Fall is here at last: leaves are changing colors, mornings are cool and crisp and all things pumpkin spice abound. It’s a time of nostalgia—and cinnamon-centric seasonal flavors.
Since the early 2000s, when a certain global coffee chain introduced the now infamous Pumpkin Spice Latte, pumpkin spice products seem to embed themselves more deeply into autumn every year. If you’ve visited a grocery store in the last few weeks, chances are you’ve seen a lot of the color orange on display on shelves or featured at the ends of aisles.
But what is pumpkin spice, and why is it so popular? Every brand does it a little bit differently, but generally speaking pumpkin spice consists of a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice. These spices, in combination with pumpkin or squash are evocative and nostalgia-inducing—just the smell can transport you back to youthful memories of hayrides, pumpkin patches, and of course, pie.
But these flavors have their roots much longer ago—back to the early days of North American colonists and the Indiginous people who helped them to grow crops successfully. Pumpkins and other winter squash were a staple, and these hearty vegetables were turned into soups, stews and roasted dishes at the end of the growing season. Pumpkins can be used in recipes both sweet or savory and keep well through the winter, but they are most commonly consumed in the mid to late fall. Thus, pumpkins and pumpkin spice became inextricably linked to the harvest and autumn.
Today, the ubiquity of pumpkin spice seems limited only by the imagination. Pumpkin spice waffles? Yes, please. Pumpkin spice Twinkies? They exist. Pumpkin spice chain lubricant? Why not?
Pumpkin spice up your cycling lifestyle
Below are a few of the energy bars and other products currently available. Fuel for your next weekend morning ride or a quick boost before lining up at a cyclocross race!
- Purely Elizabeth’s Pumpkin Cinnamon Ancient Grain Granola - Pumpkin seed and oat-based granola, with cinnamon.
- Kodiak Pumpkin Power Cakes - Everybody loves pancakes, and this mix makes it easy to have them often.
- LARABAR Pumpkin Pie Bar - Fruit and nut-based bar with subtle spices.
- RXBAR Pumpkin Spice Protein Bar - A simple protein bar with a seasonal twist.
- Bobo’s Pumpkin Spice Oat Bar - Oat-based bar with lots of spice. Crumbly, but good energy.
- Perfect Bar Pumpkin Pie - Crustless pie in a package.
- Kurt’s Chocolate Pumpkin Spice Energy Bar - Mildly chocolatey fluffy pumpkin and oat bar
- Clif Bar's Spiced Pumpkin Pie bar - The classic energy bar in a seasonal flavor
- Quest Nutrition Pumpkin Pie Protein Bar - The seasonal taste of pumpkin pie with 20g of protein
- Nature's Bakery Whole Wheat Pumpkin Spice Fig Bar - your favorite fig bar, now with some seasonal spice
- GU Energy Gel, Pumpkin Spice — Gu's newest gel flavor in a pocket-sized package
- La Colombe Pumpkin Spice Draft Latte - A pumpkin spice latte in a can.
- Honey Mama’s Pumpkin Spice Cocoa Truffle Bar - Chocolate and coconutty pumpkin treat.
- Hardcore Chain Butter Pumpkin Spice Chain Lubricant - Scented chain lube, for your most festive rides.
Products Tasted and Reviewed
We had the opportunity to try several of these products and have a few recommendations to pass along, whether you’re a die-hard PSL fan —like Ashton Lambie—, or new to the allure of spiced treats.
LARABAR’s Pumpkin Pie Bar is a great on-the-bike snack. Easy to eat and flavorful but not too overspiced and just sweet enough to taste like pie. These bars are simply made with only a few ingredients and as a result they’re easy on your stomach. I typically rotate through their other flavors throughout the year, but like to grab a box of these when they come out in the fall.
Bobo’s Pumpkin Spice Oat Bar. A Bobo's bar always feel like a special treat on a ride, like a mini sweet loaf. With 340 calories per bar, they're higher caloric ride fuel than most bars and I therefore reserve them for longer days. There are a couple dozen (!) Bobo favors and they're all tasty. The Pumpkin Spice is no exception. The spice is present but bot overwhelming and while many bars overdo the sweetness, in my opinion, this bar reminds me of a slice of Pumpkin loaf at my favorite local bakery, but more nutritional.
GU's Pumpkin Spice gel. One would think that after a decade of gel consumption, gels would be the first things to exit one's life after racing. However, on longer adventures, gels remain my go-to. They're easy fuel and my body handles them well. However, I usually opt for the brighter flavors like anything citrus or, my favorite, raspberry lemonade. When GU informed me they were concocting a new flavor, I was Intrigued. The standard GU Energy Gel already comes in 22 flavors, what else would consumers want? Pumpkin Spice, as it turns out. And while I really wanted to like GU's newest flavor for a seasonal touch to my fall riding, it's just entirely too sweet for me.
Kurt’s Chocolate Pumpkin Spice Bar offers a surprisingly light texture, akin to a muffin. These feel like a treat, and pack a good amount of calories for their size. I wouldn’t mind if they tasted more like chocolate, but that could just be me. These contain eggs, dairy, and soy, so those with food intolerances should take note.
Real food is always my favorite ride fuel, so Purely Elizabeth’s Pumpkin Cinnamon Ancient Grain Granola gets high marks for flavor (sweet, nutty), texture (crunchy) and providing long-lasting energy for a full day of bike adventures. Tasty with hemp or macadamia nut milks, or with full-fat yogurt for some extra calories.
Honey Mama’s Pumpkin Spice Cocoa Truffle Bar is really tasty. It needs to be kept in the refrigerator so it doesn’t melt, but it’d be great to bring along on a cold ride to eat at a cafe stop along the way. Free of dairy and refined sugars, it’s sweet and satisfying.
Still uncertain whether pumpkin spice is for you? Perhaps a post-ride libation is more your speed. There are many good options, but I’m partial to Dogfish Head Brewing’s Punkin Ale. It’s not too sweet or spiced and balances a satisfying amount of pumpkin flavor with a hearty brown ale.
Where to buy
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