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Grand Illinois Tail Bicycle Ride Key Equipment


Meal Plan

Each day on the GIT, you are going to encounter some kind of public park, gas station, or restaurant. There is always somewhere you can find water. This was good news because I wouldn’t need to carry a bulky water filter or plastic pot.

I rode the bike all summer and seemed to be “in shape.” Some medical standards would disagree and put my 5’11” tall 215 pound frame into the technically obese category. Carrying it well is no consolation to the belief in the averages, and that weight puts me at a level of risk for all kinds of heart, cholesterol, and diabetes problems of which, I do not want to be a part. The bike ride would be semi-strenuous by my standards; so I figured that if I kept my intake to 2500 calories or so, I would be getting fit fast, and in a good way. Not a starvation diet, but a proper diet linked to a grueling workout.

Nutritionally speaking, mountain climbing and multi-day thrubiking are not much different from each other with one notable exception: You can afford a to carry a bulkier packaged food on a bike. I’ve used super-duper freeze dried lightweight food on mountain and multi-day rock climbs just because I had to maximize the amount of days I could carry. Shorter three or four day climbs allowed me to use military meal-ready-to-eat or MRE’s.


Planning – Meal: Dinner

After a long day of doing anything strenuous, an MRE is like having a full course dinner at Morton’s Steak House. They’re great! I heat water in a pot with the main course bag. The water gets used with the MRE drink mix. I even have the punch mix hot. It is not necessary to use a stove, MRE's come with their own chemical heater. Put water and the main course in the heater bag, and you've got a hot entre. I don’t know about drinking that water though. When hungry, an MRE with a hot drink will put you right.

Every MRE has a small pack or tissue paper, spoon, napkin, salt, pepper, small Tabasco sauce bottle, wet-wipe, sugar. There’s something to mix with water to be consumed hot or cold, a desert cake, cookie, or candy; two large crackers with something to smear on them (either peanut butter, jam, cheese, or my favorite jalapeño cheese spread),  a side dish of rice or potatoes. The Menu's main course is listed in on the outside of the thick plastic bag, This bag is reusable as a garbage storage bag. Maybe not mentioned to this point, but the kind of outdoor living espoused here is “leave no trace.”

MRE’s cases come in two basic menu selections. There is an “A” case and a “B” case. Fat, Protein, and Carbohydrate grams are balanced and it has an energy content of about 1200-1300 calories. These would make up about half of my daily food requirements.

Menu “A”

01 - Chili w/Beans
02 - Pork Rib
03 - Beef Ravioli
04 - Cheese & Vegetable Omelet
05 - Chicken Breast
06 - Chicken w/Noodles
07 - Meatloaf w/Gravy
08 - Beef Patty
09 - Beef Stew
10 - Chili & Macaroni
11 - Vegetable Lasagna
12 - Veggie Burger w/BBQ Sauce

Menu “B”

13 - Cheese Tortellini
14 - Spicy Penne Pasta
15 - Beef Enchilada
16 - Chicken Fajita
17 - Sloppy Joe Filling
18 - Meatballs w/Marinara
19 - Pot Roast w/Vegetables
20 - Spaghetti w/Meat Sauce
21 - Tuna in Pouch
22 - Chicken w/Dumplings
23 - Chicken Pesto & Pasta
24 - Chicken w/Salsa

Planning – Meal: Breakfast & Lunch

Figuring our how much is the balancing act. Shooting for a typical day of 2200-2800 calories, with the MRE taking up 1250, leaves a total of 950-1550 for the rest of the day. The lion’s share of these calories should be consumed at breakfast.

Now here is a little backwards fill-in thinking. I’ve already recounted the praises of clif bars, and they have a calorie content of 250 per bar. Two for lunch would make up 500 calories. Add the MRE to that: 1800 calories. To hit 2500 or thereabouts, Fill in breakfast with 700-800 calories of oatmeal and milk.

I would usually leave the stove set up overnight so that I could have my hot breakfast with minimal interference in the morning. Hot oatmeal and hot milk are my favorite breakfast foods on the trail. It doesn’t matter if you re in the dessert or on a glacier it’s always cooler in the morning and this hydrated high calorie breakfast will give you sustained energy to take you well past lunchtime.

One package of the oatmeal is too thin to cook in my pan, two works better. It is a balance of nutrition and cooking ease. The oatmeal packets vary between 130-160, so again we’ll say 150 calories for sake of ease. Two packets make up 300 calories, leaving chocolate or dehydrated hot milk to take up the slack between 100 and 700 calories

I always carry a 20oz thermos wide mouth insulated cup. The cap allows the drink to stay hot for quite a while. For breakfast, Swiss Miss or any generic will do. I am filling it based upon the caloric content that I need, not the recommended hydration from the side of the package. This means I am usually drinking a very thick chocolate or milk flavored cream-like substance. Each hot chocolate packet is about 120 calories , and it takes two or three to fill out the breakfast calories.

If you can find it, it would be better to use individually packaged milk and maybe only one chocolate milk packet for the drink. The chocolate milk is sometimes so terribly sweet, you look forward to just finishing it so you can wash it down with some fresh water.

Planning – Meal: Food Summary

Breakfast: (Lowfat*)
2x Oatmeal 300 calories
4x Hot Chocolate 480 calories

3x clif bars 750 calories

Dinner (Balanced)
1x MRE 1300 calories


-1 clif bar


TOTAL WEIGHT OF FOOD : 2.9 pounds or 1.3 kilos per day. (9 days = 26 pounds for food)

*Generally Lowfat: Fat has been taking a knocking for a long time and it is really unwarranted. There seems to be a mass public hypnosis that tells us if it is fat, it is bad and will make us…well… fat! It’s just not the same. All food is composed of three things, ok five if we include water and minerals. But it is safe to say in general, all food is going to be some combination of Carbohydrate, Protein and Fat. Carbohydrates and Protein are 5 calories per gram where a fat gram is 9 calories –almost double.

What does this mean to someone who is interested in having enough to eat and at the same time limiting the weight of the food they are carrying on their back? Load your diet with fat, it is easier to carry! Since it is easy to cart around the extra weight on a bike,  I eat a balance of the three.

Fat is good, cheese burgers are good, bacon is good. If I could, I would get a double Royal with Cheese!



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