Every kind of bike snack has its time and place. Shot blocks and gels work well in a pinch or on race day. Bars with chocolate are great in the winter but melt in the summer. Homemade snacks like rice bars and PBJs are nice if you have the time and the skill to unwrap them while riding. Drinkable calories from Skratch, Gatorade, Coke, etc, go a long way, but on really long rides they won’t go all the way. You need a ride food on standby that is portable and affordable, tastes good, gets you the calories you need, and handles most weather conditions.
I nominate the sweet potato.
It’s true that when you whip out a whole sweet potato (or the brown, wrinkled end of a particularly large or skinny one is peeking out above your jersey pocket), you might generate some laughs. But let them laugh, I say! Sweet potatoes are packed with Vitamin A, Vitamin C, manganese, fiber, B6, and potassium. You get a solid amount of calories and natural sugars, they taste sweet but not too sweet, and they don’t melt or otherwise disintegrate when carried on your person. Also, unlike packaged and processed options, you always know exactly what’s in them: potato.
My favorite thing about sweet potatoes, however, is that they come with a built-in, edible wrapper. The potato can be completely naked in your pocket (or loosely wrapped in a paper towel), so there’s no need to worry about removing your ride snack from plastic packaging or disposing of it after. The key to this, from my experience, is microwaving the potato rather than baking it in the oven. The result may be less delicious, but it’s also much less juicy and stays together better. Just remember to give your potato some time to cool before you head out...unless, in addition to being a skilled cyclist, you’re also a very talented juggler.
How to microwave a sweet potato