Robot’s Useless Reviews – The Malt Nut Power Bar

Before we talk about the flavor of this titular calorie bomb, I should warn you that there is a cult that, even today, remains devoted to the flavor and consistency of the Malt Nut Power Bar (MNPB). Look for them in the comments section and make a note in your personal ledger not to loan that person money or let them borrow a tool. They’re crazy.

Having issued that warning, let’s get on with this.

First, the good. The MNPB, like all the other flavors of this ’80s/’90s ride food nightmare, can be unwrapped and molded to your handlebars in the parking lot, pre-ride, for easy access at high speed. This serves the dual purpose of simplifying your feeding strategy AND intimidating your companions/rivals, because only an absolute animal would do such a thing.

You know what? Let’s get back to the ardent consumers of MNPBs for a sec. These are the sort of people who would wax rhapsodic about the days when sprinters all wanted downtube shifters, so that, as the dash for the line wound up, they could lean forward and shift with their knee in the same pedal stroke they kicked out from behind their lead out. Animals.

OK. OK. Let’s talk flavor. WTF is malt nut? Now, all the cultists who love(d) this quasi-confectionary, will tell you that MN was the best of the Power Bar flavors, but that’s like saying locusts was the best of the plagues. I’d describe the MNPB flavor as a sort of vaguely sweet, legumey nothingness. And once you eat one, it leaves a kind of ethanol aura at the back of your sinuses.

Once you get the thing down, i.e. swallow it, there is enough MNPB left in your teeth that it serves as a sort of de facto time release calorie supplement. Is that a positive? Sure. We’ll pretend it is.

Note that, once you have that MNPB stuck in your teeth it’s going to take a pretty firm bristled tooth brush to remove it. I’m just putting that out there, in case you think there’s any easy way out of this little culinary nightmare.

As I write these words, I wonder if the era of blood doping in pro cycling was an attempt to overcome the performance debilitating properties of the MNPB. If I’m right, that calls into question the willingness of many of my friends to transfuse their own blood, because everyone I know who loved MNPBs was also an intolerable hammer, the sort of person who would keep sprinting after the town line just to maximize the gap you had to close.

Back to our review: let’s talk texture. Hard. Sticky. Almost unchewable. Like a weird calorie jerky. I could imagine that, like swallowed bubblegum, one might find the MNPB in one’s stomach 3-7 years later. In 3,000 years, when they thaw you and your chamois out of a glacier, what will be left of you will be bones, teeth and the MNPB in your gut.

If you’ve read this far, you might have reached the conclusion that the Malt Nut Power Bar is not a thing you should buy, and, if eating the aforementioned while riding a bicycle is your aim, you’d be right. However, the MNPB is a rare and elusive treat, and there are those among us who prize them more highly than a pair of Campy Deltas. You should buy every MNPB you can find and sell them on eBay to fund your much saner Skratch Labs habit.

Power Bar dropped Malt Nut as a flavor in 2006, which might have you asking, “Robot, why are you telling me about a thing that doesn’t exist anymore?” Fair point, you. Fair point.

What is significant about the MNPB is not so much what you should think or feel about it in the present moment, and more about what it symbolizes as a fixture of the cycling firmament. You see, the bike biz churns out products to prolong and enhance your riding experience. Clever marketing can go a long way toward convincing you to invest in a thing and even to feel its professed benefits. The larger point I’m trying to make is that once we believe a thing, we will often cling to that belief out of a fear of admitting our initial fool-hardiness or an unwillingness to leave the cult of belief.

In this sense, the MNPB serves as a vital cautionary tale for the present moment in cycling, and beyond. Consider yourselves warned.

Join the conversation
  1. khal spencer says

    But…but…Chocolate Power Bars? Banana Power Bars? Gosh, this article took me back to my lantern rouge days as a USCF Cat IV racer with….power bars in my jersey pockets. I think I actually did wind a couple around the handlebars.

  2. DaveinME says

    Banana and Apple Cinnamon were my chosen weapons and I miss their flavor, but GAWD!! were they sticky and a pain in the ass to choke down at speed. Clif Bars have done well by me ever since I got off the Powerbar bandwagon.

  3. scourtright2000 says

    Excellent review. Back in 1990 as door prizes for attending our annual Winter Team Gathering I brewed a batch of beer with a healthy addition of Malt Nut Power Bars to give the brew that little extra something. Todd still has an unopened bottle. We no longer have Winter Team Gatherings but Todd and I are still friends… Feel free to form your own theories about that.

  4. bluezurich says

    Isn’t there a story about someone diving into a pool to retrieve a poop and they surface, start eating said ‘poop’ and it turns out it was a Chocolate Powerbar?

    Peanut Butter OG was the only flav I could stomach and it had to be near 100F outside to be soft enough to chew.

  5. Rick says

    Ah, the original Power Bar. A classic: suitable for nailing on cleats when cold or re-gluing tubulars when warm.

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