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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 Most Elegant Design award is…
Rudy Project Wing
Rudy Project’s Wing 57 has been a tried-and-true presence in transition for a long time—it’s even been the most popular aero helmet in Kona for a few years straight. Some would argue that you shouldn’t fix what ain’t broke, but with the long-awaited upgrade to the 57, Rudy Project has released an aero helmet that’s not only faster in more positions, but also arguably the most elegant aero design around. Rather than complicating their new design with tons of added features and gadgets, Rudy has actually made the new Wing even sleeker and more minimal than their previous offering.
Though the new $400 Wing boasts features like removable vent ports and a removable visor, Rudy’s use of slim and form-fitting magnets means that these additions integrate perfectly with a design that uses smooth lines rather than harsh shapes. The big idea behind these smoother lines—designed using computational fluid dynamics alongside wheel manufacturer Swisside—is that this helmet will be faster in a wider variety of positions. While some helmets may be faster in a deep aero tuck, Rudy’s theory is that many triathletes don’t use an extremely aggressive seat-to-bar position, and even if they do, they stray from it more often than we like to think. In other words, you won’t blow all of your time gains by looking down at your wheel by accident for a minute when you’re in the hurt zone.
The end result is one of those rare moments when engineering and design hit the sweet spot—looking good on paper while looking good in the box. The new Wing is a vast, simplistic improvement on an already well-loved design.
Honorable Mention: Rapha Classic Shoes
Ok, Rapha’s “new old” road cycling shoes may not look tri-specific at first—it’s safe to say that laced cycling shoes never really intersected with the big velcro and super technical buckles/dials that triathletes have always been fans of. But there are times when hours of comfort may mean more than a few seconds in transition (long-course triathletes, I’m looking firmly at you), and times when inspiring style means more than simple necessity (cold mornings when you don’t want to head out and/or coffee shop rides, I’m looking at you). As someone who has been a longtime fan of alternative methods of closure when it means increased comfort, laces are the new dials. The trick is that many of these laced offerings have either looked too vintage or too modern. Surprise, surprise—on Rapha’s first try at cycling shoes, they hit the sweet spot with an elegant-yet-comfortable design.
While Rapha’s Classics are certainly a nod to days gone by, the materials and details are far more technical than they let on. The sole is made up of full-length carbon that is certainly stiff, but not crazy “Bont stiff,” and TPU plastic on the heel means you won’t die while trekking across the Starbucks to grab your latte. The upper may look old-school at first glance, but the reality is that this double-walled lacing system actually does a great job of tightening up (without the need for retightening as you go) when used in tandem with the small velcro tab up front. Other little details are tucked away so discreetly that you wouldn’t see them if you didn’t look: titanium hardware, microfiber insole fabric, and elastic loops to keep the laces away from your drivetrain. Throw in some included arch supports to adjust for different foot types and you have a pair of shoes that’s extremely simplistic and elegant without showing those important technical features off. Though they may look throwback, the Rapha Classics are fully forward-thinking—and you wouldn’t be simply trying to rack up style points by wearing these training or at a long-course tri.