I am very much an old school cyclist and I always carry a banana with me when I go on rides longer than an hour. In the past I have found them ideal - they easily fit in my jersey pockets, the wrapping is biodegradable (if I accidentally drop it when riding), high source of potassium to stop muscle cramp.

Should I change my ways and ditch the bended yellow pill for a more modern fare?

  • I've been told that a Banana can take up to two hours to digest but I didn't believe this is true. Why is it that Pro Tennis players are always eating Bananas?
    – Greg B
    Commented Nov 18, 2010 at 11:34
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    I'd say, whatever the "modern wisdom" may be, if it works for you, stick with it.
    – Cascabel
    Commented Nov 18, 2010 at 15:37
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    Nothing old school about it, I still see lots of roadies with bananas in their back jersey pockets.
    – darkcanuck
    Commented Nov 18, 2010 at 21:07
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    If you like them, a baked sweet potato (yam) is also good for long rides. They have a lower glycemic index, so they will provide carbs for a relatively long period of time but not so long that you're already at home. Commented Nov 23, 2010 at 17:05
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    If you biff the packaging, do consider that they take a very long time to rot down when on stone or hard ground. Try and sling it into grass or bushes, or carry it onward till the next greener spot.
    – Criggie
    Commented Jan 1, 2019 at 20:24

7 Answers 7


There is an interesting Q&A on independent.co.uk (though it dates from 1995) talking about bananas and tennis...

Q. Witnessing players at Wimbledon chomping their way through pounds of bananas between games prompts the question: who began this sporting food fad and are there sound nutritional reasons for the players' preference for bananas to other fruit or food. In what other sports (leaving aside lunch and tea breaks in cricket) do the participants eat during the course of play?

A. The sporting fad for bananas was started by sports nutritionists such as myself. The banana is rich in carbohydrate - an important source of energy for athletes and has significantly higher levels than any other fruit. Also, unlike most other forms of high-carbohydrate foods, it contains very little fat but is also high in fibre. The combination of fibre with the banana's three natural sugars - fructose, sucrose and glucose - means it provides a sustained boost to flagging energy levels, thus so many players at Wimbledon were seen eating bananas.

Bananas are also an excellent recovery food for replacing potassium lost in sweating, something most players must have been suffering from at this year's tournament. - Jane Griffin, Consultant Nutritionist to the British Olympic Association, London SW17

Sounds like it would be good for long bike rides as well.


Real food like bananas are better than processed food any day. Don't ditch old school foods. Remember when they said that margarine was better for you than butter? 30 years later, they find out trans-fats are bad.

The banana stands the test of time. Gel packs and bars won't. Keep at it brother!

  • [Citation Needed] Commented May 19, 2016 at 20:04
  • 12 :P Commented May 23, 2016 at 18:37
  • Gels don't have trans fats. Most of them are just water, maltodextrin, fructose, salt, and some incidental vitamins. Commented May 24, 2016 at 18:42

They are easier to carry than coconuts (although two of you could carry one on a line)

  • 1
    +1. I don't think we're supposed to give upvotes for humor, but I couldn't resist.
    – Benson
    Commented Feb 11, 2011 at 23:14
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    Ah, yes, but are they European or African cyclers? Commented Sep 3, 2011 at 22:27
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    @paul African cyclists are non-migratory
    – mgb
    Commented Sep 4, 2011 at 3:13
  • Coconuts? Excellent idea - Makes for a spare ride home should your bike have a major brakedown... (monty python reference) cloppity-clop cloppity-clop
    – Criggie
    Commented Nov 8, 2015 at 22:18

I'm not a nutrition expert, but I swear by bananas! I have always had issues with cramps and bonking on long rides (over 50 miles). I don't train a ton because I have young children, but I like doing the Palm Springs Century each year. The way to prepare for this for me is to ride my usual 20 mile loop around town first twice, then 3 times, and yesterday I did 4 laps for a total of 80 miles. I had 4 bananas, one each hour, along with 2 large water bottles and felt great! I have tried the GU Packs, sports drinks, sugary chomp bites, and none of them seemed to work. From now on, it's just electrolyte water from Trader Joe's and good old fashioned bananas!


In addition to the points made in other answers, I think bananas are good because you can stuff one down in no time at all.

Like, less than ten seconds.

I think that's handy when you're on the bike.


I took a banana on a race a couple months ago. It went from nicely firm and yellow to bruised, squishy and messy in a couple hours. I binned it in the end.

Plus the ratio of packaging to content is pretty high, unless you eat the skin or carry it peeled.

Possible replacements - dried banana chips may work. I tend to buy three things from supermarket bulk bins, a chocolate or carob bite, a yoghourt based bite, and something mostly nut or grain based. Don't forget your water though!

  • 7
    Ah, you have yet to learn the fine art of selecting a banana that is firm enough to withstand 2 hours in your jersey pocket, yet ripe enough to taste good. But the real mistake you made was to look at it. Even if it was in perfect condition before you ate it, it would end up bruised, squishy and messy after you ate it :-)
    – andy256
    Commented May 19, 2016 at 11:48
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    I actually found a solution to much of this: peel it and put it in a wrap with peanut butter and/or chocolate spread. several wraps in an open sandwich bag fit in a jersey pocket and they're even easier to get out than peeling a banana. The wrap hides the bruising to satisfy @andy256's comment. And as for scraping mashed banana off the inside of a pannier...
    – Chris H
    Commented Mar 4, 2018 at 22:01
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    @ChrisH After mail ordering way too many saddle and other bike bags that do not quite fit an average banana without squishing it, I'm intrigued by your recipe. What is the "wrap" you use? Could you show us (over chat, perhaps) a picture?
    – Sam7919
    Commented May 10, 2023 at 21:07
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    @Sam Criggie has the right bread, but what I do is simpler, if I choose a small banana: spread about half the tortilla with peanut butter or Nutella, place whole peeled banana on top, roll, perhaps using a little more PB as glue to hold it shut. I can get wheat tortillas or very similar flatbreads called "(sandwich) wraps" in a range of sizes, depending on whether they're in the bakery section of the supermarket or next to the jars of salsa, and some are a little longer than a smallish banana. Otherwise I buy bananas on the ride - they're often the only fruit you can buy singly, not in bags
    – Chris H
    Commented May 11, 2023 at 6:01
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    ... They stand up to a jersey pocket quite well, packed in the packaging from the tortillas, and can be eaten one-handed. Or you can cut the finished wrap in half to fit in a small saddlebag - and I prefer to get off the bike for a slightly more substantial snack like this.
    – Chris H
    Commented May 11, 2023 at 6:05

No one addressed the question of how long does it take for the banana to break down and work. It can not be immediate. I think two hours might be too long, but if the banana needs say 1.5 hours, you will need to eat something about one into your ride max before eating the banana for it to work 2.5 hours down the road. To suggest gel and cliff bars don't work is also not right. But you need the most important thing: water or Gatorade/water mix with the gels cliffs or the banana. You need 80 grams of carbs per hour on a long ride, one banana wont cut it. I like bananas but the fact that half the volume you throw away (the peel) makes this only a partial solution in my opinion.

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