The Edge

8 Triathlon Essentials for Racing Fast, Training Hard, and Having Fun

Dominate the water and the road with the help of this gear arsenal.

8 Triathlon Essentials for Racing Fast, Training Hard, and Having Fun

Transition from swimming to biking to running smoothly with the best waterproof, speedy, comfortable gear out there. Photo: Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games/Flickr

Triathlon is a gear junkie’s dream sport. Check out any online tri shop and you’ll see thousands of goodies from carbon-fiber time trial bikes to ab-enhancing wetsuits to bright red onesies. Choosing the perfect setup is a challenge when all of that stuff promises comfort, style, and free speed. So we combed through the clutter to find the best gear for racing fast, training hard, and having fun. Presenting our top tri must-haves:

Roka Maverick Pro Full ($800)

  Photo: ROKA

Two former All-American swimmers from Stanford University founded ROKA in 2010, and their swim expertise shows in their designs. A recent Triathlete magazine test found swimmers who wore the Maverick Pro traveled 36 percent farther with every stroke compared to those swimming in a regular swimsuit. That means the Maverick Pro helps you swim faster with less effort—talk about free speed. High-stretch rubber in the arms, shoulders, and chest makes it feel like a second skin, while thicker rubber in the core and legs promotes ideal body position in the water. Even better: the suit tears off easily for fast transitions.

Finis Neptune Waterproof MP3 player ($160)

  Photo: Finis

Going back and forth in a concrete rectangle can get boring. Jazz it up with some tunes, podcasts, or audio books. With 4GB of storage and a battery that lasts more than eight hours, this waterproof MP3 player will keep going long after you’ve completed your biggest set. The high-contrast OLED screen and speakers attach to your goggle straps and conduct sound through your cheekbones rather than your ears for better sound quality under water.

myFloat ($70)

  Photo: myFloat

Swimming in open water can be scary. myFloat promises to change that. Co-created and designed by Olympic triathlete Sharon Donnelly, the myFloat is a waterproof bag that attaches to your waist with an adjustable belt strap, then floats behind you as you swim without causing resistance. Anytime you need a break while training—or if you have a panic attack—you can grab the thing and chill out. It also doubles as a drybag with a shoulder strap for easy carrying on land. Note: the myFloat is a great training buddy, but likely will be prohibited at all races. 

Quarq Elsa 10R ($1,995)

  Photo: Quarq

Can’t get enough training and racing data? You need a power meter. The Quarq Elsa is a crankset with hollow carbon fiber arms that records power output data from every pedal stroke, then relays the readings to ANT+ compatible units, including the Garmin Forerunner 910 XT. With crank arms available in sizes as short as 162.5mm, Elsa is a top choice for triathletes looking to axe the discomfort of riding in aerobars without sacrificing frontal surface area—shorten the crank, don’t raise the bars.

POC Octal Aero Helmet ($300)

  Photo: POC

In theory, the Rocketeer-like teardrop helmets of years past were super aero. But wind tunnel tests have shown the new compact helmets are actually more efficient. Considering triathletes don’t always stay perfectly tucked, compact helmets should perform better in real-world conditions as well—there’s no sail sticking up if you glance down or check behind you for cars and competitors. Olympic silver-medal time trialist Gustav Larsson helped design POC’s Octal aero helmet for max speed without sacrificing safety or venting. Chose from white, blue, or our highly-visible favorite: zink orange.

Cat Ears Classics ($14)

  Photo: Cat Ears

Yes, these fuzzy helmet-strap add-ons make riders look like Elvis impersonators. No, that’s not their only purpose. (Though that’s certainly reason enough to buy them.) Wrap this half-inch pile of faux fur around your front helmet strap to reduce wind noise in your ears by 40 to 60 percent, so you can more easily hear cars coming and friends talking. For races, pick up some lower-profile Cat Ear Pros.

Hoka One One Stinson Tarmac ($160)

  Photo: Hoka

Minimize joint impact while ramping up your training—or running an Ironman marathon. Maximalist shoemaker Hoka One One designed the Stinson Tarmacs with a 6mm drop and fluffy cushioning that gives runners what converts call a “marshmallow” feel. Coming in at 11.9 ounces, they weigh about the same as Brooks' popular stability shoe, the Adrenaline GTS, and have a similar spring to them, despite the beefy look. Got wide feet? The Tarmacs will fit you fine.

Garmin 910XT ($450)

  Photo: Garmin

Yeah, it debuted in 2011, but the competition has yet to top the 910XT’s multisport functionality, particularly on the swim. In the pool, this watch will give you a lap-by-lap readout of your workout—including what strokes you were swimming. In open water, distance traveled gets a little wonky, but it’s a good starting point to figure out how far you went. Compatible with power meters like the Quark Elsa, it makes a great bike computer, and the flick of a button will account for transitions and switch between sports. Keep an eye out for Polar’s V800 after this year’s promised updates, as it includes a daily activity tracker. But for now, the 910XT reigns supreme for triathletes. Check out DC Rainmaker’s comparison chart here.

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