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Triathlon gear and gadgets is a topic that can keep conversations carrying on at full steam for hours on end.
In many cases, the journey is more important than the destination itself for gadget geeks. You get excited talking about new products and technologies and how they could improve your triathlon training and racing.
To get your juices flowing, I compiled a list of the top-10 exciting triathlon products and technologies in 2017!
Which of these products could make the most impact in your triathlon life?
Before going out and buying these products, make sure you have the essential, foundational pieces of gear, equipment, and resources you need first. I put together an ebook with my top-15 recommended tools, equipment, and resources for triathletes. Download it here.
AIRhub is an electromagnetic braking system that allows you to precisely control the riding resistance while cycling outside. The unit weighs 1.5 kilograms and fits within your front hub.
Think of it like an indoor trainer that you can use out on the roads! You’re in complete control of your training and riding resistance, regardless of terrain and weather conditions.
A cool use case of AIRhub is training together with training partners that are slower or faster than you. You’ll still be able to make the training effective for both of you by adjusting the resistance of AIRhub so you and your training partner are evenly matched.
AIRhub is controlled by a mobile app, and it can be used in a number of training modes:
Michael Freiberg, managing director of Terrain Dynamics, the Australian company behind AIRhub says:
"If you are not a professional athlete then you don’t have all day to go training; you must make the most of the short rides you have. Only a few watts of extra resistance can maximise the limited time you have. Only a 10% increase in power can halve your time to fatigue or double your training benefit."
The downside of AIRhub is that it’s expensive. You’ll have to come up with around 2000 Australian dollars to get your AIRhub.
However, if you find that terrain prevents you from executing the training the way you’d like to (for example, riding at specific target powers), or you’d like to get better training effects from group rides or social rides, it might well be worth the investment.
Trainesense is a smart paddle for swim training. It measures and quantifies your swim stroke efficiency and biomechanics.
“Paddle” might not be the best word to describe the device. It's a very small unit that attaches to the palm of your hand. It doesn’t disrupt or change your swim stroke.
The device’s sensors measure forces in all planes of motion and your hand’s trajectory throughout the paddle stroke.
The data is synced with a mobile app that analyzes and summarizes your efficiency, power, and biomechanics. If you have a coach on deck, it’s a brilliant tool for getting instant, objective feedback on what you’re doing in the water.
An important building block Trainesense is the reference database they have built up.
"I can really see if my stroke is right or not"
-Kaisa Lehtonen, 5th at the 2016 Ironman World Championships
This allows you to see how you stack up against top swimmers and triathletes. Not only that, it helps overcome the problem with so many sports technology gadgets: you have the data, now what do you do with it?
This database allows Trainesense to give you detailed advice on how to improve your stroke. I imagine that this feature will become even more powerful with time, as the company can collect more and more data from not just early testers, but from actual everyday swimmers and triathletes using it in practice.
Trainesense is not yet commercially available.
Stryd is the most established of the running power meter players on the market.
The company recently launched the second generation of their running power meter. This updated revision is foot-mounted instead of the previous chest strap version.
As you would expect, Stryd provides power-based training as well as race-day pacing guidance, like cycling power meters.
It also measures your running efficiency as the pace you can produce at a certain power number (speed per watt). Jim Vance, author of “Run with Power” refers to this as the Efficiency Index (EI).
Stryd connects with their own app, and they have a very impressive-looking online dashboard called the PowerCenter, where you can access and review all your data.
But even more importantly, Stryd is compatible with both Garmin and Suunto devices, so you can monitor your running power (and additional supported data like cadence) in real-time using your watch. No need to bring a phone!
Stryd not only collects data, but gives you advice on how to improve your running efficiency. In the words of the company website:
“Stryd pinpoints your performance bottleneck, and guides you through personalized cardiovascular and strength training, as well as form improvements, so you can improve your efficiency and run faster.”
I’m very tempted to start using Stryd this season myself, just to collect data, start learning how to use and interpret the data, and then be able to use it to improve my training next season.
It’s about playing the long game. I don’t think we're quite at a point yet where we really know how to use running power meters to their greatest potential. But as happened with cycling power meters, I expect running power meters will revolutionize run training a few years down the line when we know exactly what to do with them.
Stryd retails at $199, which seems like a fair price to me. The company has also done a great job of building a community. The Stryd Community Facebook group is a great place for Stryd users to learn from each other and resolve any issues that come up.
If you want to learn more about running power meters and their great potential, check out this That Triathlon Show episode with Jim Vance.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that all running wearables are doing the same things. It’s true that there are a lot of them out there, and you need to put on a pretty strong skeptic filter when browsing different running wearables.
But Lumo Run caught my attention for some specific reasons:
So how does it work?
You simply clip on a sensor on the back of your shorts and go out for a run. If you bring your phone and headphones with you, you can get real-time audio feedback, but bringing your phone is not required. The sensor will connect with your phone and analyze your run after the fact if you don’t.
(I always hate it when devices and wearables force you to bring a phone with you for them to work, especially when running. I like to get off the grid when I’m running…)
The data collected include cadence, vertical oscillation, and the already mentioned braking forces, pelvic drop, and pelvic rotation.
You get personalized pre- and post-run exercises based on the data, including strength training to get muscle groups that seem to not be firing as they should activated. And obviously, feedback on your running form.
The feedback comes in the form of colored bars that show you whether you’re doing well (green end of the spectrum) or need to improve (red end) for each of the measured variables.
At $99.99, it’s priced at a good level for what you get. If it saves you a couple of physio visits you’ve already made your money back, so it’s definitely worth having a look at it.
LVL is a wearable activity tracker with a twist - it measures hydration level in real-time. If the accuracy is there, this could have tremendous value for triathletes, athletes, and even the general population.
Think about it:
What if you could improve your performance in your key workouts even slightly due to better hydration? On paper, this is a very viable hypothesis. Over time, this effect could compound into significant performance gains in training and racing.
Not to mention how helpful it would be to be able to monitor your hydration status leading into races. You wouldn’t want to go into a hot Ironman race dehydrated, would you?
According to initial reports from validation testing made by BSX, the company behind LVL, the hydration level (measured as water-% of body weight) measurements have an accuracy of +/- 0.5%. Seems promising indeed.
Besides hydration level, LVL also measures heart rate, activity metrics (step count and similar), and standard and advanced sleep metrics.
LVL is another example of innovative sports technology products launched with a bang on Kickstarter. No less than 7501 backers pledged $1 186 983 to the project in the fall of 2016.
BSX estimates that the product will be officially launch officially in August 2017. The retail price will be $199, but it’s now available for pre-order for $149.
Do you know how aerodynamic you are on the bike? Have you been playing around with different riding positions to try to reduce drag? Is your bike a Frankenstein of low-drag components that *hopefully* will work together to make you go around the bike course faster?
The only way of really knowing what works has been to do wind tunnel testing. The problem: you could buy a small kingdom for the amount of money that it costs.
STAC Performance wants to change that with their new virtual wind tunnel technology. Here’s a short video showing how it all works:
They use high-definition cameras to create 3D-models of the riding positions and the bike and component setups you want to compare. These 3D-models are then used in CFD-simulations (that’s computational fluid dynamics for you non-geeks).
The output of these simulations is your aerodynamic drag for each setup and position that runs through the simulations, so when all the number-crunching is done, you’ll know the answer to the most important question in life:
“Is this more aero, or this?” (Click the link and thank me later!)
So to sum up, with STAC Performance’s technology, you can get almost all the benefits of wind tunnel testing for a fraction of the price.
In fact, in the video above, Andrew Buckrell of STAC Performance stated that in working with pro triathlete Cody Beals, they validated the accuracy of the virtual wind tunnel technology to within 2% of the actual wind tunnel results Cody had gotten before.
Small sample, certainly, but if they can provide additional data showing that this works and make the virtual wind tunnel technology more widely available, they might hit a home-run with this product.
I asked Andrew to provide a short comment on the technology, and here’s what he had to say:
"Our method allows you to test multiple riding configurations and get accurate results at only a fraction of the cost and inconvenience of doing wind tunnel testing.
Furthermore, we're building up an online repository of cyclist scans, so now you can compare yourself against the pros! This now provides a real solution to the often seen online posts of: "Can someone tell me how my position looks based on this picture?"
Speaking of getting aero, that’s just one of a number of things the Argon 18 Smart Bike promises to do for you.
A prototype of this bike was revealed in August 2016, and Argon has estimated the bike release to happen within 12-24 months. So although it could happen in 2017, my guess is that it will more likely be in 2018. On account of “hope for the best, plan for the worst”, I still wanted to include it in this article.
The bike comes with 22 integrated sensors to measure things like fit, position, riding dynamics, environmental factors, aerodynamics, physiological parameters. It also has an integrated computer head unit to display relevant data in real time.
With one of the real-time variables displayed being CdA, the coefficient of aerodynamic drag, the competition is heating up for wind tunnels!
The integrated computer of the Smart Bike also connects wirelessly to other devices that you’re already using, like heart rate monitors.
And besides what the bike tells you in real-time, all data will be uploaded to Argon’s analysis software for some number crunching. Using all this data, the software will be able to tell you what you can do to get faster and improve your riding after each ride.
This may be related to your riding position, pacing and power distribution, or pretty much anything. Or at least that’s my current understanding.
Kelly Reed of Argon18 comments:
"Fit, position, riding dynamics, environmental factors, aerodynamics, physiology and others are all interconnected, building the ultimate cycling relationship of bicycle to rider.
We believe riders — the cycling enthusiast to the professional rider — as well as coaches and consultants utilize the sensors for the most effective and appropriate analysis tool to have a user experience best suited the individual’s needs."
Have a look at this video to learn more about this new bike.
By the way - what will it cost?
No idea, but if you really want one, I think it’s time to consider taking on a second and third job…
The Spanish cycling shoe manufacturer Luck has had prototypes of shoe or insole power meters on display at exhibitions for a few years already.
It looks as though 2017 will be the year they finally release a product to the public.
Their power meter is a sole with strain gauges and embedded electronics. It measures power directly, which is an advantage compared to some competitors that make affordable power meters like Luck, but that measure power indirectly in various ways, which potentially decreases the accuracy and precision.
The Power Sole only work with Luck shoes, but you have a whole range of Luck shoes to choose from, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find one that tickles your fancy.
What’s great is that it works with any type of cleats. The portability and transferability advantages that Luck have with this product are massive, and what really excites me about the Power Sole.
Even though some power meters are becoming very transferable between bikes (Powertap’s P1 pedals come to mind), as simple as that transfer (a pedal swap in the P1 case) may be, if it’s something you’ll do many times, it’s nice to be able to save those extra minutes again and again by having the power meter all set up in your shoes.
The price is the second big selling point.
According to DC Rainmaker, Luck has indicated that the price will be 200€ for the Power Sole. So if you buy two of them and a cheap 77€ pair of Luck Max shoes to go with them, you have yourself a dual-side, direct force power meter for 477€ with the greatest transferability between bikes on the market.
Luck has reportedly said that they plan to release the product in Q1 2017, but DC Rainmaker believes that August, around Eurobike, is a more realistic target.
Triathletes can’t just swim, bike, and run and expect results. We have to eat right as well!
SmartPlate TopView is a cool new app that uses image recognition of foods to help you do that quickly and easily. Here's how it works:
It consists of a plate split into three compartments. This plate is placed on a scale that can weigh the contents of each compartment separately in one go. If you’ve ever tried weighing your food to count calories, you’ll appreciate how big of a time-saver this is.
But it doesn’t stop there:
With your food (up to three different kinds) placed in the compartments, you can open up the app and take a TopView photo. The app will run the image through an image recognition algorithm and automatically recognize what you have in each compartment.
The app is wirelessly connected to the scale, so it knows how much you have on your plate of each food type. It then pulls all the nutritional information you would ever want about the food types included in your meal, and gives you a complete report of what’s in your meal.
How many calories, how much carbohydrate, protein, and fat, and a whole lot more if you want to dig deeper.
And just to re-iterate - you get all of this information by simply placing your food on one plate with three compartments, placing that plate on a scale, and taking a photo of it with your phone.
If you want to focus on getting your nutrition right in 2017, then this product could be the way to go.
SmartPlate TopView is currently sold through Indiegogo for $79 ($20 off the expected retail price).
All right, so you’ve got your actual triathlon training and your nutrition sorted out. But the one thing you cannot neglect is recovery and catching enough of those Zs.
The new Beddit 3 sleep tracker can help you with that:
Beddit 3 is an updated and improved version of the company’s previous generations of sleep trackers.
It’s a thin and soft, belt-shaped sensor that you tuck in under your sheet. The sensor is wirelessly connected with an app where you can review your automatically collected sleep data after every night.
You’ll get all the metrics you’d expect from a sleep tracker, including sleep quality and sleep time. But Beddit 3 also measures things like heart rate, breathing, snoring, and ambient temperature and humidity.
You also get a smart alarm that wakes you up at an optimal point in your sleep cycle close to the wake-up time you set, and interestingly, the ability to add notes about daytime activities and track correlations between these notes and your sleep quality.
I’d be interested in seeing how my #VO2max notes correlate with my sleep compared to for example #EasyRun…
So what’s the accuracy of Beddit? According to the company website:
“Clinical validation of over 99% accuracy against laboratory PSG for our heart rate and respiration measurements has been published in peer-reviewed journals.”
Beddit has some clear advantages specifically for endurance athletes. Eliot Baker of Beddit explains:
"Our clinically validated whole night resting heart rate measurement indicates fatigue and recovery -- lower is better; higher means dial back exercise intensity until your heart rate settles.
It's ultimately crucial to remember that everyone has a daily performance peak; being able to align your sleep with your training and competition times yields a huge advantage."
If you want to improve your recovery through better sleep in 2017, Beddit may be for you. What gets measured gets improved, or so they say.
The price of Beddit 3 is 149 €.
Did you enjoy this article? Then go ahead and download the ebook with my top-15 recommended tools, equipment, and resources for triathletes. These are tools and resources that have proven themselves to be useful over years, so you can’t go wrong with them.
Also, if you want to check out the exciting pieces of gear I recommended in the fall of 2015, expand the article below:
For swimming, we identified the following products as the most exciting ones, and the ones with the most potential to benefit triathletes in their training and racing:
OnCouse Goggles could give your swim a big push in the right direction, literally. By simply clicking on the goggles, the direction you’re facing is stored. The team behind the goggles claim that a performance gain of up to 15 % can be expected using these goggles.
Coloured LED-lights on the lenses give you continuous feedback to help you stay on course, using technology based on an electronic compass and 3-axis accelerometers. You can easily store new directions during the swim, when you reach a buoy for example. The goggles are compliant with USAT rules. That said, I think a lot of triathletes would consider these goggles not within the spirit of the sport, so maybe using them as a training aid to improve your open-water navigation is the best use of them for now.
Instabeat is a sleek, light-weight device that is mounted on your swimming goggles and monitors heart rate (HR) from the temporal artery. Blue, green and red light projected through the lens shows your HR-zone (Instabeat defines these as fat-burning, fitness and maximum performance) in real-time.
With real-time HR data, you can better gauge whether you are training at the correct intensity while swimming, compared to using swim-specific HR-belts and Tri- or swim-watches that require you to stop to glance at the watch display. Instabeat also tracks number of laps, calories expended and flip turns and syncs it to a dashboard on your computer.
Xmetrics is a tracker worn on the back of your head with integrated headphones for real-time, customizable audio feedback of your performance data, and advanced post-workout data analysis. It tracks all common performance and biomechanical swimming parameters, such as lap times, stroke count, and efficiency.
A very exciting feature is the programmable training, which enables the user to program their sessions in the Xmetrics app, and decide what feedback to get at which points in the training set, whether to use beeps for specific stroke frequencies and so on. This feature is only available in the PRO-version of the product.
Being a very techy sport, it’s probably no surprise that we found by far the most candidates for our list from this discipline. Three of them caught our attention more than the rest:
LIMITS is perhaps the most exciting product of this review. Why? In contrast to most power meters currently on the market, you won’t have to break the bank to buy this one. It is well known that measuring power and working with power zones is a cornerstone for optimal bike training, and now triathletes that may have baulked at the price before will be much more likely to benefit from this.
In addition to the affordability, LIMITS is completely interchangeable between different bikes, and easily installed between the pedal and the crank arm, meaning no replacement parts or specialized (the adjective, not the brand) tools are needed. LIMITS also measures cadence, and uses ANT+ technology, making it compatible with all common bike computers and GPS-watches that can display power.
CTRL ONE is a pair of automatically tint-changing cycling glasses based on technology originally developed for US Special Forces. The tint-changing is almost instantaneous (0.1 s), and is based on the surrounding light as measured by an optical sensor. Your hands stay on the handlebar all the time! This could be very useful in situations where you’re entering and exiting tunnels or shaded areas, or when weather conditions suddenly change.
Manual tint-changing is also possible, if for whatever reason you’re not happy with the automatically selected tint, and you can also adjust the tint-change threshold. Other features include anti-fog and anti-reflective coating.
Another pair of high-tech glasses is SENTH IN1. They add augmented reality to the lens displays, including activity data information, route navigation, music selection, instant photo snapshots and lots more, all controlled from a handlebar thumb controller and an intuitive on-lens operating system.
The glasses have an incredible amount of other features, such as phone calls, social sharing and great connectivity. However, I think that these glasses are perhaps more useful for leisurely cycling than triathlon training, as the most useful features, data tracking and navigation, are already available in bike computers, and there’s no real gain in having it on a lens display other than the coolness factor, which is by all means not the worst reason to buy anything.
Features like social sharing and phone calls are something we can’t really endorse, due to safety reasons as well as the need for focus to get the most out of your workout, but the technology itself is cool enough that these glasses just had to make the list nevertheless.
With the popularity of running being at an all-time high, the running tech and gear development is firing on all cylinders. If the gadgets listed deliver as promised, they could make a big impact on your final leg of the triathlon:
Stryd is another favourite in this bunch of gadgets. We talked earlier about how important measuring power is in optimal bike training, and Stryd will do just this in running, using a small device simply clipped on to your shorts! This will have a huge impact on quantifying and managing intensity across any terrain and gradient.
Perhaps even more importantly, power is a gateway for measuring running efficiency, which is something that many triathletes neglect. Stryd’s efficiency measurement will allow you to make small changes in your running form, and see whether they result in more efficient running. That is, using less power at the same pace.
Stryd syncs with all major sports watches with power displays, and has a detailed dashboard of its own where you can analyse your data. It also syncs with Strava, TrainingPeaks and other similar platforms.
runScribe is an increadibly powerful stride mechanics tracker mounted on the back of your shoe. It uses very precise sensors and lots of calculations to report 13 kinematic metrics of your gait, such as impact and braking forces, pronation velocity, contact time etc. You can then analyse these data in detail on a dashboard.
Cleverly enough, the data uploaded will be part of a large biomechanics database, which you can benefit from by comparing your data with others’, and in particular, factors most responsible for injuries can be automatically determined by runScribe algorithms. Or that’s the idea at least. If it works well, this could help you find potentially injury-causing mechanics in your gait, and correct them before injury actually occurs.
Finally, you can analyse the impact of external factors like shoes and terrain on your gait. No need to rely on magazine shoe reviews ever again!
Enko Running Shoe uses weight-adapted, shock-absorbing springs to minimize foot strike impact, store impact energy and return it as your foot leaves the ground. While we have seen similar attempts at “bouncy” shoes before, Enko seems like a more serious attempt with individual weight-adjustment and 12 years in development by a passionate runner.
These shoes could well be worth a look for very injury-prone athletes, as it is bound to decrease the joint impact. However, the different running form and gait cycle the shoes will result in, as well as its relative bulkiness (380 g), probably doesn’t make it the right choice for maximal performance. Also, getting on the podium in a race with a pair of shoes like this could cause some animosity from fellow athletes, so its best used outside of competition.
Finally, we found a couple of really promising gadgets that, while not being specifically related to triathlon or any of its disciplines, are interesting for triathletes from a general health and exercise perspective all the same.
Hexoskin is a shirt with integrated movement, respiration and heart activity measurements, that through a small, light-weight device tracks and sends data on activity, training, heart rate and heart rate variability (HRV), breathing and sleep to your mobile device and online dashboard.
Its extensive connectivity to apps and devices, and the amount of metrics it can measure makes this a pretty much all-encompassing solution for athletes who want to quantify not only their training, but factors such as sleep and HRV (a good proxy for stress), which ultimately also have a great impact on both athletic performance and general health.
Healbe GoBe is a very interesting wearable, in that it is the first to automatically measure calorie intake and expenditure. That’s right, no more logging to keep to your nutrition plan! It doubles as an allround activity tracker, since it also measures heart rate, stress and hydration levels, and sleep.
The device combines pressure, impedance and accelerometer data to calculate the output metrics. For calories specifically, impedance measurements through the skin are used by an algorithm to reconstruct the blood glucose curve, which can be used directly to calculate calorie intake and expenditure.
As expected, a detailed dashboard and mobile apps come with the device. Healbe GoBe could be very useful for triathletes that want to monitor their nutrition better and easier. Also, HRV is an important metric for athletes to monitors stress, and is not available in most current activity trackers.
Of course not. The fact of the matter is, sometimes triathletes and people in general become slaves to their data and gadgets, and it’s important to strike a balance between what you need, what you don’t, and what might be an unnecessary distraction actually taking away from your training and racing.
Deciding what you need and when depends on what level you’re at in your triathlon journey. For example, a triathlete just starting out certainly don’t have to get a power meter, whereas, as we’ve already mentioned, training by power is the norm for very serious and ambitious triathletes. On the other hand, the experienced triathlete is typically already very good at getting close to the target power just going by feel, whereas the beginner is likely to do workouts way too hard or easy unless they have something (power, HR) to guide them. So it’s far from black and white.
Another important thing to consider is what your personal triathlon limitations are. If nutritional problems are holding you back, then getting the Healbe GoBe might be a good idea. If you have a hard time hitting the right intensities in the pool maybe you should have a look at Instabeat.
Also, buying gadgets just because they’re cool and add some fun to your training, or because you’re a bit of a data geek is completely acceptable! In many cases, buying a new piece of equipment can give you a great boost of motivation.
Looking at this list again it’s not easy to pick favourites, since all these products really look like useful, well-designed and cool stuff that any triathlete would love to get their hands on. That said, if you’d twist my arm I’d probably have to mention these as my personal favorites.
So, those are my favourites. What are yours? Write them down in the comments below, and if you think we missed something really exciting in our list, feel free to link to that as well so other readers can have a look.
Did you enjoy this post? Don’t forget to share and post your comments and questions below! We love to hear from you and interact with you. You may also enjoy the related posts linked below. Thank you for reading!
Disclaimer: We have no affiliation to any of the companies developing these products, and receive no compensation for including them on this list. All photos are published with permission.
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