Change is always difficult, but a necessary part of life. I just wish that my changes in gear and equipment this summer had been as a result of choice rather than the result of theft. Regardless, here is my Summer 2008 Gear Review.
Helmet – My criteria for a good helmet is that I don’t notice it at all. A helmet that I notice has good airflow, but that I also notice the chin strap is a wash as far as I’m concerned. My old helmet, which needed to be replaced anyway, was a simple TREK brand helmet, but I never thought about it anytime I wore it. Perfection! The new one is much lighter with excellent airflow, but I don’t like the adjustable web in the back as much as the single support that was on my TREK. I’m still trying to get the helmet dialed in to my liking, but overall I am pleased with the airflow, a big fan of the white color in the desert (my old one was black), and feel more confident that it will keep me safe – which is really the most important feature.
Gloves – I had an old worn pair of REI gloves that were a gift from Amanda several years ago (5 years?). They were mesh topped and short finger gloves that had been all over the country. They had a Velcro strap at the base that secured them compared to my new Fox gloves which have elastic at the bottom. For racing, the Fox gloves are harder to get on and take off while riding. They also have gel pads which have taken some getting used to. I feel like I have to change my hand position because of the gel pads and I lose a certain amount of “touch” or “feel” with the bike. Of course on longer rides I’m sure this translates into less hand or arm fatigue, but I’ve been lucky enough to not have hand or wrist issues before so changing anything makes me nervous. Overall, I’m getting used to the new gloves and the added palm protection has been nice in the two crashes I’ve had so far out here in the desert.
Swim paddles – I opted for larger training paddles as my form is pretty well dialed in after years of competitive swimming. I was interested in trying one of the curved orb like paddles in the most recent Outside Magazine gear of the year issue, but couldn’t pass up the price and familiarity with a classic rectangle. The rubber straps are comfortable and hold their position well, even during long demanding sets. I’m glad to have paddles again for building arm/shoulder strength so important in triathlon where I try to use less leg.
Pull buoy – This is my first experience with a single piece molded buoy vs. the two piece design with adjustable straps. I have to say I prefer the adjustable design better to the molded design of this one. The one piece works OK and is easier to transport, but comfort and adjustability are the two drawbacks of a one piece design and these are important factors.
Suit – I’ve been racing in a pair of Tyr swim jammers. No tri suit, no padding, just jammers. I have to say for only swimming in them 10 times including races they have not held up very well. Now, I know they probably weren’t made with endurance biking/running in mind, but I would have hoped for some greater durability. I do all of my swim training in an old pair of board shorts. The resistance they provide has been fierce, but I love the change to jammers for racing as I feel almost Phelps like…that’s too much of an exaggeration even for me.
TYR Resistance band – This thing sucks. Maybe I don’t know how to use it yet (I haven’t watched the DVD), but tethering yourself to the side of the pool with an awkward waist strap and a 6ft elastic cord does not even sound like it could be a good idea. My problem is that there are only what feel to be two settings. I’m either just starting to swim where I have no resistance and am just trying to pull hard enough to get my body floating on top of the water or I reach the end of the resistance and it yanks me back in a violent way where I have no momentum and am at stage 1 where I sink. I’ve only given it one try, because they opened more hours at the work pool, but I’m not so sure this thing is going to work. As geriatric as it sounds I may try using it for some pool based plyometrics in future this off-season.