The Outside Blog

Adventure : Footwear

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

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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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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The Blissful Matrimony of Beer and Gear

American Craft Beer Week ended last month, but the relationship between the outdoor industry and craft breweries is just getting started. In May, for example, Anchor Brewing Company announced that some of the proceeds from its California Lager will go to the National Parks Conservation Association and the California State Parks Foundation, expanding packaging to cans for greater outdoor versatility.

But it’s the following four gear brands that have taken the beer-gear marriage to another level.

Patagonia

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Last November, clothing company Patagonia recruited New Belgium Brewing—best known for producing Fat Tire Amber Ale—to help it produce a beer honoring 40 years in the business. Adhering to the California-based company's famous commitment to organic products, California Route Organic Lager uses Cascade organic hops to produce a tawny-colored, medium-bodied brew with a malty character and earthy hops. The name, California Route, is a tribute to the famous route on Mount Fitz Roy, originally climbed by Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard in 1968. Note: The beer is hard to find—try Patagonia retail stores or around Fort Collins, where New Belgium is based—but it's worth the search.

KEEN

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You've may already have tried the popular hefeweizen made by America's ninth-largest brewer, Portland-based Widmer Brothers. In solidarity with the city's bicycling community, Widmer joined the Bicycle Transportation Alliance to help provide safe bicycling routes in the area. And he decided to treat members of the organization to a new brew developed specifically for the occasion. Teaming with KEEN Footwear, Widmer came up with the Full Fender Brown Ale, a light, malty English brown. Unfortunately, Widmer only distributed the small batch to business leaders who attended a March BTA meeting. We can only hope Rob Widmer's love of cycling (he bikes to work every day) leads to larger-scale collaborations with the community in the future.

Carhartt

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Carhartt, whose line of workwear is the fashion of choice for many hipster bros, called in its fellow Michiganders at New Holland Brewing Company to conceptualize and produce a beer from Michigan-made ingredients. The brew is slated for wide release this fall. "Carhartt is the epitome of craftsmanship," New Holland's president, Brett VanderKamp, said in a press release. "The same dedication to hard work and creativity that we admire in farmers, chefs, artists, and other brewers is exactly what you'll find at Carhartt. They reflect the same devotion to quality raw materials, artisan processes, and delivering remarkable results as we do."

Woolrich, Inc.

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Woolrich, Inc., a company that’s been producing outdoor apparel since 1830, partnered with Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in June to produce a limited batch of custom beer matched with a clothing collection. The beer—dubbed Pennsylvania Tuxedo—was brewed with spruce tips from, you guessed it, Woolrich, Pennsylvania. Named after the red and black wool outfits made famous by woodsmen in New England, the rye pale ale debuted as draft-only at Analog-A-Go-Go, Dogfish’s music and beer fest, on June 13.

Then there’s the apparel and merch, including a classic chambray men’s button down, a throw blanket made from 100 percent wool, and beach hat and coozie. It’s all designed for a day in the sand, where you can sit back, relax, and crack open a cold one. Preferably from Dogfish.

“Dogfish and Woolrich have very similar DNA’s,” says Dogfish Head president Sam Calagione. “We’re both family-owned, east coast companies committed to our communities, obsessed with celebrating nature, and using the best natural ingredients we can get our hands on.”

 

Clean your glasses and prepare for the perfect pour, because these shared values mean more collaborations between craft brewers and quality gear outlets are coming.

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The Best Kicks of Summer 2014

You can practically swim through the humidity and there are tsunami heat waves rising off sticky tar roads. But that’s not going to stop you from pounding the pavement this summer. Rather than suffer, equip yourself with hot weather running essentials and get your feet into one of these quality pairs of shoes. You’ll leave those heat waves in the dust.

New Balance Fresh Foam 980 ($110)

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We’ve got one word for this neutral trainer: fast. The Fresh Foam is the quickest shoe here—a soft, bouncy platform with a slim fit and a bare minimum of structural pieces. We love the stretchy upper and four millimeters of drop, which gives you enough forward lean to keep you effective on your toes but also lets you sink back into the heel on mellower cruises. Efficient runners will fault the soft forefoot, but for the rest of us the Fresh Foam is a slipper with booster rockets. 
8.8 oz; 4 mm drop.

Hoka One One Clifton ($130)

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The Clifton is a minor miracle of design. It comes with Hoka’s signature double-thick foam suspension, yet it boasts a floats-on-your-foot weight of less than eight ounces. That’s lighter than many minimalist shoes. The feel? Quick, lively, and smooth rolling, thanks to the rockered midsole and a supple, form-fitting upper (the best we’ve seen from Hoka). Given the trend toward maximalist shoes among high-mileage and heavier runners, the Clifton will be one of the summer’s hottest. 7.9 oz; 5 mm drop.

Saucony Ride 7 ($120)

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For slow and steady fitness runs, the Ride 7 is a godsend. Dropping half an ounce from last year’s version, it has the marshmallowy plushness of a cushioning shoe but weighs just 9.4 ounces—light enough for smooth turnover, despite the pampering upper. Midfooters and light heel strikers will be happy with the moderate drop, though heel pounders will probably want thicker suspension in the rear, and efficient runners might find the squishy foam a tad sluggish. 9.4 oz; 8 mm drop.

Under Armour Speedform Apollo ($100)

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Think of it as a running shoe in a compression shirt. Under Armour fashioned the Speedform Apollo’s upper from one unstitched piece of stretchy fabric—an impressive feat that delivers a slim, snug, supportive fit. The thin midsole is fast, but eight millimeters of drop help ease the strain on your Achilles. Close to the ground and weighing a mere 6.5 ounces, this shoe absolutely motors. Cheesy laces and a few cosmetic blemishes belie how well this shoe performs—especially in its featherweight class. 6.5 oz; 8 mm drop.

Adidas Supernova Sequence 7 Boost ($130)

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The Sequence is a real-deal stability shoe, but one that doesn’t feel like it comes with a prescription. Adidas’s popular Boost midsole material—a bouncy alternative to foam that doesn’t firm up in cold weather—gives it zip. The Sequence is built low to the ground, and a full-length brace of denser foam (Adidas calls it Stable Frame) helps it feel sturdy underfoot. The moderately lean upper will seem constricting to wider feet, but we loved the snug, seamless fit. 10.9 oz; 10 mm drop.

Brooks Glycerin 12 ($150)

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Like the Saucony, Brooks’s Glycerin 12 is a staunchly traditional cushioning shoe for mainstream fitness runners, but it offers a firmer and more energetic ride. At nearly 11 ounces it never felt fast, but it was snappy and responsive—we lost very little forward energy with each foot plant, making it a good choice for runners who want a stable, efficient platform. In short, it’s plush but doesn’t overdo it. Wide-footed runners will relish the roomy midfoot and toe box. 10.9 oz; 10 mm drop.

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