Of the 170 items tested in our 2019 Buyer's Guide, 21 stood out to earn the designation of “Best in Class.”
The editors and contributors of Triathlete magazine tested 170 triathlon-related products for the 2019 Triathlete Buyer’s Guide. Twenty-one triathlon gear items stood out against the rest for pure performance and earned the designation of “Best in Class.” Check out the complete Buyer’s Guide (available online now!) for more of the best swim, bike and run gear of 2019. We’re giving away a Felt IA2 Disc like the one on the cover—enter here!
Quintana Roo HydroSix, Men
The Draw: Race-day weapon
This marvel of a suit feels fantastic on the shoulders, thanks to precise seam placement in the chest/shoulder panels. Core rotation also feels unimpeded, and buoyancy is moderate—quite an accomplishment for a suit this flexible. Wetsuits generally give hyperflexibility but not much buoyancy or vice versa. With that said, be careful taking it on and off, as the wrists are somewhat delicate—cut down the practice usage and save this baby for important races to max its life-to-money-spent ratio. (Note: Should you hurt this precious bundle of joy, it does come with a two-year warranty.) This is the serious triathlete’s secret weapon for throwing down some fast swim splits this year.
Zone 3 Aspire, Women
The Draw: Incredible flexibility
Possibly the most comfortable wetsuit we’ve ever worn—and it’s under $500. It feels like a second skin in the water, and because the arm material doesn’t go thinner than 1.5mm, no warmth is lost in order to gain flexibility in the shoulder panels. Thicker panels on the lower body add enough buoyancy to enjoy the extra float, but not too much to make the wearer feel like they’re on top of the water. Easy removal makes for a speedy T1.
Huub Transition II Bag
The Draw: Function and style
Huub is exclusively a triathlon brand and its ability to understand what multisport athletes need is showcased in this brand-new bag for 2019. The Transition II is Best in Class because it strikes the perfect balance between functionality and aesthetics. While it contains a huge main compartment, it also has dedicated spots for a helmet, shoes, wetsuit, laptop, and goggles. Everything about the bag feels well made—from the durable outer fabric to the heavily padded, adjustable straps. Details like the reflective tape, sleeve for an identification tag, and top pocket for quick access to valuables show how well-thought-out this bag is. It has all of the features found in the best bags in the category with one of the lowest prices to boot. Win-win.
Arena Cobra Tri Mirror Triathlon Goggle
The Draw: Sunny-day superstar
Racing straight into the sun? Reach for these Cobras. They feature the darkest mirrored lenses we’ve ever worn—perfect for a sunny outdoor swim. The fit is comfortable all around, from the interchangeable nose pieces, to the no-leak gaskets, and the easy-to-adjust straps. We never fumbled or adjusted these goggles on the wall between sets, so they are a great choice for long-distance swims.
Quintana Roo PRFIVE Disc
$7,250, 21.64 lbs. (size 54), Quintanarootri.com
The Draw: Well-rounded race rig
This race-ready option from Quintana Roo has everything a triathlete needs to race pretty much any distance, right out of the box. With Ultegra Di2 shifters and mechanical disc brakes carefully integrated into the fork and frame, there’s not much room for upgrades on this setup. Boasting one of the most balanced rides tested, standup response is almost unbeatable, while straight-line stability and ride comfort are excellent. There was a slight bit of road chatter over tinier ridges and bumps, but adding a pair of carbon aerobars will likely smooth it out (Profile Design’s alloy Wing 10A bars come stock). With that said, the lively ride of this carbon rig needs very little improvement. The best news? For riders looking to cut costs, but still want the same impressive carbon ride as well as disc brakes, QR also offers a race-ready base model PRFIVE Disc for under $5k.
Profile Design Aeria Hydration System
$127 (+additional $160 for required stem), 420g (+ additional 436g for stem), Profile-design.com
The Draw: superbike add-on for regular-bike price
This system can transform virtually any triathlon bike into a superbike by creating the sort of aftermarket integration that one would normally find only on high-end cockpits. With a matte-black finish and sleek aerodynamic shape, the Aeria wins style points and helps shave precious seconds off your bike split. In addition to having a large 30-ounce capacity and being easily refillable on the fly through a no-splash fill port, the Aeria also includes a removable computer mount and a magnetic bite valve on the end of the straw to keep it neatly tucked away out of the wind. While the Aeria hydration system requires the use of the Aeria Ultimate Stem ($160), this is a small price to pay for a hydration system that can elevate the level of your current ride.
Fi’zi:k Transiro R1 Infinito Knit, Men
$450, 250g (size 42), Fizik.com
The Draw: So comfy
The Fi’zi:k Transiro R1 is geared toward long distance and could be the answer for athletes looking for just a single pair of shoes to train and race in. The knit upper provides good ventilation, and the twin BOA closure system provides easy and variable adjustment on the fly (though some athletes might find them a little sluggish in transition). A sewn in size tag, different materials throughout the upper (requiring additional stitching), and lack of ventilation across the top of the foot also tell you this shoe is not for sprinters. With that said, the Transiro R1 is stiff-soled and comfortable—a good bet for those who do not want a dedicated race-day tri shoe and are not concerned with seconds in transition.
Bontrager Woomera, Women
$180, 246 grams (size 45), Trekbikes.com
The Draw: Stifness, structure, functionality
The Woomera combines stiffness, breathability, and functionality into a no- frills triathlon shoe. For quick transitions, Bontrager uses a large heel loop that’s big enough to grab quickly and pull on if already riding. A polyester upper, combined with microfiber mesh, equals a strong, comfortable fit that works with most riders right out of the box.
Specialized EVADE 2
$250, 290 grams, Specialized.com
The Draw: Tesla for your head
This helmet checks all the boxes: great looking, comfy fit, lightweight, versatile, and fast. Unlike some helmets that seem to perch on top of your head, the Evade envelopes your melon, inspiring full-coverage confidence in case of a crash. The strap system is simple to customize for fit and mitigates the need to organize extraneous material, while the magnetic buckle is a snap to use—even with those chilly, numb T1-fingers. Wind noise is minimal, and venting is quite good for an everyday aero helmet. Extras include a soft, vented carrying pouch to help keep your investment safe when traveling. Specialized’s designers even considered ponytail management when building the “HairPort” into its micro-dial fit system.
JetBlack WhisperDrive Smart
The Draw: Crazy Flexibility
Though most triathletes may not have heard of JetBlack or the WhisperDrive Smart, true indoor aficionados should recognize both names. This trainer comes ready to go right out of the box with an included 11-speed cassette and a super-solid design. Better yet, this is a smart trainer with virtual feedback that transmits over ANT+FE-C and Bluetooth LE without the need for a power supply. The WhisperDrive Smart is ideal for those pain caves without an easily accessible plug; it can also be hauled out to the track for brick sessions and out to the parking lot for pre-race warmups without so much as contacting the rear tire. The only shocking caveat: ironically the WhisperDrive Smart is not the quietest trainer tested—likely due to its self- powered nature.
4iiii Precision Podium
Starting at $400,7.5g single 4iiii.com
The Draw: Super accurate, super light
While 4iiii isn’t the only name in the single-sided power meter business, it’s Precision Podium does have several unique features. Boasting one of the few rechargeable batteries in the category (battery life is about 60 hours per full charge), there’s no guessing or rushing out to the drug store for obscure watch batteries. 4iiii also claims a shocking ±1-percent accuracy for this setup, which puts it at the top of the pile for precision. Though like all single-sided power meters, the only caveat is that right-side power is only an estimate of left side, so L/R balance and similar metrics are not produced. With that said, 4iiii has a host of upgrade programs to get riders onto dual-sided systems without breaking the bank.
$330, 100g, Wahoofitness.com
The Draw: Simple, intuitive, and practical
While some brands may go with flashy extras and novel features, Wahoo has instead spent its research and development on creating a computer with a clear and easy-to-use setup and display. Yes, the Elemnt will crank through even the most complex data (in fact, it’s the only computer other than the Pioneer that will compute pedaling vectors), but its presentation and navigation sets it apart. Sporting an excellent screen-to-device-size ratio, the crystal-clear black-and-white display uses easy-to-read digits with bars of colored LEDs across the side and top of the screen to intuitively present non-numerical info like heart rate and power zones. Super easy to set up with the fantastic smartphone app, the device connections on the Elemnt are also unsurprisingly rock solid. As Wahoo is known for constant development, expect the Elemnt’s software to grow as sensor technology does too.
Specialized Power Pro Elaston
$275, 231g, Specialized.com
The Draw: Category-leading saddle line
The Specialized Power saddle set the stage for the current revolution happening in the road cycle saddle market. Originally designed as a female-specific seat, the Power saddle was first introduced in 2015 and is a popular choice for both men and women. The Power has evolved into a whole line of saddles in various widths, shapes, and textures, with the latest version (“Women’s Power Pro”) designed specifically for female riders (“Mimic” technology limits swelling in sensitive areas). All Power Saddles are relatively short in length and feature a wide central relief channel. These saddles are most at home on road bikes, however a handful of athletes were spotted in Kona sporting Power saddles on their tri rigs.
Hed Vanquish 6
$2,500, 1589g/set, Hedcycling.com
The Draw: Responsive fun
The disc-only Vanquish 6s meet and exceed all expectations. At Hed’s recommendation, 65 psi in the tubeless setup feels smooth and forgiving on 28mm Schwalbe Pro Ones mounted to monster 30mm-wide rims. The plush ride is perfect over the course of a long race or at the end of a long day in the saddle. The Vanquish’s ability to run at low pressures and brake without fear lets the rider focus only on putting down watts and enjoying the ride. On top of all that, the Vanquishs never feel heavy or flexy under hard efforts—in fact the ride is quite responsive.
Altra Kayenta, Race
5.9 ounces (men’s), 4.9 ounces (women’s), 0mm drop
The Draw: Lightweight short-courser
The Kayenta gives the impression of running in socks, with its low weight, zero heel-toe offset, supple upper comfort, low-profile, and underfoot feel. And, if you aren’t into socks, the form-fitting, soft inner liner, neoprene bootie makes it easy to wear these shoes over naked feet. Fortunately, the minimal 23mm stack height provided by the responsive and minimally cushioned midsole is enough to run with normal form rather than resorting to a hot coal, tip-toe gait used by many “natural,” minimalist converts. That said, given the sparse cushioning, the Kayenta is probably better suited for shorter course races.
Saucony Switchback ISO, Trail
9.8 ounces (men’s) 8.8 ounces (women’s) 4mm drop
The Draw: Easy off-roader
With a full-length Everun midsole, an incredibly grippy-yet-flexible outsole, and foot-conforming upper, the new Switchback is sock like, yet protective enough for gnarly trails. The BOA lacing system is secure, easy to adjust on the fly, and pairs well with the woven mesh upper. The dense-yet-energy-returning midsole allows the Switchback to be low profile, and the contoured footbed truly embraces the foot. Those running on really rocky or rooty ground may find the shoe wanting for underfoot protection, but these trail runners should fare well on many off-road tri courses.
Mizuno Waveknit R2, Trainer
10 ounces (men’s), 8.7 ounces (women’s), 12mm drop
The Draw: Max freedom
Using new knitted material in the upper, the Waveknit R2 weaves in thread technology and construction innovation for a natural, supportive foothold without overlays. The upper moves—and even expands—with the foot. The midsole is impressive with its cushioning and smooth rolling performance, thanks in part to the exaggerated lateral crash pad. The forefoot flex is fluid, and the Wave heel technology aids in stabilizing the gait cycle while enhancing the shoe’s cushioning qualities.
$240, starting at $245 for custom; 28 grams; Roka.com
The Draw: Tri Perfection
Crafted with triathletes in mind, the CP-1x is an elite sunglass offering that gets everything right, from the ultra-comfortable precision fit (equipped with three nosepiece options, temples built with titanium for adjustability and secure strength) to the array of interchangeable reflective hydroleophobic (grease and grime be gone!) anti-scratch lenses designed to keep moisture from sticking. Roka also offers a custom program that lets athletes personalize nearly every component of the CP-1x.
Coros Apex 46mm
$350, 55g, Coros.com
The Draw: Surprising power in a little package
Coros brings some very unique functions and approaches to multisport training with the Apex. Using only two buttons and a rotating knob, navigation is simple, but the color and graphics bely a more advanced watch. The Apex has swim (pool and open-water), bike (cadence and power, but no advanced dynamics), run (power-compatible and cadence), and multisport, but no other sport profiles. While the setup is not as easy as other smartwatches in this category, the ability to create basic in-watch workouts and receive smartphone notifications make this a very versatile device. Big bonus: The battery on the Apex can do up to 100 hours of GPS and runs longer than anything else in the category in any accuracy setting.
Roka Gen II Elite Aero Short Sleeve Tri Top & Shorts, Men
$150 (top), $125 (shorts), Roka.com
The Draw: All-around luxury
Roka’s Gen II collection continues to impress with top-notch comfort, quality, aerodynamics, cooling, and function. Despite only coming in very basics colors (the entire line is a variation of white, black, and grey), the brand manages to infuse sleek design details that give this kit an upscale appearance. The aero short-sleeve tri top is new for 2019, giving those who prefer two pieces the full aero benefits and element protection of short sleeves (versus a tank). With matching shorts that come in both 7.5-inch and 9.5-inch length options, as well as eight different sizes (including tall), there’s a fit for almost every size triathlete. The jersey’s pockets are fairly small, but they easily hold everything needed for a longer bike and run. While white is the eye-catching part of the whole kit, be aware that it can stain.
Coeur Zele Sleeved One-Piece Suit
The Draw: Short-course speed
First, let’s take a minute to admire how flattering this one-piece suit is—it holds everything in and makes whoever’s wearing it look Kona-fit. Then there’s some tech: The sleeved, dimpled top is fast (and the texture adds fun visual interest) and extremely breathable. The shorts grip the legs nicely, and the seamless, fleecy chamois is super soft—but definitely ideal for short distances only, unless you’ve built up some time in the saddle and don’t need padding to go long.