While we see and test a lot of tri-related gear, here are a few of our favorites when swimming, cycling, running, training and recovering.
Garmin Fenix 6 Sapphire $599 - $1,149
Why We Like It: You just can't find a more feature-rich and stylish wearable.
We like actionable data, which is just one reason why we love the Garmin Fenix 6. This wearable has trickle-down features from the premier Garmin Marq series, including an amazing breadth and depth of actionable metrics for nearly any activity we could think of. Choose from more than 40 other sport activity apps and even download ski resort maps or load data for more than 41,000(!) golf courses. This high-tech Garmin wearable was constantly benchmarking our fitness, even when sleeping. It also accounts for altitude acclimatization, respiration rate and several other metrics, which were used to calculate "Body Battery," a relative fitness and recovery score.
An update to the optical HRM hardware meant that the Garmin Fenix 6 detected heart rate--without a chest strap--while swimming. On land when running, we configured the Pace Pro function to display a desired target pace that accounted for elevation changes--a really cool feature when on hilly runs where elevation changes affect overall pacing.
The Fenix 6 Pro stores about 2,000 audio files, and we were easily able to connect our BTLE earbuds. Music playback and always-on fitness/recovery metrics taxed battery life, but when used in a power-saving mode, the Garmin Fenix 6 could go for more than 14 days without a recharge.
Not an underrated feature, the Fenix 6 looks more like a lifestyle wearable than a multisport watch--like our beloved Garmin Forerunner 945--so it's just right for an austere workplace.
Elite Direto X, $899
Why We Like It: portable, quiet and as accurate as smart-trainers costing hundreds more
With cooler temperatures and limited daylight, we've been riding inside on the Elite Direto X quite a bit--and we expect to continue using it even as temperatures increase. We were impressed with the relatively low noise output, even when going full-gas. The red Elite trainer mat (sold separately) provided additional noise reduction, which was appreciated by those who shared our inside-ride space.
Power output measured by the Elite Direto X was in agreement with our on-the-bike power meter, and while varying efforts--like "racing" in Zwfit--the Direto X felt smooth and responsive. The built-in carrying handle and manageable weight made moving the Elite Direto X pretty easy, while the folding legs made for efficient storage.
The Elite Direto X accommodates 10-, 11-, and 12-speed cassettes, thru-axles or traditional quick release, and long-cage derailleurs. While we weren't able to test the trainer's upper limits, the Elite Direto X is claimed to offer resistance up to 2,100 watts.
Favero Assioma Duo, $616
Why We Like It: affordable and accurate dual-sided power meter that never asks us to recycle spent batteries
We think the best place to measure the power you produce when riding is right where it's transferred to the bike: at the pedals. The Favero Assioma Duo power meter is not affected by measurement losses--like power meters that measure at the hub, bottom bracket, chainrings/spider or crank. The built-in rechargeable batteries, status display LEDs and signal transmitters are enclosed in the built-in module, positioned just inboard of the pedal body. This design does not change the Q-Factor--the distance the pedal is positioned from the crank arm--and allows for a slimmer pedal body. And, even the wide feet of one reviewer stayed clear of these transmitters.
Installing the pedals was super easy using just a 8mm hex wrench. Device registration, set-up and configuration features were all managed through our mobile phone (just be sure to allow the app to use the bluetooth connection through your phone--we, uh, forgot this part at first). The app is used to calibrate the Assioma Favero power meter pedals, as well as set the pedals in travel mode (to save battery life when driving or flying with the pedals), and view battery charge status. The claimed battery life is 50 hours between charges, and we were able to get over 45 hours before we recharged just to be sure we didn't exhaust them mid-ride.
While Assioma does not currently offer a bike computer, the Favero Duo was easily paired with our devices from Garmin and Wahoo, as well as with our laptop when using Zwift. We found the data reported by the Favero Assioma Duo to be nearly identical with power measured by our smart trainer, and pedal power meters from other manufacturers. For the price and features offered, we think the Favero Assioma Duo are a reliable and indispensable training tool.
Blackburn Barrier Micro Seat Bag, $25
Why We Like It: small but cavernous storage for on-the-road bike essentials
Multi-core microprocessors, student-loans and saddle packs are a few things we think are better when small. The Blackburn Barrier Micro Seat Bag is claimed to have a 0.25 L capacity, but it seemed so much larger--we were able to stuff it with three CO2s, a CO2 regulator, three spare Tubolito tubes and two tire levers and still have extra room.
The Barrier Micro Seat Bag tucked nicely behind and under our saddle and stayed put, even when going hard, rocking the bike. A single strap through the top of the Barrier Micro Seat Bag looped around our saddle rails and a was fastened by a hook-and-loop closure. This strap also offers adjustability, so we were able to cinch the strap down or use it to allow more space when carrying varying numbers of spare tubes and CO2s. The zipper has an easy-to-grasp toggle tracks under a weather-proof protector, which kept our spare tubes dry (so they'd be easier to swap in if needed). We also appreciated that the entire bag is printed with a reflective coating for the rides when we were returning at sundown.
Shimano Pro Aerofuel Carbon Saddle, $215
Why We Like It: accommodates a wide range of personal anatomical requirements, plus a non-slip surface
Finding the perfect tri saddle is a personal thing and often a trial-and-error process that can be uncomfortable at times. But the reward is so worth it. With all the hours we're putting in on the bike, the Shimano Pro Aerofuel Carbon Saddle helped keep us going pain free. After some adjustments of our seatpost height, we were right at home on this perch. A massive center channel and opening ensured that sensitive areas were not pinched, while the padding on the nose still allowed comfort when we were in an aggressive aero position.
We rode this saddle on tri and road bikes and found the Shimano PRO Aerofuel Carbon Saddle to be comfortable on either type. One standout feature we appreciated was the anti-slip surface, which helped keep us in place when we were in go-mode on our tri bike.
Skratch Labs Cinnamon Apple Cider $19.50
Why We Like It: great hot or cold and contains natural ingredients
A carb and electrolyte hydration mix that tastes great hot or cold? Yes, please! Unlike a straight carb mix (to prevent bonking) or a straight electrolyte solution (to keep from getting too "loopy") the Skratch Labs Sport Hydration Mix was the right blend to do it all when training. The seasonal Skratch hot apple cider flavor contains natural ingredients--like cane sugar and apples--and a balanced flavor that was also key in not upsetting our stomachs when going hard.
We likened the taste and texture to a fresh apple cider, so it seems that Skratch really nailed it. While we're not partial to hot drinks when training, the Sport Hydration taste held up, even when heated in the microwave for a post-cold outdoor session warmer. Each serving scoop of dry mix contains 80cal, 19g carb, 330mg sodium, 40mg potassium, 46mg calcium, and we were using two scoops for each 24oz bottle.
UAG Plyo Series Case $24.95
Why We Like It: inexpensive insurance against a broken phone
Trying to grab a naked phone out of a jersey rear pocket while standing around--let alone while moving--is just asking for a shattered screen. So we always wrap our phones in some kind of durable protection. The UAG Plyo iPhone Case provided an excellent gripping surface, added nearly no bulk and allowed easy toggle of buttons. Best of all, when we did fumble our iPhone, the soft armored exterior and padded interior protected it from damage, even when dropped from waist height.
The Plyo case is available for select Apple, Samsung, Google and Huawei handhelds in a variety of color options.
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