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I've been doing lots of long-distance cycling this year (150+ kilometers). With that much riding, there's obviously a need for some sustenance, and I'd rather not stop just to eat.

The protein/carb bars have been getting incredibly boring... especially for my second meal on the road, so I've been experimenting with different foods like sandwiches and soups in a thermos. That's worked just fine, but it got me thinking... is there any system that I could use to cook or heat-up food while I cycle?

It's crazy, I know, but when I was a kid, my father would cook food on the engine block while we drove... and I was thinking, that's almost a reason to start driving again :). Any thoughts on what I could do to heat-while-I-ride? Chemical heat? Electrical? Propane?

The latter (propane) seems dangerous and not so environmental friendly, but I suppose it couldn't be that bad?

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About the only thing I can think of is some of the water activated heat packs you can get at REI. Or you can drop by an army surplus store and get some MRE's, they have heating packs with them. As far as regular food, I am partial to Allan Lim's rice cakes. Good stuff! –  JohnP Oct 22 '12 at 22:50
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My experience with lightweight fuel based cooking stoves is they need a stable platform and a finicky wind guard would be essential on a moving bike. They also usually take some attention at least in the initial phases particularly fuels that require priming. All of this as well as the complexity of actually preparing anything, even soup out of the can to just heat up is far more than I can imagine doing while riding a bike. I can't speak to all methods but I would say fuel stoves are out. –  Glenn Oct 22 '12 at 23:11
    
Yeah, check army surplus stores (the seedier the better). MREs come with water-activated heat packs that can warm a "bag meal" in a few minutes. Often the stores break up the MREs and sell the heat packs separately, so you could potentially use them with (better tasting) bag meals you get at a sporting goods store. –  Daniel R Hicks Oct 23 '12 at 1:20
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The title is JUST WRONG –  Starx Oct 23 '12 at 2:35
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This seems like a really, really poor idea. It seems equivalent to the people you see lurching around a bike path while talking on their cel phone, not paying attention to folks around them. Take the 10 minutes and pull over to play with fire / heat sources, if not for your personal safety than for the safety of anyone unlucky enough to be riding in the same area. I could see this going horribly wrong and the fuel from a camp stove spilling out over your bike, briefly turning you into a "Ghost Rider" meme on Reddit. –  lawndartcatcher Oct 23 '12 at 13:57

5 Answers 5

I don't think it would be convenient or practical to use any kind of stove or hotplate while you are actually riding. If you are carrying a backpack or have things on a rack a propane backpacking stove can be very fast for creating a hot meal on a break.

To cook/warm while you are actually riding I think your best bet would be to use a Flameless Ration Heater like you find included in many military-style Meals Ready to Eat (MREs). I think you would still want to assemble the FRH and MRE into a packet and attach them to a rack while you ride because the packaging can get pretty warm.

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Cooking while riding doesn't seem practical or safe! "Carbo loading" before the ride and taking in more carbs during the ride from the multitude of energy bars available would be a better choice. Staying hydrated using your favorite drink is also important. The only "hot" meals I can think of are some of the MRE's that are chemically heated, but this would likely still require a short break off of the bike for safety reasons.

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Your most practical solution here would be to cook almost anything you wanted ahead of time and carry it in a stanley thermos or a similarly durable insulated carrier. There is a good reason that you have never seen anyone cooking food while riding a bike before, it's not safe or practical.

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How do you know what I've got hidden in my panniers? ;) –  Daniel R Hicks Oct 23 '12 at 21:15

You might be able to rig something up with a USB hot plate and a battery powered USB Charger. This probably wouldn't work for cooking, as it only gets to 50-60 degrees but might work pretty well for heating food which has already been cooked. You could also use the battery pack for other things too, like charging USB bike lights.

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But it would take a pretty hefty battery to power an electric heater -- probably more weight than one would like to carry. (And this from someone who carries the kitchen sink in his panniers.) –  Daniel R Hicks Oct 23 '12 at 15:45
    
@DanielRHicks I'm not sure how much power you would need. Laptops run off similar batteries and they are notorious for getting extremely hot, even though they are not primarily designed as a heater. I imagine that there exists sufficient power in batteries to heat up a small meal. –  Kibbee Oct 23 '12 at 19:36
    
Your standard laptop battery is apparently about 50 watt-hours, with some maybe double that. A 50 watt-hour battery (in ideal conditions) is going to supply about 170 BTU. A BTU will raise one pound of water one degree, and a pound of water is about a half-liter. Meaning that you could just about boil a half-liter of water -- sufficient for a decent bag meal. So I guess in theory you could use a laptop battery (though you'd probably shorten its life considerably by running it flat). –  Daniel R Hicks Oct 23 '12 at 21:42

Allen Lim, one of the most sought after nutritionists in professional cycling, made the concept of "eating your calories, not drinking them" popular in the pro peloton over the last decade. He basically found that when riders in say the Tour de France would eat real food during the day instead of eating processed pho food, they would perform better (and be happier).

Essentially he says that instead of drinking caloric crap laden sports drinks (and gels, and bars) you should drink to stay hydrated, and eat real food to get calories.

As an ultra endurance athlete I found that revolutionary for my training and racing. Now, instead of drinking gatorade\similar and eating gels\bars\gummy things, I drink water and water + electolyte mix and eat things like boiled potatoes with salt, sweet potatoes with salt, bananas, pb + j, dried fruit, etc, and my favorite:

Allen Lim's Rice Cakes.

There are many varietes of the rice cakes from egg\sausage savory cakes to apple cinnoman sweet rice cakes.

Basically all you have to do is load up a couple of zip locks full of food, stuff it in your jersey pocket, and off you go.

Do some googling to find the other rice cake recipes and get the FeedZone cookbook.

EDIT Disclaimer, I do personally know Allen Lim or Biju Thomas and in no way stand to profit from the purchasing of the above mentioned cook book. The simple fact is that my racing\training has changed drastically for the better thanks to following some of the simple guidelines that he lays out.

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First, welcome to the site. This site, like other Stack Exchange sites, is not like a typical forum site. Rather, it focuses on providing answers to the question asked. While I agree with everything said here, it doesn't actually address the issue of how to warm up food on the bike. This would be better off as a comment. Despite that, I heartily second the suggestion for the Feed Zone Cookbook. Most of the dishes are pretty tasty (some are of course better than others) and all of them are relatively quick and easy. I just wish they'd publish an e-version. –  jimirings Oct 24 '12 at 15:19
    
Thanks for the comment, and apologies as you are correct that it didn't specifically answer the question asked. Learning as I go... –  jeuton Oct 24 '12 at 15:34

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