There are also a few Women’s training sessions that you can attend which are excellent. Then when you are confident, try to pick races that are within your reach to start with, perhaps local women’s races, don’t try to take on too much too soon as you can easily find yourself out of your depth both in terms of speed and technique. Always be realistic about your ability and recognise your strengths, some riders are better over hilly terrain and some are better at sprinting. Recognising these and targeting races to suit you will mean you will have positive experiences and enjoy the sport more. Don’t be swayed to do every race on the calendar just because everyone else is, be confident in your own training and race plan and stick with it. Most importantly it’s about your sport being fun.
Is there any advice in particular that you have been given over the years which has helped you to succeed that you could share with us?
I read a book once by Lance Armstrong, one of his quotes was that “pain is in the moment but failure is forever”. That’s something that has stayed with me and I try to remember when I am racing. Being the best that I can be is what I strive for so I train hard to save myself from disappointment.
Do you have any sporting heroes? Do you see anything in them that you could model yourself on?
I did a bike race a few years ago where a certain Lizzie Armistead rode and lapped the field twice. I witnessed first hand something special that day and hopefully she will pull on a rainbow jersey one day. I’d like to think like her I have some steely determination and a bit of a sprint at the end….just a little less of her talent!
Do you have a favourite event or circuit? What about the event/circuit do you like so much?
My favourite circuit has to be one local to me, at Thruxton Motor circuit. I love the circuit because it’s tough with the rise before the finish and can be very fast in places. When I heard that the National Master Road Race was being held there instead of the original road circuit I knew I was in with a chance at winning the title I’d been after for 4years, which I did and was delighted.
You have recently become the official Team Captain to the VC St Raphael Women’s Team, which in itself is one of the new kids on the block. How do you see the team evolving?
I’m excited and honoured at taking on that role, other teams have asked me to captain them over the last few years but I’ve not felt ready until now. I hope that I can lead the team to work together and get results. We now have a strong mix of riders covering track, road and time trials. It is a great mix of youth and experience and we have some exciting new talent joining the team as well as the hard core from last year. Having had 2 excellent training weekends over the winter I think we are ready to test our legs and get working together as a team, Cheshire Classic will be our first event.
Do you have any aspirations for the 2012 season?
Mainly I want the team to get some results and work together, a result for a teammate means just as much. I’d like to defend my National titles and perhaps the sprinters jersey at Bedford 2-day again.
Where would you like to be in two years’ time?
I’d like to be still riding my bike and enjoying it, perhaps with a World or European Masters title to my name.
With the National Road Series for Women being open to E/1/2/3 only, with no room at the inn for 4th category riders, British Cycling are working hard to engage with women who are new to bike racing. From the circuit races that are being held at Saltaire, Lancaster, to the training sessions held at Tameside Cycling Circuit, which are complimented with the Tameside Season Starter races at the same circuit, British Cycling are obviously keen to develop women’s riding skills, which Jenny Gretton, North West Regional Event Officer, has been working hard to promote.
You may be forgiven for thinking that these events are just happening in the North West, however this is not the case. There are events across the country, from the North East, to the Midlands, to London and the South West. The purpose of these events is to get women used to riding in a bunch, on closed circuits, where it is safe to learn, without the added fear of some random motorist driving headlong into the bunch, which happened last year on one of the National Road Race Series races.
The majority of these events seem to be in March and April, though, which leaves a gap for the rest of the season. Hopefully, the theory is that the women riding these events will pick up sufficient points to become fledgling third category riders, who are then able to ride the National Road Series.
For those of you who are keen to get on the road though, as opposed to closed circuit races, the Team Series events may be just what you are looking for. These events are put on with the idea of promoting women’s racing, without putting anybody off, so the courses are not necessarily too difficult, more “manageable”. Their popularity has grown over the years, with more and more women entering them – the Bedford 2 Day being one of the most coveted wins in the Series!
But don’t despair if you are looking for an event that caters for everybody later on in the year! That is where Andrew Parker, South West Regional Events Officer at British Cycling can help you. He is organising a three stage, one day event on 15 July 2012 for women, and he is encouraging women who aren’t members of BC to come along and have a go, with the idea that the South West Road Race Work Group will cover the cost of a day licence.
Andrew’s reasoning for the event is as follows: “I think a lot of women’s events tend to be shoehorned into a busy day’s racing and the competitors aren’t given the recognition they are due. I thought it would be good to have a dedicated days racing which can showcase the sport. The format is based on an omnium, with points awarded for each stages placings instead of time, the overall winner will have the least amount of points. I’m hoping that it will be really successful and not only encourage more local women to take up racing but also draw in riders from outside the region.”
The event will include a time trial, handicap road race and a circuit race, and you won’t need to worry about staying over as it is all done on the same day. If you would like any more information, please contact Andrew on [email protected]
Click here to be taken to the stage race webpage.
So there’s even less excuses to ride a stage race now – you don’t even need a racing licence! What more could you need? Get your entries in, it is bound to be popular!
I have ridden my bike since I was 14 years old. I was on the National Development Squad in the late 1990s, and won many medals at the BUSC championships whilst I was a student at the University of Manchester, mainly in the Track Championships and Hill Climb Championships. I also won the Manchester Regional Track League (Premier Division) on a number of occasions, as well as the Manchester & District Ladies Junior Time Trial Championships. I stopped racing in 2001 after I finished university and started to work full time as I struggled to manage the full days with training on top.
I decided to start racing again in 2011 after I was asked to join VC St Raphael. I was suffering from chronic fatigue on top of the epilepsy that I have always suffered from and I found it difficult to train whilst still working full time. However, I took the decision to swap medication (which I had been on since I was 18) and on Christmas Eve I came off the old medication completely – 15 years is a long time to be on any medication. Since being on the new medication, the chronic fatigue symptoms have lessened and my epilepsy remains under control (touch wood!). I have started training properly again and I am feeling stronger than ever before.
In 2013, I will be riding and managing a women’s team for Biketreks Racing Academy.