Deep in the middle of winter training, with races still months away, I'm still excited about many things in triathlon and endurance sports. One fun aspect of the sport is all the minor tweaks to try over the course of an off-season to see if they have an impact. Below are five things that I'm digging right now that might be worth checking out yourself.
Angled-up Tri Bars
The speed that comes from aero position on the bike is a key to a great bike split time. However, aero position can become quite uncomfortable after a while, resulting in sitting up and losing significant time while not in aero. Recently, my position was starting to feel more and more uncomfortable, so I went in for a bike fit tune up at all3sports. Part of the changes we made that made my bike feel so much better was angling my tri bars up 15 degrees.
Arms and shoulders play a huge role in aero position comfort. I used to have straight tri bars, which caused lots of wrist and shoulder discomfort after riding more than an hour. When I switched over to ski-bend shaped bars a couple years ago, they created a huge improvement in comfort. Going the next step this past month, the bike fitter and I angled the bars up 15 degrees and wow - what a difference that made.
I don't have access to aero testing - so who knows if the angled tri bars are faster or slower for me (they are faster for some people in wind tunnel testing). Even if they aren't, I'm much more comfortable and able to stay in aero position longer, which equals more aero over a race.
If you are in search of improved comfort in aero position, consider trying an angled-up tri-bar setup.
Toe Thingy 2
When a respectable company names one of their products "thingy," I'm already interested. When that "thingy" is an awesome, inexpensive product that actually works, then I'm doubly interested. Hence, I've been raving about "Toe thingy 2" from Castelli to anyone that will listen since I got them last month.
It all started with a problem - I'm a bit of a weak sauce outdoor bike rider in the winter. Living in Atlanta, anything under 50 degrees fahrenheit (10 degrees celsius) is a bit cold for my liking. I usually opt to Zwift indoors, perhaps a bit too often. I just don't like my toes freezing off. "Toe thingy 2" to the rescue!
The toe cover thingy is a neoprene cover for the front half of your cycling shoe. It shields the wind from your toes and keeps them warm. Best of all, it's only $20, and allows you to use your regular tri and road bike shoes for colder rides. This can save you money, sparing you the cost of buying a colder-weather shoe.
"Toe thingy 2" really checks all the boxes for me:
- Awesome name that I'm sure got a lot of push-back within Castelli
- Inexpensive, potentially saving you money if you avoid another shoe purchase
- Keeps your toes warm
- Comes in black
Can't beat that!
I watched quite a bit of the Tour de France this past year, and I kept noticing how much bigger those rider's sunglasses were than mine. I'll admit it - I started having sunglasses envy - so I started shopping around.
I loved the Oakleys, Roka, and 100% brands - but the Tifosi Sledge won me over. Mostly because it's the same great large-frame coverage for less than half the price of all the others.
The Sledge feels super comfortable and offers a great field of vision. They fogged up a bit as I prepped for a very cold ride. However, after a minute on the road, they cleared up perfectly and stayed fog-free for the entire five hours of my ride. Most of all, they look cool. The orange and blue matches my all3sports kit, so color choice was easy.
They work great running as well - they hug my face great and aren't too heavy. The wind shielding effect on cold winter runs is a big plus over my previous, smaller run shades. Add in the ability to switch lenses for cloudy conditions, and you've got a great set of sunglasses for $80.
Prologo Dimension Tri Saddle
In addition to changing my tri bar angle in my recent bike fitting, I also snagged a new saddle. Saddles are a big deal for me. My bike and bum have not gotten along too well over the years. I've had a decent amount of saddle sores from previous saddles I've tried, including some great ones from Cobb and ISM. The saddles were great; I think my back side is just finicky. But when we tried a saddle from a company I didn't know much about, Prologo, I was surprised to have my bum fall in love.
Prologo has several saddle options, with the Dimension Tri model being the included saddle for many Cervelo TT bikes. It's just the right level of firmness I've been hunting for. I also like the slightly more narrow front, so it doesn't rub against the inside of my legs like my previous ISM saddle did at times.
If you're hunting for the perfect saddle, then try out a bunch, and consider throwing a Prologo into the lineup to test.
Tower 26 Swim Triathlon Training
I'm an adult onset swimmer, so my swim game is definitely in need of improvement compared to many. I've worked hard for the past several years with various programs and plans - but I've been stuck at a plateau. I know in-person coaching is the best, but COVID and distance has made that impossible - I'm lucky enough to have my local YMCA pool still open.
I'd heard about Jerry Rodriquez's Tower 26 swim program, and went for the two-week free trial. The workouts, and the accompanying podcasts, definitely caught my attention. I took the leap and subscribed for three months ($225 per quarter). Just three months in, I've already seen big improvements: I've dropped my 1000 yard time trial PR from 14:05 to 13:29 - a huge 36 second improvement.
What makes Tower 26 different? Three things:
- A commitment to higher volume - I essentially doubled my volume of swimming to four, 80-90 minute sessions per week. Before, I was doing 3-4 sessions but often only 45 minutes. The YMCA requires you to reserve lanes for 45 or 55 minutes blocks, but you can reserve two blocks in a row, allowing time to get the sessions in.
- Videos explaining drills that actually work - I've done loads of drills, but Tower 26 drills actually changed how I swim and what I focus on. By focusing on body tautness, alignment, and propulsion, I now know exactly what better swimming should feel like - and what I need to focus on when I fatigue. This is done by detailed videos with commentary showing over-and-over what I should be paying attention to. After years of trying for a "high elbow catch" I finally know what that means - and more importantly - what it feels like.
- Triathlon specific swimming - Jerry's swim program is specifically for triathletes. That means he helps me focus on the minimal amount of swimming technique in the minimal amount of time that will bring rewards. There's a ton of stuff that swimming-only athletes focus on that just don't have the time ROI for triathlon. Four swims a week, that's all it takes to see big improvements.
Last note - the name "Tower 26" confused me for a while. It comes from the area of the beach where the group used to meet in Los Angeles (Lifeguard Tower 26 - between Tower 25 and Tower 27). They named the group to avoid questions about "Where do we meet?" As it evolved to a full training platform instead of just a local open water swim meetup, the name stuck.
Five Bonus things I'm excited about (and may show up in future articles)
- GCN+ - I love the great content coming from GCN - and I'm excited to see what they provide on their paid network.
- The Endurance Innovation Podcast - I'm a big podcast fan, and this is the latest one I've loved. They dig into the tech side of triathlon - equipment recommendations and more.
- RGT Cycling - I love Zwift, but I'm excited to see the good stuff from this competitor. It's free to basic functions, so worth a try when you've earned all your Zwift badges already.
- Running Rewired - I just started this book, but I'm already excited about the idea of tweaking my form, rewiring my brain, and upping my run game.
- Riding aero on my trainer - I switched out my road bike for tri bike on the trainer. I'm hoping the more time in aero will make 4-5 hours in aero on race day a bit easier.
Alex Fuller is the co-captain of the all3sports and Podium multisport triathlon teams. Based North of Atlanta, Alex has three young kids and does marketing full-time at UPS. He leads the Slowtwitch Rise & Grind Zwift group ride every Thursday at 5:35AM EST, and recently qualified for the 2021 Ironman World Championships.