We first heard of Tucson’s RBar Energy, bars made with a few simple ingredients, when national champions Eric Marcotte and Travis McCabe (SmartStop) said they eat RBar (see clip for proof):
Our inner monologues erupted into a state of mild panic, wondering what RBar was and why we weren’t eating them. Luckily we didn’t have to look far.
Victor Riquelme (Stone House Group p/b VeloVie), a Category 1 rider from Tucson is the executive chef at RBar.
You might know Riquelme as “that really fast guy with the tats on his face.” A Dallas native, he left home at age 16, traveled across the country and lived out of a backpack, he writes on his website (stay tuned – we’ll have more on this in another article). He settled in Tucson and established a career in cooking and a love for bicycle racing.
“As a professional chef and a professional bike racer I have always had to struggle with balancing two very different lifestyles,” Riquelme said. “Where I work now is a perfect connection of two things I have already spent my adult life doing – making food and riding bikes.”
Previously known as Julie Bar, the company morphed into RBar in January 2014. Brian Cornelius, owner and bike racer, changed the name to make the product more appealling to a broader market, Riquelme said.
Cornelius started making the bars with then-wife Julie using a blender out of their home kitchen in downtown Tucson before teaming up with Riquelme, Riquelme said. Now Brian Cornelius is producing RBars and selling them at nearly 90 stores nationwide and online.
As a road cyclist (Sarah) and a mountain biker (Regina), we tested out every RBar flavor during recent races.
Sarah put RBar to the test during the Oracle Road Race, famed for brutal climbing, and Regina snacked on the bars between runs at the adrenaline-pumping SoCal Enduro Series at Vail Lake and KMC Chain Winter Downhill Series.
Here’s what we thought:
Cranberry Cashew (dried sweetened cranberries, dates, cashews)
Sarah: I didn’t even know what flavor I was eating at this point in the race. I was about an hour in, and after blowing a tubular Zipp on mile 8 of a 60-mile race with 5,000 feet of climbing, I needed something substantial. I had already eaten some Gu, but it was time to feed. I ate another Cranberry Cashew post-race. It was good, and surprisingly fruity, but not my favorite flavor.
Regina: I grabbed this bar between practice runs (not that you need to eat energy bars between downhill runs, but I’ll take any excuse to eat). I was a little skeptical on this one at first because of the nuts, but they are so finely chopped that it gives just enough texture without giving you that “there are nuts in my brownie” disappointed feeling. Good cranberry taste, but not super strong.
Prickly Pear Pecan (dried apricots, dates, pecans, honey, prickly pear powder, lemon flavor)
Sarah: I could tell I was eating Prickly Pear Pecan because I love this flavor! I cheated and ate one as a snack earlier in the week, and it really hit the spot. The taste is sweet but different than your run-of-the-mill bar flavors, with a hint of Arizona pride.
Regina: This was definitely my favorite and the first bar I cracked open. The texture was different than I expected, in a good way. I thought it would be like a Clif Bar, but it was more of a cross between dried fruit and energy blocks (without having to pry goop out of your teeth). Loved the apricot and prickly pear combo.
Lemon Poppyseed (dates, cashews, lemon oil, sunflower oil, poppy seeds, lemon peel powder)
Sarah: I remember on Lap 3 (or was it Lap 2?), delirously reaching into my jersey pocket for anything that might help me finish this race and get up this !@#$%^& hill. I remember furiously fumbling with the packaging to eat as quickly as possible. I was so happy when I tasted sweet, sour and refreshing lemon poppyseed. It was a bit more chewy than the others, and at that moment it was the best thing I could have ever eaten in my life.
Regina: This was straight up like eating a not-too-sweet lemon bar. I slammed this one right before my third run at Vail Lake and it was awesome. I honestly saved this bar for last because I thought it was going to be full of annoying poppy seeds, but I kind of wish I had discovered it sooner.
Peanut Butter & Jelly (dates, dry-roasted peanuts, raisins)
Sarah: I think I ate this when I got back to the car and I was half dead. I just remember it tasting really good, but I got it confused with Cranberry Cashew in my delirium. Later I re-tested it and liked the peanut butter flavor. I remember thinking, “Hey! This really does taste like PB & J!”
Regina: This actually had a good balance between the peanut butter and jelly flavors. I’ve tried doing the PB & J combo with other energy gels and it always fails miserably because the peanut butter is so overpowering and you end up half choking. I ate this bar around lunchtime at Vail Lake after about 3,000 feet of climbing and descending and was pretty impressed.
Double Chocolate (dates, pecans, cocoa powder)
Sarah: This is by far my favorite flavor. I ate it on a training ride. It tastes like you are eating the remnants of fudge brownie batter from a mixing bowl. I will be ordering a few boxes of these.
Regina: So this is a good bar, but it is not like eating brownie batter because it’s got nuts in it! I thought Double Chocolate would easily be my favorite flavor, but I ended up liking some of the others more. I think a big part of that is because the Prickly Pear and Lemon Poppyseed flavors were more refreshing and a little stronger than the Double Chocolate.
Sarah: It definitely was like eating fudge brownie batter.
Regina: No it wasn’t.
We like the simple ingredients of RBar.
You can’t go wrong with such natural recipes, and they provide great nutrition on the bike without stomach problems – at least not that we encountered. Their non-dry consistency is perfect for eating while riding.
Unlike road waffles, they don’t crumble upon opening the package, but that depends on if you can get the package open. The one complaint we have about RBars is the ease of use; packaging is a bit difficult to open while riding. We recommend that you open your RBars before racing or riding to avoid a struggle.
We give RBar 4 out of 5 stars.