Off-road triathlons (AKA Xterra Triathlons) put you in tough conditions, and you need tough gear that you can trust from start to finish. After training for and completing his first Xterra Triathlon, an Active Junky gear tester breaks down some of his favorite equipment. If you’re new to the sport and/or looking for quality options, peruse this gear from Zoot Sports, Hoka One One, Balega and Suunto.
5 Pieces of Gear to be Ready on Race Day
Zoot Sports Performance Tri Race Suit
The cheapest Zoot Race Suit in a lineup respected by veteran triathletes, the Performance Tri Suit is all you need and more for your first off-road triathlon.
Materials: The Endura fabric dries quickly. Our tester found the one-piece suit more comfortable than expected, too—no chaffing or irritation, even on the run.
Design and Features: The zipper is catch-free and adjusted easily on the move. Venting is essential mid-race, and the Performance Race Suit handled warm temps and heavy perspiration with ease. Padding was comfortable on the bike without compromising stride on the run. Light compression combines with a BIOwrap hem, supporting muscles under duress and augmenting endurance.
Finish Line: If you’re going out for your first triathlon, the Zoot Tri Race Suit is a comfortable, sleek race day option with a price tag that won’t dismay you from competing in the first place.
Zoot Sports Wetzoot Force 1.0
Once again, new triathletes get bang for their buck by starting out with Zoot’s entry-level gear (if you can even call it that). The Force 1.0 mimics the tech of higher end wetsuits but swims in at a reasonable price.
Materials and Features: Neoprene of different densities targets specific zones on the Wetzoot: 4mm on the front of the suit, 3mm covers the back, with 5mm on the rear and 2mm around the DORSALflex back zipper (for lung expansion). The suit is coated in SCS (Super Composite Skin), a hydrodynamic treatment proven to improve glide.
Design: Forget swimming in a regular old wetsuit. The Force 1.0 propels you forward with OKD (Optimal Kick Design), which, according to Zoot, “increases kick velocity, frequency and efficiency.” While this was our tester’s first triathlon, he noted that the Wetzoot, “noticeably improved my leg positioning and kicking endurance—both in the pool and on race day.” He went on to say, “It was easy to take on and off, my arms still had full range of motion and the tight fit was more comfortable than constricting. Pretty much everything I was hoping for.”
Finish Line: The features of a mid/high range wetsuit at a steal of a price; an investment for this race, the next and the ones after that.
Hoka One One Challenger ATR
Going from your average running shoe to a Hoka One One is like updating from turn of the millennium dial-up to modern day wifi—your new connection (to the trail) is mind-bendingly pain-free.
Tech: Rocker on a running shoe? Yup. Hoka describes “Meta-Rocker,” their proprietary, easy-to-spot technology, as a “rocking chair for your foot,” and that analogy is adequate. For runners with heel strike, the progression of rocker from the heel through the toe combines with the cushy outsole (24mm in the toe, 29mm in the heel) to distribute force without flaming up tendons and ligaments. In fact, our Active Junky tester wouldn’t have been able to complete the tri without Hoka in his corner; over-training led to a painful case of runner’s knee and switching over to the Challenger ATR was his saving grace. As he eased back into running, his physical therapist noted the benefits of the Hoka rockered sole when analyzing his stride. In fact, going into the race our gear tester feared the run would be his worst event—yet it happened to be his best. Coincidence? We think not.
Note: If you’re running a seriously rocky course, the high platform of the Hoka might not be your best bet—you’ll want something more agile and less likely to roll.
Finish Line: There’s a reason why distance runners and folks who rack up heavy mileage turn to Hoka One One. A new favorite trail runner.
Balega Hidden Contour Socks
How much can you say about socks? Well, ask Balega and expect a lengthy conversation. Active Junky’s a big fan of Balega, namely due to our experience with the Hidden Contours these past few months.
Materials: Functionality and attention to detail. Elastane and mesh. The first time you put them on, sink deep into a state of tranquility, then embrace newfound speed. This comfort doesn’t diminish—we’ve worn and washed our Balegas upwards of fifteen times and they’re no worse for wear.
Tri: Many elite triathletes don’t wear socks, citing the extra time they require in the transition as reason enough to abandon them. However, if you’re not shaving your entire body and dedicating every waking minute to triathlons, throwing on a pair of socks is going to make you a happier camper/competitor on your bike and run. Plus, they’re much appreciated on training days, too.
Heel Tab: The heel tab, a seemingly simple feature, is a welcome innovation—especially for triathletes. Designed to eliminate sock slippage, the heel tab is easy to grip and rip into place for a quick transition.
Finish line: Round up three of the mangiest pairs of socks you own. Then replace them with Balegas. Life will improve.
Suunto Ambit 3
While testers valued the wide scope of Ambit3 features – ranging from out and back tracking used while hiking to a GPS altimeter that came in handy backcountry skiing – the comprehensive swim/bike/run modes make it a solid companion for triathletes.
Features: Along with a slew of expected features, the Ambit3 can measure heart rate while swimming (with the Suunto Smart Sensor), connect to bike power meters via Bluetooth and provide voice guidance on interval workouts. Sleep recovery, a compass and new social media sharing features are all part of the extensive yet compact package. This watch is an impressively capable and smart performer—it all depends on how far you push it.
Multisport: You can change through different sport modes during the same session (great for training, customizing brick workouts, etc.) or set the Ambit3 to a preconfigured triathlon mode.
Finish Line: A great triathlon watch with plenty of additional features, making it a capable pick for outdoor enthusiasts of all creeds.