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The Ghosts of Triathlon Gear Past

Please don't long for the olden days of tri — especially when it comes to gear.

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Triathletes are known as early adopters. Tell us some $5,000 piece of gear will save us 12 seconds over the course of an Ironman and we’re selling off our kids’ college funds and whipping out Apple Pay.

But sometimes that’s led to decisions we’d rather forget—or, at least, photos we could do without! Here’s a collective “I’m glad that’s over with” look back at some pieces of tri kit we’re glad are in the past.

RELATED: The Gear that Made Modern Triathlon

Long-Tail Aero Helmets

(Photo: Nils Nilsen)

Long-tail aero helmets seem like they were almost invented to give the internet meme ammo. Can anyone forget that Hawaii Five-0 episode of triathletes robbing a bank…in long-tail aero helmets? Sure, they test well in a wind tunnel, on a mannequin that isn’t moving, when the wind is perfectly head on, and no eating or drinking or steering is involved. But on an actual human riding in crosswinds and constantly moving their head around, these long-tail helmets were a giant wind sail and a message to the world that triathletes aren’t always practical people.

Extra-Long Crank Arms

The bike leg seems to be the place where bank accounts and bad decisions meet. This next trend I’d like to forget is one my hip flexors will always remember. Extra-long crank arms might make sense on a road bike, but add a 175, 177.5, or dare I say even a 180mm crank arm to your aero position and you don’t get the extra torque you’d hoped for; you get a closed hip flexor and cramps on the run. My body and buns are much happier now.

Super Aerobars

Back in the glued-on tubular tire days (oh, the horror!) another major trend was getting low, really low—like Lil-Jon-low in our aero position on the bike. After two decades of plowing through the run with sore shoulders, stiff lower backs, and immobile upper bodies, we’ve finally learned that being in a slightly more upright aero position isn’t just more comfortable and better for our performance, but in a lot of cases the sustainability makes it even more aero. Win-win-win.

Compression Socks as Casual Wear

If you walked around any town that had a triathlon in the year 2010, playing Spot the Triathlete was as easy as looking for the neon compression socks we wore like a security blanket. Training? Put on compression socks! Just finished training? Put on compression socks! Traveling? Put on compression socks! Going out for a nice dinner? Put on EXTRA compression socks!

Speedo Race Kits with Chamois

(Photo: Lois Schwartz)

Let’s preface this with: You can pry my swim Speedo from my cold dead buns, but we triple jumped over the fashion faux pas line when we started putting padded chamois in our budgie smugglers. We’ve since learned that exposed (and sunburnt) skin is actually less aero than a modern long-sleeved race kit.

Thank goodness our regrettable ridiculousness is all behind us and we can rest easy knowing we look amazing in our dome-shaped, full facemask helmets. Oh, wait…

RELATED: Don’t Pine for the Past—Especially When It Comes to Prize Money