11 exciting pieces of triathlon gear - faster times, fewer injuries

10 exciting triathlon gear and technology products in 2017

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

airhub triathlon gear

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 group ride

AIRhub is controlled by a mobile app, and it can be used in a number of training modes:

  • Manual mode, where you can manually add up to 100 Watts of resistance to the non-adjusted resistance.
  • Heart rate mode, which adjusts the resistance automatically to keep you in your desired heart rate zones.
  • CDA mode, which simulates headwinds.
  • Power mode, which adjusts to resistance to keep you at your desired target power.

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

Trainesense is a smart paddle for swim training. It measures and quantifies your swim stroke efficiency and biomechanics.

Trainesense smart paddle

“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

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.

Stryd running power meter on shoe - triathlon running
Stryd Smartphone app - running with power for triathlon

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.

Stryd running power meter on Garmin 735xt

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.

Lumo Run

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:

  • It doesn’t just measure, it gives actionable feedback for improvement.
  • It measures braking forces and pelvic drop, both of which play a huge part in running injuries.
  • It measures pelvic rotation, another potential injury risk and inefficiency factor.
  • It’s been validated in scientific studies.
  • The team behind it has the credentials you would expect, and they have an excellent board of advisors (including people like Mark Allen, Matt Dixon, Matt Fitzgerald, Meredith Kessler, and others)

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.

lumo run - triathlon run training
lumo run app - triathlon gear

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 Hydration Monitor

LVL hydration monitor for triathletes

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.

STAC Performance virtual wind tunnel

Virtual wind tunnel testing for triathletes - STAC Performance

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?"

Argon 18 Smart Bike

Speaking of getting aero, that’s just one of a number of things the Argon 18 Smart Bike promises to do for you.

Argon18 Smart Bike

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…

Luck Power Sole

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.

Luck cycling power sole - triathlon and cycling training

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.

Mindblowing!

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.

SmartPlate TopView

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).

Beddit 3

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:

Most exciting triathlon gear, equipment, and technology in the fall of 2015

  • Tony5 says:

    Nice Summary

  • Luis Lopez says:

    The AirHub is the Hub, you have to have the wheel built with the Hub as like PowerTaps Hub, it does not fit within

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