2015 Buyer’s Guide: Best In Class
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The draw: Clarity anywhere, anytime
The photochromic lens and stellar peripheral vision offered by the Special Ops 2.0 make these versatile goggles the only set you’ll need in your gear bag. From early-morning pool workouts to sunny open-water swims, these goggles are well equipped to handle any conditions, thanks to the transitional lenses that darken from clear to smoke. The silicone gaskets supply a watertight seal, and the anti-fog treatment actually holds up over time.
The draw: Sleeveless speed
It goes without saying that sleeveless wetsuits don’t impede turnover. But the Maverick Pro has a little extra magic: It increases distance per stroke. Thick neoprene in the lower half makes that happen—an attribute super kickers may not appreciate. A snug fit in the chest and no-chafe, ultra-secure neck Velcro keep water out.
The draw: Affordability
Even the best swimmers feel like they are strapped on a rocket pack when suited up in the Fusion. Perfectly placed buoyancy panels aid rotation and raise hips in the water for ideal body position. Pink honeycomb catch panels on this women’s suit give the suit understated femininity. Blueseventy keeps the price low by using more affordable rubber, which translates into slightly thick shoulder and elbow material that may chafe some pits on longer swims. But nothing beats the Fusion in speed for your dollar.
The draw: Training-to-racing versatility
Rudy Project has thought of everything for this durable, 46-liter capacity bag—in addition to pockets for a wetsuit, shoes and sunglasses (plus another dozen zippered pockets) and a transition list printed inside, it also has a harness to strap your helmet on the outside of the bag and three drawstring bags for transition and post-race apparel. The bag easily converts from a transition backpack to a training duffel (the backpack straps have their own pocket).The only drawback of this bag is that it’s bulky to store even when empty.
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The draw: Structured trainer workouts
If you’re looking to get the most out of your indoor trainer sessions, it’s hard to beat the TrainerRoad platform. The popular service has highly structured workouts that aim to make your trainer sessions the most productive part of your weekly training schedule. The service’s new iOS app takes the bulk of the desktop functionality and rolls it onto your mobile device, so it’s easy to get set up and start pedaling.
The draw: Aero and stealth
The aerodynamicists at Torhans built the AeroZ with a new shape, yet it still works with the existing Torhans AeroMount ($20, not included). This slick bottle allows for multiple straw positions: It can sit straight up or lie flat for less drag. Spilling is no problem, as the fully sealed cap prevents overflow, even over rough roads. The straw pulls liquid from the bottom of the bottle so you don’t waste a precious drop.
The draw: Best all-around performer
There’s a reason the Trivent Expert hasn’t changed much over the last few years. It’s a perfectly designed shoe with triathlete-specific details such as the arch-mounted rubber band mount clip for flying mounts out of T1. The carbon composite outsole reflects heat from the road while the tongue-less upper keeps air flowing. The shoe fits true to size and has slightly above average volume throughout the toe box. This shoe feels efficient and supportive thanks to the longitudinal arch support, which aligns your foot in a biomechanically correct position to transfer power to the pedals.
The draw: Mapping capability
If you’re looking for a display that’s almost as clear as your phone’s and with just as much mapping information, the Edge 1000 is the granddaddy of bike computers (in size and functionality too). The unit includes maps to guide you on complex routes into unknown territory, while also recording everything from Di2 gearing to your VO2max. It’ll then wirelessly upload it later via WiFi at home or Bluetooth Smart to your phone.
The draw: Great beginner bar
For triathletes using a road bike, this bar works great from a fitting perspective. Its most notable feature is the dramatic upward sweep of the extensions, which create a comfortable wrist position and allow for great control of the bike when riding in the aero position. The benefit of its pad location is less noticeable but just as significant. The pads are positioned well above and far behind the handlebar, exactly the spot most riders need when riding aero on a road bike. The pad itself has a generous amount of fore-aft adjustability.
The draw: Bike fitter’s dream
The most adjustable integrated aerobar on the market might be this integrated set from Profile Design. This feat is even more impressive considering the bar’s clean, lightweight and aerodynamic design. The arm pads can be located anywhere from 55mm to 135mm above the handlebar center, which is a massive range. Pad width can be adjusted up to five centimeters. For those not willing to fork over $1,000-plus for an aerobar, the Aeria Aluminum shares many of the same great features for only $350 (and a weight penalty).
The draw: Great for female riders
Quickly becoming a favorite of many men and women triathletes and road riders, the Cobb JOF 55 is reminiscent of ISM Adamo saddles. The saddle has similar thick tongs on the nose, but it also features several notable differences as well—a slightly narrower platform, a wider rear section and a less flexible chassis. This saddle has proven to work especially well for women, both on tri and road bikes.
The draw: Otherworldly braking
Most experienced riders thought braking performance with carbon rims could never match the consistency and strength of an alloy rim wheel. Zipp’s Showstopper braking surface proves that isn’t true. The Zipp 404 Firestrike wheels and corresponding pads brake better than almost any wheel ridden by testers, even when wet. In addition to the stellar braking performance, the internal rim width of the Firestrike is 1mm wider than Zipp’s Firecrest 404, which improves tire aerodynamics when using wider tires.
The draw: Mileage builder
The originators of the maximalist movement lightened up their original model to arrive at the nimbler Clifton, one tester’s new all-time favorite shoe. The Clifton doesn’t stand out for its acceleration but makes up for it with a responsive, impact-absorbing ride that makes building mileage and racing longer distances comfortable. “Once I get going, I just have to focus on turnover and it feels like the shoe does the rest,” one tester commented.
The draw: Responsive speed
From the first step in the new Hitogami, this shoe feels ready for race speeds. The contoured, well-structured upper locks the foot into place, bonding firmly with the shoe. Despite the sole’s thin profile, it is rigid and immediately responsive. It slaps hard against the pavement and bounces back immediately. If you’re accustomed to traditional race shoes, you’ll feel at home in the Hitogami. A 9mm heel rise takes a little of the strain off tired calf muscles during bricks and races.
The draw: Long run-ready
The EM Road M3 is targeted at mild mid-foot pronators, so it’s specifically engineered to keep the mid-foot from moving laterally or absorbing too much impact. Testers said it absorbed vibration well, even on unforgiving asphalt, and one tester said she’d run a marathon in it. “It strikes that sweet spot between feeling supportive but also sprightly!” a tester said. “The mesh on the entire shoe is like built-in air conditioning.”
The draw: The most advanced multisport watch ever
The ability to dissect and interpret workout data is what sets the 920XT apart. Like Garmin’s Edge cycling computers, the 920XT has live tracking capabilities and can automatically send data to a laptop. Measure your running efficiency with the HRM-Run heart rate monitor, which has a built-in accelerometer to measure cadence, vertical oscillation and ground contact time. With a slimmer design, the 920XT is wetsuit-friendly and sleek enough for daily use.
The draw: TT-specific chamois
Zoot has been making triathlon apparel since the early days of the sport, and the culmination of that expertise is evident in Zoot’s Ultra apparel line. This suit has a new TT-specific chamois that’s wider and denser toward the front of the pad to contour to your body when you’re in the aero position. Zoot nailed the design of this breathable pad that’s gender-specific and antimicrobial. The fabric on the body of the suit uses Coldblack technology to reflect heat, making this black suit as cool as if it were white. A new reflective leg hem offers just the right amount of compression, staying put while cycling and running. Four hip holster pockets are big enough to stash a bar so you’ll have plenty of storage for any race distance.
$190 (sold separately), Soasracing.com
The draw: An instant pick-me-up
Rainbow stripes will make you smile during even your worst workout. But don’t let the cheery look fool you—this kit is ready to race. Both the bottoms and racerback top feature large pockets to handle fuel for longer runs and rides, while the shorts’ thicker material makes them durable enough to handle tons of training and racing. The soft chamois is thin, but ladies with experience in the saddle could squeeze 56 miles out of them. Cut long enough to prevent lower-back sunburn, the top is tight so it won’t flap in the wind. The fun style made this kit our tester’s go-to training ensemble.