Mulebar Kicks are energy gels from the company that produces Mulebar energy bars. Just like the bars, the gels have organic and '100% natural' ingredients. We've reviewed them before on road.cc but 2013 sees a new flavour and a slight change to the packaging, although the main formulas stay the same.
The new flavour is called Cafe Cortado, and not surprisingly the main ingredients include coffee, along with rice syrup, barley syrup, agave syrup, guarana and Himalayan crystal salt.
The brown rice and barley syrups are there to provide carbohydrate – the fuel you need to keep riding your bike after an hour or two – but what's all this other stuff?
As everyone knows, agave is a thick spiky-leafed plant that mainly grows in Mexico (a similar species is used to make tequila); it's here to provide a bit of slow-release energy. Meanwhile guarana is another plant from the Americas; it produces beans containing caffeine, to top up the caffeine already supplied by the coffee. And the Himalayan crystal salt (according to the all-natural boffins at Mulebar) provides all the minerals you need to replace those lost through sweat.
Put all that together and a 37g sachet of Cafe Cortado gel provides 469kJ of energy, consisting of 27g of carb (with less than 1g each of protein and fat) plus 0.1g of sodium and 100mg of caffeine.
The taste is undeniably like coffee – in fact, more like coffee beans than the actual drink – with an extra Horlicks-style tingle from the malted barley, and definitely sans sucre. This taste might not suit everyone, but it makes a nice change from the over-sweet flavour of some other gels.
Talking of which, the other two flavours of Mulebar Kicks are more on the sweet side. Lemon Zinger also has brown rice syrup, agave, guarana (providing 50mg of caffeine) and Himalayan crystal salt – along with natural lemon concentrate (Sicilian, no less) and some ginger flavouring. Cherry Bomb adds organic cherry juice to the familiar rice-agave-salt combo, and has no caffeine. In terms of kJ and carb content, both flavours are almost identical to the Cafe Cortado.
To test the gels, I've used them on several long (about 4 hours) training rides over the past couple of months, and they definitely work – giving enough energy to keep me cruising along for 30 to 60 minutes, depending who I'm trying to keep up with, before needing another one.
The 'double-shot' of caffeine in the Cafe Cortado flavour helped me get up the hills on the last 20 miles before home. On all the gels, though, the consistency is on the thick side, so they definitely need to be washed down with water.
Another feature of Mulebar Kicks worth mentioning is the shape of the sachet. At the top is a V-shaped notch, making the sachet 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. It also means the little tear-off bit stays attached to the main sachet so you can stuff the whole lot back in your pocket when finished and not litter the countryside.
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 for environmental organisations.
On the the Mulebar website a box of 24 Kicks gels costs £36, working out at £1.50 each. You can choose all one flavour or a mix. You can also buy them singly or in smaller batches at some local bike shops.
With 27g or 28g of carb in a 37g gel, on a pure carbs-per-quid basis, this compares well against similar products such as Nectar Sports Fuel Cell (40g sachet containing 20g of carbohydrate for £1.50), is comparable to Bike Food Pure Energy (40g gel, almost 30g of carb, about £1.45), but is comparatively expensive when compared to products such as High5 Energygel (38g sachet, 23g of carb, £1), ZipVit (60g gel, 51g of carb, £1.50) or Sponser Liquid Energy Long (40g gel, 23g of carb, £1).
But if you're looking for more than just carbs, and want a high-performing gel made with all natural ingredients that's tasty and easy to digest, then Mulebar Kicks are well worth trying.
High-performing gel made with all natural ingredients - tasty too, and easy to digest.
road.cc test report
Make and model: Mule Bar Kicks Energy Gel (box of 24)
Size tested: Box of 24
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 energy gels aimed at cyclists, athletes and all outdoor active types. The Mulebar website says: MuleBar has summited Everest, has ridden ... the incredible Absa Cape Epic mountain bike stage race across South Africa, is the Official Energy Bar of The 2009 Tour of Britain ... 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."
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 very handy touch.
Performance is very good: nice taste, noticeable benefits, easy on the stomach.
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.
Looking at price and the carb content alone, Mulebar Kicks are a tad more expensive than some other similar products. But if you want a gel made with all natural ingredients that's tasty and easy to digest, then this might be a small preium you're prepared to pay.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Nice taste, noticeable benefits, easy on the stomach. I also liked the reaively non-sweet taste of the Cafe Cortado flavour.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.
Would you consider buying the product? Yes.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes.
Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?
This is an excellent product, deserving a score of 9, but a point gets knocked off for the slightly-higher-than-average price, giving an overall score of 8 - even though many riders will be happy to pay this extra for a gel that's easy on the stomach, especially on longer rides and sportives.
About the tester
Age: 51 Height: 5ft 10 / 178cm Weight: 11 stone / 70kg
I usually ride: an old Marin Alp, or an old steel classic My best bike is: an old Giant Cadex (can you see a theme here?)
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, general fitness riding,