- Dissolves easily and completely in water
- Tastes good, with just the right amount of sweetness
- No powdery taste or mouthfeel
- Provides fuel for rides of any length, with no need for food
- Can be mixed “heavy” or “light” to use along with food, if desired
- Variety of tasty flavors in both non-caffeinated and caffeinated varieties
- None that I’ve found
Price: Regular (no caffeine) $35.99 50-serving bag; $25.99 30-serving bag; $2.25 2-serving stick / Buzz (caffeinated) $38.99 50-serving bag; $27.99 30-serving bag; $2.35 2-serving stick
Flavors: Regular – Mandarin Orange, Berry, Lemon and Naked (unflavored); Buzz (caffeinated) – Raspberry Buzz, Green Tea Buzz and Tropical Buzz
Source: Company website, online, retail
How obtained: Purchased from company
RBR Sponsor: Yes
Tested: 4+ years
Good Tasting Fuel Mix Delivers Across the Years
Like every long-time cyclist I know, I’ve tried all manner of sports drinks and nutrition products over the years. Some have been quite tasty. Others have nearly made me gag. And at least one of those roiled my otherwise iron stomach in the middle of a competitive mountain century.
The tasty drinks were by and large pre-mixed brand-name liquids that I’ve since learned taste so good because they do not contain enough sodium to replenish what you actually sweat out during exercise. The vile-tasting ones were powder-based brand-name mixes I’ve been forced to drink on century rides and tours where I couldn’t feasibly carry my own product. One of those was the one that threatened to derail my Six Gap Century PR attempt.
To me, the powder-based mixes always tasted like flavored powder. Just as I can with any type of pepper, I could taste that powdery mix a mile away wearing a blindfold.
When Coach Fred Matheny reviewed Tailwind Nutrition Endurance Fuel (click to read his original review) in April 2013 soon after it hit the market, I read and edited it with an open mind, keying in on the fact that Coach Fred noted – among many other positive attributes – that Tailwind mixes easily and thoroughly, actually tastes good (with a lightly sweet flavor, he said), and simply works as advertised to provide all the nutrition needed on rides short and long.
As I’ve done many times over the years as an RBR reader and owner, I heeded Coach Fred’s advice and decided to try Tailwind myself.
After four years of personal use as my only sports drink mix, it seemed high time that I write an update to that original Tailwind review.
Works in All Conditions, With or Without Food
Tailwind was developed by endurance athletes who – like me, and like so many others – had suffered the dreaded “gut bomb” during an event, brought on by some nasty sports drink. Their intensive research and experimentation (which you can read about on the company website) led them to cut the protein out of the equation and to develop a mix that is designed to mimic the electrolyte mix of what is lost during exercise so that the user can fuel their entire ride (no matter how long) with Tailwind Nutrition alone. No food is necessary. (See the label at left from one of Tailwind’s caffeinated mixes.)
Some riders (Coach Fred is one, as am I) still like to chew on something solid during longer efforts. For me, it depends on the type of ride, but anything from chews to sports bars to granola or nut bars to the occasional Payday candy bar are on my list.
Tailwind works either way. You simply mix it “heavier” (say, 3 100-calorie scoops per 24-ounce bottle) when using it alone, or “lighter” (2 scoops) if you plan to supplement it with real food.
One of the hallmarks of the product is that it dissolves easily and completely in water, which is surely the reason behind why it actually tastes good and has none of that yucky “powdery” taste or mouthfeel. Coach Fred used the word “clean” to describe it; I can’t improve upon that. It has just the right amount of sweetness, and it remains as drinkable even as it warms up over time on a hot day.
Over the four full years that Tailwind has been my go-to sports drink, I’ve tried every flavor (both in the regular and caffeinated lines), and under all types of riding conditions and events. From super hot, humid summer days (that’s the default here in Atlanta) to frigid winter rides. And from short, 30-mile local spins to hammering, fast group rides to hard mountain centuries to multi-day tours.
Moreover, I’ve grown accustomed to “mixing to conditions” – on the fast Saturday local group ride in the summer, when I know I’m going to pour sweat from beginning to end, I’ll mix “heavy,” 3 full scoops. On a normal ride when I don’t plan to do more than a few short intervals, I’ll keep it “light,” with only 2 or just 1-1/2 scoops. I also adjust the mix to work with whatever food I plan to eat on any given ride.
Sometimes I don’t bother to bring along any food, or – as is quite often the case – the food that I bring stays in my pocket the entire ride because I just didn’t need it.
What I Buy, What I Like
The regular (no caffeine) Tailwind Endurance Fuel comes in four flavors: Mandarin orange, berry, lemon and naked (unflavored). A large (50-serving) bag costs $35.99, and a medium (30-serving) bag goes for $25.99. 2-serving “stick packs,” convenient for carrying with you in a pocket or seat bag, cost $2.25.
Tailwind’s caffeinated offerings include Raspberry Buzz, Green Tea Buzz and Tropical Buzz. The Buzz bags go for $38.99 and $27.99 (50- and 30-serving bags, respectively), while Buzz 2-serving sticks are $2.35.
Among the non-caf Tailwind flavors, I prefer the Mandarin orange and berry. But just as with gels, I tend toward caffeinated products more than non-caffeinated. So I like the Buzz offerings better. My preferred flavor is the Raspberry Buzz. But, despite having some serious reservations about trying it, I also quite like the Green Tea Buzz.
I typically buy a couple of large 50-serving bags at a time. With free shipping on orders over $49 on Tailwind’s site, buying two just makes sense to me. Plus, I hate to run out of something that I use regularly.
Why I’ve Stuck With it For Years
I suspect I’m like most riders in that, when I find a cycling product I like, I tend to return to that product (or brand) time and again. However, for things like apparel and gear – the designs of which are always being tweaked or changed wholesale – it’s effectively impossible to find that exact same pair of shoes or set of shifters a few years down the road. You’re forced to try new, different products.
And with other tech, like lights, it’s easy to see that some new innovations are simply an improvement over what you’ve been using, making you much more willing to give something new a try.
Over the many years I’ve been cycling, though, I’ve been less flexible about my nutritional needs. When I find a product that tastes good, delivers as promised, works well with my gut and combines well with my other nutrition and hydration products, it’s a much harder argument to try something different. Life is too short for bad beer. It’s also too short for bad sports drink mixes.
Tailwind has earned a 5-star rating, our highest recommendation, and another 4-year term with me.