The first time I tried a Mule Bar was back in September, during the South West Tour Ride 100-mile sportive on the same route used by the Tour of Britain. Special edition Tour of Britain mini-sized bars in ‘summer pudding’ flavour were being handed out at the amazingly well-stocked feed stations. So I bunged a couple in my back pocket, and tucked into them somewhere between the 25% killer of Peak Hill and the series of nasty bumps between Exeter and the finish. The bars seemed to get me up the climbs, and jolly tasty they were too. (The bars, not the climbs.)
So it was time to do a bit more research.
Mule Bars are energy bars made by UK company Fuel For Adventure. The blurb on the packaging proudly states that the ingredients are all natural. I'm one of the many cyclists that sometimes get a bit of stomach ache on long sportives or training rides, maybe due to too many gels or bars made from non-natural ingredients, so I'm always interested in products like Mule Bars to see if they’re more agreeable.
As well as the aforementioned Summer Pudding bar (a blend of raspberry, cranberry and blackcurrant) other flavours include Chocolate Fig, Mango Tango and Strudel (apple and raisin). Whereas some energy products can taste a bit bland, there is absolutely nothing subtle about these bars. Even more outrageous are the Pinacolada and Liquorice Allsports varieties.
Many of the ingredients are organic - and the packets for most flavours carry a Soil Association approved logo. Continuing the good stuff, some ingredients are Fairtrade too, and a percentage of profits are donated to the “1% for the Planet” campaign.
So far, so lovely. But let’s dig a little deeper. How much energy does a Mule Bar contain, and where is it coming from?
Taking the Strudel bar as an example, the favouring is a relatively minor ingredient. The bulk of the bar consists of rice syrup (34%) and rolled oats (21%). Apple comes in at 10%, followed by whey at 7%, apricot at 6% and raisins at 5%. Other items include sunflower and hemp seeds.
Sticking with the Strudel example, this lot provides around 1550Kj or 370 calories (kCal) per 100g. Of that total, carbohydrate is 70%, protein is 8%, with unsaturated fat and fibre about 5% each.
The flagship product Mule Bars come in two sizes: 65g and 30g (the smaller one is confusingly branded as ‘MegaBite’). So a 65g Strudel bar contains 45g of carbs - enough to keep you going for around an hour on a medium to hard ride. Sport scientists agree that a dash of protein in a carb-based energy product helps you use the carbs more effectively, so that 8% protein will come in handy.
Other Mule Bars vary slightly in their energy content and carb:protein mix. For example, the Liquorice Allsports flavour gives over 1700Kj per 100g, although only 60% of that is carb. Mango Tango (you gotta love the names) is 1553Kj with 68% carb and 9% protein - nearer the 4:1 ratio sometimes quoted as ideal.
So the numbers look good. What about the taste and texture? Mule bars are smooth and slightly chewy. They’re not crumbly at all and they don’t fall apart as you get them out the packet (important if you’re eating on the bike). Summer Pudding is fruity and sweet, as you might expect. Mango Tango is still fruity, but surprisingly not so sweet.
As well as the flagship energy bar product, also available are Mule Bar Refuel bars with a higher protein content, and new Mule Bar Kicks energy gels with the ‘100% natural and organic’ label. We’ll review these here on road.cc in the near future.
Price-wise, you’re looking at £33 for a box of 24 Mule Bars (65g) - so about £1.35 each - from the Mule Bar website (www.mulebar.com). It’s £25 for a box of 32 MegaBites. There’s also a trial pack of one Mule Bar, one MegaBite, one Refuel and one Kick gel for £6.50. Prices include shipping. You can also get Mule Bars from the main on-line bike stores such as Wiggle, Evans and Chain Reaction - as well as from many independent shops in the cycle, sports, outdoor and healthfood sectors. (The Mule Bar website has a complete list.)
Mule Bars are well worth trying. They’re very tasty, easy to eat, and provide a good energy boost - and the natural ingredients might be a definite benefit if you get stomach trouble from other energy products.
road.cc test report
Make and model: Mule Bar energy bar
Size tested: n/a
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
The Mule Bar website says this: "MuleBars work on a very simple premise: that what is natural is good. What is carefully selected for the unique energy giving potential is good. A natural mixture of ingredients made the way nature intended and picked for their broad spectrum of energy providing sugars and fats makes for the perfect bar, fuel with flavour, is good. The more processing, the more additives, the more artificial ingredients a bar has the more likely it will not make for a better energy bar, especially if talking about improving your performance and health... The more additives put into a human body, the more the body has to work to process them and the more time the body is working in that way, the lower the performance level. When you’re out on the trail, when you’re competing, racing or working through a tough day, the body responds much better to foods it knows already, foods it has no problem digesting."
Did you enjoy using the product? yes
Would you consider buying the product? yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? yes
About the tester
Age: 50 Height: 5ft 10 / 178cm Weight: 11 stone / 70kg
I usually ride: an old Marin Alp My best bike is: an old Giant Cadex
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: touring, club rides, sportives, mtb,