Of the 157 items tested in our 2017 Buyer's Guide, 22 stood out to earn the designation of “Best in Class.”
The editors and contributors of Triathlete magazine tested 157 triathlon-related products for the 2017 Triathlete Buyer’s Guide. Twenty-two items stood out against the rest for pure performance and earned the designation of “Best in Class.” Learn more about them here, and pick up the Buyer’s Guide on newsstands now for more of the best swim, bike and run gear of 2017.
The draw: Long-distance comfort
These goggles will work for everything from a sprint to triple-iron-distance event. The silicone molds easily to any eye shape and doesn’t require tight straps to keep from leaking. The five nosepiece options swap out easily for a semi-custom fit. The rounded straps tended to move around, but that didn’t affect the gasket position.
The draw: All-around performance, environmentally friendly
De Soto uses a limestone-based rubber, which is much more environmentally friendly than petroleum for this suit, and the unique two-piece design offers great performance. Touted as the most flexible suit of the bunch, this was especially true at key points like elbows, the chest and shoulders. Buoyancy was balanced and kept us in a good level position. This combination of buoyancy and flexibility allowed our stroke mechanics to remain unchanged. The two-piece design does not allow water in, and while removal takes some getting used to, once dialed in, it is as fast as any to peel off. Warm enough for the coldest water.
The draw: Insane speed
For $700, we expected the suit to swim for us, and it pretty much delivered. Our tester put this thing on and had to make a friend double-check the clock—at the end of a 3,000-yard workout, she easily swam 100 yards 17 seconds faster than she’d been going. Perfectly placed buoyancy panels make rotation a breeze, while a luxe lining and flexible shoulders make it feel like a second skin. Eleven size choices make it easy to find the perfect fit.
The draw: Pockets for everything
This is a double-duty bag—in addition to padded backpack straps, it also offers the option to switch to a single-strap duffle bag for training days. The bag has a pocket for everything in its 70 liters of space—from the protective zippered helmet compartment on top to the waterproof wetsuit compartment on bottom, to a lockable felt-lined pocket for your ID, keys and phone. The duffel-style opening and high-contrast lime green interior allow you to easily see all your gear in the main compartment at once.
The draw: The “it” factor
Jan Frodeno has twice piloted a version of this bike on his way to winning the Ironman World Championship, and you can get one, too! (Almost.) Germany-based Canyon bikes will finally be distributing the Speedmax CF SLX 9.0 in the U.S. late this summer through its direct-to-consumer model, and it’s worth the wait. Don’t let the traditional double diamond frame fool you—this bike is as quick as anything out there. The integrated storage and hydration up front is the most well executed of the bikes we tested and is easily removed for short races. Another small internal storage area in the top tube just ahead of the seat post fits a tube, two CO2 inflators and a lever in a custom-designed neoprene sleeve. The front end offers just enough adjustability while remaining simple and clean. The soft grips and arm pads from Ergon are extremely comfortable, making this a great weapon for long-course racers. The bottom bracket supplies all the stiffness you need, and at 18.6 pounds for our size medium, it’s one of the lightest bikes we reviewed. As such, it’s noticeably quicker to get up to speed. Handling characteristics can be tailored by changing the position of inserts in the fork dropouts to move the front wheel forward by 2.5mm (Stable position) or back 2.5mm (Agile). We think most will prefer the Stable option. When you do put the hammer down, the Reynolds Strike wheels roll exceptionally smoothly. Less about one standout feature, this bike shines through all the details working together perfectly.
The draw: Splash-free convenience on long hauls
Lighter and sleeker than its big brother (the $110 FC35), the FC25 may be a better choice for triathletes who are less confident and stable in the aerobars thanks to its lower weight and slimmer profile when battling side winds. Options abound when it comes to personalizing set-up; stick your straw fore or aft and left or right of the main reservoir. The whole system operates simply, with intuitive ergonomics that allow you to quickly drink, eat or refill fluids on the fly, and the no-splash port works flawlessly. The forward computer mount location is ideal for clear viewing, especially with the straw tucked away on the side and out of your line of vision.
The draw: All-around awesomeness
The Ferraris of tri shoes, the Tri-400s are the ideal blend of venting and stiffness, comfort and style. Pictured and tested in the women’s version, they feature a one-way neoprene membrane that lets your heel slide in but won’t let it slip out, even when you’re hammering. The antimicrobial Ice Fil footbed helps sweat evaporate fast, keeping feet cool in the process. The Boa closure system gives a dialed-in fit. Combined with the super-light feel and stiff soles, the Tri-400s feel like they waste no energy for a fast, efficient ride. Just enough cushioning underfoot makes them a perfect choice for any distance.
The draw: Do-it-all lid
After testing to find the most aero shape for a road helmet, Scott took those design ideas and added eight vents—five up front and three in back—to give the Cadence Plus impressive ventilation while keeping its aero properties. It comes with vent plugs that easily pop in, but they’ll only save a measly watt. The fit is secure and comfortable with plenty of adjustment. Since it’s not a full-on aero helmet, you can train in it every session without overheating or looking like you’re ready to race. As with the Giro, MIPS technology adds another element of safety.
The draw: Universal app compatibility
The Wahoo KICKR was the first trainer to be a truly app-friendly platform. As such, the marketplace has rewarded it with more than 20 trainer apps that can control and integrate with it, from Zwift to Fulgaz, and Xert to PerfPro. In the newly released 2016 edition, Wahoo decreased the noise profile significantly, along with increasing the power accuracy, so your neighbors aren’t banging down your door due to a loud whirring sound. All of which makes it one of the most popular trainers around.
The draw: Easily transferrable between bikes
When it comes to portability of power meters, nothing can be moved between bikes as quickly and easily as the PowerTap P1 pedals. They’re simply removed using a hex wrench like any other bike pedals, and can be installed just as quickly with no calibration required. On top of that, they transmit both ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart, enabling compatibility to virtually any bike computer or GPS watch out there. Finally, PowerTap introduced new advanced pedaling metrics this winter that show the force vector display, as well as a heat map of your cycling stroke.
The draw: No-slip grip
The Mistica features the same great build quality as Fizik’s previous model, the Tritone, but is a lot more comfortable. The sizeable pressure-relief groove and supportive sitting structure loads the rider’s pubic bones well while keeping pressure off of the sensitive perineum. Many Tritone critics disliked the feel of the saddle nose, so Fizik answered with a redesigned nose that has been rounded a bit compared to the Tritone for comfort. Some of our test riders still found it rigid, but overall it seems to be a big improvement. We found this saddle most comfortable with our weight-bearing bits parked just behind the nose and the saddle tipped slightly downward. We did not notice any slipping, even with the downward tilt, thanks to a generous anti-slip coating. As a bonus, this saddle features an integrated hydration mount that works well for up to three bottles.
The draw: All-day comfort
This kit scored an “A” in aesthetics and delivered comfort to match. Our new go-to jersey for long rides on the road and dirt, it felt silky soft against the skin and was incredibly lightweight—like tissue paper. It’s packed with thoughtful details, like an internal jersey pocket with a hole for earbud wires, and a reflective rear waist gripper and armbands for added visibility. The bib’s chamois “provided ample padding without overwhelming the boys,” said one tester. The moisture-wicking bibs are available in two inseam lengths: 9 or 9.75 inches.
The draw: Go-to short
These shorts are wildly comfortable. The super-wide waistband made of soft Italian Lycra and the broad, elastic-free leg openings contribute to the superior comfort. The chamois is super supportive without feeling bulky. The all-black color scheme lets you pair these shorts with any jersey in your closet, and Giro offers a 60-day return window to ensure you love them as much as we did. The striped jersey features a slimmer race cut, three large pockets and airy mesh paneling at the back.
The draw: Minimizes bike break-down
Bikes would pack easily if it weren’t for handlebars. SciCon (pronounced “SHE-con”) has attempted put an end to that with the Aerocomfort Tri 3.0 TSA. The bag is wider at the top on one end to make room for bars. With the wheels off, the bike is dropped into an aluminum frame and secured at the dropouts. Straps over the seat, top tube and bars provide additional stability. Your pedals and rear derailleur stay on. We struggled getting horizontal drops into the T-bar while ensuring that the chain was properly wrapped. The Aerocomfort is a soft bag with plastic shields strategically placed over the rear derailleur and wheel hubs. It comes with thru axle adapters and a TSA lock. Infrequent flyers will like the internal cheat sheet with step-by-step packing instructions.
The draw: A lightning-fast, all-around wheelset with tons of attention to detail
Upon opening the Enve SES 4.5 wheel box, you get the sense you’ve joined a special club: Inside are individually packaged skewers, pads, valve extenders and even a special hub lube all tucked within a fancy carrying case. The experience continues with the wheels themselves: A unique textured braking surface makes for some of the best braking in wet or dry conditions tested, and the lightning-fast ceramic bearings glide like butter. One of the most responsive rides of the group, the SES 4.5 finds the absolute sweet spot between aerodynamics, weight and feel.
The draw: Understated looks, multipurpose performance
This popular tri shoe has undergone a massive overhaul since you last saw it. ASICS not only gave a new look to the 12th edition of this lightweight trainer/racer (gone are the wild, multi-colored graphics in exchange for more of a two-tone motif), designers also upgraded it with lightweight and responsive foam and gave it a modern, engineered mesh upper that adds to the support at the arch. The result is a more energetic and versatile performance trainer that can do just about anything you ask of it, from 70.3s to tempo runs. It also has tongue and heel pull tabs for quick access in T2 and on brick days, plus a wet-grip outsole rubber for great traction on wet roads.
8.8 ounces | 10mm heel-toe offset
The draw: Versatile style
Inspired by ROKA’s first sponsored pro, Jesse Thomas, these premium aviators blend performance with a classic look. They’re the lightest of any in this review thanks to the titanium frame, but the nosepiece is only minimally adjustable, making it slightly wide for smaller faces. Aptly named “Geko pads” on the nose and temples keep the shades in place. The pads are made from a proprietary elastomer that becomes stickier the more water and sweat it’s exposed to. The lens clarity is pristine, and the anti-scratch, anti-fog and smudge-resistant coating helps keep it that way. The mirrored lenses are non-polarized, but the glasses are also available in three polarized options at a higher price point. Race-to-after-party versatility helps justify the steep price.
The draw: Super-slim style
The Garmin FR735XT is Garmin’s smallest triathlon watch to date, making it a viable contender to become your everyday watch. It contains an optical heart rate sensor, though it lacks a barometric altimeter (less ideal on training days in the mountains). Still, if you’re looking for a small triathlon watch that gets about 10–12 hours of real-world GPS-on time per charge, this is the clear winner.
The draw: Sprint-distance dominance
Testers loved this suit’s lightweight, vented chamois that’s stitched down around the edges to prevent chafing. The Core’s material dried the fastest of the suits we tested with the help of a massive vented back and vents at the back of the thighs. That means you could race a sprint comfortably dry—an impressive and rare feat when racing in most other suits. The suit has a UPF of 30 to keep everything it covers from frying on sunny days, while side pockets can hold up to four gels.
The draw: Long-course comfort
Aussie brand 2XU (pronounced “two times you”) put the most comfortable chamois we tested in this Perform kit. The pad is made of smooth material just thick enough to keep us happy on long rides but disappear during the run. The top and bottoms both offer perfectly calibrated compression—comfortably tight. “I like the way the jersey compresses my core,” one tester said. “It just feels fast, like it’s holding things in.” Three gel pockets on the top and two on the shorts make it easy to stash essentials on training and race days.
More race kit reviews
The draw: Aero advantage
This kit had us scratching our heads. How can a skinsuit so (intentionally) tight-fitting feel so airy and comfortable? Betty Designs credits the suit’s large panels of technical mesh fabric, which provide a compressive fit without being constrictive or hot. If aerodynamic details like ergonomic patterning that hugs you in, drag-reducing longer sleeves, and low-profile back pockets is a priority, this is the race-day wardrobe for you. Note that you’ll need to add your own sports bra.
The draw: Thoughtful details
“Supportive stretch” are the operative words with this kit, updated with a playful “X” and “O” graphic print. The fabric is compressive yet boasts significant elasticity and give. The chamois offers a bit more padding than the other shorts in this roundup, and we noted the comfort at the wide waistband, which can be adjusted using a drawstring. The tank’s inner shelf bra offers built-in support, and pockets in the shorts are designed to minimize drag in the water.