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While other sports wait for trends to come to them, triathlon has a long, rich history of living at the cutting edge of technology and design. Multisport has led the pack in breaking trends, and while not every tri design is a home run, our sport is a petri dish for exciting innovation. We sat down with our editors and a team of gear experts to whittle through the most exciting and impactful people, products, and more from the last year to see who is truly deserving of Triathlete’s designs of the year. We’ll be announcing the winners one by one here on Triathlete.com. Pick up the March/April issue for a complete list of winners (and don’t forget to enter to win the bike featured on the cover). The winner of the Best Concept Design award is…
Road cyclists love rollers because they help work on your pedal stroke and work more stabilizer muscles than a static trainer. Triathletes hate rollers because they’re fearful of falling off. Though details about this South Korean device are scarce, the idea behind the Ultiracer Rollers is that one’s own bike is clamped to the frame holder via the downtube and top tube (sorry non-double-diamond frame owners, you’ll have to sit this one out!), allowing the rider to securely ride a set of drum rollers without fear of falling off. Ultiracer’s unique roller design prevents the rider from coming off the edges and works in tandem with a left/right position sensor to connect to virtual programs.
Safety aside, the secondary concept is that the rider can control a virtual version of themselves by actually moving left and right across the rollers, all while still being held upright safely. While the programs themselves are also in the concept stage, some ideas include classic arcade games that could substitute out a controller for a cyclist, more “active” versions of Zwift, and more. The brand even shows kids playing virtual games while riding their bikes on the rollers. Particularly with the sharp increase in people training inside this season, if Ultiracer can get off the ground quickly, this could be the next must-have for indoor adherents looking to take their virtual training to the next level. That said, don’t expect this device to be super cheap, as its size and complexity will likely cost a pretty penny.
Honorable Mention: Salomon Recyclable Shoe
Though more pie-in-the sky than the Ultiracer, Salomon’s recyclable shoe design could have a huge impact on the horrible environmental downside for used and trashed running shoes. Traditionally, running shoes are constructed of at least a few different materials like cotton, polyester, EVA, and more—most of which are bound together by glue and stitching. Due to the multitude and material variety of so many different compounds and the attachment methods involved, the cost of separating the pieces of a running shoe post-use to properly break them down and recycle them has been prohibitive.
Solomon’s big idea is that by using only one material—thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU)— they’ll be able to efficiently reprocess the entire shoe at the end of its life. After cleaning and breaking down the TPU, Salomon says they’ll repurpose the material to combine with new TPU and use it to create injection-molded products like ski boot shells—another product Salomon is known for. Of course, none of this matters if the new running shoes aren’t any good, but Salomon claims that their new outsole uses a type of TPU that provides better cushioning than traditional running shoe materials like EVA. The upper is made of a different type of TPU that has a lightweight and “almost transparent appearance to it,” according to Salomon. Look for this one-material running shoe to hopefully hit shelves in 2021.