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The editors and contributors of Triathlete magazine tested 151 triathlon-related products for the 2013 Triathlete Buyer’s Guide. Thirteen items stood out against the rest for pure performance and earned the designation of “Best in Class.” Learn about the products below, and pick up the Buyer’s Guide on newsstands now (or buy the digital edition) for more of the best swim, bike and run gear of 2013.
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Tyr Special Ops
The draw: Customizable, comfy
We love Tyr’s new custom goggle line for multiple reasons: First, it’s just fun to design your own personalized pair—everything down to the strap adjuster and individual gaskets can be your color of choice. Second, the Special Ops features one of the softest gaskets we’ve tried. And last, the clear, peripheral vision provides easy sighting in open water.
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The draw: Perfect blend of flex and float
Orca strategically added ultra-buoyant patches of aerated neoprene throughout the suit, making it incredibly buoyant from the start of a stroke through the mid-point. It generates the sensation of riding high in the water, especially at the hips. The shoulders are completely free to move and, despite outstanding flexibility, water stays sealed outside of the suit. Chafing was non-existent.
Typically suits catered to the elites have a too-tight fit for many amateurs, but the Category 5 was surprisingly comfortable and easy to put on and take off while still being incredibly secure against water leaking in. The suit’s five-panel core stabilizing system stayed tight around the torso and felt smooth while rotating through the water. One tester said the suit felt “buoyant in all the right places” with a “perfect fit” that allowed for a natural, long stroke without restriction.
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Mavic Tri Helium
The draw: Most precise fit, strong connection with the foot
Most triathlon shoes fit less precisely than road shoes. The Tri Helium is the exception. Its intricate shape locks the foot into place without pinching or creating hot spots, even without the benefit of socks. Its padded heel cup anchors the foot and unlike most shoes, the forefoot strap effectively tailors the shoe’s volume. The tongue comes high up the ankle and subtly impinges foot flexion. Add the Tri Helium’s stiff sole and the miniscule weight, and this shoe is the perfect choice for speed and comfort.
These are the most customizable aerobars that we have ever seen, but with this comes a bit of complexity. The armrests are large and have a nice shape to them. Their adjustment range is incredible in all directions. The extensions are interchangeable, and Zipp offers a wide variety of shapes. The best feature of these aerobars is that the armrest height above the basebar is tremendously adjustable; It can sit more than four inches above the basebar, reclaiming a bike with aggressive geometry into something much more realistic for many riders. With their massive adjustability, these bars are a bike fitter’s best friend.
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ISM Adamo Attack
The draw: Same pressure relief, less hamstring rub
The latest refinement to the ISM’s extremely popular Adamo saddle features a narrower rear section for better hamstring clearance and a longer central pressure relief channel. Both changes allow the rider to make better use of the whole seat while in aero and sitting upright. A few longtime Adamo users preferred this saddle to the original. As with all ISM saddles, this one features very long rails, which allow a lot of adjustability.
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Shimano Dura-Ace 9000
The draw: Outstanding overall function
Front shifting is this all-new Dura-Ace groupset’s biggest improvement over its predecessor. Jumping to the big ring happens almost instantaneously, even while pedaling hard—a true advantage over every other mechanical component group. As expected from Shimano, braking performance is outstanding and rear shifts are smooth and crisp. Shimano still only offers one TT shifter based on the decades-old design of a lever that rotates to change gears.
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Zipp 404 Carbon Clincher
The draw: Thrive on any ride
It takes more than an aerodynamic rim shape for a wheel to be fast. It must also handle well, remain stable in unpredictable winds and brake reliably. Zipp’s 404 Carbon Clincher excels at all of these, and is a standout in the wind tunnel as well. Its wide rim not only helps reduce aerodynamic drag, but also reduces road vibration and improves cornering by spreading the tire into a larger form. Whether you want a wheel upgrade for races only or to make everyday rides that much more fun, the Zipp 404 excels in every way.
Get ready to fly in these babies. The RC 1600 fit precisely as a fast racing flat should: snug around the entire foot, low-profile and with a nearly seamless upper that makes running sockless incredibly comfortable. Choose thin socks if you wear any at all, as the fairly narrow toebox can put some lateral pressure on the feet. The lightly stiff cushioning requires some adjustment, particularly during the transition from initial footstrike to toe-off.
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Pearl Izumi I.S.O. Transition
The draw: Quick transitions and a snappy feel
Mid-foot, forefoot and even heel strikers who desire a responsive ride and ample cushioning in their 70.3 or Ironman shoes, take note. The I.S.O. Transition, developed with feedback from Tim DeBoom, is a cross between a trainer and a minimalist race shoe. Made for sockless running, the upper includes a seamless lining that wicks moisture, which reduces chafing and hot spots. Stick to the roads when wearing these, as small rocks, debris and mud can get caught in the drainage holes.
With a silky-smooth ride and a touch of support, the LunarGlide+ 4 is an ideal daily trainer. This shoe boasts a glove-like sensation thanks to the Flywire upper design, which offers a custom-fit feel. Nike’s dynamic Support in the midsole provides just a hint of pronation control without the weight of a traditional medial post. The Lunarlon foam supplies a springy, supple feel and great energy return without feeling mushy. The adaptability of the upper makes this shoe desirable for a variety of foot widths, but the toe box height is low, so runners with high- volume feet may want to look elsewhere.
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Garmin Forerunner 910XT
The draw: Track and learn from every workout
If the price is within your budget, this is the ultimate training tool for triathletes who like to capture and analyze every detail of their swim, bike and run training. The GPS-enabled device records an array of SBR metrics, from stroke count and lap speed in the pool to elevation gain and calories burned and much more, with detail and consistent accuracy (our tester found the distance for swim data to be slightly off but other data was generally accurate). The process of (wirelessly) uploading data from the device to Garminconnect.com is simple, and the site is easy to navigate—which makes understanding and utilizing all that data more probable.
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Orca RS1 Enduro Race Suit
The draw: Perfect fit for stronger athletes
This sleek one-piece kit felt fast in the water thanks to its hydrophobic, low-drag fabric, which visibly beads water from its outer surface, and was extremely comfortable running and biking. Like many Orca race suits, it’s made for leaner triathletes and runs small, so consider going up a size. The hip holster pockets, lined with reflective tape and good for holding energy gels close toe the body, are another thoughtful feature for long- or short-course triathletes who want just one article of race clothing in which to do it all. Seams are neatly finished to avoid chafing, fabric felt plush and the durable leg bands lightly cinch the upper thighs without leaving marks.