Long overdue, here’s our review of Motor Tab’s sports drink. Ã‚Â I tested these a couple of weeks before Interbike, but with all the hullabaloo in preparing for the show, just didn’t get a chance to write the review.
MotorTabs are effervescent tablets that contain electrolytes and carbs from several sources to keep you hydrated and energized, all in a convenient package that easy to take on long rides or when traveling. Ã‚Â How do they work? Ã‚Â Do they taste good? Ã‚Â Read “more” and find out!
What’s in them? Ã‚Â The electrolytes come from Sodium (bicarbonate) and Potassium (bicarbonate). Ã‚Â The Bicarbonate part is what makes them effervescent, like an Alka Seltzer. Ã‚Â Sodium Bicarbonate is also an antacid, so my hunch is this would be a good choice for endurance racers that tend to get upset stomachs during long races, too (no proof of this, but we may do a followup post on this aspect). Ã‚Â Another quick note on this ingredient…if you use an aluminum bottle, you probably shouldn’t put Motor Tabs in it. Ã‚Â Sodium BicarbonateÃ‚Â attacks the thin unreactive protective oxide layer of this otherwise very reactive metal (aaah, Wikipedia, what would I do without thee?)Ã‚Â
The carbs come from Dextrose (aka Glucose), Sucrose and Maltodextrin, which is about the same mix you’ll find in most good sports drink mixes. The only other ingredients are flavors, colors, Sodium Benzoate for a preservative and Polyethylene Glycol (aka PEG).
This last one isn’t something you typically see, but it’s a very common ingredient with a variety of uses (thickener in toothpaste; Anti-foaming and/or CO2 retention agent in sodas; oral laxatives, read moreÃ‚Â here). Ã‚Â Fortunately, I didn’t experience any laxative effect from these, and I’m sure MotorTabs is thrilled that I’m even mentioning this in their review.
So, to be fair, here’s what they had to say about why PEG is in there:
“Polyethylene glycol (PEG) is a water-soluble lubricant from petroleum and/or mineral sources. PEG is used as a binding agent, coating agent, dispersing agent, flavoring adjuvant, and plasticizer. Our manufacturer uses it as a processing aid in compression enabling the tablets to hold together better. It also protects nutrients in the tablet from air and humidity.” (Chris Mathis, Motor Tabs)
MotorTabs come in four flavors: Grape, Orange, Lemon Lime and Fruit Punch. Ã‚Â The Variety Pack box contains 12 pouches, three of each, and retails for $18. Ã‚Â The Single Flavor boxes contain 24 pouches and has an MSRP of $28, but a quick search showed them online for as low as $24 / 24-pack, and even slightly less for single serves on one online retailer. Ã‚Â There’s also the 70-pack “fish bowl” below.
All of the flavors are very light, which is one of the things I really, really liked about Motor Tabs. Ã‚Â In fact, it’s so refreshing and easy to drink precisely because the flavors aren’t overpowering or overly sweet. Even after downing two full 24oz bottles, I never got that thick, sugary coating in my mouth that a lot of other sports drinks tend to leave. Ã‚Â And, even when a little spilled on my fingers, leg or bike, it never got sticky…a huge plus if your water bottle leaks a little or you can’t avoid dripping a little while holding your bottle (it happens).
If you need help deciding which flavor you might like before ordering a full box, go get a similarly flavored packet of Kool-Aid, mix it up with 1/4 the recommended sugar and drink away. Ã‚Â That’s what Motor Tabs taste like. Ã‚Â Or, you could just order the Variety Pack or some single serves… Ã‚Â (For the record, I did this with grape Kool-Aid just to see if my hunch was right…it was…and as far as my 3-1/2 year old son is concerned, 1/4 the sugar is just fine by him).
DO THEY WORK?
Yes. Ã‚Â On several long rides of anywhere from 1.5 to 3 hours, road and mountain, they kept me from bonking and I never once came anywhere near cramping. Ã‚Â Chalk the non-cramping up to the high levels of Sodium and Potassium.
To really test them, I refrained from my usual pre-ride energy drink, and didn’t use any gels or other sports drinks before or during the rides. Ã‚Â Even though the carb count is a little on the low side for really long or intense rides (Motor Tabs’ website says you can add gels, bars, etc., depending on your needs), I never really felt like I needed anything more to get me to the end of the ride.
Another great feature is they don’t taint your water bottles like some other drinks do. Ã‚Â Your bottle might smell a little like the last flavor you used, but it never leaves a flavor or coating inside the bottle. Ã‚Â In fact, my bottles rinsed clean quickly and easily after each ride, reducing post-ride efforts considerably over what some stickier or thicker drinks can do. Ã‚Â While I didn’t try it, I imagine it would work just as cleanly and well in your hydration pack, too.
MIXING THEM UP
The website and on-pack instructions say to do two things: 1) use room temperature water to dissolve them, and 2) leave the cap off while they dissolve (approx. 4 minutes).
On my first use, I filled the bottle 2/3 full with cold water from the fridge door…and it took about 15 minutes for the tablet to dissolve. Ã‚Â The next time I tried it with lukewarm tap water and it took about the anticipated four minutes. Ã‚Â After that, I would let them dissolve in only about 10oz of water, then fill the rest of the bottle with ice before topping it off with cold water.
The tablets dissolved completely, and once on the bike, there was never any settling or sediment of any kind. Ã‚Â
The instructions also say to leave the cap off while they dissolve. Ã‚Â I tried it once with the cap on and no harm came to me or my water bottle, but better safe than sorry, so repeat that little experiment at your own risk.
Speaking of experiments, I just had to find out if these would create an explosion of volcanic proportions if I dropped one of the tablets into a 2-liter of cola…like the Mentos thing.
Lame, I know. Perhaps I should have used DIET cola…
Motor Tabs kept me going with no signs of cramps, coated tongue or upset stomach. Ã‚Â They taste good, aren’t sticky or overly sweet and they clean up easy. Ã‚Â The portability is just icing on the cake, and may make you want to reserve them for travel or to mix with water halfway through your ride…which is fine…but they work well enough to use for your everyday sports drink. Ã‚Â The fact that they’re not too high in sugar means you can sip them throughout the day to keep hydrated without buying into the G2 hype (and sucking down HFCS in the process and spending more per ounce).