Reviews – TriSports University https://university.trisports.com The place to learn about triathlon. Thu, 08 Feb 2018 19:09:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.4 https://university.trisports.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/cropped-tsu-button-32x32.png Reviews – TriSports University https://university.trisports.com 32 32 The Time Crunched Cyclist, Race-Winning Fitness in 6 Hours a Week https://university.trisports.com/2017/07/28/the-time-crunched-cyclist-race-winning-fitness-in-6-hours-a-week/ Fri, 28 Jul 2017 22:55:54 +0000 http://www.university.trisports.com/?p=8552 When the folks at TriSports University asked me to review The Time Crunched Cyclist, I thought, “Sure thing. I’ve read some of Chris Carmichael’s other books and trained using his Carmichael Training System (CTS) DVDs. Plus I’m retired—I have all kinds of time.” Carmichael says it himself early in the book: inasmuch as we’re all […]]]>
The Time-Crunched Cyclist by Chris Carmichael and Jim Rutberg

When the folks at TriSports University asked me to review The Time Crunched Cyclist, I thought, “Sure thing. I’ve read some of Chris Carmichael’s other books and trained using his Carmichael Training System (CTS) DVDs. Plus I’m retired—I have all kinds of time.” Carmichael says it himself early in the book: inasmuch as we’re all time-crunched in our daily lives and need to make the most of our training, who has time to read a 430-page book about it?

The Audience
The audience for The Time Crunched Cyclist is primarily amateur road racing cyclists who want to improve their performance and results in criteriums and road races but have full-time jobs—and possibly families—that leave little time for training. As a road racer and sprint duathlete, the book offers several workouts to help me get faster. The book offers separate chapters with training programs for various kinds of cycling, including: criterium, road race, and cyclocross; century and gran fondos; gravel and ultraendurance mountain bike racing; and even a plan for making commuters “race ready.”

High-Intensity Training Model
Carmichael and co-author Jim Rutberg cite several research studies that point to the benefits of a high-intensity training model vs. the classic endurance-training model. Pro cyclists have traditionally use the latter—high volume and low intensity in the fall and winter, gradually adding intensity as the racing season progresses. The former model, which Carmichael and Rutberg define in the book as the Time-Crunched Training Program (TCTP), has been shown to get results quickly, but not easily. It is definitely intense.

Benefits
One of the biggest benefits of high-intensity training is its ability to improve mitochondrial density. In describing the human aerobic engine, the authors write:

The rock stars of the aerobic system are little things called mitochondria. These organelles are a muscle cell’s power plants: Fuel and oxygen go in, and energy comes out. For an endurance athlete, the primary goal of training is to increase the amount of oxygen your body can absorb, deliver, and process. One of the biggest keys to building this oxygen-producing capacity is increasing mitochondrial density, or the size and number of mitochondria in muscle cells. As you ride, more and bigger power plants running at full capacity give you the ability to produce more energy aerobically every minute.

Carmichael and Rutberg share research on how high-intensity training results in the development of mitochondria, which can deliver more energy to the muscles. In other words, riding all day at 14 miles per hour isn’t going to help make you faster. A 60-to-90-minute workout that includes high-intensity intervals, however, can make you faster.

The science behind the TCTP is based on our relatively recent ability to reliably measure power output. If you’re going to use this book as a cycling training guide, it is highly recommended that you equip your bike with a power meter. The authors point out that it was the use of power data that led to one of the most important trends in training today: the ability to know when you need to rest and recover. Carmichael and Rutberg emphasize the value of recovery in any training program.

Fuel & Hydration
The book offers some excellent tips on weight management, nutrition and hydration, and heat-stress management. The recipes they offer are hit-and-miss (they’ve published two separate books about food and diet), but they offer extensive research data on fuel and hydration. Notably, they recommend you get your calories from your food—not in your drinks.

Powered by Strava
Something added to this edition of the book is the tagline Powered by Strava. Mark Gainer, co-founder and CEO of Strava, writes in the book’s foreword about how the precepts of the TCTP helped him achieve his goal of competing in the Leadville 100 bike race. The book offers suggestions on how to use Strava’s analysis tools to gauge your progress and while they recognize that other applications like TrainingPeaks offer more robust tools for analysis, they think that Strava’s interface and tools are “far more accessible to the average time-crunched athlete and provide the essential information you need.” They discuss at length how to use Strava’s tools like Effort Comparison, Power Curve and Fitness and Freshness, which they describe as one of the most useful and valuable tools available for Strava Premium account users.

Retail Manager Jason Whittaker enjoying his lunch break read.

Getting Started
In order to begin the program, you will need to perform the CTS Field Test to establish a benchmark for your fitness. The field test consists of two eight-minute all-out time trials separated by ten minutes of easy recovery. Trust me: if you don’t like the idea of submitting yourself to that kind of punishment, you won’t like the TCTP program. As I wrote earlier, it is intense. The program suggests two main types of workouts: lactate threshold intervals and VO2 max intervals. They will hurt; and they will make you a faster cyclist.

Buy This Product Now on TriSports.com
About the Author: Don Davidson is a TriSports.com Ambassador Team Member and duathlete. Don resides in California, but recently retired, which means he is able to travel more to enjoy time with his grandkids and family. 

 

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Product Review: Flaer Revo Via https://university.trisports.com/2017/07/26/product-review-flaer-revo-via/ Wed, 26 Jul 2017 22:52:33 +0000 http://www.university.trisports.com/?p=8528 Efficiency is the name of the game when it comes to triathlon. When you are racing anywhere from 5 hours for a Half-iron distance race to upwards of 14 hours for full-iron distance race, you know you want to save as much energy as possible. One of the best ways to sap energy on the […]]]>

Efficiency is the name of the game when it comes to triathlon. When you are racing anywhere from 5 hours for a Half-iron distance race to upwards of 14 hours for full-iron distance race, you know you want to save as much energy as possible. One of the best ways to sap energy on the bike leg of a triathlon is to have a dirty, dry drivetrain. One company created a solution to that problem in a very unique way.

Most lubricants on the market are targeted at a certain environment or time frame for their optimal performance, but all of them will eventually wear off. That is the one thing that is true of all lubricants no matter how high tech. Even the special CeramicSpeed UFO chains have a specific performance life span. Flaér went about attacking that problem from a totally different perspective.

About Flaér
UK based Flaér Cycling originally launched their revolutionary product, then called the Scottoiler, on Kickstarter to catch the attention of the cycling world. After a successful Kickstarter campaign, the company rebranded as Flaér Cycling and renamed their product the Revo Via. Since then they have expanded into a variety of bike cleaning products to take care of all your maintenance needs.

What is Revo Via
The Revo Via is a continuous chain lubrication system. It consists of three main parts: the pump, the tubing, and the applicator. The pump holds the fluid and dispenses a small amount of lubricant through the tubing to the applicator which is attached to the rear derailleur. It is programmable so that it dispenses fluid every 30, 90, or 120 seconds which in turn keeps your chain clean and lubricated throughout your ride. As stated before, this helps keep things running smoothly no matter what the weather or how long the ride.

Real World Use
This is all good in theory, but what. What you and I both want to know is how does that actually work in the real world. Thankfully, I’ve been able to have this new gadget in my hands for a few months to run it through its paces.

Installation
I won’t go into detail with the installation process because Flaér has done an excellent job with their walk through videos and instructions for installing the Revo Via. Just go watch them. I will say that they note you should set aside about an hour to do the installation and I found that to be spot on. I am not a novice when it comes to bike maintenance, but I’m not an expert either. I found an hour distraction free to be just about right to get everything up and running.

The biggest headache in all of it is deciding where to mount the pump. They tell you the best place is on the down tube or seat tube as low as you can get it. My bike did not allow that with the way its geometry is, so I settled with mounting it to my one and only bottle cage mount. Flaér sells Bottle Cage Extender for mounting the Revo Via below a cage without giving up the use of a bottle cage. I really would have preferred that but again, my frame would not accommodate that. Thankfully Flaer listed many options all detailed in the instructions and I am sure you will find one that works for you.

Every Day Use
Once you get the system set up and primed per the instructions, it is simply a matter of turning it on and off and adjusting the dispensing intervals for the weather. The special fluid the Revo Via uses (conveniently called Via Fluid) is not your normal chain lube. It is a special formula that is easy to clean off. It keeps gunk from building up in your chain and since longevity is not a concern with the continual application of new fluid, it is nice to be able to just spray it off at the end of a ride and call it good.

There is also an auto off feature that keeps you from accidentally letting the system run until it is empty. I must admit, I took full advantage of that feature one time and was glad I did. Instead of running all night, it only ran for two hours and when I got back to my bike the next morning I found only a small puddle of fluid under my rear wheel and not the whole reservoir emptied on the floor.

Another great feature is the “Boost” you can send to your chain. If you notice it is getting on the dry side, or you ride through a large puddle, you can hold the power button to send a 60 second continuous stream of fluid to your chain while you are riding. I never took advantage of this feature, but I can see where some racers could find that useful, especially off-roading or riding in less than ideal conditions.

Final Thoughts and Recommendations
At the end of the day, there is an understanding that a product like this has a select audience. Obviously a crit racer would not find this useful for their road races lasting an hour or less. On the other hand, a triathlete racing a full or half iron distance race can understand that the efficiency gains of a system like the Revo Via could save them precious watts and have their legs more fresh for the run. Those riding in wet or dirty environments such as off-road riders may also reap the efficiency benefits.

The question always come to “how much benefit?” Flaér claims up to 12 watts. I can’t confirm that, but I can say that I did notice my drivetrain was cleaner and quieter over the long haul, almost as if I cleaned and lubed it fresh every day.

“But, Aerodynamics!” some might say. The system is so well integrated that I don’t see that being much of an issue. The biggest aerodynamic penalty would come from the pump, and it is smaller and more sleek than a simply bottle and cage. I don’t see that being an issue, especially with the efficiency gain at the drivetrain.

If you are going long or off-roading, check out the Revo Via. It might just save your legs that little bit over your competitor, and it won’t break the bank either!

Buy This Product Now on TriSports.com
About the Author: Nate is a husband, father, triathlete, and teacher. Nate likes to help others learn from his triathlon mistakes and successes, aiming to encourage athletes new to triathlon. When he’s not hanging out with teenagers, he can be found swimming, biking, and running around central North Carolina, blogging, or on twitter @n8deck.

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3 Ways to Optimize Your Nutrition and Recovery https://university.trisports.com/2017/07/21/3-ways-to-optimize-your-nutrition-and-recovery/ Fri, 21 Jul 2017 19:25:43 +0000 http://www.university.trisports.com/?p=8505 First Year Professional Triathlete Kevin Portmann helps you nail your nutrition and recovery with his top three tips. After a relatively successful 2016 season, winning Ironman Coeur d’Alene and qualifying for Kona for the second year in a row, my wife convinced me to race as a Pro for 2017. So I did and left […]]]>

First Year Professional Triathlete Kevin Portmann helps you nail your nutrition and recovery with his top three tips.

After a relatively successful 2016 season, winning Ironman Coeur d’Alene and qualifying for Kona for the second year in a row, my wife convinced me to race as a Pro for 2017. So I did and left my full-time 9-to-5 to embark on this journey as a professional triathlete – all in! It is a scary life change; I think to myself, ‘what am I getting myself into?’ probably everyday, but I am enjoying the process. It has been awesome to see the slow, but sure progression.

Even before turning pro, part of the adjustments I made in my training regimen was with the unequivocal fourth discipline of triathlon: nutrition. TriSports.com and Klean Athlete have played a major role in my triathlon “successes.” TriSports picked me up on their Elite Team back in 2015 and their support – from gear, equipment, training and race day nutrition, you name it – has been nothing short of incredible. Klean Athlete has been helping me with my nutrition since Coeur d’Alene last year after I decided to make nutrition a priority for Kona. Having raced two Ironmans in five weeks (Canada & CDA) and with Kona only being six weeks after my last Ironman, I knew there was not much I could do to get faster or fitter. However, I needed to find ways to optimize my recovery and dial in my nutrition in order to maintain my fitness, minimize injury, and hold onto motivation. I was fatigued after CDA, and I knew that a fatigued body and mind would have a negative impact on my Kona build. I had to really focus on my nutrition.

Here is what I did:

1. Talk to an Expert
I decided to work with a certified nutritionist. I have always maintained a relatively healthy diet, eating clean and balanced meals, but what she taught me about fueling myself as an endurance athlete was eye opening. Needless to say she completely changed my diet. She walked me through what to eat, in appropriate portions, and when to eat in order to minimize the stress that training had on my body and get me ready for my next workout. Just as important, if not more, she taught me about how to properly fuel during times of recovery.

My nutritionist introduced me to Omega 3s, an antioxidant that helps with inflammation and helps protect joints, and daily vitamin supplements to increase my intake of key vitamins and minerals to boost the immune system. I started taking Klean Athlete Omegas and Multivitamin every morning.

2. Take Recovery as Serious as Training
I was introduced me to different types of recovery drinks. The recovery powder I used to take had a 2.8:1 carb-to-protein ratio, which especially for an endurance athlete, is sub-optimal. Studies indicate after a hard workout, your muscles are primed and ready to take in carbs to replenish glycogen and give you energy. So she strongly advised to find a high quality recovery drink that offered the necessary 4:1 carb to protein ratio to optimize the recovery process, which Klean Athlete Recovery provides. I forced myself to eat five or six times a day in controlled portions and macronutrients, and started having a recovery drink after each training session, regardless if it was an easy 20-30 minute run or a hard interval set. If my training was longer than three hours, I made sure to take an additional scoop of Recovery in my post training drink.

She advised me to take in extra protein with the Klean Athlete Isolate powder 30 to 45 minutes before going to bed. That would give my body a little extra help to repair all the muscle tissues damaged during my training, so the muscles don’t go to bed “hungry” for 8 hours while I sleep.

3. Stay Consistent
I followed my nutritionist’s recommended plan to the T in my 6-week build to Kona, and the day of the race I felt great, better than I had the year prior, and better than at Coeur d’Alene. I continue to follow her recommendations, and advice, and continue to see improvement in both my overall training and recovery. My body feels ready to go 95% of the time; there are still some training days that take a lot out of me, but that’s bound to happen at some point.

Nutrition is a literal science, so there is still a lot I am learning and continuing to adapt to as my body changes. Consistency not only in training but also how you fuel your body is key. Sure, I allow myself to indulge every once in awhile – because what’s life without pizza?! But after a while, fueling your body properly becomes second nature – a lifestyle adjustment, not a fad diet. It also helps to use supplements to complement solid training and nutrition. Klean Athlete can be found at TriSports.com and with their quick order processing, I have a replenished cabinet of everything I need with no hassles. I am one easy online chat away with Eric and Ross from the Trisports’ Customer Service team if I have any questions about the products. They always have an answer even if it means digging for one.

Supplements I use and Frequency

Favorite Recipes
I like to keep it simple. With Klean Recovery, I usually blend it with almond milk (mixing it with water does not taste as good), one banana, and some frozen berries if it is hot outside. Sometimes I’ll mix in a scoop of Klean Isolate into my yogurt. You can mix it with almost anything.

My wife likes to mix Klean Recovery with almond milk, one banana, a tablespoon of almond butter and a couple handfuls of spinach to get her greens in and you can’t even taste it. I have yet to add either Recovery or Isolate to cake dough, but that is on my experiment list.

Buy This Product Now on TriSports.com

About the Author: Professional Triathlete Kevin Portmann won Ironman Coeur d’Alene in August 2016 and qualified for Kona two years in a row.  Born and raised in a small town outside of Evian, France. Kevin relocated to Carlsbad, CA in 2016 and is loving his new training and racing grounds. Learn more about Kevin and his upcoming races here.

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Swimskins – Worth It? https://university.trisports.com/2017/06/29/swimskins-are-they-worth-it/ Thu, 29 Jun 2017 20:39:07 +0000 http://www.university.trisports.com/?p=8434 The swimskin is one of the newest pieces of apparel in triathlon. As a thinner and smaller replacement for a wetsuit, swimskins are growing in popularity for warm-water triathlons. For triathletes who compete in swimming environments where wetsuits are not allowed, the swimskin is the perfect piece of gear to reduce friction in the water […]]]>

The swimskin is one of the newest pieces of apparel in triathlon. As a thinner and smaller replacement for a wetsuit, swimskins are growing in popularity for warm-water triathlons. For triathletes who compete in swimming environments where wetsuits are not allowed, the swimskin is the perfect piece of gear to reduce friction in the water and shave valuable time off your swim.

When should I consider a swim skin?
While a wetsuit is still the best in terms of offering buoyancy, warmth and speed, the swimskin is a great alternative when racing in non-wetsuit legal races to provide an advantage over traditional triathlon racing suits. You will want to consider buying a swimskin if you are racing in areas with mild temperatures. For WTC events, wetsuits are not allowed in water temperatures above 76.1 °F. The USA Triathlon rules state that wetsuits are not allowed in water temperatures above 78 °F. A swimskin is an excellent option if you will be swimming in small bodies of water or areas where the temperatures get high.

What is a swimskin in the first place?
If you have never heard of a swimskin, they are a skin-tight “speedsuit” that goes over your tri suit or race kit and extends from the knees to the shoulders. They do not offer buoyancy or warmth, but the compression allows you to maintain speed and hydrodynamics while swimming through the water. The suit is meant to smooth out the contours of your body and race kit so you can glide through the water and exert less effort. By making your body smoother and smaller, these skins enhance your speed by reducing friction that typical race kits produce against the water.

Originally, swimskins came out with no sleeves; however, more brands are now offering sleeved versions as more triathletes use sleeved tri suits. In past years, you could not wear a race kit that had sleeves under your swimskin. This meant that you had to roll up your sleeves or roll down your race kit to your waist underneath the swimskin. In 2016, the WTC changed the rules that allow sleeves above the elbow to be worn under your swimskin.

How should a swimskin fit?
The swimskin should fit your body very tightly. In most cases, they require a friend to help you zip it up. If they fit too loosely and the suit is flapping against your body, then the features that reduce drag will actually do the opposite. This is a piece of compression equipment, so it should feel tight. Keep in mind that it will feel much different once you get in the water than it will outside of it. Although each person has a different preference, you must choose the swimskin that is most comfortable to you.

What are the performance benefits?
While swimskins are fairly new, there have been some studies done on their performance. In a pool test by the U.S. Olympic swim team, swimskims saved an average of just over 2 seconds per 100 yards when compared to a typical training suit. In comparison, the wetsuit shaved off 6 seconds per 100 yards against the training suit.

There are several major races that are typically borderline non-wetsuit races. Those include the Ironman World Championships, 70.3 World Championships, Ironman Texas, Ironman Chattanooga, Ironman Louisville, Honu 70.3, Eagleman 70.3, Buffalo Springs 70.3, Muncie 70.3, Racine 70.3, Ohio 70.3, Boulder 70.3, Maine 70.3, Atlantic City 70.3, Augusta 70.3, New Orleans 70.3 and any local race that occurs in the summertime.

What are the key features?
If you think a swimskin would be beneficial to you, there are many brands to choose from. While each one has been tested and designed to enhance speed, there are differences in fit and feel. Some of the most popular brands include Blueseventy, TYR, and Zone3. Here are some features of each swimskin.

BlueSeventy PZ4TX

Differentiator: Advanced ultrasonic welded seams
Building on ten years of swimskin development, the PZ4TX swimskin features advanced ultrasonic welded seams for reduced drag, which means that the seams are welded together using radio frequency and heat to melt the edges together for a stronger seam. With a breathable material on the back of the suit, it helps regulate your temperature while in the warm water. This suit actually does not have a lanyard attached to the zipper to reduce friction the lanyard may cause in the water. The zipper locks in place when pointed down and unzips easily when pointed up.

Zone3 Swimskin

Differentiator: Revolutionary fabric, elite athlete feedback
Zone3’s latest suit is built upon seven years of testing, elite athlete feedback, and thousands of customer demos. Based on the extensive testing, Zone3 chose the revolutionary X2R woven fabric with glued and heat bonded seams for less drag and ultimate speed. The fabric is one of the lightest hydrophobic materials available. The legs have a fabric called Energy-D, which offers more compression so that your legs glide effortlessly through the water. There is a lanyard attached to the zipper to allow for easier transitions.

TYR Torque Swimskin Series

Differentiator: Double-layer technology
The Torque Swimskin Series is the latest of TYRs offerings. This swimskin is constructed with two layers, a hydrophilic outer layer that works with the water and a hydrophobic inner layer that repels water to keep you dry. The fabric is a composite knit fabric that allows your body to move freely. Each suit has a coil zipper for a quick transition and a beaded grip on the legs so that the suit will attach to your body and not move around in the water.

At the end of the day, each brand offers countless benefits and the features have been tested extensively. Many of these suits offer similar race times, so it really comes down to the feel of each suit. Whichever brand swimskin suits your fancy, the data is in and swimskins deliver that little extra advantage when it matters most.

Buy This Product Now on TriSports.com

 

About the Author: Alyssa is a writer and the wife of an Ironman and TriSports Ambassador. Not much of an athlete herself, she has learned the sport of triathlon from her husband over his years of competition. Now she wants to share what she has learned as a spectator with other triathlete supporters. 

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Product Review: Zone3 Buoyancy Shorts https://university.trisports.com/2017/06/26/product-review-zone3-elite-buoyancy-shorts/ Mon, 26 Jun 2017 14:34:27 +0000 http://www.university.trisports.com/?p=8359 Written by Sarah Piampiano, 2x Ironman Champion Over the last few weeks I tested out Zone3’s Buoyancy Shorts. It was perfect timing for me, as I had been preparing for Ironman Cairns on June 11th, which was a wetsuit swim. When preparing for a wetsuit-legal swim, one of the best training uses of the buoyancy […]]]>

Written by Sarah Piampiano, 2x Ironman Champion

Over the last few weeks I tested out Zone3’s Buoyancy Shorts. It was perfect timing for me, as I had been preparing for Ironman Cairns on June 11th, which was a wetsuit swim. When preparing for a wetsuit-legal swim, one of the best training uses of the buoyancy short is to mimic body position in the water and create more stroke efficiency in a wetsuit-swim scenario.

Comfort and Construction
When I first put the shorts on, the first thing I noticed was the neoprene was more pliable and the shorts were less stiff than others I have used. It gave me a more consistent feel in terms of buoyancy and overall movement in the water relative to wearing a full wetsuit. I also appreciated having the drawstring to be able to tighten the shorts as needed and create a comfortable and snug fit.

Function and Performance
Once swimming, I felt as though the shorts gave me the ideal amount of “lift” in the water that was, again, consistent with how I feel wearing a full wetsuit. With pull buoys, sometimes you have too much or too little lift relative to a wetsuit. Pull buoys don’t necessarily provide the optimal set-up for body position imitation. For me, this allowed me to feel most confident that the using the buoyancy shorts as a training tool would carry over to benefit my stroke directly in a race-setting.

Adding to the Training Arsenal
The buoyancy shorts are extremely beneficial as a training tool and a great replacement to the pull buoy. Because of the quality of neoprene used, it also allowed for a more natural feeling to swimming in a full wetsuit.

Buy This Product Now on TriSports.com

About the Author: Professional Triathlete Sarah Piampiano has accumulated four 70.3 wins, two Ironman victories, and 16 podium performances, plus a 7th place finish at the 2015 and 2016 Ironman World Championships. With a solid collegiate career in cross-country and downhill skiing, Piampiano discovered triathlon after college over a bar-bet and without much knowledge of what a triathlon even entailed. Visit Sarah’s website to learn more.

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Product Review: Pierce Footwear T1 Triathlon Shoe https://university.trisports.com/2017/06/06/product-review-pierce-footwear-t1-triathlon-shoe/ Tue, 06 Jun 2017 21:39:07 +0000 http://www.university.trisports.com/?p=8339 Written by Dr. Nicholas Parton, DPT, MTC, CSCS TriSports.com is a family owned business in Tucson, Arizona which retails a wide range of products from athletes’ favorite brands. They provide personal service and recommendations for all levels of athletes as well as support the growth and quality of the sport across the country and in […]]]>

Written by Dr. Nicholas Parton, DPT, MTC, CSCS

TriSports.com is a family owned business in Tucson, Arizona which retails a wide range of products from athletes’ favorite brands. They provide personal service and recommendations for all levels of athletes as well as support the growth and quality of the sport across the country and in their backyard.

Pierce Footwear is a newer company who entered the shoe domain a few years ago and they have gained traction in sections of the market due to the ease of donning the shoe. As a World Champion Duathlete it can be assured that the founder George Pierce knows something about getting in and out of shoes quickly. A fresh pair of Pierce T1 shoes arrived at my door mid-winter during my build for the Boston Marathon. Every athlete knows what that means! They need to be taken for a spin and the unique closure system needed to be tested. However, shoes cannot be judged by one run. During my review process, I took some time to try them in different places. Even in some races, terrain can be a combination of asphalt, concrete, dirt trail, grass, and track which is why these shoes required me to put them through the paces (pun intended) and to take some time for me to come to my final review.

First Impressions:
The T1 by Pierce are bright with a large one piece material cover and latch closure. Pierce has done away with a traditional tongue and lace system. These shoes have a side closure system that feels like a wide soft strap across the top of your foot with a latch you attach to the outside of your foot. The tension is adjustable at the top and bottom by adjusting which hole in the rubber latch you connect to the top or bottom hooks allowing individuals to set a personal tightness level that will stay the same each time the shoes are on. The shoe is light, with a neutral feel, does not heat up your foot, and goes on very easily.

The Running Tests:
Getting the shoe on:
  When placing a foot into the shoe it feels comfortable and roomy, adjusting the latch to hold your foot snugly and comfortably at the top is easy and works great.

  1. Hitting the Road: The T1 is light, grippy along the toe and heel in multiple conditions and feels responsive if not fast, but also a bit unyielding. My foot does not sink and settle into the midsole for the classic plush ride that I am accustomed to on my non-racing neutral training shoes. Due to the closure system and being a triathlon shoe, an athlete may be planning to only race and do workouts in these shoes which would limit the importance of the soft ride that may keep the foot comfortable for higher mileage weeks. These shoes have all the feeling of a specialized race shoe with a specific purpose, but may be suitable for certain runners for everyday training. With the closure system I was not worried about a shoe becoming untied or having to adjust tension as I ran which is a large plus.
  2. Adding on the miles: The shoes held up well as I mixed them into my rotation while training for the Boston Marathon; I usually rotate three pairs of shoes during marathon training so it was easy to get some miles in on the T1 shoes on multiple surfaces. The first difficulty I incurred when I ran farther was the shape of my foot and the shape of the shoe around the proximal metatarsal and navicular region of my feet. For me, that part of the shoe is too loose and it is non-adjustable, this required that I wear socks for all of my runs in the T1 which I do not do when racing in a triathlon. When I did try to run without socks, I quickly developed a hot spot on the inner arch. On a shoe with a lace system it is possible to snug up the arch while leaving the toe box wide; the T1 fit me fantastically on the top of the foot and the toe box is wide and comfortable, but my mid-foot did not have the same level of support. That being said, each foot is different and if you believe you have wide or normal-width feet the shoe will probably fit you well throughout.
  3. Triathlon specific: I was able to consistently get in and out of the shoes in less than 10 seconds with a transition run-up. See the video below for the display of the ease of getting into these shoes and getting them tightened.

The Fit:
To determine the size of Pierce T1’s that will fit you best, first select a current running shoe that you enjoy the fit, especially the inner length. More information is available on the Pierce website along with the chart. You will be measuring the length of the insole of the shoes you want to use to mimic sizing.

When you receive the shoes you can quickly adjust the strap on both ends to get a comfortable snug fit around the top of the foot and the rest of the shoe is there waiting for you. Nothing else to do then but run!

The Physical Therapy Perspective:
One thing to remember is that every athlete is different, thus, they have a different “normal.” If you are used to supportive pronation control shoes for all of your runs, then the T1 will feel very different under your foot and arch. A new shoe could require an athlete to adjust to the drop, the support, and the general fit. Anytime a runner attempts to make too many changes at once, there is risk that the stress may become too high for the body to adapt to which means there is potential for getting aches, or even worse, injuries. If you do not normally wear a neutral shoe, you should take your time to adjust and to build mileage slowly when switching to the Pierce T1 shoes. The T1 feels like a stiff neutral shoe in its ride, which means it compares well to many of my favorite shoes in ride but also requires a fresh foot to handle the underfoot stiffness. The snug fitting sock-like top takes pressure off an athlete’s tibialis anterior tendon, extensor tendons, extensor retinaculum, along with arteries and nerves that travel the path along the top of your foot compared to laces which can be stiffer and more restrictive, especially as your foot swells in the shoe during a run. Most of us have encountered the discomfort of going for a run with our laces accidentally tied too tight, but this will not be a problem with a pair of T1’s. Overall, the Pierce T1 shoes are unique, performance-specific footwear that provides a fast feel and would be easily favored by those who prefer a stiff, responsive, neutral ride after T2.

The Take-Aways:
Specialized triathlon shoe

  • Lace-less and tongue-less with fast and comfortable closure system
  • Fit is set throughout the mid-foot and toe due to the one piece construction which can leave some parts loose or tight without the ability to adjust as able with laces
  • Stiff mid-sole feels fast and responsive, less forgiving over long distances with decreased conformation to the foot

Buy This Product Now on TriSports.com

About the Author: Dr. Nicholas Parton, DPT, MTC, CSCS is a Doctor of Physical Therapy with Manual Therapy Certification and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist in Colorado Springs.  He works with athletes in their homes and in the field through Parton Physical Therapy (www.partonpt.com), spends his free time triathlon training with the support of TriSports.com, and enjoys getting lost in the mountains with his wife, Jessica.

 

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Product Review: SHFT Intelligent Virtual Running Coach https://university.trisports.com/2017/06/02/product-review-shft-intelligent-virtual-running-coach-2/ Fri, 02 Jun 2017 23:05:14 +0000 http://www.university.trisports.com/?p=8324 Written by Keri Ouellette, Field Test Expert and TriSports Ambassador Athlete  SHFT Intelligent Virtual Running Coach is the latest in running technology, using wearable pods to capture data on running form. The goal of the Danish company, founded in 2014 (under the name Learn2run) is to create the most intelligent virtual running coach to improve running […]]]>

Written by Keri Ouellette, Field Test Expert and TriSports Ambassador Athlete 

SHFT Intelligent Virtual Running Coach is the latest in running technology, using wearable pods to capture data on running form. The goal of the Danish company, founded in 2014 (under the name Learn2run) is to create the most intelligent virtual running coach to improve running technique and efficiency. The first prototype was developed in 2014, and after much collaboration with elite runners, doctors, scientists and the Swedish design studio, Howl, the current SHFT product launched in November 2015.

The SHFT is designed to capture a variety of running metrics to provide real time feedback on running form as a virtual coach based on the data collected through the pods. The SHFT running tracker consists of two small triangular pods, one to attach to your shoe and one to be worn on the chest. These pods capture data as your running which is sent to your phone and feedback is provided through your headphones via the SHFT app.

Easy to Use
I’ll begin this review with the disclaimer that I’m not much of a technology buff, having just purchased my first GPS running watch less than a year ago. That being said, the pods are very easy to use and the whole setup took only a few minutes– the time it took to download the SHFT app. Once the app is installed, you’re ready to start running. The pods have a simple design and easily clip onto the side of any running shoe. I’m not sure how exact the positioning of the pods must be, but the data seemed to be on target when I tested it. To charge the pods, they clip onto a strip with a USB connection. To use the product you need to carry your phone while you run. To start, SHFT requires the user to manually start, stop, and pause the run through the app.

Measure your Metrics
SHFT provides data on more aspects of running biomechanics than I could have ever imagined. In addition to the usual speed, distance, pace, cadence information, the pods also track things like body angle, body bounce, landing and toe-off angle, step length, watts and brake effect. Many of these metrics are not easy to interpret and compare through a video analysis, so having numbers to compare over time allows for a better evaluation of running technique and improvement. It is a lot of information to absorb, especially since you may not have any baseline to understand what the numbers mean for many of these metrics, but once you do a few runs, you can compare your personal data over time. It’s useful to see how each of these metrics changes within one workout. The app provides a simple explanation of what each metric. It would be nice to also have an explanation of how each metric affects running efficiency or potential for injury. Additional information on the website or app would be helpful about how to read the data and what it means. The Run with Power book dives deeper into these metrics to help you better understand running with power.

The Virtual Coach
Beyond the data collection, the other aspect of the SHFT is it provides coaching (as the name implies). The idea of real time feedback on running form seemed useful, however, the SHFT coach is not as flexible as I would have liked. The coach selects the component of running form that she would like you to focus on and provides feedback for only that metric during that particular workout. I’m not sure if selection of metrics is standard or not, but the ability to make adjustments to the coach’s workouts would be nice (admittedly, this criticism reflects of my own preference for self-coaching). Despite that, I found that getting feedback while running helped me really focus on my form and increase awareness of changes to my running form when I slowed down or started to fatigue.

Run Analysis on the Cheap
Other than this type of pod technology, the only other way to obtain this detailed running analysis is in a professional running lab. SHFT provides an inexpensive way to capture running form metrics. You may have to do a bit of research to understand what the data means and what form adjustments need to be made if you’re unfamiliar with some of the metrics.

Overall: A Great DIY Option
Since running is the sport where athletes are least likely to consult a coach, a DIY option for getting this information is tremendously useful for anyone who wants to improve their running form and efficiency. Runners also tend to experience a lot of overuse injuries, as a result of, sometimes very minor, issues with running form. Understanding one’s own running mechanics could likely prevent many overuse injuries. Overall, the SHFT running coach is a great way to understand and improve your running form. The coaching aspect could improve on the customization ability, offering athlete’s a choice of which running component to practice. I hope that SHFT continues to improve on this exciting technology to continue to make advancements for a user-friendly product.

Buy This Product Now on TriSports.com

About the Author: Keri Ouellette is a longtime runner and swimmer, as well as an age group triathlete for over six years. She recently moved to Portland, Maine, where she’s now training, racing, and trying out new winter sports. 

 

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Product Review: Sable WaterOptics Swim Goggles https://university.trisports.com/2017/05/26/product-review-sable-goggles/ Fri, 26 May 2017 19:01:09 +0000 http://www.university.trisports.com/?p=8308 Written by Chris Hague, Coach at TriSwim Coach Goggles are a dime a dozen in the swim and triathlon community, and I have tried most of them from swim “masks” to minimalist Swedish goggles and everything in between. It is hard to get me excited about a new brand and have me break from my […]]]>

Written by Chris Hague, Coach at TriSwim Coach

Goggles are a dime a dozen in the swim and triathlon community, and I have tried most of them from swim “masks” to minimalist Swedish goggles and everything in between.

It is hard to get me excited about a new brand and have me break from my trusted pair that I have been using since college. That was until I tried Sable WaterOptics Swim Goggles, which was on Oprah’s (yes the talk show host) “O List” back in 2008…who knew she liked to swim?

According to their website, the company has been around primarily in Asia since 1998, but has become an international brand.

The company is actually named after a small amphibious mammal, the Sable marten species found in the forests of Northern Russia and Finland; it typically lives and burrows near riverbanks and has eyesight adapted to be perfect both above and below the water. It is this unique feature that the company gets their inspiration from and their products live up to the name.

They have a variety of models for different purposes:, Women’s 924, Mirrored and Tinted 101 Competition, and their newly released GX-100 Professional with polarized lenses specifically for triathletes.

The competition goggles, which have a split strap, come in mirrored and tinted lenses and thus are better suited for open water swims or intimidating your lane partners in the pool, while the 924 model come in clear and tinted lenses and a uni strap.

You don’t have to be competing or competitive to use the competition models and enjoy the mirrored lenses, but if you prefer clear lenses then the 924 is the one for you. It comes with the same high-suction gaskets that do not fog or leak.

All of their goggles also have Flatlens™ technology that eliminates the headache many swimmers get from curved lenses. Even if you do not need corrective lenses, the standard lenses give you near perfect vision BOTH in and out of the water making them ideal for sighting in open water swimming, marking your flip turns, or scoping out your competition several lanes over.

Whatever you do, do not touch the inside lenses. Like high-end sunglasses, you will scratch and damage them so handle with care.

I personally tried out the RS100, their competition model. They came in a handy reusable, hard case to protect them and more importantly the lenses from being scratched and lost at the bottom of my swim bag. While I did not need to use them, they also came with three different nose piece sizes. Aesthetically, with their blue mirrored lenses, they look like goggles you would see on the Olympics and give you that ice-cold, “get-out-of-my-lane,” pure focus look, which is personally my style.

Upon first trying them on, I immediately noticed two things: the clarity of my sight compared to my previous goggles, which always had fuzziness around the edges as if I was looking through soda bottles, and their snug fit. It was as if I was wearing regular sunglasses. My vision was so clear that I could see all the nasty little dirt particles lying at the bottom of my gym’s pool and knowing when to do a flip turn became more accurate and less guess work.

When I tested them out in open water, I could easily see for better or worse through the semi-murkiness of the water to the bottom of the lake. Not only were feet and bodies swimming around me recognizable, but also, when sighting, I could easily distinguish between objects on the shore line. Obviously, this makes open water swimming much less intimidating because I can orient myself better and not focus on whether that is a red swim cap or a red buoy but rather on what I should be doing: swimming.

The fit too was incredibly snug with no slipping when diving, no fogging up as I swam, and continual comfort throughout the swim. Personally, I did get “raccoon eyes”–markings around the eye sockets after the first few swims–but they usually went away after I showered. This usually happens to me regardless of goggles because of my deeper set eyes.

Am I convert from my old brand? Most definitely. While pricier than your standard goggles, these are the only goggles that you will need for both pool and open water swimming and will last you quite sometime. Especially if you wear glasses, Sable is for you.

Buy This Product Now on TriSports.com

About the Author: Chris Hague swam competitively at the collegiate level and has competed in triathlons since 2007. Chris is juggling a full time triathlon career while pursuing a career in psychology and public health. Chris is an Assistant Coach at Tri Swim Coach, where he helps provides quality content, with the latest cutting edge information on triathlon swimming, as well as helping members get the most out of their swim. Visit Tri Swim Coach at http://triswimcoach.com.

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Product Review: Dermasport Skin Care https://university.trisports.com/2017/05/04/product-review-dermasport-skin-care/ Thu, 04 May 2017 14:02:14 +0000 http://www.university.trisports.com/?p=8233 Written by Keri Ouellette, Field Test Expert and TriSports Ambassador Athlete I had never really considered doing anything else to care for my skin besides using soap, water and sunscreen, so I was intrigued by this opportunity to test the Dermasport skin care products. Dermasport is a new product from SBR Sports, Inc., a multi-sport […]]]>

Written by Keri Ouellette, Field Test Expert and TriSports Ambassador Athlete

I had never really considered doing anything else to care for my skin besides using soap, water and sunscreen, so I was intrigued by this opportunity to test the Dermasport skin care products. Dermasport is a new product from SBR Sports, Inc., a multi-sport focused company that has developed several body care products, including a hair care line for swimmers (TriSwim) and anti-chafing products (TriSlide).

The Dermasport skin care kit includes a facial cleanser (you can choose between normal to oily or dry skin), toner, moisturizer, and eye cream. Each bottle has a twist lock so the whole set is easy to travel with.

I’ll admit to being skeptical of skin care product claims and, to be fair, this review is in comparison to my previous nearly non-existent skin care regime involving bar soap and whatever drugstore moisturizer and sunscreen I happen to find in my medicine cabinet. I was a little concerned about adding several steps to my morning routine, but the whole process is actually pretty quick and easy to follow with bottles labeled 1, 2, 3, and 4 in order of use, for the skin care newbie.

I started using the full set of products in March, after several months of my skin drying out from the harsh, cold and windy winter in the northeast. While the products are designed to use together in a set, they can be purchased and used separately. I used the complete set of four products.

Step 1:
The first step is the facial cleanser, which feels very light, with a mild, refreshing scent. The cleanser does a great job of cleaning dirt, oil and sweat from the skin without feeling to harsh or leaving my skin feeling too dry.

Step 2:
The clarifying spray toner is next, which is intended to brighten and even out skin tone as well as add moisture to the skin. The spray has a nice, soothing feel and only takes a few moments to dry before being able to apply the moisturizer.

Step 3:
The moisturizer feels light but is absorbed well and only a tiny amount is needed. Other moisturizers that I’ve used, I’ve needed to re-apply multiple times, especially in winter when my skin is super dry, so I was pleasantly surprised at how effective the Dermasport moisturizer penetrates and lasts.

Step 4:
The last step is a dab of eye cream. I’ve never used eye cream before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I do not magically look ten years younger, but overall, my skin feels much healthier and more supple.

Not surprisingly, my skin felt much softer and smoother immediately upon using the Dermasport products. All four of the Dermasport products use a variety of natural ingredients that are meant to reduce fine lines, hydrate and brighten the skin. I can’t speak to the science of all the ingredients, but there is a whole farm basket full of natural ingredients and extracts loaded with antioxidants (pomegranate, mushroom, green tea, goji berry, olive and many more) that I’m sure are much better for my skin than whatever ingredients are in the drugstore products that I was previously using. The products all have a very subtle, slightly citrusy scent– not at all overpowering and no synthetic fragrances are used.

Overall, the Dermasport athletic skin care kit is a great value. I like that the products are designed specifically for athletes to reduce the effects of sun, sweat, wind and chlorine. I’ve been convinced to do a better job taking care of my skin, and will continue to use the Dermasport products. My only suggestion would be for SBR Sports, Inc. to develop a sun protection product as part of this kit, since this is essential for triathletes and important to keeping your skin healthy.

Buy This Product Now on TriSports.com
About the Author: Keri Ouellette is a longtime runner and swimmer, as well as an age group triathlete for over six years. She recently moved to Portland, Maine, where she’s now training, racing, and trying out new winter sports. 

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5 Essential Swimming Drills for Triathletes to Strengthen Your Core https://university.trisports.com/2017/05/02/5-essential-swimming-drills-for-triathletes-to-strengthen-your-core/ Tue, 02 May 2017 20:56:31 +0000 http://www.university.trisports.com/?p=8220 Written by Maciej Konczewski, Engineer, Swim Instructor, and TriSports Elite Team Member Having a strong core is extremely important not only for triathletes, but athletes in general. A strong core helps with stability, posture, and overall body control. Furthermore, having a strong core improves how your body functions as a whole. It will not only […]]]>

Written by Maciej Konczewski, Engineer, Swim Instructor, and TriSports Elite Team Member

Having a strong core is extremely important not only for triathletes, but athletes in general. A strong core helps with stability, posture, and overall body control. Furthermore, having a strong core improves how your body functions as a whole. It will not only positively affect your swimming performance, but also aid in your bike and run performance. So without further delay here are my ultimate, favorite swimming drills for building a strong core.

1. Butterfly/Dolphin Kicks
This is not necessarily a drill, but rather a fundamental skill for any swimmer. Any variation of butterfly kicking will take you on your way to building a stronger core. A great way to start with this drill is on your back with fins. It is much easier to keep a tighter core, and a fluid kick this way. Make sure to focus on thrusting your hips and using your body to engage the legs, not the other way around. Work on mastering the body movement and the undulation.

Once you have mastered this you can do various variations:

  1. Without fins on your stomach or back
  2. Kicking on your side
  3. Arms in front of you or on the side

2. Pull Buoy Progressions (thighs, knees, ankles)
This drill is rather simple, but very quickly gets difficult. It is essentially a progression of doing regular pulls with the pull bouy. You start off with the pull bouy between your thighs, and then move it down between your knees and eventually between your ankles. Here are key things to focus on:

  1. Keep your core tight. Do this by squeezing your thighs/legs together as if you were trying to pop a balloon. This will force you to flex your abs and core.
  2. Focus on reaching and stretching your stroke.
  3. Tip: the biggest give away you need to flex your core and squeeze your legs is if you are fish tailing (legs moving side to side).

Bonus: If the pull bouy is too easy, band your legs together with a resistance band.

3. Water Polo & Tarzan Drill
Water Polo swimming, also known as Tarzan Drill, is helpful in two regards. Not only does it help improve your sighting and swimming with your head out of the water, it also works your core and strengthens your neck muscles. This is an essential staple for open water swimmers and triathletes alike. Most of our time is spent training in indoor pools where not swimming in a straight line is extremely difficult, while swimming in the open water is a completely different story.

  1. For beginners, perform this drill in lengths of 25s. This prevents an overly sore neck.
  2. Swim with your head up and out of the water looking forward. Keep your head still.
  3. Arch your lower back to keep your lower half from sinking. This will engage your core. You will need to kick stronger than normal to keep your body balanced and feet from dragging.
  4. Shorten your stroke. It is choppier and quicker than normal.

For newbie tips on sighting in open water, read more here.

4. Extended Streamline off the Wall
This is a simple drill that simply requires you to hold your streamlines longer coming off the wall. It can even be incorporated in your regular sets.

  1. Each time you push off the wall focus on tucking your chin in and stretching your arms tight together behind you head.
  2. Keep your feet and legs flexed and tight throughout the streamline. Challenge yourself to go further each time.

5. Vertical Kicking
This is an extremely effective and simple drill. It requires a deep pool, preferably a diving well, but the deep end of most pools should suffice. This drill not only strengthens your core, but also helps to develop your kick. Start off in the deep end and begin your regular freestyle kick, however, perform it vertically. Try not to help yourself up by using your arms. If this is too difficult use fins.

This drill is good for swimmers of all levels and focuses on the following:

  1. Doing flutter kicks vertically engages your abdominals and allows you to get a feel for the proper motion. This isn’t as easy to achieve swimming horizontally because we often tend to relax our abdominals.
  2. It will smooth out your kick and force you to kick with even more power.
  3. Having a strong kick is what will separate you from the pack.

Bonus: To make this drill more difficult, you can take your hands out of the water. Advance your progressions to place hands on your head or even holding a weight.

Buy This Product Now on TriSports.com
About the Author: Maciej is a swimmer/swim instructor turned triathlete/engineer. Driven by competition and desire to always get faster, and love for the sport. Team Trisports Elite Member who heavily enjoys destination races and seeing new places from the start and finish line, because you have to reward yourself somehow after staring at a wall on the trainer all winter.  Lover of sushi and connoisseur of mac and cheese. He can be found swimming, biking, and running around the suburbs of Chicago. Follow him on twitter/instagram @macheetri

 

 

 

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Open Water Swim Safety https://university.trisports.com/2017/04/21/open-water-swim-safety/ Fri, 21 Apr 2017 18:00:35 +0000 http://www.university.trisports.com/?p=8193 Written by Kevin Koskella and Chris Hague, Coaches at Tri Swim Coach Open water swimming can be scary. Cold. Jarring. Frustrating. And in some cases, dangerous. If you feel anxiety bubbling up as you stand on the lake or ocean shore, you are not alone. But this fear is completely rational and can be easily […]]]>

Written by Kevin Koskella and Chris Hague, Coaches at Tri Swim Coach

Open water swimming can be scary. Cold. Jarring. Frustrating.

And in some cases, dangerous.

If you feel anxiety bubbling up as you stand on the lake or ocean shore, you are not alone. But this fear is completely rational and can be easily combated with the proper preparation.

Most of the anxiety stems from the fear of unknown. While statistics show that open water swimming is actually quite safe, it is always good to be prepared for any situation.

The most common fear people have is unknown potential creatures below them. Even though the odds of getting bit or eaten by something are tiny, there is a logical reason to the fear.

Hollywood combined with real life incidents give way to this very common fear.

Start With The Controllables
1. Cardiovascular Condition.
Before you even step into the water for either a race or just practice, make sure that you get your heart checked for any abnormalities. In the past 10 years, a large sum of open water swimming fatalities have come from athletes who did not realize that had an underlying cardiovascular condition.

Combining a cardio issue like this with the shock of the cold water and the anticipation of a race can result in a disaster. If and when you are cleared, a good warm up that includes pushups, jumping jacks, arm swings and jogging can help your heart ease the transition into cold water.

If for some reason you can’t get in the water before your race, at minimum, splash cold water on your face, as this will trick your body into preparing for the cold submersion.

2. Preparation for the conditions.
If you know the water is going to be cold (sub 15 degrees Celsius/59 degrees Fahrenheit), then definitely wear a long-sleeved wetsuit, preferably in bright colors like this one, a bright fluorescent swim cap. For extra warmth, use two caps: a neoprene with a silicone one overtop and neoprene booties, which also help navigating rocky beaches. If you know your event will be in extremely frigid waters, Blueseventy makes a thermal wetsuit designed especially for coldwater.

Warm clothes for after the swim are also important. Most hypothermia cases are not from the water temperature but from the drop in temperature after you strip off your wetsuit. I (Kevin) know about this first-hand; after swimming in 50-degree Fahrenheit water in the Alcatraz swim in the San Francisco Bay once, I ended up with early stage hypothermia! It’s not fun, but preparing can help you avoid this.

3. Wetsuits.
With their extra buoyancy, wetsuits can be a huge help and an extra safety measure especially for beginner swimmers, but be sure that it is well-fitted and that you have practiced in it.

A wetsuit that is too small will restrict your breathing and can lead to hyperventilation, while a wetsuit that is too large will cause drag and weigh you down. Practicing in the wetsuit as much as you can will allow you to get used to the feeling of swimming in a wetsuit, which is quite different from your swimsuit in the pool.

In both cold and warm temperatures, remember bright colors are your friend. Without them, boats, kayakers, fellow swimmers and–if it comes to it–emergency rescue–can not see you, and rest assured that the bright colors will not attract sharks or killer whales–unless you plan to swim at Sea World.

4. Never train alone.
Grab some friends who are either swimmers themselves or who can kayak or SUP near by and keep an eye on you. An emergency contact should also know where you are and when you are expected to get out. Personally, I (Chris) always text my wife before I get in with how long I am swimming and then again when I get out to confirm that I am alright.

5. Be present!
This seems cliché and may be obvious, but there are so many factors in open water swimming that can throw you off, this is well worth mentioning. Staying present will allow you to deal with each distraction as it arises- even getting hit or pulled can be easily absorbed with a mindful approach to swimming. A couple of ideas here are to simply count your strokes, or think of a word, and repeat that word in your head as you swim.

The Non-Controllables
1. Sight.

There’s a lot you can do to practice sighting, and this is a big part of the challenge of open water swimming- staying on course. However, some of it may be out of your control. Sometimes the person you’re following doesn’t know where they’re going. Other times you just mistake where the finish line is. Practice can help here but it doesn’t eliminate every possible thing that could go wrong. Read more about sighting with these 8 Tips for Sighting.

2. Things that can bite and/or eat you.
Well this one is very rare, but its true- in the ocean, there is the element of the unknown. Let’s look at the stats: From the Washington Post: “According to the file’s analysis of 2000 data, beachgoers faced a 1-in-2-million chance of dying from drowning and other causes based on visits to East and West Coast beaches. By contrast, they faced a 1-in-11.5-million chance of being attacked by a shark, and less than a 1-in-264-million chance of dying from a shark bite, since just one person died that year in U.S. waters from an attack. Put another way, more Americans were killed by collapsing sinkholes (16) than sharks (11) between 1990 and 2006, and more by tornadoes (125) than sharks (6) in Florida between 1985 and 2010.”

In the rare case something does happen, be prepared for the worst. An open water safety device or an inflatable is an excellent idea- especially for beginners. While it might seem like a hassle, it can be a lifesaving measure if the weather or your body were to go awry.

Still nervous? Practicing is the best cure for fear and anxiety when it comes to open water. Start small and swim close to the shore with friends close by and on a course that allows you to see the bottom. As you become more comfortable gradually swim further and further out. No need to be a hero in the early stages.

Open water swimming does not have to be scary. With the proper preparations, you can swim with calm mind and be able to focus on what is important: your workout.

Buy This Product Now on TriSports.com
About the Authors: Kevin Koskella and Chris Hague are coaches at Tri Swim Coach. Kevin is the Head Coach at Tri Swim Coach. He was an All-American swimmer in college and coaches masters swimmers and triathletes. Kevin contributes to Triathlete Magazine, Inside Triathlon Magazine, Men’s Health Magazine, Active.com, and many more.

Chris Hague is the Assistant Coach at Tri Swim Coach, and swam competitively at the collegiate level and has competed in triathlons since 2007. Chris is now juggling a full time triathlon career while pursuing a career in psychology and public health.

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Product Review: 2Toms https://university.trisports.com/2017/03/28/product-review-2toms/ Tue, 28 Mar 2017 23:31:35 +0000 http://www.university.trisports.com/?p=8130 Written by Adrienne Smith, Triathlete, Yoga Studio Owner & Teacher Rooted in science and the love of sport, 2Toms mission has always been to provide the best comfort and care to athletes by offering the most technologically advanced products available. In 2002, Tom Lewis, an avid extreme athlete, went on a mission to create a […]]]>

Written by Adrienne Smith, Triathlete, Yoga Studio Owner & Teacher

Rooted in science and the love of sport, 2Toms mission has always been to provide the best comfort and care to athletes by offering the most technologically advanced products available. In 2002, Tom Lewis, an avid extreme athlete, went on a mission to create a product that would allow him to go on massive hikes without getting held back by painful blisters. Since then, the 2Toms brand has joined forces with Medi-Dyne, offering blister prevention, chafing protection, skin guard and odor eliminator products on top of Medi-Dyne’s array of cushioning, support, stretching, strengthening and massage products. Together they provide a compelling selection of products that offer solutions that offer both immediate relief and eliminate the actual cause of pain.

Several of the products were sent for testing and review. Here’s what I loved, liked, and thought about all the products.

SportShield and SportShield for Her!
I’ve been an avid user of SportShield for a few years. I use it to prevent saddle sores, blisters on my feet when I race and don’t wear socks, and the best use I have found is to prevent chafing on my neck from my wetsuit. I slather it on my neckline anywhere my wetsuit will rub and cause friction. I’ve also used it for my swim suits that are a bit too small or my speed suits when the water has been too warm. The ultimate test is saltwater – and I’ve found SportShield is the best lubricant to avoid the dreaded “hicky” marks on my neck. I always have SportShield on hand when it’s time to jump into the ocean with my wetsuit on for practice swims or full Ironman distance triathlons. I can still feel the slippery residue on my neck after 11 hours of racing. I don’t notice the difference between SportShield and SportShield for Her! besides the pretty, pink label.

Stink Free Spray
The ultimate test for smelly feet for me is my cycling shoes, I never wear them with socks, and they smell awful after a single ride. I’ve been spraying my shoes with the Stink Free Spray after every ride and my bike room does not smell as offensive. It’s not completely gone; however, it was a tall order after doing several races and leaving my bike shoes in my travel bag for a few days.

BlisterShield
I never have an issue with blisters if I wear socks, so I put this product to the test in my running shoes without socks. I noticed instant comfort, smoothness, and lack of friction for the bottom of my feet and the top of my feet, where my foot hits the tongue and seams of my shoe. My feet felt great during my session. Afterwards, I noticed the slickness of the BlisterShield stuck to my feet – not the white powder, and my feet were a bit slippery until I washed them again. BlisterShield really stuck to my feet. My only suggestion for this product is the packaging, as the powder does not come out of the shaker with much ease. When I stick it down into the nose of my shoe to get it towards the top and avoid powder going everywhere, it’s hard to tell if I have enough in my shoe or not.

Stink Free Sports Detergent
I teach and practice Hot Power Vinyasa yoga on top of living with a smelly endurance athlete for a husband. All of the clothes in my laundry have been sweat through profusely. We’ve tried all sorts of detergent cocktails in our washing machine. The Stink Free Sports Detergent works to get the stink out of clothes. We noticed it helps to use it in combination with another detergent; there just doesn’t seem to be enough in each individual pack to take hold of the stink in an entire load of laundry. Unless we are traveling and only washing a few items, my suggestion would be to increase the volume per package for the single-use travel packets. However, the Stink Free Sports Detergent does come in a 30 ounce size which would allow you to be more generous when adding the detergent if you have a load of sweat-laden clothes.

Buy This Product Now on TriSports.com

About the Author: Adrienne Smith has been a fierce competitor since she was a little girl—everything from figure skating and circus classes to more recently trying her cards as a professional triathlete for a few years. Now owning and operating Power of Your Om Yoga Studio in Santa Barbara, California, she competes in running races and triathlons recreationally, and spends more time playing around at the beach, walking her dog and practicing more yoga.  Adrienne loves the commitment, discipline and courage necessary for endurance sports, yoga and being an entrepreneur—all require consistent focus on the reality of the present moment to face her fear of failure, the trap of comparison and the life-sucking goal of perfection. They have created several breakdowns, breakthroughs and transformations – inside and out. Studio website:  www.powerofyourom.com 

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Product Review: Hammer Nutrition Fully Charged, Pre-Exercise Ignitor https://university.trisports.com/2017/03/02/product-review-hammer-nutrition-fully-charged-pre-exercise-ignitor/ Thu, 02 Mar 2017 20:15:04 +0000 http://www.university.trisports.com/?p=8050 Written By Dr. Nicholas Parton, DPT, MTC, CSCS TriSports.com is a family owned business in Tucson, Arizona which retails a wide range of products from athlete’s favorite brands. They provide personal service and recommendations for all levels of athletes as well as support the growth and quality of the sport across the country and in […]]]>

Written By Dr. Nicholas Parton, DPT, MTC, CSCS

TriSports.com is a family owned business in Tucson, Arizona which retails a wide range of products from athlete’s favorite brands. They provide personal service and recommendations for all levels of athletes as well as support the growth and quality of the sport across the country and in their backyard.

Fully Charged Use
Hammer Fully Charged is a pre-workout supplement that provides caffeine, sustained energy, and Nitrous Oxide exercise support to improve performance and maximize muscular and mental function.

What’s In It
Green Tea Extract, Nitrous Oxide Proprietary Blend, Taurine, Tart Cherry Extract, Beta Alanine, L-Carnitine.  These items will provide mental and physical sharpening, increased blood flow and supply to muscles, and amino acids for muscular efficiency.

Review:
During our racing careers we go through phases and experimentation with our diets. There is an endless supply of new and rediscovered super foods in a dietary world that feels cyclical in nature. Like many triathletes, I have tried most of them. I used Beta-Alanine a decade ago, started using beets two years ago, and grew up with a tart cherry tree which has made it easy to utilize tart cherries in my diet as a recovery aid. Hammer Fully Charged combines all three of those ingredients in their proprietary blend in addition to amino acids, taurine, and the everyone’s favorite supplement caffeine which comes from green tea. Naturally, an all-in-one product is preferable to three different concoctions each day, so I gave it a try through a training cycle including long runs, hill repeats, interval workouts, and three races.

Day 1: Mixed my first glass. Fully Charged mixes into cool water easily and provides a pinkish hue.  The flavor is tart cherry, I personally smell and taste a watered-down bubble gum which is pleasant enough for a supplement and not painful to drink. I went out on my first run 30 minutes after replacing my pre-run glass of water with Fully Charged. The biggest test of these supplements to me is if my stomach can handle it; I did not notice any difference in my stomach which was a great start from day one.

Day 2-7: I continued to drink a single glass in the morning before my first workout. I felt great during this week, it was my first week of build into a training cycle. A progression long run, hill workout, and my first race all occurred with good results and no stomach issues which has always been my complaint about other beet supplements.

Day 8-14: It took over a week until I started noticing the flush from the Beta-Alanine in the Fully Charged.  Research shows that Beta-Alanine requires a period of loading and then maintenance to provide the buffer effect. By itself, Beta-Alanine is usually cycled for 4-6 weeks prior to your primary event. This was my best week of the cycle.  Every day I felt I could meet or exceed my workout goals. There is no doubt the Fully Charged wasn’t hurting and I kept feeling good; I found a supplement that made my legs feel like my other beet supplements – faster and fresher. I continued to be happy about how easily my stomach handled the blend of supplements in Fully Charged.

Day 15-21: I continued to sleep and recover well this week which was the final of this cycle before a down week. One of the more common uses for Tart Cherry is as a sleep aide which is what I used it for in periods prior to beginning Fully Charged.  Sleep is vital to recovery, so a supplement that can provide some quality to your shut-eye can be worth its weight in gold during harder cycles. After making it through my last race and long run during this test period while hitting all of my goals has made me feel that there isn’t a fall off between Hammer’s all-in-one product and supplementing with the three separate products I was consuming otherwise.  I am a believer and since it is cheaper and easier to consume; Hammer Fully Charged will replace my other supplements going forward until I am convinced otherwise.

Pros:

  • Multiple Performance Enhancers in One
  • Easy on the Stomach
  • Caffeine source without the acidity of coffee before a run

Cons

  • Tart Cherry Flavor preference
  • For most this is a morning or early afternoon supplement only due to caffeine content
  • Beta-Alanine flush can be unpleasant but is short lived

Recap
After a three week hard training cycle I would highly recommend Hammer Fully Charged as a supplement to add to your arsenal. Hammer Fully Charged provided the same exercise-feel, similar to beet or blended performance-enhancing products at a lower cost and in an all-in-one supplement. Easy to dissolve and drink before exercise without the stomach difficulties of other products.

Buy This Product Now on TriSports.com

About the Author: Dr. Nicholas Parton, DPT, MTC, CSCS is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist in Colorado Springs, who works with athletes in their homes and in the field through Parton Physical Therapy (www.partonpt.com), spends his free time triathlon training with the support of TriSports.com, and enjoys getting lost in the mountains with his wife, Jessica.

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Product Review: HOT SHOT https://university.trisports.com/2017/02/06/product-review-hot-shot/ Mon, 06 Feb 2017 21:40:49 +0000 http://www.university.trisports.com/?p=7973 Written by David Tatum USAT Level 1 Coach and TriSports Elite Team Member Company History HOTSHOT was invented by Dr. Rod MacKinnon, a Nobel Prize-winning neuroscientist and endurance athlete. After surviving life threatening muscle cramps while deep sea kayaking off the coast of Cape Cod, he discovered that existing cramp remedies that target the muscle […]]]>

Written by David Tatum USAT Level 1 Coach and TriSports Elite Team Member

Company History
HOTSHOT was invented by Dr. Rod MacKinnon, a Nobel Prize-winning neuroscientist and endurance athlete. After surviving life threatening muscle cramps while deep sea kayaking off the coast of Cape Cod, he discovered that existing cramp remedies that target the muscle didn’t work. Calling upon his Nobel Prize-winning expertise on ion channels, Rod reasoned that in order to prevent and treat cramps the treatment should focus on the nerve, not the muscle. The company has taken the approach that “muscle cramps are caused by the nerve, not the muscle;” their research has concluded that, “muscles cramp up when motor neurons in your spinal cord start firing off spontaneously and repetitively.”

The Product
HOTSHOT’s claim is that it stimulates Transient Receptor Potential (TRP) channels in your mouth, esophagus, and stomach, sending signals to calm your hyper-excited neurons, to prevent and treat muscle cramps. The product comes in a 1.7 FL OZ bottle that is meant to be taken before, during or after workouts. HOTSHOT is available for purchase in either a single or 12-pack and costs roughly $7 per bottle.

Product Features and Differentiators
HOTSHOT has basically invented a category of its own with its claim to solve the issue of cramping in a whole different way altogether. Most products in this category tend to take the approach that proper hydration and electrolyte replacement such as potassium, magnesium, and calcium will prevent the athlete from experiencing muscle cramps. Other products in this category include sports drinks, salt tablets or electrolyte pills. The biggest difference from other nutrition and supplement products is that HOTSHOT does not seek to solve the problem through hydration or electrolyte replacement.

The active ingredients and proprietary blend are made of the mixture of cinnamon, ginger, and capsaicin, which is an active ingredient in chili peppers. It’s worth mentioning, this product should not be seen as an adequate source of water or electrolytes for the athlete during training or racing.

Product Benefits
Many athletes experience muscle cramps during training and competition. The purpose for taking HOTSHOT is to prevent, treat or recover from muscle cramps. If you’re an athlete who experiences frequent cramping issues, this product may have the potential to save a race or help you finish a workout if the product worked for you in training.

Product Testing
In full disclosure, I do not tend to deal with cramps on a frequent basis as an athlete.  In my experience as an athlete, I have cramped for a few reasons, a lack of hydration or electrolytes, or both. My approach for cramps has been to remain properly hydrated and consume the right amount of electrolytes during training and racing to prevent cramps before they start, which has worked for me.

Test
In order to test this product I attempted to fatigue my body and deprive myself of water and electrolytes. I would not recommend this process to others; I did it solely for product testing.

Taste
HOTSHOT doesn’t make any claims to have created a great tasting product. I definitely would not drink HOTSHOT for pleasure or in any type of greater quantity.  Because of the cinnamon and capsaicin it has a burning sensation in your throat and stomach and leaves an after taste. I imagine it is similar to taking a teaspoon of cinnamon, chewing on a chili pepper, or taking a shot of the drink Fireball. You have to remember when taking this product, you’re taking it for its function, to stop muscle cramps, not for the flavor.

Workout
To test the product, I completed two independent workouts both on Fridays a week apart, I took a bottle of HOTSHOT at the end of a 70-mile bike ride and a 4.5 mile run. At the time of taking the product I was mildly dehydrated, low on electrolytes, and experiencing mild muscle twinges, but nothing that would stop me from continuing my training. Within five minutes, any slight spasms were eliminated; I felt recovered and didn’t have any lingering cramps. I was also hydrating and replenishing my electrolyte loss at that time. I would recommend that athletes who struggle with muscle cramps test HOTSHOT during training to evaluate whether it works for them. Since personal nutrition, hydration, and electrolyte replacement can vary greatly between individuals, it is crucial to personally try any nutrition and supplements you may  consider for yourself before your events. I’ve tried handfuls of products as an IRONMAN athlete before determining what works best for me on race day. Give HOTSHOT a try to see if it helps you, you only have cramps to lose.

Buy This Product Now on TriSports.com

About the Author: David Tatum is a USAT Level 1 Coach, a multiple IRONMAN finisher and 70.3 World Championship Qualifier. Visit David’s website at www.tricoachtatum.com.

 

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A Beginner’s Guide to Bike Tires https://university.trisports.com/2017/01/27/a-beginners-guide-to-bike-tires/ Fri, 27 Jan 2017 22:28:58 +0000 http://www.university.trisports.com/?p=7941 Written by Nate Deck, Field Test Expert and TriSports Ambassador Team Athlete As with so many pieces of equipment, triathletes are always looking for the option that will get them from Point-A to Point-B as quickly as possible. Bike tires are no different, but there tends to be a bit more confusion surrounding tires as […]]]>

Written by Nate Deck, Field Test Expert and TriSports Ambassador Team Athlete

As with so many pieces of equipment, triathletes are always looking for the option that will get them from Point-A to Point-B as quickly as possible. Bike tires are no different, but there tends to be a bit more confusion surrounding tires as there are so many variables that can go into tire selection. Just because Tire-A costs twice as much as Tire-B doesn’t mean that it is faster, and in fact, it may be slower. This guide will help walk you through finding the best tire for you and your ride, but first, we need a little background to get started!

History of the Tire
Originally, bike tires were actually not tires at all. Bike wheels were actually wooden and held together by iron rims similar to the wheels seen on wagons and stage coaches (Herlihy, 2004). Obviously, these did not give a very smooth ride, so riders began adding their own types of rubber coating to the wheels in an attempt to soften the bumps in the road (Hadland and Lessing, 2014). Eventually, in the late 1800’s, a man named John Dunlop realized that an even smoother ride could be achieved by filling the rubber tire with air. This became known as the “pneumatic tyre.” Édouard Michelin then further evolved this concept shortly before the turn of the century by creating the first detachable tire with an inner tube which held the air and could be replaced in the event of a flat tire (Herlihy, 2004).

While the bike tire has evolved immensely since the late 1800’s, the idea is basically the same. Today there are three main types of tires in use, and that is where we will start our journey to find your the perfect tire!

Types of Tires

Clincher
The first, and most popular tires on the market today are clinchers. These tires clamp to the rim of the wheel by a lip on the edge of the tire that corresponds to a lip on the edge of the wheel. These tires require a separate inner tube to hold air in the tire as well as provide the pressure to keep the tire on the rim.

Tubeless
The next tire is the tubeless tire. These are in many ways identical to the clincher except, as the name implies, without the inner tube. Many clinchers are also labeled “tubeless ready,” meaning they can be used either with or without an inner tube.

Tubular
The final type of tire is the tubular tire. These tires were once the only type of tire professional racers would use, but as technology has improved, many racers are now switching over to clinchers for convenience and ease of use. These tires have the inner tube sewn into outer rubber of the tire which allows less material to be used which makes them roll faster. These tires must be glued on to the rim of the wheel which makes changing a flat tire more difficult, not to mention the fact that you must change the whole tire because the inner tube cannot be removed.

So which tire do you need? It depends on what type of wheel you have. If you don’t know, it is usually marked on the side of the tire, or you can check the manufacturer’s website. If all else fails, you can just try to remove the current tire you have. If there is no lip on the rim and it is glued on, you have a tubular. If there is no inner tube, you have a tubeless. If there is an inner tube, you have a clincher.

Things to Consider
There are many variables to consider, and some that are unique to each type of tire. So now that you know what you need, let’s dive in and sort out all the details.

Size
There are two main measurements that determine tire size. The first is diameter, which is determined completely by the size wheel you have. The second is width, which is variable based on the size of your wheel and our personal preference. The most common size of road bike wheel is 700c (we won’t go into mountain bike wheels since this is focused on triathletes… sorry Xterra racers-we’ll cover that in another article). Unless you have a very small bike, in which case you may have 650c wheels, you most likely have 700c wheels.

The next measurement, the width, can vary a bit and it depends on your personal preference. Most bikes come with 23mm tires from the store, but the current trend is to ride 25mm tires due to the fact that they roll faster at the same pressure and do a better job at dampening the bumps in the road. You can get tires as small as 21mm and as big as 28mm, but 23 and 25 are the most common. Most wheels will be able to handle any of these sizes, but your frame may cause some issues. Again, check your manufacturer’s website to see if there is enough room if you want to use one of the larger sizes. Usually 25mm will be alright, but not all bikes can handle 28mm tires!

Tread
The next thing to look at is the type of tread you want. There are an infinite amount of tread patterns available so I’ll only cover the basics here. The first are slicks. They are totally smooth and have no tread whatsoever. These are great for race day in dry conditions, but they will lose traction quickly when a little water is present. A great example of this tire is the Vittoria Corsa Speed.

The next are all around tires and usually have a slick center with a bit of tread at the edge of the tire. These will allow you to have the speed of the slicks when you are going straight, and added traction for turns. There are multiple race tires that employ this tread for extra traction and avoiding having to use different tires on race day. A great example of these tires are the Vittoria Rubino Pro or Continental Grand Prix 4000.

The last are every day or commuter tires. They will generally have tread all over for use in any condition. These are great for training tires or to put on your commuter bike. A great example of these would be the Continental Grand Prix 4-season or Vittoria Rubino Pro Endurance.

Threads Per Inch (TPI) and Tire Construction
Another thing to look at in tires is the threads per inch (or TPI) and the tire construction. In the description of most tires you will find information about what goes into the various layers of a tire. Things like kevlar will help resist punctures but will also add to the weight of a tire. Special rubber compounds on the tread will help with grip on the road. Look for information like this that aligns with what you want in a tire.

There will also be a line about the TPI. This indicated the number of strands of nylon or other material that are running through your tire. A higher TPI tire will be more soft and therefore will roll faster. It will also be lighter since there is less rubber needed to help the tire together. A lower TPI tire will be more durable over many miles of riding, but it will also be heavier and slower rolling due to being stiffer. Again, it all depends on your needs. A higher TPI is better for racing and speed. A lower TPI is good for training and commuting.

Special Needs
There are a few things to consider depending on whether you are getting a clincher, tubular, or tubeless tire. When buying a clincher, you may see a folding tire or a wire bead tire. Folding tires are shipped folded up in a box and are generally lighter. A wire bead tire will be sold to you already in a round shape because of the wire running around the lip of the tire. There is really no reason not to go with a folding tire as they are lighter and don’t cost much more than a comparable tire.

Another thing to consider with a clincher is the inner tube you are using. Make sure you pick up a few extra for flats that may come your way. For more info on inner tubes, check out our Beginner’s Guide to Bike Tubes!

If you are buying a tubeless tire, make sure to pick up a tubeless stem to inflate the tire as well as some sealant to get it all rolling. Similarly, if you are buying a tubular tire you will need some tire glue or gluing tape to get the tire installed to your rim. You may also want a shop to install them for you if it is your first time, but ask if you can watch so you know how to change your tire in the event of a flat. Nothing is worse than being stuck on the side of a road with a flat and no idea how to change it!

Conclusion
Hopefully you are prepared to walk through the process and pick a tire that best suits your needs. Don’t be afraid to try out a few and see which ones work best for you!

 

nate-deckAbout the Author: Nate is a husband, father, triathlete, and teacher. Nate likes to help others learn from his triathlon mistakes and successes, aiming to encourage athletes new to triathlon. When he’s not hanging out with teenagers, he can be found swimming, biking, and running around central North Carolina, blogging, or on twitter @n8deck.Buy This Product Now on TriSports.com

Bibliography
Hadland, Tony and Lessing, Hans-Erhard (2014). Bicycle Design, An Illustrated History. MIT Press. ISBN 978-0-262-02675-8.

Herlihy, David V. (2004). Bicycle, The History. Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-10418-9.

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Product Review: The Triathlete’s Training Bible & Diary https://university.trisports.com/2016/12/15/product-review-the-triathletes-training-bible-diary/ Thu, 15 Dec 2016 12:07:57 +0000 http://www.university.trisports.com/?p=7843 Written By Dr. Nicholas Parton, DPT, MTC, CSCS  Background of the Triathlete’s Training Bible: Joe Friel made his mark on triathlon long ago with his first edition of The Triathlete’s Training Bible, and to his great credit, he did not stop growing when he achieved success with his first book. He went on to create […]]]>

Written By Dr. Nicholas Parton, DPT, MTC, CSCS 

parton-product-review

Background of the Triathlete’s Training Bible:
Joe Friel made his mark on triathlon long ago with his first edition of The Triathlete’s Training Bible, and to his great credit, he did not stop growing when he achieved success with his first book. He went on to create The Triathlete’s Training Diary and has recently updated the content of his training bible, the newly released 4th edition. Sports science is an evolving field, a lot like nutrition and other fields that try to identify what can be done to maximize the ability of the human body. As he mentions in the foreword, this book is for “high performance” and is meant for those who have some understanding of what it takes to train for triathlon regularly. As a doctor of physical therapy and certified strength and conditioning specialist, I thought this book would provide an interesting read and an opportunity to compare the current exercise science research with the information provided in this book.

Key takeaways on what the training bible can teach a triathlete:

  1. Succeeding in triathlon requires work on the mind and the body. Proper goals, focus, and purpose are as important as training volume, intensity, and rest.
  2. Determine the Three Physical Metrics to determine fitness: Aerobic Capacity, Anaerobic Threshold, and Economy. Develop your basic abilities, aerobic endurance, muscular force, and speed skills, then your advanced abilities, muscular endurance, anaerobic endurance, and sprint power, in order to improve your physical metrics.
  3. Learn to manage your training load. Utilize tools of pace charts, heart rate, and power to create zones of training that allow you to apply an appropriate training stress and also successfully rest. In the book you are able to use the information to create your custom zones.
  4. Plan your year based on your goals and your longest race/”A-race” for that year. Then drill down to determine training periodization with weekly volume and finally daily planning.
  5. Develop triathlon specific skills early to gain your competitive edge as it takes less time to maintain those skills after they are learned. Use warm ups to practice motor patterns and hone your skills.
  6. Mimic sport specific motions during weight lifting to maximize the benefit of your gym/strength training time.

the-triathlete-s-training-bible-diary-set-3

A valuable resource and training tool for triathletes:
I’m a firm believer that many athletes know just enough about sports science and nutrition to be caught in fads and poor training regimens. For most triathletes, The Triathlete’s Training Bible and Diary are as good as taking an entry-level exercise physiology class in college. It’s important to take the time to gain full and diverse knowledge about your body and training. From this book, a triathlete can acquire an improved in-depth understanding of how the body adapts to loads of training during rest and through periodization, which will help the athlete listen to their body with improved success and less guessing. Triathletes will learn about the concepts of training during the preliminary chapters of the training bible. Knowing how and why the body responds to training allows an athlete to find increased value in what sometimes seem like endless hours of training and commitment. Once these foundations of knowledge are established, the reader is then provided with workouts and explanations of workouts in order to apply those concepts. Athletes can utilize the training diary to plan, log, and analyze past performances. Examples of brick workouts and ideas of how to vary training are found in the appendices. Personally, I love how Friel lays out specific workouts for each of the abilities that a successful athlete needs; this allows the reader to further test themselves and improve specific weaknesses. We all avoid certain types of workouts that are our least favorite, but this book can help you understand if what you’re avoiding is actually a true weakness as well.

Bottom line: Utilizing the training practices in the book will allow triathletes to specialize, properly overload, and adapt their training for maximum benefit and time efficiency.

Happy Swimming, Biking, and Running!

Buy This Product Now on TriSports.com

nick-partonpicAbout the Author: Dr. Nicholas Parton, DPT, MTC, CSCS is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist in Colorado Springs, who works with athletes in their homes and in the field through Parton Physical Therapy (www.partonpt.com), spends his free time triathlon training with the support of TriSports.com, and enjoys getting lost in the mountains with his wife, Jessica.

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Ceramic Bearings: Save a Watt, Spend a Lot https://university.trisports.com/2016/12/08/ceramic-bearings-save-a-watt-spend-a-lot/ Thu, 08 Dec 2016 17:55:57 +0000 http://www.university.trisports.com/?p=7816 Written by Nate Deck, Field Test Expert and TriSports Ambassador Team Athlete Triathletes have various obsessions with making marginal gains. These seem to go in phases from weight and power in the off-season to aerodynamics as race day gets closer. But I’ve noticed a trend over the last few years: friction. As aero-everything becomes mainstream, […]]]>

Written by Nate Deck, Field Test Expert and TriSports Ambassador Team Athlete

aerodynamics-header

Triathletes have various obsessions with making marginal gains. These seem to go in phases from weight and power in the off-season to aerodynamics as race day gets closer. But I’ve noticed a trend over the last few years: friction. As aero-everything becomes mainstream, reducing friction has come to the forefront as the way to get a leg up on your competitor.

Take a look at pictures of the equipment the pros were running at Kona this year and you will see a trend. Hubs, bottom brackets, and derailleur pulleys were all replaced with ceramic bearings. Even chains were getting a special coating to reduce drivetrain friction.

orbea

This may leave you wondering, should I upgrade? Or maybe you already know you want to upgrade, but don’t know where to begin. First, we need to get an understanding on what realistic gains we can expect from a ceramic upgrade.

But the manufacturer says…
I know. Manufacturers make some amazing claims about their products. So let’s start there. We need to know what makes ceramics bearing so much better than normal (steel) bearings in theory.

As a material, ceramic is better suited for bearings because it is harder than steel, and it can be made more smooth and more round than steel. Obviously a harder bearing is more durable, so it should last longer. Also, being able to produce a more perfectly round ball will help things roll faster with less effort.

You sound like you don’t believe them…
Yes and no. In theory, it all sounds like a magical component that you can swap out and immediately gain the equivalent of 10 watts. However, just because ceramic has the potential to be rounder and smoother does not mean it is by default.

ceramicspeed-bottom-brackets

First of all, you need to understand that a bearing is not just about the little balls that help the part turn. A bearing is actually made of two rings (called races) with the ball bearings in between. The ball bearings roll and allow the inner and outer rings to turn. Some manufacturers have made a hybrid ceramic bearing with the balls being ceramic and the races being steel. This saves money, but it fails to take into account the difference in hardness of each material. The hard ceramic bearings can wear down the softer steel races more quickly than if the two were made of the same material.

The other big part of the equation is the lubrication. Steel bearings need that lubrication to keep them running smooth. For ceramics, the lubrication diminishes some of that smoothness that would be gained from a perfectly round bearing, but without it, riding in rain and mud would allow gunk to build up inside and ruin the whole thing.

OK, so has anyone actually proved these things work?
There have been some third party tests done on ceramic bearings. The most well known is the Colorado-based company Friction Facts. The biggest factor in the potential time savings on any ceramic part is its RPM’s. That means the faster a part turns, the more savings a ceramic bearing could potentially give you. That breaks down something like this:

  • Derailleur Pulleys (Approx. 0.5-2.0 watts)
  • Wheel Hubs (Approx. 0.5-1.0 watts)
  • Bottom Brackets (Approx. 0.03-0.5 watts)

For each of these parts there is a given range of potential savings that depends on what you are currently using. For example, the difference in switching your derailleur pulley from a Dura-Ace to a CeramicSpeed is 0.35 watts. Change that to an oversized pulley and you get 0.6 watts. However, if you are currently running a 105 or lower-end pulley the savings could be up to a full watt or more.

deo_3736

That’s not a lot of savings
You’re right. And when you look at dollars per watt, it doesn’t look better. Best case, switching to an oversized CeramicSpeed pulley costs about $250 per watt. By comparison the average on an aero helmet over a regular one is around $10 per watt and aero wheels come in at about $150 per watt.

High performance parts for race day
On the positive side, there is a savings there! If you are trying to squeeze every last bit of savings out of your rig, this is a great new innovation that can help you. Just understand that these are special, high performance parts for one purpose: to get you from point A to point B as fast as possible on race day. These are not designed to be day in and day out parts.

ceramicspeed-bike-at-kona

A great example of this is a response that HED wheels have on their FAQ page regarding ceramic hubs.

“Up until 2011, some of our wheels came as standard with ceramic bearings. In theory, these should offer lower rolling resistance than standard stainless bearings. However, with use in punishing conditions we were finding that the ceramic bearings were actually more susceptible to becoming contaminated. Consequently, these bearings were going “rough” far quicker than the stainless variety. When new, our ceramic bearings did offer very low rolling resistance but in use we found that this didn’t remain the case. Our high grade stainless bearings that are now available in our wheels actually offer lower rolling resistance for a longer period of time when compared to the ceramic variation due to their harder wearing nature.”

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So what should I do?
First, make sure you’ve gotten every last bit of speed you can out of your current equipment and make sure it is clean and well maintained. Check out the 5 bike repair lessons for triathletes. Like they say, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Next, if you’re ready to go ceramic, here’s a good place to start. Look at Ultra Fast Optimized (UFO) Chains. Friction Facts created this process to specially clean and coat a chain to reduce as much friction as possible. CeramicSpeed bought this part of the business a few years back. Again, this is not an everyday chain, but come race day, it will save you the most watts.

If your budget allows, you can look at derailleur pulleys too. You can even get CeramicSpeed’s Watt Saver Kit which comes in a variety of configurations to upgrade both your chain and derailleur. And finally, the bottom bracket to smooth out your ride.

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Final thoughts
Going ceramic is not a cheap investment. If you, your kit and rig are already performing at your max and are still looking to save some watts, then it may be time to make the ceramic investment. Similarly to swimmers shaving their legs for race day, cyclists and triathletes can upgrade to ceramic to help juice as much watt-savings for better performances.

The bottom line is that you need to make sure that if you are going to upgrade, you need to make it count and have realistic expectations. If you do it right, you’ll be satisfied knowing you have the fastest possible rig come race day.

Buy This Product Now on TriSports.com

nate-deckAbout the Author: Nate is a husband, father, triathlete, and teacher. Nate likes to help others learn from his triathlon mistakes and successes, aiming to encourage athletes new to triathlon. When he’s not hanging out with teenagers, he can be found swimming, biking, and running around central North Carolina, blogging, or on twitter @n8deck.

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Product Review: SHFT Intelligent Virtual Running Coach https://university.trisports.com/2016/11/25/product-review-shft-intelligent-virtual-running-coach/ Fri, 25 Nov 2016 13:53:53 +0000 http://www.university.trisports.com/?p=7746 Written by Jesse Vondracek, Professional Triathlete and TriSports Elite Team Member The company SHFT was born in 2013 and started as an idea to help runners run faster and stay injury free. In 2014, this idea started to become reality as the idea of running power was able to be measured. Later that year, the […]]]>

Written by Jesse Vondracek, Professional Triathlete and TriSports Elite Team Member

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The company SHFT was born in 2013 and started as an idea to help runners run faster and stay injury free. In 2014, this idea started to become reality as the idea of running power was able to be measured. Later that year, the first food pod prototype was created, providing the company enough leverage to secure financial backing. Through SHFT Intelligent Virtual Running Coach a runner is able to measure several  landing position, steps per minute, ground contact time, time in air, landing angle, toe off angle, steps length, G-landing (landing force), watt, running efficiency, brake effect, body bounce, and body angle. A year later, all the kinks had been worked out, along with a final system design consisting of two pods, one for the chest and the other for the right shoe. The Intelligent Virtual Running Coach hit the market and has taken the running community by storm.

How is SHFT Different?
SHFT analyzes your running form and tracks your development. It determines your weakest area, then it tells you how to work on improving your weakness in real time. This immediate feedback and assistance as you go sets this power meter apart, and earns SHFT the title of a coach. In an age of instant everything, SHFT nailed what consumers want, real-time feedback while training. Gone are the days of having to do your run first, come back and upload your data to be able to analyze your running efficiency. SHFT does all the work for you with instant feedback.

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How Does it Coach? 
My first question was, how does a power meter call itself a coach? Sure…it gives you a tremendous amount of data, but a coach? So, I took it for a spin. SHFT analyzed my run form and gave me all kinds of data. But the best part is that it immediately told me what to do with the data in order to make each body movement more efficient. It turns out I have an extremely high ground contact time. The virtual coach then led me through three rounds of six minutes training where I focused on my ground contact. During each six-minute segment, the coach gave me updates on my average ground contact time, as well as gave me parts of my stride to think about in order to encourage a shorter ground contact time. The coach told me to do things like focus on getting my heel closer to my hips, shortening my stride, and think about running barefoot in hot sand. These tools helped me to decrease my ground contact time during my three six-minute segments. The constant feedback and praise was oddly helpful. It was helpful enough to overlook the extremely robotic voice that could not seem to pronounce “successful” for the life of it.
This would be a great tool to begin using in the off-season. I could work on my ground contact time in the off-season, much like in cycling people tend to work on cadence. SHFT collects a variety of running metrics, with the SHFT Coach turned on, you will not only get the the information about a metric, but also instructions on how to improve any areas of weakness. One of these running variables will be your weakness, and you will want to work on it at some point in your season. SHFT helps you identify that weakness.

Like any new tool in your tool box, I would advise you to take some time to use it appropriately. For example, I have done a few test runs, but I am three weeks out from an IRONMAN. I am very curious about the data SHFT has given me, but I need to wait until after the race before I try to make a series of adjustments to my stride.

Added Benefit for Triathletes
On the same note, I am curious to test my stand alone running form to how I run off of the bike. This could be an extremely good use of SHFT for triathletes. The program stores data from each run you do. I am excited to see how my numbers from a fresh tempo run compare to a run off the bike. Exploring these differences is hard to do on your own, but could help reduce the gap between your open half time and your 70.3 run split.

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Ease of Use
Out of the box, this product was extremely self-explanatory. It was so easy, I second guessed myself while using it because of how simple it was. You simply charge the pods, download the app, pair the pods with blue tooth on your phone, place them on your chest and shoe, and you’re off and running.

Seven minutes into the first run, SHFT has your first data points set. It then gives you guided instruction while running to work on your weakness. This continued guidance helps athletes stay engaged in what they are doing while they are working on it. Six minutes is a short enough time to focus on something and short enough for mostly all runners to be able to run for the entire time. This is a great tool to have in the shed to improve run economy and efficiency for all runners. I hope that as time goes on, this technology can be paired with a GPS watch so that you do not need to carry your phone. My other hope is that SHFT will help you understand the rest of the data it provides. It gives you a ton of great feedback, but it doesn’t tell you much about it. I don’t know if 114cm is a good step length, or if my 9 watt break effect is high. It does a great job illustrating what the terms mean, but I would like a range of values for each metric.

All in all, after seven minutes of running I learned something new about my own form that I had not discussed with my coach over six years of competitive racing. The SHFT Intelligent Virtual Running Coach is a great tool to help unlock your running potential.

Buy This Product Now on TriSports.com

shft-3About the Author: Jesse has been racing professionally for seven years. His career highlights include an IRONMAN PR of 8:44, 7th place at 2016 IRONMAN Vineman, 70.3 PR of 4:05 at 2016 Eagleman for 5th place and 0 DNFs. Jesse is a coach at http://www.topsteptraining.com and USAT certified. He’s been coaching athletes for the past six years. Besides coaching triathletes, he has coached high school cross country and track, as well as club swimming. Jesse spent ten years teaching and has a Master’s Degree in Education.

 

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Product Review: NiteRider Lumina 950 Boost Bicycle Light and Sentinel 150 Tail Light https://university.trisports.com/2016/11/11/product-review-niterider-lumina-950-boost-sentinel-150/ Fri, 11 Nov 2016 19:32:27 +0000 http://www.university.trisports.com/?p=7764 Written by Nate Deck, Field Test Expert and TriSports Champion Team Athlete As the days get shorter and along with it your time to train outside, you may be turning to some products to light your way as dusk settles over the roads. Training with lights on your bike is a good idea to maintain […]]]>

Written by Nate Deck, Field Test Expert and TriSports Champion Team Athlete

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As the days get shorter and along with it your time to train outside, you may be turning to some products to light your way as dusk settles over the roads. Training with lights on your bike is a good idea to maintain visibility at any time of day, but it becomes even more important in the fall when you may be racing the sun at the end of a workout.

When you start to look at the market for bike lights, you may be overwhelmed by the plethora of choices ranging from camera or radar enabled lights to your basic red flashing tail light. To be of any use, your lights need to bright and durable. This is where NiteRider comes into the picture.

About NiteRider
NiteRider is a family business. Tom Carroll and his wife Veronica started building lights in their dining room as a way for Tom to be able to surf the waves of Southern California after dark. Eventually, their market expanded to producing lights for a range of outdoor sports from road and mountain biking to powersports. They have been leading the way in mobile lighting technology as evidenced by their list of “firsts” they keep on their website. To better understand the level of excellence NiteRider holds to, let’s take a look at their new road cycling models for 2017.

Description and Features

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Lumina 950 Boost
The Lumina 950 Boost is the newest addition to NiteRider’s Lumina line of lights. The 950 stands for the number of lumens this light puts out. In other words, it’s BRIGHT! The Lumina 950 comes with six “modes,” five steady modes of varying brightness, and one flash mode. It is USB rechargeable with a standard MicroUSB like most non-Apple phones today and you can expect anywhere from 5 1⁄2 hours of run time in the flash mode to only 40 minutes in the “boost” mode running the full 950 lumens. It also comes with a handlebar mount as should be expected.

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Sentinel 150
The Sentinel 150 is the newest tailight NiteRider has released. This light has seven modes, two Daylight Visibility Flash modes, two steady modes, and three laser lane modes. These laser lanes are the newest innovations for NiteRider. The light will actually project a laser line (like a laser pointer) on the ground on both sides of your bike. This creates a virtual bike lane for cars to see when passing you. These lasers can be run simultaneously with the red taillight.

The Sentinel 150 is also USB rechargeable and you can expect anywhere from 5 hours of runtime in the flash mode to somewhere around 3 hours with a flash and laser running at the same time.

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Light System Differentiators
So what sets this lighting system apart from the crowd? The most obvious is the laser lane. I don’t know of any other light that can do that. On top of that is the brightness of the lights. No other feature matters (lasers, cameras, radar) if it isn’t bright enough to see. These lights are plenty bright. I would even say they are super bright. I turned them on right out of the package without thinking about the fact they were right in my face and they nearly blinded me! Ok, slight exaggeration… but I was seeing spots for a few minutes…I’d say that it’s bright enough for my cycling purposes.

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So how did they stack up in day-to-day operations? I’ve put them through the paces and my overall impression is great!

Daytime Riding
I do most of my riding during the day, so I like to use lights to add that extra eye-catching visibility, so I don’t get hit by a distracted driver. The DVF (Daylight Visibility Flash) on the taillight is wonderful. It is nice and bright and it is clearly visible during the day. The headlight flash is also quite visible. I could see it reflecting off road signs at quite a long distance, so I know it could catch a driver’s eye if they are at least half paying attention.

The laser lanes are a different story. Have you ever been in a classroom or presentation where the speaker tries to use the laser pointer but the room is too bright? It’s the same concept here. I had a hard time seeing them myself and I knew where to look for them. I quickly realized it wasn’t worth the battery power to leave them on during the day. But at night, it’s a whole different story.

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Nighttime Riding
At night is when these lights really shine (no pun intended). After all, the company is called NiteRider for a reason. The headlight’s varying levels of brightness was great to have. I usually rode with it on the “high” setting, which is about 800 lumens. The “boost” setting, giving you the full 950 lumens, was nice for those descents down roads with few street lights. A quick double click on the light was equivalent to turning on the brights in a car. It gave me enough visibility that I felt confident to descend in the aero position on my tri bike.

The laser lanes on the Sentinel 150 are awesome at night. Running the laser lanes with the steady or night time flash mode makes you that much more visible to drivers. The taillight and the lines on the ground exponentially increases the chance drivers will see you! The lasers have a flash function too, but I felt like the steady light gave drivers a better idea of how much space they actually needed to give me.

Quality
The features and brightness don’t mean a thing if the unit isn’t durable. Thankfully, these are solid! Right out of the package, I could tell they are well-built. They do not feel flimsy in any way. The buttons click well and do not feel mushy at all. Everything is clearly marked and isn’t hard to operate. I’ve only had these units a month, but they have passed the toddler test when my 2 year old got a hold of them and they came out of the experience unscathed.

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Wrap up
My opinion of the NiteRider Lumina 950 Boost and Sentinel 150 Tail Light is very high! I have loved using them and they are top notch. Yes, there are some lighting systems out there that have fancy cameras, radars, or can be controlled from your bike computer with ANT+, but the bottom line for every lighting system is that it needs to be bright and durable. These lights fit the bill. They are solid, they are bright, and the addition of the laser lanes is a huge advantage for nighttime riding! At the end of the day, lights are all about visibility and helping you get home safe. These NiteRider lights will help you with that!

Buy This Product Now on TriSports.com

nate-deckAbout the Author: Nate is a husband, father, and teacher. When he’s not hanging out with teenagers, he can be found swimming, biking, and running around central North Carolina or on twitter @n8deck.

 

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Mountain Biking for Dummies: The Frame https://university.trisports.com/2016/11/04/mountain-biking-for-dummies-the-frame/ Fri, 04 Nov 2016 22:45:13 +0000 http://www.university.trisports.com/?p=7709 Written by James Haycraft I’ll start off on a personal level so we can relate nicely right from the get go…I have been cycling, mostly competitively, for 14 of my 32 years of life. Of those 14 years, only the past three or so have involved riding on stuff other than the pristine smoothness of […]]]>

Written by James Haycraft

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I’ll start off on a personal level so we can relate nicely right from the get go…I have been cycling, mostly competitively, for 14 of my 32 years of life. Of those 14 years, only the past three or so have involved riding on stuff other than the pristine smoothness of concrete and asphalt. All of that is to say that when I first dipped my toe into mountain biking as an adult after a brief flirtation in college, I felt like a complete noob. All of the knowledge and experience I had built up to that point was essentially out the window.  My road-going concerns like frame choice (aero or traditional), components (9 speed, 10 speed, 11 speed, 105/Ultegra/Dura Ace/Rival/Force/Red), wheels (aerodynamic or lightweight or…gasp!, both?!), cost (obviously a big deal), and many more were now concerns that no longer directly related. I needed to learn, so learn I did. Let me preface this series on mountain biking by saying that I have completely fallen in love with the dirt. I still ride on the roads quite a bit, but getting out on the trails feels most similar to when, as a kid (okay and maybe as a young adult), I headed out in the back yard or some woods to just…well, play. It’s plain fun getting off-road, once you get over the intimidation and newness factor. Trust me.

While many of us are at least basically familiar with the tenets of road biking and the equipment involved in that genre of two-wheeled sport, many of us are equally unfamiliar with the off-road world. So let’s dive in to some basics to get our worldview better situated around mountain bikes.

First & Foremost: The Frame
Let’s start at the most basic, the bicycle frame itself. Like road bikes, you can find mountain bike frames that are made up of different materials. Also like road bikes, these materials play a certain role in determining the ride characteristics and, perhaps more importantly, the cost of the bicycle. The two main frame materials found in modern “off the shelf” mountain bikes are carbon fiber and aluminum alloy. There are other materials, as with road bikes, but the bulk of what you’ll see in your local bike shop will be made of one of those materials.

Aluminum: Aluminum alloy is, generally speaking, a less expensive material with which to build a bicycle frame. It can actually be quite lightweight, so don’t always assume that a carbon fiber bike is lighter than an aluminum bike, and can also be quite stiff. That stiffness, however, is frequently considered relatively “harsh” stiffness. Aluminum does not have a lot of compliance as a material; there isn’t a whole lot of “give” to it. Bicycles with aluminum frames are, generally speaking, going to be less expensive than bicycles with carbon fiber frames.

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Carbon: Carbon fiber is becoming more and more prevalent among even (relatively) low-cost mountain bikes. The “lay up” of carbon fiber bicycles plays a huge role in determining how the frame “feels” and how it performs. The “lay up” is basically how the company has deemed it best to place pieces of carbon fiber to change where and how the bike is stiff and/or compliant. At first, carbon seemed an unnecessary luxury to me when I got into mountain biking because I told myself that there are so many bumps and variations in surface that I wouldn’t even be able to tell the difference between frame types. I was completely wrong because the greater density of frame vibrations on the trails (think roots, rocks, drop offs, etc.) actually make a carbon frame “feel” significantly smoother than an aluminum one; even more so than on the road, in my opinion.

A Frame for Every Occasion
Now, let’s head into some more specifics by examining the different types of frames that you can find in the mountain bike world. The main categories that we will use for this discussion are: cross country, trail, all mountain, and downhill. You can find other categories of mountain bikes, but for most of the trail riding population…that terminology is sufficient.

Which bike “type” you choose really depends on your projected use. Some have the luxury of owning several different types and their choice for the day is determined by which trail they are going to ride.

Cross Country: Cross country bikes are typically meant for the fastest riding and/or the least rambunctious trails. They are designed to travel long distances at relatively high speeds and in some ways their geometry is reminiscent of a road bike. They are almost exclusively hard-tail, no rear suspension, or short-travel full suspension, less than 120mm of travel, generally. These bikes typically feature most of the “entry level” bikes, which are frequently hard-tailed, as it is less expensive to produce short-travel, hard-tail bicycles.

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Trail: The next category, “trail” bikes, are generally always “fully suspended;” full suspension and dual suspension all mean the same thing. These bikes have a slightly “slacker” geometry (think more laid back than cross country bicycles), which makes them slightly less quick-handling, but also less responsive to non-rider input. This can be a good thing considering the number of rocks, roots, and so on that can surprise you on the trail. Generally trail bikes have 120-140mm of suspension travel and function mostly as your “do everything” bike. They can generally get on most types of trails and kind of be a jack of all trades.

All Mountain: “All mountain” bikes further the specs that trail bikes have, usually having suspension that is up to about 160mm of travel, even slacker geometry, and bigger brakes and other assorted features to accommodate the likely trail options those bikes will see.  All mountain bikes are generally more refined at going downhill and can absorb big hits and drops to the suspension but still head uphill pretty darn good.

Downhill: Downhill bikes are really meant strictly for those that wish to point their bike downhill. They’re not really meant to be pedaled for anything for than a brief spurt and have HUGE suspension and brakes that are more reminiscent of motocross bikes than regular bicycles.

So choosing a type really depends entirely on what you see yourself doing. Most people, it would seem, get a cross country bike first. They discover that they really enjoy riding trails and realize that some of the most “epic” trails have bigger “features” than their skills, confidence, and bike can handle. So they then buy a new category bike with different features, and so forth and so on. Remember, the correct number of bikes to own is N+1, where N equals the number of bikes you currently own.

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Exploring Suspension and Brakes
Features and specs to look out for really depend on personal preference and use case scenarios. The most important parts of a mountain bike are the suspension and brakes. You will love those two things for what they do more than you love most other features of your bike. Brand preference will play a large role in your choice, as with road bikes. SRAM vs. Shimano, RockShox (a SRAM company) vs. Fox, and so on. However, the standout performer is getting hydraulic disc brakes, as opposed to…well, as opposed to anything else. V-brakes or cantilever brakes or mechanical disc brakes are all big sacrificers of performance (stopping power and modulation) compared to current (even inexpensive) hydraulic disc brakes.

I might go so far to say as the brake decision is probably one to take as a high priority.  Because buying nice, modern brakes will also mean that you have an accompanying bike that is also well-suited to your tasks.

But Which Wheel Size Will Suit Me?!
The last thing to consider that would be a major over-arching decision when it comes to buying a mountain bike is the wheel size. Anytime you see a 26” bike in the modern world, it is likely going to be a complete entry level hard-tail mountain bike. More often your decision will turn on the 27.5” vs. 29” debate. There are arguments and articles written ad nauseum about this decision, but in general, it comes down to preference. I would relate the wheel size choice more to bike size choice, as the pros and cons of each are so minor and personal that it likely won’t make much difference to you as a new rider, and wouldn’t to me as a somewhat experienced rider either. If you start getting into decisions about all mountain bikes with lots of travel and corresponding long wheelbases, having the 27.5” vs. 29” discussion is worth bringing up for sure, but until you reach that point…I would relate it more to bike size.

Bike Sizing
Speaking of bike size, the lingo is a bit confusing for those of us that are used to road going bicycles. Mountain bikes are either measured in inches (14” + 17.5” + 19”, etc.) or in sizes (S, M, L). There are, generally speaking, fewer sizes available per bike, but that is simply because there isn’t really as much a SET position on a mountain bike as compared to a road bike. While on the trail, we are constantly moving our body around, switching hand positions and grip positions, getting in and out of the saddle, and so on. This movement means our fits on these bikes are “looser,” so to speak. So with sizing it’s more important to feel comfortable with the bike underneath you. For example, at 5’11” I could ride a Medium or a Large on a cross country bike, but I prefer to ride a Medium, as it feels easier to manipulate and adjust underneath me as I ride along. So, standing over something and riding it around a bit is a better way to determine size than by simply looking a size chart.

But ultimately, in this modern day (vs. the old ages of 5-7 years ago) technology has gotten to a point where even “entry level” components and equipment are far, far better than advanced level equipment of those times. So priorities would be: decide on your budget, test ride interesting models if possible (many dealers will have demo days associated with certain bike brands throughout the year), select the type of bike based on intended use, and go shred!

Buy This Product Now on TriSports.com

james-haycraftAbout the Author: James is a recent transplant to the southwest who has spent more money during his time in triathlon than he’d care to admit. An adult onset triathlete, he has had the privilege to race in the professional field before realizing that they are simply too good for him and is now back to the age group ranks, where he has discovered a love for all things off-road and has (temporarily, most likely) forsaken his road-going ways in favor of getting dirty.

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