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Okay, so I love gadgets but I hate wasting money. I have found some things that I LOVE, some that didn't work for me, and I am still looking for the perfect solution to some of my frustrations...
In the interest of saving my friends some time, frustration, and money I am going to try to review some of my favorite things. If you find something that is AWESOME then please share the secret to the rest of us!
Louis Garneau TR-40 and TR-30 Tri Bags:
I LOVE this bag. Warning, it is not small. I love it because just feeling it you can feel the quality. The bottom has a spot for a wetsuit and it fits the wetsuit I use perfectly. Each side has shoe spots that actually fit the shoes along with extra stuff perfectly. The helmet fits on the front. It has side pouches that are great to put your bike knick knacks on the same side as your bike shoes and your run stuff on the side with your running shoes. It has two water bottle holders. It is sturdy enough to stand up on it's own and opens up to plenty of space on the side. It has velcro straps on the side to hold a travel bike pump and cords on the bottom for a transition mat. Set up your transition and move your bag to the fence of the transition area (if permitted at the race). You will have your backup extras not far away. Perfect! Con: Louis Garneau is one of my favorite brands...but their colors...are red, white, and black. For a Georgia Tech graduate sporting these UGA colors is PAINFUL!
UPDATE: After several triathlons I still LOVE this bag. It is big and a little annoying in cramped transition areas...but it has a place for everything and packing is super easy. It is really well made and despite abuse still looks great! NOTE: I also have the TR-30 for shorter races and "non wetsuit" races and it is AWESOME!
TYR Velocity and Nest Pro Goggles:
Goggles are as personal of a fit as bike saddles are. Most triathletes I know have several pairs. The Velocity ones are my favorite. My only complaint is when I squint my eyes during a flip turn I tend to get water in. This is an example of user error! I also have TYR Nest Pro, Metallized and love them. I especially love to wear them if I am swimming laps around sunrise. They are great for keeping the sun from annoying me. The Velocity goggles, however, give me better peripheral vision and are very comfortable. I also love the way the TYR goggle straps are easy to adjust. In my long distance races I have worn the Nest Pro pairs and loved them.
MSR PackTowl Ultralite Towel:
I bought these towels for hiking and camping. I needed something that was effective in drying me off and quick in drying itself. No one likes bulky towels that smell nasty and take forever to dry. These towels are AWESOME for post swim and to wipe off sweat post run/bike.
At some point every cyclist makes the jump to clipless pedals. And, every cyclist will fall trying to clip or unclip. It is a rite of passage. Prior to using Speedplays I had pedals that had a specific top and bottom. I found it annoying trying to flip the pedal, while moving, to get the top up so I could clip in. Speedplays are two sided and both sides are effective tops. No more flipping and struggling clipping and unclipping. Love them. NOTE: The ones shown are the "light action" pedals. I just switched to the "zero" pedals for my tri bike so I could adjust the float on the pedals. Again...LOVE them!
Koobi Tri Saddle:
Disclaimer...saddles and goggles are very personalized things...you MUST try several out before you know what works for YOU!!
On my road bike I LOVE this saddle. It was the first saddle that got me past 35 miles in comfort. I have made it up to 70 miles at a time with this saddle on my road bike and loved it the entire way. Then I got a tri bike...and well....I do not love it on my tri bike. Several of my friends also love this one so give it a try if you are searching for your perfect match!
Selle SMP Pro Saddle:
After trying ten billion saddles...I finally found the one that feels like Heaven! I took her out on a long ride and she was fabulous (we completed our first iron distance race together as well!). I love the center cutout that allows the girlie bits to be comfortable during the ride. The shape of the back allows my bigger than average booty to fit comfortably. NOTE: XLAB makes a special wing to attach your rear hydration to the seat. Make sure to order this version and not the standard ones.
T Mat Pro Transition Mat:
I like this transition mat because it is thick and stays in place. It is bright so it is very easy to see my gear and not miss anything. It really only needs to be 1/2 as wide and so you could fold it in half. It is also easy to see in transition. I have "@EnduredGirl" heat sealed on mine so it makes it even easier to see quickly.
Rear Hydration - XLAB Turbo Wing and Gorilla XT Cages:
I have this setup on the back of my bike and it works great. I have dual cages and load one with a nutrition water bottle (a red top bottle that I put on the right) and the other with an electrolyte water bottle (black top on the left). The bottles are secure and so far haven't popped out on a bump. UPDATE: I still have NOT lost a single bottle with this setup. I LOVE it! I can easily grab the bottles while riding, fuel up, and replace them. My color system helps me easily grab the one I need! UPDATE: I switched my nutrition bottle to the one I have in my aerobars and now keep only water and my electrolyte drink in these. I found that I was much better at consistently taking nutrition with my new setup.
Frame Hydration - Speedfil F2:
I just recently added the Speedfil F2 to my frame cage. I like it because it is a regular bottle that will fit into the frame. It will fit onto other bottles too. For me it was easy to strap to the frame and have the tube near my aero bar hydration for easy sips. I like the top that will allow you to add additional water during the ride without taking the system apart. Since the top comes off it was also easy to add ice to the bottle to keep the water a tad cooler. Best of all...no rattle. (NOTE: This is not my bike in the picture!) This works AWESOME on race day! As you zoom through the water stops you grab a water on the go, open it, and squeeze it into the opening. No need to stop. Easy peasy.
Aerobar Hydration - Profile Designs Aero HC
The first few rides I loved this system but during some rides something in combo with the system and my GPS rattles (annoying!!). A friend changed out the holder for a gorilla cage (see above) and she said it solved the rattle issue.
It is very easy to clean and very easy to add hydration to during the ride. Since it is easier to clean than the tube for the F2 above I have been known to add the rest of my nutrition and electrolyte bottles to this towards the end of the ride after I have emptied the water I started with. It is so easy and convenient to sip and doesn't require any balance (like that required to get bottles out of the back cages.
Bar Tape - Lizard Skins DSP 3.2 mm Bar Tape
This tape is awesome. Super comfortable and looks sweet on the bike! In addition to looking good it holds up really well and doesn't have the worn/dirty look of a lot of other bar tapes.
Redpoint Sport Wrap - $2.95!
These are simple and they are AWESOME! I use them to hold my wheel still during transit (see picture to the far right), to hold things on my bike during rides without scratching my bike, and now to keep my front hydration from rattling. The possibilities are endless (think duct tape)! I found mine at REI.
TRISLIDE and BODYGLIDE
Okay, these products are amazing. My absolute favorite is TRISLIDE. I spray it all over my legs, neck, and wrists prior to putting on my wetsuit. Then when it is time to remove it quickly it literally slides right off!! I like to use Body Glide to put it onto my gear (i.e. potential rubbing spots on my shoes, wetsuit, socks, and areas which come in contact with those important girlie bits. There really is no such thing as using too much of either of these!! The TRISLIDE also works GREAT during an iron distance triathlon if you want to change your clothes and are wet. Spray your body down and slip on your new outfit!
Silicone Ear Plugs
I never was one for wearing ear plugs but after a nasty lake swim I thought it might make things more enjoyable. I couldn't get the idea of the nasty water going into my ears...out of my head. I also read that a way to manage cold water swims was to use these ear plugs to prevent vertigo. Since I was training for Escape From Alcatraz I figured it wouldn't hurt to give them a whirl. They are awesome. They are comfortable and stay in place really well. I have a few pairs and use them with every swim.
Vittoria Pit Stop
So far I haven't had to use this...but I have it ready to go. I put the soft side of velcro onto the bottle and then taped it to my frame (the velcro fuzz keeps it from rattling while I race). For short races a flat tire means your race is basically over. This repair technique could get you through the end of the race so you can swap out your inner tube slowly and under much less pressure.