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Gear

What Our Digital Editor Loved in 2021

Our editors go through a lot (a LOT!) of gear in testing each year. Here's what our digital editor loved the most in 2021.

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This week, our editors have been sharing their picks for best fear of 2021—our gear editor, Chris Foster, shared his favorite stripped-down essentials in a sport that loves all the bells and whistles, while our training editor, Emma-Kate Lidbury, shared the stuff she swears by for all things swim-bike-run. Now it’s my turn, and I’m almost embarrassed to admit most of my top gear picks for 2021 are the same as my top gear picks for 2020—and to be honest, some of these favorites go back to 2010. Like many triathletes, when I find something that works for me, I stick to it until I’m forced to change, which is why you’ll see me riding in the exact same bike shoes I wore during my first Ironman over a decade ago. But every now and then, something new makes it into the rotation, which is a big freaking deal. This is my list of the gear (both new and tried-and-true) I loved most in 2021.

Bose Frames Tempo Audio Sunglasses

$250, bose.com

Of all the things I tested this year, these audio sunglasses are my favorite. Part of it is the novelty of finally being able to run with music—as I explained in my review, I’m deaf and wear hearing aids, which aren’t compatible with earbuds or most headphones. These sunglasses, which have tiny speakers built in to the temples, stream music straight to to the ears. But the real “wow” factor with these is the quality of the sound. Instead of a tinny amplification, music is crisp and clear, which is more than I can say for my mid-run backup vocals.

Biossance Squalane + Vitamin C Rose Oil

$72, biossance.com

I have really sensitive skin—even swimming in some pools can cause me to break out in a dry, scaly rash afterwards. No amount of lotion has ever been able to remedy this, so when a training buddy recommended I try this facial oil, I was skeptical. But after the first application, I noticed my skin was calming down significantly faster post-swim; with twice-daily use, my face is softer and retains moisture better. Bonus: no more goggle eyes.

JCOB Delta V Saddle

$230, speedandcomfort.com

The number-one complaint I hear from new triathletes is that bike saddles are uncomfortable (and in some cases, even painful). Believe me when I say it doesn’t have to be this way. A good saddle is a game-changer. When I found one that worked for me, I started riding more (and when you ride more, you get faster). This is my tried and true, ride-or-die saddle, and has been for more than a decade. Recent changes to the saddle—different foam, a new cover material—could have been a disaster, but the swap was seamless and even beneficial for the user.

RELATED: The Best Triathlon Saddles of 2021

Grit Engraved Ring

$68, krisnations.com

I’m not one for race shirts or finisher medals. I usually decline them at events, knowing that they’ll just end up in a drawer somewhere, along with the other discarded race shirts and finisher medals. Even though I’m not big on advertising my triathlete-ness by walking around in an Ironman jacket, I still wanted something to remind me of the cool stuff I’ve done. I found it this year in the form of a delicate silver ring with my one-word mantra: “Grit.” (For those looking for something a little edgier, they also offer a “Badass” version.)

Coeur Sleeved One-Piece Triathlon Suit

$200, coeursports.com

I can’t believe it took me this long to get on the one-piece tri suit train, but in 2021, I discovered one-piece tri suits are actually pretty great. I have a longer torso, which means two-piece suits tend to ride up and expose my stomach; I became especially conscious of this after packing on a pandemic pound (or five). When I switched to this one-piece from Coeur, I realized I could go for an entire race without having to worry about where my clothes were (or, in this case, weren’t).

RELATED: 2021 Triathlete Buyer’s Guide: Race Kits

Steadyrack

$90, steadyrack.com

My household lives by the n+1 rule of bikes, which is not great when your household only has a one-car garage. Rather than Marie-Kondo our bikes (impossible, since it all brings us joy), my husband invested in a Steadyrack, which puts bikes up off the floor, then folds to the side for even more space-saving benefits. Of course, this can only mean one thing: room for even more bikes.

RELATED: How to Organize Triathlon Gear: A Spring Cleaning Guide

Hoka Challenger ATR 6

$140, hoka.com

During the pandemic, when races were canceled and following a training plan felt moot, I realized I’m happiest when I train by feel—that is, “What do I feel like doing?” Sometimes I set out feeling like a quick three-miler, but midway through I feel like going straight instead of turning right, or I catch a glimpse of a trailhead and think a little off-road adventure is in order. I need a shoe that can move with me, wherever I go, and the Hoka Challenge ATR is just that—an all-terrain shoe that seamlessly goes from road to trail. I’ve worn this shoe since the ATR 2 on everything from quick laps around the neighborhood to rim-to-rim adventures in the Grand Canyon.

RELATED: The 21 Best Running Shoes for Every Kind of Run

Outside+ Membership

$99, triathlete.com

One of the best things I did this year was upgrade my Triathlete membership (which is included with every USA Triathlon membership) to an Outside+ membership. The former is great for tri-specific info, but the latter gets readers access to membership content for all the publications under the Outside umbrella. Just this month alone, I’ve found new favorite recipes on Clean Eating and Vegetarian Times, gotten excellent gear and training tips from VeloNews and Women’s Running, stretched out a wonky case of swimmer’s shoulder with guides from Yoga Journal, streamed awe-inspiring OutsideTV movies during trainer rides, and managed to look somewhat competent in the weight room using workouts from Oxygen (a major victory for someone who once got a C in gym class).