Robot’s Useless Reviews – Pickle Juice
It would be churlish of me to cast aspersions on anything cyclists choose to put in their mouths in the interest of staving off dehydration, desalinization, or defenestration. When you need a drink, you need a drink. I have reached the pointy end of a long, hard ride and been offered Jagermeister and also Fire Ball, as if I were a person who prefers his insides on the outside. And, like you, for years I have dropped small pucks of flavored, concentrated concoctions into my own water bottles accepting on faith the lofty promises of the small print on the sides of their little tubes.
What even are they? What am I drinking?
Does it taste like tangerine lemonade, for starters? How would I know? I’m not even sure tangerine lemonade is a real thing. Do I then suspect that I am not receiving all of the electrolytes (what?) and minerals (apparently not the same thing) that I am being promised? No. I do not. I am a cyclist, and I do the thing cyclists do, because we do them. I believe the things we believe, because a long time ago I bought into the premise that pretty much anything that facilitates more pedaling must be good.
This might be the foundational lie in all of cycling.
My tongue is not in my cheek. This is not hyperbole or sarcasm. This is a simple description of the way my simple brain works.
So, pickle juice.
As I understand it, there are two types of folks in this world (why always just two?), the sort who will get caught with their hand in the cookie jar (please send me a Google pin for the nearest such item), and the sort who will similarly be found drinking from the pickle jar. I am the former. My wife is the latter. Women are from Venus. Men are from Mars.
Everything I just typed is garbage, but if you sift through it, you will find the convoluted set up for an (entirely useless) examination of pickle juice as a recovery drink.
Before I get to that though, let me paint a vinegary picture for you.
I have just ridden 75 miles, much of it up. My bottles have been empty for ten miles. The sun is shining bright. so that my face is haloed with salt, and my muscles feel as though they are fashioned from driftwood into whimsical representations of sea creatures. I am, in a word, shelled (see what I did there?), and I need help. I pull up to a folding table covered in snack-size bags of potato chips and disappointingly small cookies. There is a large, orange cooler dispensing cold, orange liquid. And there is a pitcher of pickle juice. I can smell it.
There is a cheerful woman there. Too cheerful. Why is she so cheerful? She is standing behind a folding table in the blazing heat. I think, on some level, she is doing this for me, this histrionic cheerfulness. I’d like to tell her she can stop. But that would be rude.
One thing she is particularly enthusiastic about is the pickle juice. She is giving a report of all the people who have consumed it and enjoyed its restorative properties. “You should try it!” she exhorts.
Now, it is worth saying that not all pickle juice is the same. There are many recipes and concentrations. Most commonly, they contain sodium and potassium, and those are things that help humans with muscle cramps, although how much they help 75 miles into the day is up for discussion. It is possible that this particular horse, the crampy one, has already left the barn.
Regardless, in the moment I felt no doubts, no misgivings, no ambivalence at all toward the pickle juice. I had been working my way through sleeves of chewy, gel-like, sugar-suspensions and squirting concentrated sugary oook (that’s a new word) into my gasping maw for a fair few hours already. My stomach felt like the ball return at the bowling alley. The idea of hitting all that with a briny chaser made me more nauseous than the aid station lady’s treacly good mood.
My riding companion that day quaffed the vinegary digestif, smiled, and bade us ride onward, as though it was the most natural thing in the world. I thought, “Fuck it, let’s just do some Morris dancing and strap pineapples to our heads. Down is up. Left is right, and nothing matters anymore.”
But look, if you’re a pickle person, don’t let me yuck your yum. I enjoy a dill spear, a bread-and-butter, even a goddamned cornichon on occasion. I’m pro-pickle is what I’m saying. But I draw the line at ingesting a juice that would make an effective chain degreaser. That’s just chemistry. And self respect.