It shouldn’t have come to this, your whole existence dependent on a small sachet of electro-goo, grape-flavored. But there you are, 100 calories between you and death, somewhere on a high mesa or in the first swellings of a long climb, with nothing but a spoonful of not-really-food to keep you going.
In this moment, your last gel is worth triple its weight in gold bullion, more than all the crypto in Cincinnati, more than any Disney-themed NFT. You will look upon it as Gollum gazed upon the one ring to rule them all. Though very close to bonking, perhaps even in hypoglycemia’s initial, horrible embrace, you will wonder if you dare quaff this, the last of your resources.
What do you think will save your life, the 60mg of sodium or the 24g of carbohydrate? The answer is yes. It was a trick question.
We all have that friend, the one with all the bags strapped to their bicycle, all in a matching color, something very recently christened by Pantone as “culturally significant.” This friend has a bag specifically for food. It’s called a “feed bag,” because that’s cute. This person is also usually the slowest in the bunch, because the bag people always are. Cycling, for them, is less about pedaling and more an exercise in doomsday prep. And accessories. Anyway, you’re on your last gel, but this person has an entire piece of luggage dedicated to fresh fruit and other comestibles. This is the last person you will go to for sustenance. Out of spite. Out of hanger.
If you’re like me, then this last gel might also contain 100mg of caffeine, which is either just what you need or a one-way ticket to stomach cramps. Sometimes, when you press the NITRO button in the old funny car, the engine catches fire. Sailors who have run out of fresh water will sometimes, in the torture of thirst, gulp at some sea water, only to find they’ve sealed their own fate.
Cycling is an absurd hobby. We leave from our homes, flog ourselves within an inch of our lives, only to crawl home again, as if there’s not a better path from the bed to the shower. And so, in the full bloom of absurdism, your day is reduced to this, tearing the corner of a foil packet, mashing its contents upward and into your mouth, then struggling to swallow, the nutrition within couched in a lightning storm of sweet, unctuous paste. This is what it is to achieve peak middle-class affectation.
If you are lucky, and I have been on so many occasions, you have timed this perfectly. You have tiptoed to the edge, glanced over, and then retreated into life’s carbohydrated bosom. The calories therein are sufficient to bring you home, perhaps even to lift your spirits (and legs), so that the last miles tick by painlessly.
If you are not lucky, if you have miscalculated, the sugar grenade whose pin you’ve pulled goes off in your guts and instead of harnessing its energy, you succumb to your self-inflicted wounds (mostly psychological). You fall off the back of the pack, that friend with all the bags the last person you see before you glide to a stop, pull out your phone and make the call of shame to your long-suffering life partner.
I had a small box with a couple dozen GU packets in the garage with my bike stuff. The rat got to it before I did, and I never replaced it.