Last month, we gave one complete beginner $600 to get to the start line. This month: What happens when we take a regular Triathlete member and upgrade them to the best money can buy? Follow along with both experiments and get their unbiased thoughts.
Our test subject, Bryant F., is a 52-year-old triathlete from the New York area, who’s been competing in the sport since 2016. He began his tri career with a few sprint- and Olympic-distance events, before moving up in distance in 2019. In the past, Bryant has struggled with bike fit and equipment—to the point where he had so much pain at a full iron-distance event that he needed to spend 20 minutes in transition.
This season, Bryant is targeting Ironman 70.3 Gulf Coast in Panama City Beach, Florida, in May. In the lead up, we’re going to give him access to all of Triathlete’s resources: from an extensive gear consult—based on his key race, the geography, the climate, his history, and his goals—to an in-person fitting with Colin Tanner from ACME Bicycles—one of the top fitters in the nation. Read on to see what we’ve set Bryant up with (and why).
Quintana Roo V-PR, Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 11-Speed, Size 56cm, $11,400 as pictured, quintanaroo.comSection divider
For Bryant, we chose the new Quintana Roo V-PR because of our experience with the bike’s excellent straight-line handling, all-around comfort, and wide fit options—particularly when it comes to aerobars. The Gulf Coast bike course will be very flat, so stability and comfort in one position for hours is more important than anything else. Bryant needs to be as relaxed as possible while holding his new position, and in our experience testing the V-PR, its strength lies in its ability to go on “autopilot” with a light grip on the bars. While it won’t win any descending contests, Bryant won’t be facing any substantial downhill/technical riding during his goal race at Gulf Coast 70.3. Also, our experience with the V-PR’s smooth ride and enhanced aerodynamics should be effective in case it’s a windy day.
It’s also worth noting that Bryant’s previous bike was a Cervelo RS road bike, so there will be a transition from the road position to the tri setup. As such, he has been set up initially in a more moderate position that’ll help him move from the adapted road-bike-with-aerobars compromise into a setup that’s actually dialed in specifically for a triathlete. Furthermore, bike fitter Tanner chose a 56cm in response to Bryant’s concern about being able to stand with both feet on the ground and clear the bike—though he would fit either a 56cm or a 58.5cm.
HED Vanquish RC6/8 Pro, $2,600, hedcycling.comSection divider
The 70.3 Gulf Coast bike course is famously pancake flat, but because of the potential for wind and Bryant’s previous setup with shallow wheels on a road bike with aerobars, we decided to go with the HED Vanquish 60mm RC6 Pro (front) and Vanquish 80mm RC8 Pro (rear). By splitting the depth into a shallower front wheel and a deeper rear wheel, Bryant will be able to take advantage of the aerodynamics he needs on a flat and potentially windy course without potential for tricky handling.
Despite the fact that this course is perfectly suited for a disc wheel in the rear and an 80mm front wheel, we took into account Bryant’s past experience and sized the rim depth down accordingly. While Bryant would undoubtably be able to handle a deeper front wheel without necessarily creating a dangerous situation, he’ll be far more relaxed and comfortable in the aero position—allowing him to work hard on the bike while saving energy for the run.
Castelli PR Speed Suit, $350, castelli.comSection divider
Because there’s a good chance the bike will be windy and it’ll likely be humid on the run, we went with the most aero and lightweight tri kit we’ve tested—Castelli’s PR Speed Suit. This suit has long, elbow-length sleeves with silicone “speed ribs” to create turbulence and help with aerodynamics on the bike. It also has a super-lightweight 50-denier fabric for the top—which zips completely down, rare for a one-piece suit.
The slightly thicker pad than other suits in this price range should also help Bryant avoid any potential saddle issues while staying in the same position on the bike leg, as the flatness of the course will not give him many opportunities to move around or stand out the saddle.
If Bryant was focusing on a race with the potential for chillier temperatures, we probably would have suggested a warmer suit, as the PR Speed Suit is one of the lightest and coolest we’ve tested. Furthermore, it’s likely that Bryant will be wearing a wetsuit in the swim (see below), so there’s no concern with the rear pockets catching water and dragging.
Rudy Project Wing, $425, rudyprojectna.comSection divider
Again, we wanted to pair Bryant’s previous road bike experience with the fact that 70.3 Gulf Coast will likely be extremely windy. While an aero-at-all-costs helmet might suit some triathletes here, we wanted to make sure that Bryant could change his head position during the super-flat course without facing a wind penalty for an exposed tail. We also took into account Bryant’s prior experience with a road bike, knowing he might not be able to hold a deep tuck for the entire bike leg. Here, we landed on the new version of the Rudy Project Wing because of its forgiving short tail that allows for some movement but still retains its aerodynamic advantage over a road or aero road helmet.
Also, knowing that Gulf Coast will likely be hot and humid, we gravitated toward the Wing’s removable vents with excellent ventilation, and its magnetically fastened full-face visor that acts as sunglasses while providing additional aerodynamic advantages.
ISM PN3.1, $230, ismseat.comSection divider
Based exclusively on Bryant’s fit session, Tanner recommended substituting his previous saddle—the Specialized Phenom—with the ISM PN 3.1. Swapping out the stock ISM PN 4.1 was a better fit for Byrant’s setup, “This saddle is a softer version of the highly successful ISM PN 3.0 (and slightly narrower than the ISM PN 4.1),” Tanner said. “I find that people new to the triathlon position find the added cushioning more palatable. The direct ischial ramus pressure that results from a triathlon position and saddle can take some time to get used to.”
Roka Maverick X, $975, roka.comSection divider
Typically the water at this event hovers in the low 70s, so it’s almost always wetsuit legal at Gulf Coast 70.3. As such, we wanted to get Bryant into a wetsuit that wasn’t particularly focused on temperature control, but actually addressed his needs as a swimmer. The Roka Maverick X2 is not only flexible and buoyant (as most high-end wetsuits are), but it’s unique in that it’ll give him some structure for his swim posture. Our experience with the X2’s “|X|” taping (a structural tape, much like Kinesio tape) indicated that the suit would help keep his position taut, even as he begins to fatigue during the 1.2-mile swim.
From March/April 2022