Archive | April, 2011

Orca Equip Review

Intro

Moderately priced at $299, the Orca Equip Wetsuit is an excellent choice for what is considered in its price point, a mid-tier triathlon wetsuit.

Specs

With SCS coating throughout the majority of the Orca Equip wetsuit, its composition is 39 cell Yamamoto neoprene.  At the torso, chest and and arms, the thickness is 2mm.  Varying neoprene thickness throughout the suit is important, as less neoprene is needed in certain areas, notably the arms.  You’ll likely want the flexibility and range of motion there.

Throughout the lower back and torso, 3-5mm neoprene panels are used throughout the suit for buoyancy.  This is important, many swimmers, eh hem, triathletes tend to sink their lower half of the body while they swim.

Insights

The one insight I would impart is the fact that the Equip, like other Orca wetsuits, have a “performance” fit to them.  Because many of us don’t have the luxury to try on wetsuits before buying them, this bit of information might be important.  When you fall in between sizes, it’s not a bad idea to select a size up when making the purchase.  From my experience fitting people, and back when I took a lot of customer service calls, this was often the case with these types of suits.

Conclusion

The Orca Equip is a good buy.  My person philosophy with triathlon wetsuits is that because they’re thrashed at races, and heavily used in training, I don’t intend them to last often more than two years.  Because this is a suit with all the key intermediate features, at this price point it’s a no brainer.  But if you’re able to afford it, and are in the market for higher end  Orca Wetsuits, a Sonar, 3.8, and Alpha is something worth looking into.

If you are just getting started and want a list of all reputable triathlon wetsuits just click on this link: triathlon wetsuits. Best of luck with your training, races, and wetsuit search.

Aqua Sphere Phantom Wetsuit

When you wear briefs to do all your Ironman triathlons, you probably mean business, or perhaps your name is Faris Al-Sultan (triathlete pro and Ironman World Champion).  The new Aqua Sphere Phantom was developed with significant amount of feedback by pros Faris Al-Sultan and Terenzo Bozzone (triathlete pro and Ironman 70.3 World Champion), leading to a wetsuit that has three patent pending technologies.  I got a chance to preview this suit, and I thought I’d share a few tidbits.

  • Auto Positioning Sleeve – A 5mm forearm band. This band acts as a visual cue to encourage proper hand and arm rotation.  More importantly, it promotes high elbows for good swim form.
  • Core Power System – more than just a fancy name for new technology.  This system is an actual girdle that wraps around your lower back to help stabilize your core while you’re swimming.  Better stable core = better swim form.  This system also helps make the suit a little tighter there to ensure water is kept out.
  • Reserved Zipper – The zipper is “reversed”.  Pulling it down zips it up, and zipping up opens up your suit.  I like this system better.
  • Bio-Stretch Zone – The zone that is referred to here is a 1mm that spans from the front of your arm pit down to your lower back resembling the shape of on side of an apple when you slice it from the top.  This zone is marked by green paneling.  This provides excellent freedom of movement as a result.
  • Automatic Six-Pack – The suit outlines unabashedly outlines a six pack for you, need I say more?
  • Rooted in Aqua Sphere’s long history in Diving, the suit includes a wrist gusset that makes it virtually leak proof on the cuff.
  • Yamamoto 39.

With its price point pegged in the mid-$600, this is considered a high end wetsuit that comes with some very intricate features that is unique to the Phantom.  It’s a very cool suit, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of these on the course.

More triathlon wetsuit resource links:

Orca S3 Wetsuit Review

Out of any entry-level wetsuit that I help fit customers into in our shop, the Orca S3 tends to be the top choice. With the price alone drawing customers in at a low $198, the fit of the suit becomes a larger deciding factor. Many suits out there on the market come with a “performance-type fit”. Ask any woman (or man for that matter) that don’t seem to fall into one of the charted categories, or with a simply curvier figure, and they’ll tell you that most suits just don’t fit right. Orca Wetsuits, however, tends to fit varying body types.

Beginners, or those newly stepping into the neoprene as a swimmer, will benefit from the quality of materials found in the S3, of which are often only found in mid-range wetsuits. The suit features 5mm in the core which aids in additional buoyancy as well as balance. It’s also designed with a 2mm Quadrastretch shoulder panel as well as 2mm QuadraFlex underarm panel help to aid in maximizing your range of motion while leaving your upper body feeling not too constrained (which tends to be a much heard complaint from triathletes).

Additional reasons this suit is a top seller:

• Full Smoothskin neoprene coverage across shoulders
• Excellent levels of buoyancy, flexibility and thermal protection
• [Lining] [Rest of body] Powerstretch
• Hydrolift Body Panel
• Hydrostroke Forearm Panels (Increases power in catch phase of stroke)
• Speed Transition Panels
• Flexiseal Neck (Tight enough to keep water out and not feel suffocating)

If you’re new to triathlon wetsuit world, and looking at your options, this is a suit that’s certainly worth another look. Price, fit, and flexibility. All three things that triathletes are concerned with. The Orca S3 boasts all three, and at first glance, would never appear in a class of entry-level.

More links:

Fuel Belt R2O Revenge Hydration Belt

Fuel Belt has become more innovative with their newly designed hydration belt. With new features taking after the Helium Belt, the R20 Revenge offers molded holsters to take your bottles in and out of with ease with one hand. As compared to the elastic-band holsters of the alternative, this new design is going to make our lives as a triathlete much easier. Nothing’s more irritating than your nutrition not being easily accessible, and these easy-to-grab holsters will take that problem away. These belts are key when you’re putting in the long miles out there on the run and need the hydration. The belt also comes with a convenient pouch to hold your gels and nutrition (about 4 gels to be exact). This belt is a one-size fits all, so not to worry on guessing which belt size you are. The Revenge also conveniently comes in a multitude of electric colors to match all of your swag. The belt is a necessary addition to your plethora of training accessories.

TYR Competitor 9″ Short

Last week, I bought a pair of TYR Competitor 9″ tri shorts just so I can change things around.  I’ve got in the habit of regularly using tri shorts in my training so I can do a swim bike brick.  I’m still just more comfortable running in a regular pair of shorts however.

I bought the 9″ inseam version, all black.  It’s a great looking short, but the magic of this product is the Amp-Pad.

Features:


The pad itself is highly breathable and comfortable.  To personally describe the pad, after wearing it on a ride, it’s dense, and thin.  There’s no doubt that it’s a tri short, but the pad feels better than two of the chamois I currently have on my other bike shorts.  Granted, those other shorts are old, but it’s impressive.

The “gripper” on the short are beaded, providing for more comfort around the thighs.  The short has a total of three pockets.  Two are on each side of the lower thigh, and one is a rear zipper right around the tail bone.
Awesome short. A 7″ short is also available.  And if you’re so inclined, the Carbon version is available  here as well!

Hydrotail Blaze Review 2

Intro

I’ve noticed there’s been a bit more interest in the Hydrotail Blaze, but not too much stuff on the web about it.  Here’s a post.

Pictured without cages
The Blaze is a new rear hydration system engineered by Beaker Concepts.  Its minimalist design is comparably less bulky than quite of few other hydration systems on the market today.  The system’s best feature are the snap locking design allowing you to adjust its angle after its initial installation with just an allen wrench. With many other systems, once installed, it’s in a fixed position, without much other room for additional configuration.  If you’re so inclined, you can make adjustments while on your ride.
Hydrotail Blaze with Profile Design Stryke Kages

Installation


A few nights ago after work, I finally got around to installing my own Blaze on my bike.  Without the detriment (or aid) of any alcoholic beverages, I managed to get the thing installed in about 40 minutes.  Installing the unit was quite intuitive, and the illustration on the instruction sheet was all I needed to figure it out.

Installing main piece onto the seat rails

I removed my seat so that I would have enough room to work the rails.  But before I was able to easily do this, I had to tape the nuts just so they wouldn’t fall off!

I thought I was pretty brilliant here
Securing the enclosure with the snap locking arms – making adjustments

Once I installed the first piece on the rails, everything else fell into place.  All I had to do next was pick the cages I wanted, and screw those on – cake.

The tri bike money shot
C02 cartridge and inflator secured in enclosure

Included is a “bullet” for a second C02 if you want.  The system also includes straps, so you can strap on tubes or tires.  During installation, I noticed the third set of screws on the side facing the bottom, allowing you to put on third cage.

The Test

I went out for a ride yesterday, and had no problems with the system.  I noticed it was a lot more quiet because I no longer have rattling issues like I did with my previous rear hydration system.  I didn’t have to adjust the angling, as it was pretty close, or even exactly, what I was used to from before.

Verdict

Very cool rear hydration solution.  I’d recommend it to anyone considering a rear hydration system.  The installation was pretty straight forward.  Its design is simple, and it works well with what I want and need.

You can find the Hydrotail Blaze, other Beaker Concepts products, and more at OneTri.com

Triathlon Short Vs. Bike Shorts

“What’s the difference between tri shorts and bike shorts?”, “Why do I need tri shorts?”, “What are tri shorts?”

Working for a triathlon company, I get asked these questions quite often. Three distinct items differentiate tri shorts from bike shorts:

  1. Function: Running and Swimming versus Bike Riding
  2. Construction: How the short is designed
  3. Price: Which is more expensive? It really depends on what quality product you are going to pick.

Function: Whether or not you’re really going to need that diaper of a pad….

Bike shorts often come with the notion of having a “diaper-like” pad. This is based upon the fact that the padding (chamois) in a bike short is much thicker, as well it covers a wider surface area of the short (the pad reaches higher in the front, as well as the back for more cushion support). So why would you need a thicker pad as a triathlete? Simple. If you plan on logging in some serious training miles (let’s say beyond 20 or 30 mile rides) a thicker pad will eventually become a necessity. However, a biking short is just that: made for biking. A short with such a cushion would not be functional to run and swim in.  The bike short is designed for longer training rides. Thus, the need for tri shorts that have thinner pads designed with consideration for running and swimming in.

Construction: Tri and bike shorts have different design features. As previously mentioned, there’s the distinct difference of a thinner chamois in a cycling short but what else separates the two?

  • length:  A tri short tends to be shorter in length (a good 2-3 inches depending on the style). This difference is even more noticeable in some women’s styles.  Triathlon shorts generally range around 6” to 10”.
  • moisture wicking: A tri short is also designed to wick moisture, meaning they’re going to keep much drier and won’t absorb nearly as much water as a bike short. This in large part comes from the difference in the pad
  • shape: The actual shape of the shorts and chamois is designed with running in mind. Its shape moves with you while running, and the pad doesn’t span quite as wide. The cushioning is generally slight, and light enough to become unnoticeable while out on the run (but I’ve found this to be quite subjective among different shorts matched with different people). With most bike shorts you will find the short to mimic the shape of your body in a sitting position. With most tri shorts you will find them to be straight in construction like most pants and running shorts.

Pricing: Cost differences

On average, you’re going to be looking at a slightly steeper cost for a cycling short.

Bike Shorts: More material and a thicker padding usually translates to a little bit more of a cost. So when should you spend the extra cash? When a thicker chamois and longer short can’t be compromised. For many people longer bike training days equate to riding in cycling shorts rather than tri shorts. In this case comfort is paramount and sometimes it’s just not worth the saddle pains.

Tri Shorts: Some tri shorts can get very pricey when you consider the materials, pad, compression, etc… Look to spend between $60 to $100 for a pair of current/in-season/up-to-date tri shorts from a reputable company. For the most part, you’re probably going to want to stick to triathlon shorts for race day and even many training days.

If you’re looking for a best seller as far as cycling short for comfort reasons, check out the De Soto 400 Mile Bike Short.

Need an all around great tri short? Check out the 2XU Comp Tri Short. Get both shorts at OneTri.com

Happy Training.

Profile Design – Wahoo Wetsuit Review

Over the weekend at IM 70.3 Oceanside, I spotted a pro female exiting the water in a Profile Design Wahoo.  I did a second take, as I always thought it was merely an entry-level wetsuit!

The truth is that it is an “entry-level” suit, but there’s really more than what meets the eye – and after a bit of research I found the Wahoo to be a pretty killer deal.

Wahoo Profile Design

Priced at $199, the suit was designed by an industry expert in triathlon wetsuits named Karen Sing.  Prior to coming on board with Profile Design, she was the Wetsuit Product Manager at Zoot.  She designed the Wahoo as an entry-level wetsuit, but it has features of wetsuits that cost nearly twice as much.

Carefully thought out and crafted, the suit features:

  • SCS coating!  This is probably the greatest feature on this wetsuit for the price.  SCS (Super Composite Skin) Coating reduces friction, and assists the swimmer to glide through the water better.
  • A lower collar to reduce chafing;
  • 4 mm wetsuit thickness on the front (torso) that goes to the knee for buoyancy and body positioning;
  • 1.5mm sleeve for flexibility and shoulder rotation;
  • Sleeve cuffs are cut higher so it’s easier to get out of the suit (and to check your watch);
  • 3mm leg also cut higher for faster exit in transition;
  • 20 inch YKK zipper (this is money, as any zipper I had growing up that was a YKK never failed me!);
  • Backed by Profile Design’s world-class customer service and warranty.  This is probably what I value the most – they really stand behind their product.  Since I’ve started working in the industry, Profile Design (and a few others) have really stood out when it came to professionalism and attention to the customer.

You can buy noticeable speed with higher end wetsuits on the market, there’s no doubt about it. But the bottom line is that Profile Design Wahoo really is a product of something special. It’s an amazing triathlon suit and extremely well constructed for its price point.

K-Swiss K-Ona S Review

Fault me for thinking much about anything material, but man, I love my K-Swiss!

These came into the shop for me today, and since I first saw these shoes at Ironman events and around the web, I’ve fancied a pair for myself. Can you imagine my satisfaction when the first shipment of the year arrived to the warehouse?

You can call this my K-Swiss K-Ona review.

Upon coming home from happy hour drinks with a friend of mine, I changed into my running gear and went out the door with these shoes on. 4 miles later, and not without some burping, I returned.

The fit. These shoes were true to size. I’ve worn many athletic shoes, and for the major brands, I’ve always been a 12. For K-Swiss, I’m a 12. Score! As shoe makers since 1966, these guys have experience on their side.

The upper. Breathable and light, the upper had just enough material to where I felt my feet were hugged without being at risk for exposure to the elements. I don’t plan on trail running with these shoes, but I actually like to have my feet protected.

The sole. I’m a mid-foot/fore-foot striker. Wearing these weren’t a problem with my running style at all. The type of adjustment I had to make from the Zoot Kalani was somewhat nominal, but there was a slight difference – a 2mm differential. The Zoot Kalani’s heel to toe differential is 12mm, whereas the K-Swiss K-Ona is 10mm. This profile encourages mid-foot strikes, representing a more efficient running style. All of the Zoot triathlon shoes with the exception of the Kalani has this 10mm difference between the heel and toe. This differential is great when coming right off the bike.

The support on this shoe is designed for mild to over-pronation.

The feel. Comfortable, supportive, and light. With the weight of the shoe being just a mere 9 oz., I can see myself running races – in all sorts of distances.

Special Features. Drainage holes. This is a unique feature to triathlon shoes. You’ll learn to appreciate this at the aid stations.

I like these shoes, and I’m looking forward to trying out some more K-Swiss run shoes.

See more pictures by clicking on the image below.

Triathlon shoes vs. Regular shoes (running)

Have you ever asked “What is the difference between regular running shoes and triathlon running shoes?”

This is an interesting topic, as it should be. At any triathlon, the majority of participants sport running shoes that are recognizable to most of the general public. These shoes have their own 2 minute television ad that’s often not about the shoe, and about something else simply because the brand has so much brand recognition. They’re nothing too fancy, and we’ve all owned one.

But what about those triathlon specific running shoes? What makes them special?

In a short, its the construction for the transition off the bike and into the run.

In any triathlon, particularly in those that are shorter in distance than a half, a transition can easily mean a few places in position when it comes to the final results. This is most apparent in the top group of finishers as the difference between their times often come down to seconds if not minutes.

Triathlon specific running shoes are constructed for easy in and easy out/shifting your effort from biking to running. Zoot Running shoes are the ideal example when it comes to shoes designed specifically for triathlon and transitions. The notable features of a Zoot triathlon shoe are that they:

  • Are Extremely light
  • Have a liner in the shoe that allows for sock -less wear.  The material in these shoes reduces/eliminates odors.
  • Lack a traditional tongue.  This feature often allows for a quick lacing system, or no laces at all.
  • Have a unique heel to toe differential.  The race specific triathlon shoes by Zoot have a 10mm heel to toe differential.  This thickness in the sole encourages a mid foot/forefoot strike that is an extremely efficient running form, particularly when right off the bike.
  • Drainage holes.  Ever get grab hydration at long races?  Ever get soggy feet because you spill water all over the shoe?  You guessed it, blister city.   Water can easily add quite a bit of weight to your shoe when you make a mess at transition after taking off your wetsuit.  Having these drainage holes aides in drying out the moisture during your run.  Pretty brilliant if you ask me.

Here are two by Zoot I like:
Zoot Ultra Speed Shoe

Interested in picking one  up for your next tri sport event?  A little bird tells me OneTri.com carries Zoot shoes and more.