One of the many things that makes Vermont so great to live in is the abundance of small, local businesses who make great food or beverages. I could fill pages with various examples, but, specifically, there are a surprising number of options for locally made energy bars: Garuka Bars, Monkeychew, and Battenkill Brittle. I may write a bit on these at some point, but I’m wanted to focus on my personal favorite, O.W.L. energy bars (O.W.L. = Original, Wholesome, Local).
I first got a taste of an OWL bar while at the VMBA festival at Ascutney a couple of years ago. The owners were there with some free samples for anyone at the festival to try. Their bars made a pretty good impression on me and the owners were genuinely nice people to talk with.
The bars only come in one flavor, but at least it’s a good one. They have a moist, nutty flavor that’s lightly sweetened with honey. I understand that food can be a very subjective thing since not everyone has the same tastes, but I think these have a pretty good appeal. Everyone in our family likes them. They’re also soft enough that taking a bite out of one is very easy. (Anyone remember trying to take a bite of a certain well known brand back in the early 90s?) Even at winter temperatures they are manageable, even though they will firm up a little.
Regardless, the bars really do taste good without having an overbearing sweetness. For me, if something is too sugary, it’ll taste really bad when exercising hard. I’ve made the mistake of trying out new energy bars during races or long rides only to regret it later, primarily due to the sweetness factor. When I’m racing or otherwise working hard, my mouth gets dry and it can be difficult to get something like that down. These bars are moist enough to avoid that issue.
For whatever reason, I have a bit of a sensitive stomach when exercising. Maybe that’s because I don’t have enough sense to not push myself too hard, but it’s always been an issue for me. Many of the sport drinks or bars end up making me feel sick. Fortunately, O.W.L. bars are one of the few that have passed my personal hard-ride nausea test.
One bar contains just over 300 calories. Remember, it’s an energy bar, not a low calorie diet bar. On the plus side, those calories come from natural fruits and nuts – no corn syrup to be found anywhere in the ingredients list. If you’re looking for a scientifically engineered, pre-digested, blood glucose infusion system, look elsewhere. These bars are actually food, not the results of a lab experiment like some other energy sources marketed to cyclists.
They contain no eggs, dairy, or wheat for those who have issues with those foods and are also gluten free. More important to me is the fact that they don’t contain any preservatives, artificial flavorings or other man-made chemical concoctions. They’re just made with ingredients anyone can recognize. Of course, if you have allergies to nuts or peanuts, you’d probably better run the other way.
O.W.L. bars come in a 2.7oz. bar or by a bag of “pellets”. The pellets are a smaller, 100 calorie, individually packaged mini-bar that is intended to be a bit easier to eat on the fly. At $3 for the individual bars, they’re a bit on the pricey end, as the products of many small, local food companies tend to be. Still, they’re great to bring along on a ride, as a recovery food or whatever you happen to be doing. For me, one of the advantages of mountain biking is that it strengthens my body; it’s nice to have something to eat that doesn’t work against that end.