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Though Aptonia doesn't market the Ultra bars as 'organic', 'wholesome' or any other of these in-vogue buzzwords, the ingredients list consists mostly of natural ingredients even if the list itself is a little on the long side (in general, it's easier to hide dodgy ingredients in long lists though that's not the case here). Each of the available flavours is based around rice syrup, oat flakes and date paste, with the differences coming in the fruit concentrates used to give the bars their distinctive tastes.
Coming in at 40g per bar, the Aptonia Ultra bars are on the small side compared to the 50g-60g bars offered by most of the competition. Despite that, they still pack in a reasonable 27g of carbohydrates which equates to roughly 140kcal of energy (individual flavours may differ by a fraction or two of a gram). Unlike some other energy bars which also include some protein, and claim this improves performance over longer durations, each Ultra bar only contains 1.5g of the stuff. These bars then, are intended more to provide the quick hit of energy required for high intensity exercise.
Though the smaller bar mass may seem like poorer value, the reduction in size is actually of benefit in situations when you need to get food down you as quickly as possible; when racing for example. I found that two bites were all that was required to snaffle each bar, making them nearly as quick to consume as a gel.
In addition to size, the texture of the bar is also important for rapid consumption as time taken chewing is precious when you're stuck in the gutter fighting to stay on the wheel in front. On this score, I found the Ultra bars a bit hit and miss. In warmer temperatures (about 14°C and above), the bars where moist and easily swallowed with very little chewing. However, in cold temperatures, they became quite chewy indeed and required much longer to get down the hatch.
Storing them closer to the body, underneath one's outer clothing layer improved their consistency in cold temperatures, but on the flip side it made them harder to access. Ultimately, every energy bar suffers from colder temperatures to some extent, but the dependence of texture on temperature was especially noticeable with the Ultra bars.
One aspect of an energy bar that often goes under the radar is the design of the packaging. Specifically, how easy it is to open when operating under less than perfect conditions – such as with cold fingers or when suffering in a race. I found the plain white Ultra bar packaging to be a bit variable in this regard – sometimes I'd get them open with a quick rip of the teeth, other times I'd be wrestling with them for minutes. The best advice would be to pre-open the packaging if you envisage yourself reaching for the bars in any sort of hurry.
In terms of taste, all of the flavours tested – apple, exotic fruits and red berries – were very palatable and easy to get on with. If I had to pick one out as the best, it would be the apple flavour which reminded me of apple crumble, probably due to the combination of apple concentrate and oats. Perhaps the only downside of having to buy in single-flavour packs of five bars is that it isn't possible to mix and match flavours to keep things interesting on a ride without buying multiple packs. This makes it a bit more of an investment when trying out different flavours, but at £5 per pack, it's not like the expense is prohibitive.
Speaking of expense, the Ultra bars work out at just under £1 per bar which is pretty good value, but perhaps not as impressive as one would expect from a Decathlon product, especially given how the bars are on the small size at 40g.
Compact energy bar which scores well on taste and offers reasonable value.
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Make and model: Aptonia Ultra Bars
Size tested: 5, 40g bars in a box (3 boxes: Apple, Red Berries and Exotic Fruits)
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 Ultra bars are a simple energy bar, providing the carbohydrates required to sustain high intensity exercise.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Rice syrup, date paste (17.8%), oat flakes, pineapple (12.9%), crunchy mix (flours (rice and wheat) (gluten), wheat malt, sucrose, wheat gluten, wheat dextrose, salt), 5.4% apple cubes, acacia fiber, 3.2% apple paste (79% apple juice, 20% apple puree, gelling agent: pectin E440), sunflower oil, rice flour, emulsifier: soya lecithin, flavouring, vitamin B1. Contains: gluten, soya. Made in a factory which handles: milk, eggs, nuts, sesame.
Rice syrup, 15.8% pineapple, oat flakes (gluten), date paste (11.4%), 8.9% mango-passion chips (apple juice and puree concentrates, 16% mango paste concentrate, 5% passion fruit concentrate, gelling agent: pectin, citrus fibre, mango and passion fruit natural flavouring), extruded cereals (flours (rice and wheat), wheat malt, sucrose, wheat gluten, wheat dextrose, salt) (gluten), acacia fibre, emulsifier: soya lecithin (soya), sunflower seed, rice flour, 2% passion fruit powder (passion fruit juice concentrate (dried extract 40%), maltodextrins), mango natural flavouring, vitamin B1. Contains: gluten, soya. Made in a factory which handles: milk, eggs, nuts, sesame.
Rice syrup, date paste (16.4%), pineapple (15.8%), oat flakes, crunchy mix (flours (rice and wheat) (gluten), wheat malt, sucrose, wheat gluten, wheat dextrose, salt), acacia fiber, raspberry chips 5% (fructose - glucose syrup from wheat, fruit puree concentrate: apple and raspberry (3%), sugar, moistening agent: glycerol, wheat fiber, palm oil, concentrate of fruits with colouring properties (black carrot, blueberry and blackcurrant), gelling agent: pectin, acidity regulator: citric acid and malic acid, natural flavouring), sunflower oil, emulsifier: soya lecithin, rice flour, lyophilised strawberries 1%, flavouring, vitamin B1. Contains: gluten, soya. Made in a factory which handles: milk, eggs, nuts, sesame.
Nutritional value (only slight differences between flavours):
Bar Mass: 40g
Energy: 142kcal - 597kJ
of which saturates: 0.3g
of which sugars: 16g
Vitamin B1: 0.32mg (29%)
Each of the three flavours tested was tasty and easy to get on with. The bars themselves could be a bit bigger, but their small size is actually quite beneficial in situations when you need to eat quickly. Their only downside really is that they become overly chewy at low temperatures.
At just under £1 a bar, the Ultra bars are good value as far as energy bars go. That said, it's possible to find cheaper deals from the more established brands if you're willing to shop around.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.
Would you consider buying the product? Yes.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes.
Age: 22 Height: 190cm Weight: 69kg
I usually ride: Canondale EVO Red My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Under 5 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Semi pro
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, mtb,
For 5 years, racing was my life and I went all the way from a newbie bonking after 40 miles, to a full-timer plying my trade on the Belgian kermesse scene. Unfortunately, the pro dream wasn't meant to be and these days, you're more likely to find me bimbling about country lanes and sleeping in a bush on the side of the road.