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:
The first week in July saw all the GB Para-cycling team members who had been selected for the 2012 London Paralympics, travel to and stay at the St Pierre & Country Club in Chepstow for the week, while we trained at the National Velodrome in Newport. This hotel will be our venue for our holding camp before the transition up to London one week before the games.
The first week of my training on the track was a small shock to my system, having had only two weeks back on the track in Manchester after my training abroad and now with my legs finding their power again, the efforts on the track were going to be increased every day to maximise my improvements for London over the next two weeks.
On the Sunday 8th July, fellow Para-cyclist and Paralympic Gold medallist Jody Cundy MBE and I were invited to take part in a SKY ride for the public at the Velodrome in Newport as part of the celebrations of 50 days to go before the start of the 2012 London Paralympics. The day was organised to invite the public to take part in safe cycling with trained staff on the roads around Newport. Jody and I had a fab time and made lots of new cycling friends, who also enjoyed their cycling experiences around the coastline roads in the sun.
My second week of track training in Newport saw me and my legs finally start to see some progress. The first week was more like a baptism of fire for me trying to achieve some really fast times on the boards, as well as get used to training at maximum on every effort. The week session was broken up with a 3 hour road ride with two of the team members who really enjoyed the Welsh countryside, apart from the rain which was warm but very wet!
While I was on the camp in Newport, I had the pleasure of being interviewed over the telephone by Stuart Lieberman from the International Paralympic Committee. The IPC (www.paralympic.org) oversee all Paralympic sports across the globe, so it was my pleasure to share my epic life changing story with Stuart and to explain just how my life has changed since becoming a Para-cyclist and also a Paralympic hopeful. I had to explain who “Dewi the Dragon” was and how he was going to help me in London, as my Paralympic mascot.
On 13th July, my-self and the team went to the Crown Plaza Hotel in Central London to have our official suit fitting for the 2012 London Paralympic Games, supplied by retailer Next. It was a brilliant experience for me and everyone who attended, as this was the first time we all had the chance to mingle with our fellow ParalympicsGB athletes from all the other sports who are going to compete in London in August and September.
The journey back to Manchester that night was very slow and certainly a long one, having taken us 6 hours to drive back, as the traffic was bedlam. The next day I was keen to get back on my bike and felt really good on my 2 hour road ride on my TT bike, which was thankfully spent in the sunshine.
Monday 16th July saw the start of my 6 week double training sessions on the track, with me having to do a road ride in the morning, then a full on track session in the afternoon, plus, gym twice a week. I do honestly enjoy these sessions; it’s just a case of working hard and then sleeping through the tiredness before the benefits are seen a few weeks later.
Mid July, I was invited by 2012 London Paralympic partner Deloitte, to a private function to share my experience and my life changing story with some of their young clients in Manchester. Deloitte who is the professional services supporter for both of the London 2012 games and who is among the country’s leading professional services firms, providing audit, tax, consulting and corporate finance services. My talk went really well and I had the pleasure of holding a 2012 Olympic torch, it felt rather serial to actually be holding a real one, however, the evening was a great success and enjoyed by all. On times I still have to pinch myself to realise that I am actually doing what I am doing for my country and it was my pleasure to talk and network with such a fabulous group of professionals.
My last week of training in July saw my track sessions increased and also my time spent on the TT bike. This extra amount of training helps me to overload my body before I start my final few weeks of preparation, for the biggest challenge of my Para-cycling career at the 2012 London Paralympics.
The end of July saw my-self and fellow GB Para-cycling team member Jody Cundy MBE, attend a BBC radio interview called “world have your say” at the Manchester National Velodrome. The interview was live across the World and covered the global excitement that the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics had created. The interview went really well and especially after Bradley Wiggins had just won the Tour De France two days previous, so everyone was on a GB high.
As the biggest sporting event on the planet began at the end of July, the 2012 London Olympic fever hit the UK with style. We saw hundreds of millions of people across the globe watch the opening ceremony in awe and with only 4 weeks to go before the 2012 London Paralympics start, the whole of the UK will be behind every one of our ParalympicsGB athletes.
I am so excited to be a GB Para-cyclist competing at a home Paralympic Games, knowing that very soon I will not only be racing on the same track as Sir Chris Hoy, but with 6500 screaming fans in the stands. This is something that really does get me fired up to do well. I wish all Team GB and ParalympicsGB athletes all the very best for the Games and make Britain proud by doing your absolute best!