The editors and contributors of
Triathlete magazine tested 165 triathlon-related products for the 2018 Triathlete Buyer’s Guide. Presenting the gear that outdid the competition to nab our coveted “Best in Class” distinction. Pick up the Buyer’s Guide on newsstands, buy the single issue here, and find the complete online version here.
2018 Triathlete Buyer's Guide Best In Class Twenty-four items stood out against the rest. Goggles: Zone 3 Volare with mirror lens The Draw: Light as Air
We could wear these goggles all day and forget they were even on our face—some of our testers even used them as sunglasses post- swim. The Volares have a very low profile and are hydrodynamic, thanks to the curved lens that wraps around each of the goggle sockets. The flat straps held well during dives and through the choppiest waves. Multiple nose-bridge options mean that all face sizes can wear them.
More goggles from the 2018 Triathlete Buyer’s Guide Men's Wetsuit: Aquaman Cell Gold The Draw: Luxurious Comfort and Flexibility
This high-end suit won high marks for its flexibility and the buttery feel of its interior. The design allows for smooth hip rotation and unimpeded arm movement. We loved how it felt against our skin, and while it hugged our bodies tight in the water, it came off with ease in T1. The reverse zipper made for quick removal, but might not be everyone’s cup of tea—and makes suiting up slightly more challenging. Buoyancy isn’t overwhelming, but we could feel it holding us up in the hip area. Of all the high-end suits we tested, the flexibility and feel of the Cell Gold was our favorite.
More men’s wetsuits from the 2018 Triathlete Buyer’s Guide Women's Wetsuit: 2XU P:2 Propel The Draw: It Practically Swims for You
Think of this suit like a secret weapon, picking up any slack you may have in your stroke to turn you into a veritable bullet in the water. The most noticeable advantage:
It aids rotation wonderfully. If you’re a “flat” swimmer, you’ll appreciate how
it keeps you
in a more
Ample buoyancy in the hips, torso, and legs make sighting more e cient, and this thing comes off crazy fast. The one feature you’ll either love or hate: A large amount of buoyancy in the forearms favors— almost forces—a long, gliding stroke. If you’re a punchy stroker, you’ll find yourself fighting this suit. If you need help maximizing your distance per stroke, you’ll love it. Incredible flexibility throughout the arms, shoulders, and the rest of the suit—combined with its other attributes—earned this suit top marks.
More women’s wetsuits from the 2018 Triathlete Buyer’s Guide Transition Bag: DeSoto Transition Pack V8 The Draw: Monster Bag for Longtime Use
Totally overbuilt (in a good way), the newly-updated DeSoto favorite looks like it could be submerged underwater for years. Using super-thick denier polyester encased in a slick TPU laminate (an oil, grease, and abrasian-resistant soft plastic), this water-resistant beast uses burly zippers and a sealed-seam wetsuit compartment to make one of the toughest bags in the lineup. The presence of endless loops and pockets also gives you an opportunity to carry a veritable tri shop into a monsoon, if necessary. Though a little on the heavier side, the beefiness of this updated pack will definitely absorb all abuse.
Desotosport.com; $150; 65L (including expandable helmet holder)
More transition bags from the 2018 Triathlete Buyer’s Guide Women's Best Swimskin: ROKA Viper X The Draw: Wetsuit-Like Benefits
ROKA specializes in designing wetsuits that feel like an unfair advantage, and they’ve brought that skill to this speedsuit. In our hands, it felt like practically nothing, but wearing it in the water, we felt incredibly streamlined, gently floated up, and like the thing was softly guiding our rotation. Bonded seams aren’t noticeable— we felt no chafing. Our arm rotation was stellar, and dotted silicone grippers on the legs kept the suit in place. The auto-locking zipper will take an extra hand to zip up, but simply flip the tab up when you’re ready to rip the suit o in T1 and you can do just that—the zipper unzips automatically as you peel the suit away from your shoulders. Now that we’ve experienced the Viper X, we wouldn’t want to do a warm- water tri without it.
Roka.com; $335 (women’s)
More swimskins from the 2018 Triathlete Buyer’s Guide Men's Best Swimskin: TYR Torque Lite The Draw: Gentle Stroke Enhancement
This sleeveless suit won high marks from our testers for its sleek design and stealth look. In the water, it almost disappears—the shoulder openings are so comfy and watertight we almost forgot we were wearing it. Just like the rest of the suits tested, it features hydrophobic material that feels fast in the water. It also features a pull-string zipper rather than a locking one, so it’s simple to put on yourself—as long as you’re cool with the tiny amount of extra drag it’ll create in the water. Or you can stuff it down your suit. “This is the one I would most likely buy and would swim in for any occasion,” one tester said.
Roka.com; $335 (women’s)
More swimskins from the 2018 Triathlete Buyer’s Guide Bike: Kestrel 5000 SL SRAM RED eTap The Draw: Killer Update, Do-It-All Machine
In 2017, one of the founding fathers of carbon bikes debuted their latest carbo to limited fanfare. After years of using their 4000 carbon frame—with some updates—Kestrel upgraded the frame with the hopes of invigorating a category they basically created. The resultant 5000 SL is one of the most well-rounded frames we tested. Incredible acceleration coupled with a remarkably smooth ride made this rig a total category killer. Despite an aggressive position out of the box (easily adjustable), this bike held its line even in wild crosswinds and rough downhills above 40mph. In person, the 5000 SL also boasted some of the sharpest visual lines (literally) of any bike we tested.
Kestrelbicycles.com; 18.72 pounds (size L); $7,500
Roka.com; $335 (women’s)
More bikes from the 2018 Triathlete Buyer’s Guide Fueling System: XLab Torpedo Kompact 500 The Draw: Feature-Rich Hydration Package
XLAB’s Torpedo Kompact 500 is one of the most feature- dense products we have come across. The system includes everything needed to get set up using a between-the-arms hydration system, right down to an insulated water bottle. Another much-appreciated inclusion is an integrated Garmin- compatible computer mount, which places a head unit in perfect position to keep an eye on ride data. The XLAB Raptor carbon bottle cage held our bottles securely during testing, and the entire system mounts using XLAB’s SecureClip Velcro attachments, which include only one loop of Velcro per extension. Considering how easy the system is to install, it is remarkably solid and holds in place perfectly, even while riding on rough roads.
More fueling systems from the 2018 Triathlete Buyer’s Guide Bike Case: Thule RoundTrip Transition The Draw: Integrated Bike Stand
This is more than a bike case, it’s a gear hauler. At 54”x 15”x 37”, there’s room for spare wheels or an extra wetsuit, but the star of the show is the integrated, three-legged bike stand—perfect for travel prep or home maintenance work. This one was an easy packer: Drop the handlebars, secure the cranks, remove the wheels (padded bags included), foam wrap the frame, and lower the saddle. The fork and bottom bracket act as the anchor points on the bike holder, which clicks into the bottom of the case, and two ratchet buckles secure the case’s hood. Like we said, this is one big case (39 pounds empty), so lifting it loaded will likely require two. But this thermoplastic cocoon stands a great chance of deflecting the blows of air and ground travel.
More bike cases from the 2018 Triathlete Buyer’s Guide Women's Cycling Shoes: Shimano Women’s TR-9 The Draw: Full Foot-Cradling Comfort
This popular tri cycling shoe was the most comfortable in our test of female-specific options. The interior lining felt cushy from toes to heel (especially at the heel), and the overall fit was supportive without pinching. The shoe’s light weight, thanks to a carbon fiber composite sole, also contributes to the barely-there feel. A super-wide Velcro strap on the top of the shoe makes getting in and out lighting-fast, and a large drainage hole beneath the toes lets you shed water post-swim. If you tend to tear up the front tip of your bike shoe, the TR-9 has a reinforced toe cap for extra durability.
Shimano-lifestylegear.com; 251g (size 40); $200
More cycling shoes from the 2018 Triathlete Buyer’s Guide Men's Cycling Shoes: Bont Riot TR+ Despite the wild color options, Bont’s Riot TR+ is actually one of the most simple shoes we tested. The list of features on this shoe is short: a surprising- ly useful extra-long heel tab, short, inward-opening straps, a little drainage up front, and ubiquitous toe and heel bumpers on the outsole. What sets the Riot apart from other shoes in the category is the fit. Using their expertise in the speed skating world of heat-mold- able carbon, Bont has created an unbelievably well-fitting last with a beefy outsole that wraps around much of the foot, giving the rider the cus- tom feel and excellent power transfer that you’d expect from shoes that cost three times as much. The TR+ is a shoe that punches way outside of its price class.
Bontcycling.com; 230g (size 42); $160
More cycling shoes from the 2018 Triathlete Buyer’s Guide Helmet: Giro Vanquish MIPS The Draw: Lust-Worthy With or Without the Shield
There was a time when triathletes would train and race on different wheelsets, but now it is quite common to use one set of carbon clinchers for both. That day has arrived for helmets, courtesy of the Vanquish’s great looks and optimal blend of aerodynamics and venting features, which ensure you won’t be leaving this one in its custom case for all but a few races per year. The included Zeiss shield is gorgeous to hold and gaze through and affixes to the helmet quickly and intuitively—even in that dreaded disoriented T1 state. Unlike some aero helmets, this one is equally comfortable without the shield, although if maximum speed is the goal, then the shield will enhance airflow, shaving precious seconds.
Giro.com; $275; 355g
More helmets from the 2018 Triathlete Buyer’s Guide Smart Trainer: Elite Direto The Draw: Best Bang for Your Buck
There’s no trainer in recent history that’s generated as much interest or buzz as the Elite Direto, which is somewhat surprising for a company not exactly well-known for generating buzz. This season, the new Direto hit all the checkboxes by simply being really darn accurate (+/- 2.5 percent, but usually better than that) as well as incredibly reasonably priced, especially for a direct-drive trainer (which means you remove your rear wheel). It’s compatible with all of the major and lesser-known apps across all of the ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart standards. More than that, it’s likely quieter than most trainers you’ve tried in the past, and it folds up pretty easily for quick storage if you’re in a tight spot.
Giro.com; $275; 355g
More smart trainers from the 2018 Triathlete Buyer’s Guide Power Meter: Favero Assioma The Draw: Affordable Pedal-Based Power Meter
When Favero came onto the scene three summers ago, they shocked everyone by delivering bePRO power meter pedals that were not only affordable, but accurate. A rarity for a company that had no power meter experience. Last summer they released their Gen2 device, the Assiomas. These new pedals added Bluetooth Smart compatibility alongside the existing ANT+ transmission and did away with the more complex installation that required additional tools. Now you can quickly and easily swap these pedals between bikes in a matter of seconds. The only downside to the setup is the small pods on the pedal spindle in between the pedal body and the crank arm, but that’s purely an aesthetic issue.
Cycling.favero.com; $797; 150g/pedal
More power meters from the 2018 Triathlete Buyer’s Guide Saddle for Men: ISM PN3.0 The Draw: Long-Lasting Split Nose
The PN3.0 is the latest evolution of ISM’s long line of popular saddles. This seat inherits a lot of features from other ISM models with claims of increased thigh clearance and rounded edges. The most notable new feature is a new covering that is much higher quality than previous models—aesthetically this
is a big improvement and may be the first split nose saddle that actually looks good. The “30” series padding featured on this saddle provides a nice level of cushioning but isn’t exactly plush. While it does provide some real estate for the rider to move around—and the rounded edges will reduce irritation from some seams—the rounded nose limits
nose riding to some extent. Overall, this saddle is a great new option.
ISMSeat.com; $225; 260g
More saddles from the 2018 Triathlete Buyer’s Guide Saddle for Women: Cobb JOF 55 The Draw: Jack of All Trades
The Cobb JOF 55 has been around for several years and has proven to be a great option for many, but seems to work exceptionally well for women. This is a saddle that hits the right balance of pressure relief and overall width, coupled with a wide and flat rear section which makes this saddle comfortable when riding in aerobars, upright on the basebar, or even on a road bike. The padding on this saddle is firm, which takes a little getting used to, but nonetheless is at home on virtually any bike, for athletes of all builds and abilities.
Cobbcycling.com; $230; 330g
More saddles from the 2018 Triathlete Buyer’s Guide Cycling Kit: Giordana FR-C Jersey & FR-C Bib Short The Draw: Comfort and Versatility
This multi-paneled jersey hugs the torso and feels like a second skin. The body-hugging, sweat-wicking fabric kept us cool during a warm, midday ride and, when worn with a baselayer, offered enough warmth on a cool early-morning spin. The roomy rear pockets didn’t force any jersey sagging when weighed down with ride essentials. The FR-C bibs were some of the most comfortable we’ve ever worn. The feel in the saddle while wearing this pair is best described as uninhibited. The chamois felt sturdier than most, and the laser-cut bib straps were supportive without digging into the shoulders. This kit just feels classy and will boost your saddle swagger, too.
Girodanacycling.com; $200 jersey, $250 bibs (men’s)
More cycling kits from the 2018 Triathlete Buyer’s Guide Aerobars: Zipp Vuka Clip Mount with Carbon Evo 110 Extension The Draw: Superior Comfort Without Sacrificing Performance
The Zipp Vuka Clip with Carbon Evo 110 extensions is the Indiana-based speed merchant’s latest entry into the go-fast game. The Evo 110 extensions are a modified S-bend: The grip area sits slightly inward, toward the centerline of the bike, relative to where the forearm rests are positioned. This setup provides a comfortable hand position as it relieves pressure on the wrists and shoulders. Another nice touch is the textured coating found on the grips. We found that even without handlebar tape, this coating provided ample grip to make us feel confidently connected to our bike. The Vuka Clips also provide good adjustability, with numerous possibilities for pad placement and fine-tuning.
More aerobars from the 2018 Triathlete Buyer’s Guide Wheels: Bontrager Aeolus 9 TLR D3 (90mm rim depth) The Draw: All-Around Awesome
The Aeolus 9 wheelset from Bontrager provides everything you would expect from a wheelset made by the same people who make Trek Bicycles. These wheels are
light in weight—considering their deep depth—and handle better than any other wheels tested in the deep carbon- wheel category. These wheels are tubeless- compatible and use a thin plastic rim strip, which is tricky to install and remove, making the strips a bit of a nuisance compared to other simpler solutions (tape, plugs, etc.). Braking performance with the included cork brake pads was good in dry conditions and only slightly degraded when wet. These wheels feature a 20mm inner rim width—slightly wider than most other brands— which translates to a smoother and more efficient ride.
Trekbikes.com; $2,600; clincher; 1610g
More wheels from the 2018 Triathlete Buyer’s Guide Cycling Lights: Light & Motion Vibe Pro Commuter Combo Once we got a feel for all the neat features of the Vibe Pro, we kept saying to ourselves, “Why didn’t we think of that?” First, there is the “naked” case, which helps minimize the size and weight. Then, there are no buttons to push (or break), as the onboard accelerometer knows when you are moving and turns the light on and off as needed. The headlight senses day from night and adjusts the beam appropriately. The Vibe goes on your bike like putting a key in the ignition—just a quarter-turn and o you go, and charging works just like popping a thumb-drive into a USB port. Finally, the lights are super bright and pulse/flash in a pattern designed to optimally attract a motorist’s eye.
More cycling lights from the 2018 Triathlete Buyer’s Guide Running Shoes: Saucony Liberty ISO The Draw: Laissez-Faire Stability for Economical Speed and Distance
Saucony’s Liberty ISO, with its full-length encapsulated polyurethane midsole and topsole, stood out as a tester favorite, whether for tempo training or longer sessions, on- and off-road. With a tad of stability from a medial plastic guidance frame, the Liberty doesn’t try to override the foot’s natural motion but does o er a sort of invisible hand to help with late-stage sloppiness. Also worthy call-outs: the plush tongue, foot- wrapping stretch mesh, and dynamic fit of the upper.
Saucony.com; $160; 4mm drop;
W 8.7 oz/M 9.7 oz
More running shoes from the 2018 Triathlete Buyer’s Guide Off-Road Running Shoes: Merrell MQM Flex GTX The Draw: Wet- And Tear-Free Trail Feel
Merrell has really nailed glove-like fit, which only added to our testers’ appreciation of these flexible-yet-sturdy trail shoes. With 3.5mm lugs, the MQM Flex gains plentiful purchase, while the bi-directional midsole and outsole construction and flex grooves prevent excessive rigidity. A protective pad and anatomical design complete the package. The Gore-Tex InvisibleFit keeps out moisture; a lightweight, breathable mesh lining with overlays, and a bellowed tongue keep out gravel and sand. (Women’s shown in photo)
Merrell.com; $140, 10mm drop, W 9.5 oz/M 11.5 oz
More running shoes from the 2018 Triathlete Buyer’s Guide Sunglasses: Oakley EV Zero Stride with Prizm Road Lens The Draw: Unobstructed View
For triathletes, nothing beats a frameless lens. Drop your head to achieve peak aero on the bike, and enjoy an unobstructed view of the road ahead. Oakley says these specs are sized for a comfy fit on small to medium faces, but even our big-faced tester loved them for their lightweight, barely-there feel, non-slip nose grip (even when coated with sweat while running), and crystal-clear view. The look is a modern take on the retro stylings of the original ‘80s Eyeshades, with a wider lens for a ski-goggley vibe, sans bulk. It’d take some daring to wear them casually, but for comfort, vision, and protection while training and racing, these Oakleys can’t be beat. (P.S. They don’t feel flimsy, despite the no-frame design.)
Oakley.com; $163; 9 lens/frame combinations
More sunglasses from the 2018 Triathlete Buyer’s Guide Watch: Garmin Forerunner 935 The Draw: Best All-Around Triathlete Watch
When it comes to features and functions for triathletes, no watch is as deep as Garmin’s Forerunner 935. The 935 continues to build upon past units like the 920XT and 910XT by adding in an optical heart-rate sensor, alongside advanced training load and recovery metrics from FirstBeat (a company that basically specializes in nothing but training-load metrics). The optical HR sensor inside the 935 is updated to record every second, 24/7, providing you with data about more than just your workout. And while some might see the Fenix 5 as top dog, the 935 doesn’t su er from some of the same hardware sensor connectivity issues that the Fenix 5 does. However, it still retains all of the features of the Fenix 5—giving you the best of both worlds.
More watches from the 2018 Triathlete Buyer’s Guide Men's Race Kit: Castelli Free Speed Race Jersey & Tri Short The Draw: Comfort and Versatility at a Great Price
The buttery-feel of the fabric (specifically on the top) is the first thing you’ll notice when you get this kit in your hands. The comfort level is unlike anything we’ve tried before. The sleeves coupled with the full-length front zip provide incredible versatility, the top is easy to quickly throw on in T1, and it o ers ideal protection from the sun. The top snaps into the shorts—a thoughtful detail that keeps everything in place and out of the sun on the bike. There is no drawstring in the shorts—which we really missed on the run, as the shorts started to slide a bit—but, overall the quality and price tag make this combo a tough one to beat for any distance.
Castelli-cycling.com; $100 each
More men’s race kits from the 2018 Triathlete Buyer’s Guide Women's Race Kit: Coeur Zele Aero-Sleeved Tri Top & Shorts The Draw: Second-Skin Speed
The soft, flat-seamed, dimpled fabric of this kit felt so lightweight it made us double-check if we were still wearing clothes. The kit is super breathable, dries fast, and had the best heat management
of any long-sleeved kit we tested, thanks in part to heat-reflecting coldblack treatment. Two large pockets
in the top and three along the back top of the shorts will carry a veritable smorgasbord of food, should you need it. The thin fleecey chamois makes these shorts best suited to short-course racing, though some women who’ve worked up their saddle-time pain tolerance could take them longer.
More women’s race kits from the 2018 Triathlete Buyer’s Guide
See the complete 2018 Buyer’s Guide here