This company is new to the Chicago scene but has quickly garnered a loyal following by Chicago dirtbags. Carbo Rocket does sponsor the dirty contingent of Half Acre Cycling and the company’s creator and purveyor, Brad Keyes, is an avid mountain biker who recently relocated from the mountain bike mecca of Utah. There are many options in the market in the realm of sports drinks, but this powdered mixture is definitely worth a dirtbag’s use. The idea behind this drink is to provide an adequate mix of electrolytes, carbohydrates, potassium, and glutamine in a mix that promotes longevity of superior performance hour after hour. It has been tested in many endurance events and has received feedback from the endurance mountain bike racers across the U.S. Not only does it offer the blend of the ingredients that promote endurance activity, but it also does so without tweaking your stomach when ingested hour after hour – a goal that Brad Keyes was most definitely trying to tackle.

I’ve learned over the past decade of epic mountain bike riding from the midwest WEMS Series to riding across venues in Utah like Moab and Park City, that nutrition intake is absolutely critical to measure out carefully to sustain the experience of multi-hour rides effectively. Basic principles of electrolyte replenishment, caloric intake, and hydration all need to be balanced out appropriately to give you the greatest performance benefit without disrupting your your body’s normal feeling – i.e. that bloaty-I’m-so-hungry-I-can-eat-three-cheeseburgers-but-can’t feeling. Mountain biking has some specific intensities that throw a wrench into the standard routine of ‘add two scoops of this and one shot of that’. Every rider responds differently to their efforts, and mountain biking provides many performance peaks and lows and the pace and temperature outside at which you take them may also directly affect the tolerance of what you ingest. Here’s the breakdown, unlike road riding where you can measure effectively a sustained effort over time relatively well most times, mountain biking (especially racing) may depend greatly on the course you are tackling. Your nutrition and hydration for a three hour ride at Moab is vastly different than a three hour at Kettle Morraine. So getting to know what and how you ingest your nutrition is key to being successful at racing. Part of this exploration is finding the product that agrees with you and the other components you add.

I was given a 25 serving bag of Carbo Rocket Raspberry flavored sports drink by Brad to try out for a few weeks on my daily routine and racing. I have been using it for six weeks now and even did two races with it and have formed a solid opinion on how my body has been handling it and how I’ve performed as a result. I expressed to Brad that I had a similar experience to him last year, where, I hit a discomfort level in what I was ingesting previously during endurance mountain bike races – so much so, that I had to desperately figure out why and change my routine that I was used to following for a few years. He said he had the same experiences and those experiences led him to create the specific mixture found in the Carbo Rocket lineup. I was eager to try something that was created based on my personal experiences with other products.

Off the bat, it passed the very first test of solubility as promised. The powder dissolves quickly without clumping. This is very important as it helps avoid the nasty concentrated flavor clumps that surprise you when all you want is a swig of satisfaction on a hot summer day. A few hard shakes and you’re pretty much set on your way. This is very effective for hydration pack users where clumping most always is an issue.

The recommended mixture is 3 scoops per 20-24 oz. water bottle and for my weight at 165 lbs. – this was a dead on measurement for a bottle that lasts one hour. In endurance paced riding, especially when cooler, I don’t drink or ingest calories as much, but the mixture is satisfying enough to have on it’s own with few other calorie sources. I used the mixture at the Barry-Roubaix race which is a good indicator of how well it would help prevent cramping as the rolling hills at threshold pace would naturally bring this out. A 35 mile lap in just over an hour and forty five minutes only took one 24 oz. bottle with three scoops still – though I did take in some gel source in addition to the bottle. The drink mix was not only tasty, but definitely effective in a harder paced effort, my stomach was receptive. I used it again in the latest race at the Leland Kermesse – and this was a true test of how I’d feel about the product in a longer close to four hour threshold effort, a time and distance where the stomach really does tell the tale afterwards or during. I consumed two 20 oz. bottles of the mixture at the steady three scoops each and only used one other calorie source in the form of gel blocks and gel shots for the entire race. I have become very much in tune with my body and can feel when I’m hitting a calorie deficit and dehydration. This particular race was very windy and cold but I finished both bottles completely by race end, including all my additional calorie sources which didn’t amount to more than 500 calories beyond the bottles of Carbo Rocket. I felt replenished, fueled, and satiated for this type of effort and it was tempo to threshold paced effort the entire four hours. Temperature definitely had a play in reducing my need for more hydration – but I was very pleased that after the hard effort, my stomach was non-plussed and very willing to ingest three cheeseburgers and a beer without the thought of hurling it up. In fact, about 45 minutes after the race, I was able to sit and eat a decent meal without stomach troubles. I’d expect that after another few hours of using this sports drink would most likely leave me feeling just as comfortable.

The Raspberry taste was very pleasant and not too sweet for palate, however, a friend I gave a few scoops too had said he was very surprised at how sweet it was and that it was a bit too much for him. This only proves that everyone has a different taste for sweetness, but compared to Hammer Heed, and Clif Sports Drink equivalent, I’d rate Carbo Rocket as inbetween the two where I feel that Hammer can be syrupy and sweet, and Clif very transparent watery. Your mileage may vary on the taste, but the consistency is most definitely drinkable and not syrupy where you feel you’re working to ingest a drink rather than just swig from your bottle.

The Carbo Rocket Sports Drink is very well worth considering and picking up a few samples from your local bike shop or ordering online. In the large amount of offerings on the market, we proudly encourage giving Carbo Rocket a try as like other products we enjoy using and reviewing – it’s a company that is supporting the Chicago cycling scene and especially the dirtbag scene. It’s a good energy source, cramp preventor, and tasty drink to boot without ruining your appetite after the long haul. The pricing is just right as well for less than .90 cents per serving – compared to lesser quantities and higher pricing to their competitors.

I’m looking forward to using the Carbo Rocket 333 mixture soon for endurance events starting in May and will write-up my report on that. The 333 product is more of a carbohydrate replenisher in addition to the benefits of the sports drink to truly be an ultimate fuel source with a predetermined calorie per serving (you guessed it, 333 calories) to help take the guesswork out of figuring out your solution mix. If the Carbo Rocket Sports Drink was any indication of how receptive I should be to their new calorie enhanced product, I’m safely assuming it will be well ingested and comfortable.

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