Mulebars are a range of wholesome all-natural energy bars, reviewed on road.cc last year, and more recently joined by energy gels called Mulebar Kicks. With the likes of ZipVit, High 5 and SIS dominating the market, is there room for another gel, and are Muelbar Kicks any different?
The answer is yes - in lots of ways. First, the appearance. It's a detail, but the top of the sachet has an V-shaped notch, making it much easier to open with your teeth and one hand when you're on the bike. It also means a small hole, so the gel can be squeezed out in a controlled fashion, and you don't get it all over your hands.
Next, it's the taste. There's nothing out there from the other manufacturers that matches Apple Strudel, Lemon Zinger and Cherry Bomb. All these options are sweet and sticky, with a relatively thick texture, and very tasty indeed.
But quirky flavours aren't enough on their own. Let's have a look at the ingredients.
All the gels contain brown rice syrup, a source of carbohydrate that provides the energy you need to ride your bike for more than an hour or two. In the Apple Strudel version there's also - wait for it - apple, but not just a dash for flavour, oh no. Apple juice concentrate makes up 40% of this gel, which the Mulebar website says helps blood-flow during exercise, as well as having a good source of slow-release energy to compliment the fast-realise energy coming from the brown rice syrup. Also in the mix is Himalayan crystal salt, which (according to Mulebar) provides all the minerals you need to replace those lost through sweat.
Moving on to the Lemon Zinger gel, the brown rice syrup is joined by lemon juice and ginger (immune-stimulators and antioxidants, say Mule), plus agave nectar (slow-release energy) and guarana (a source of natural caffeine).
Before you ask, and I didn't know either, agave nectar is a sweet juice extracted from a thick spiky-leafed plant that mainly grows in Mexico (a similar species is used to make tequila), while guarana is a South American plant that produces beans containing caffeine.
Meanwhile, back with more familiar flora, the Cherry Bomb contains, yep, cherry juice (another antioxidant) along with the now familiar brown rice syrup, agave nectar and Himalayan crystal salt.
So far, so good. But here comes the crunch. All this nectar and crystals stuff seems a bit whacky, so do these Mules deliver the kick they promise?
Once again, the answer is yes. I've used these gels on several 100-mile sportives and other long training rides and, combined with bars and liquid throughout the ride, the Mulebar Kicks have powered me along nicely. Each 37g gel contains just over 100 Kcal and 28g of carb, which is enough for 30 minutes to an hour of hard riding, depending on your exertion levels, body mass and so on. I found the lemon variety particularly delivers a boost, although I have to say it's not noticeably different to the boost I get from other conventionally caffeinated gels.
However, as with other Mulebar products, all of the ingredients in these gels are natural, and the Soil Association logo on the packet indicates that most are organic. So if you find the compositions of some other gels give you stomach ache, then these Kicks would be well worth a try.
And while we're on about badges, Mulebar products are also FairTrade where possible, and the '1% for the Planet' logo indicates financial support environmental organisations.
You can get your Kicks (you knew that was coming, didn't you) from the Mulebar website where a box of 24 gels costs £36, working out at £1.50 each. You can choose all one flavour or a mix. This price is on a par with similar energy products, and you can find them cheaper at the usual on-line stores. Or you can keep the good vibes going and support your local bike shop - where these gels are also available singly or in smaller quantities if you want to test a few first before buying in bulk.
Flavours and ingredients seem whacky at first, but these energy gels certainly do the job - in an all-natural and earth-friendly way.
road.cc test report
Make and model: Mule Bar Kicks Energy Gel (24 pack)
Size tested: Apple Strudel, Cherry Bomb, Lemon Zinger
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?
Mulebar kicks are aimed at cyclists, athletes and all outdoor active types. The Mulebar website says: "MuleBar is used by the likes of Javi Gomez Noya, 2008 World ITU Triathlete Champion, the England Rugby team ... [and] 17 of the best riders in The Tour de France." That's impressive, but they're pretty good for your humble old sportive rider and weekend warrior too.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
The Mulebar website goes on to say: "MuleBars work on a very simple premise: that what is natural 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. ... 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..."
Looking at the construction of the packet that contains the gel, the V-shaped notch to make opening easier when on the bike is a stroke of genius.
These gels definitely work for me. And I gave one to a mate who was flagging towards the end of a long ride last weekend - it perked him enough enough to reach the cafe!
Not a bargain, but price is on a par with other energy gels.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Overall, these gels definitely work for me. As always though, try a few on training rides first to check they work for you, before launching into using them un-tested on an important race or sportive.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The taste, the texture, the boost. And that little notch to help opening.
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,