Archive for the ‘Product Reviews’ Category

My new Newton Momentum shoes rock for off road running.  Newton describes this model as the Trail Guidance Trainer.

However, the coolest part of ownership is the many looks and comments, such as, “Wow, those are green!”

The majority of my running is on a combination of asphalt, dirt road, bridle path and single track. The Momentum is designed exactly for this. I have tried quite a few different types of shoes in the past five years.  Typically, they were built with mild stability and wide toe boxes. However, this is my first attempt with “minimal” running shoes. Newton’s run a bit small, I selected a 1/2 size larger than normal. I tested this shoe over a wide variety of terrain for a six week period.

The Momentum is Newton’s first trail running shoe combining their Action/Reaction lug technology to help runners perform with a more natural gait and foot placement with the rugged necessities of a trail shoe.  With these there is also less “Heel-Toe Drop” than the standard Newton shoes.   This makes it a good choice as your first “natural running” shoe to try.

Newton states that the “Momentum is an off-road guidance trainer designed for runners committed to a more efficient natural running style. It provides intelligent control for all foot types on all types of terrain, from groomed bridle paths to technical mountain trails.”

First Impressions

I want my shoes to look fast and these look like my Junior High School track shoes (not that they ever went fast). The green and lemon really work for me.  Interesting comments come from every type of person. They really attract attention.

Sliding on the shoes I was impressed by the snug and secure fit of the heel cup through the mid-foot and the shoe widens towards the toe box to allow or the wiggle room I crave. Standing and walking in the Newton’s are a bit strange, comparable to walking around in track spikes, due to the protruding Activator lugs on the outsole of the forefoot. It will quickly strike you how much lower the heel is compared to any other running shoe.  Clearly the calf and Achilles tendon are stretching more. The shoes felt like they had plenty of cushion, and as a mid-foot striker, I could tell that I would not be lacking protection in these shoes. Walking around, the flexibility in the ball of the foot was almost unnerving. My foot roamed into positions that are only reached when barefoot.

The First Runs

I first ventured out with the Newton’s on a smooth, flat, crushed gravel trail for a two mile run. Newton recommends easing into wearing their shoes and starting with as little as 10 minutes at a time. Newton cautions that the new wearer may experience excessive calf soreness from the new experience of forefoot striking. I think it is more due to how much lower the heel is compared to typical running shoes.  They wisely close in the area in the center of the heel – I hate having to stop for trapped rocks.

The recommended Newton adjustment period

Immediately, I felt that I was running 15 seconds per mile faster.  The feedback received as to my running form was immediate and continual.  The bounce felt appears to be more than a gimmick.  The Actuator Lugs clearly compress and seem to effectively transfer that energy forward as you roll onto your toes.  This combination of improved form, flexibility and efficiency, go figure, translates to speed.

Instead of building up the medial side of the shoe with motion control devices as most road shoes do, Newton built in a rear-foot chassis that acts as a stable platform. This provides ample pronation support. Beyond this, toes and forefoot are allowed a significant amount of movement – very similar to barefoot running.  This is actually a bit unnerving.  I was very conscious of how my foot was moving.

The Momentum is not as effective with more technical terrain. The mid-foot and rear-foot chassis in the mid-sole had difficulty adjusting to the varying surface of a single-track trail. Extended running on side-sloped hills also seemed to put undo stress on my knees, feet and ankles.

Within a couple of weeks, I had ramped up my mileage in the Momentum’s to six. During the first two or three attempts the ligaments and tendons in my feet were clearly unable to handle the new flexibility and hurt during and after. This quickly passed, I assume as they were strengthened.  However, Achilles tendon and calf pain continued, post-run, for several weeks.  All of this seems to be common, given the significant position and flexibility change.  I see this as a clear result of a lifetime of running and walking in stiffer shoes with heels above the ball of the foot.  Over time, stretching out my calf and improving foot tendon/ligament strength, are clearly advantageous and should help reduce injuries


Given that the Momentum is their first trail shoe, Newton got a lot right. The fit was excellent out of the box. I wear a size 12.5 US in most trail shoes. The Newton’s I received were a size 13 and fit well throughout the foot with maybe a bit more toe room than I’m used to. The weight of the shoe is just over 11 ounces; this is on the light side for a trail shoe.

Besides looking seriously cool, the upper felt supportive and protective from rocks and roots. They dry quickly and don’t get that Squidward-sounding water logged feeling. The tongue stays in place – which makes me crazy when it doesn’t.

The shoes offer great cushioning and support for pronation.  On relatively tame trails the perform very well.


The momentum mid-sole is very stiff and does not perform as well on severe terrain. The Activator Lugs provide superior cushioning, but their protrusion can get in the way when running over loose rocks, descending or ascending more severe terrain. The risk worsens as you tire.


These shoes are FAST.  Shoe quality is superior and they look great. The low heel-toe ratio clearly facilitates forefoot/midfoot striking. This makes sense to be helpful for injury prevention; however, the adaptation period is weeks – not days.  The Momentum is a very good choice for entry into “minimal” or “barefoot running.”  For the vast majority of territory you will encounter, the Newton Momentum is a shoe you should consider.

The Momentum (Terra Momentus) is available at Inside-Out Sports with an MSRP of $139.

Todd Spain,

There is no suspense here – I really like the Zipp 303 tubular wheels.

If you try these you will have to have them.  The cool factor is very high, but comes at a fairly hefty price of $2,300 for the pair. However, these are perhaps the most versatile combination in Zipp’s arsenal.  They are light, responsive, climb well, accelerate rapidly, and are very durable.  You can ride them as the perfect training wheel on your road bike, race them on your time trial bike in any conditions, and outclass your competitors at cyclocross in the winter.  If I had the chance to buy just one super nice tubular wheelset, for all the types of riding, this would be my top choice.

The 303’s are similar to the rest of Zipp’s portfolio. They are laced with 18 radial front and 24 radial/1-cross rear SAPIM CX-Ray bladed spokes. External nipples make truing easy. The hubset is Zipp’s 88/188 combo, featuring fat, 17mm aluminum axles and threaded endcaps for easy bearing interface adjustment. These guys weigh in at only 1171 grams per pair.  This is light.

In total, I have ridden approximately 300 miles on these wheels over the spring and summer with Vittoria Corsa Evo KS tubulars. I used the 21mm, 290tpi with the puncture resistant belt.

The 303’s were installed on my road bike for the Paris Mountain Triathlon in the spring.  This course featured a 2.7 mile climb that is quite steep, while the rest of the course is hilly.  The Zipp 303’s are an ideal choice here as they climb very well and are far more aerodynamic than an ordinary lightweight climbing wheel.  They also made their way onto my time trial bike for several of the fast group rides.

Here is what I like:

They feel light and are fun to ride, especially when climbing and sprinting.

Acceleration is tremendous as the rear does not “load up”.  With many lightweight wheels, the applied rotational torque rotates the hub faster than the rim and you can actually feel this load as a softness or sluggishness in the rear until the rim catches up.

Zipp does not compromise on aerodynamics.  The 303’s have much less side/crosswind deflection to the point where there is no reason to consider potential crosswind when choosing wheels for the day.

These guys are solid.  It feels like they could handle the worst spring pothole riddled roadway.  The 303’s have stayed exceptionally true and require very little maintenance.

Since campy record hubs in the 70’s and 80’s, I have not been impressed with any hub for smoothness.  However, Zipp has built a seriously good hub.   They are  s a m o o o o t h.

They look sexy and fast.  The cool factor is seriously high.

Not as crazy about:

The price – they ain’t cheap, nor is there any compromise on quality.

The rear wheel is not as stiff as several other wheels I have ridden.  This would translate well, I believe, to comfort on long rides, but will zap a bit of efficiency along the way.

Switching back and forth with other wheels requires a bit of a rear brake adjustment, unless you are willing to run your rear brake just a tad loose.


I seriously like the Zipp 303’s.  They are light, snappy, and super comfortable. They’d make an outstanding one-wheelset solution for someone doing road racing, triathlons and cyclocross.  They are a bit pricey, but have fantastic all-around characteristics and are impressively versatile.

Related Videos:

How to install a tubular tire Part I

How to install a tubular tire Part II

Swim  Bike  Run  Passion

Stickers on our cars and, now, our clothing reflect who we are, where have been and where we are going.  Check out the DELTA Oval Sticker Tee available now at Inside-Out Sports in Cary and Charlotte or buy online.

The idea is that, using a sharpie, you check off each event you have completed – from a 5K to Century Ride to Ironman.  Take pride in what you have accomplished.

This 100% Cotton Tee was expertly printed by Progressive Graphics.  It comes in light blue and light yellow and is available in Unisex Sizes XS-XL.

Proceeds help fund clinics and events for multisport athletes.

There is no better investment to buying triathlon speed than an aero helmet. A corroboration of studies from Texas A&M University to M.I.T. has accurately quantified the benefit of tear drop shaped aerodynamic time trial helmets. The results vary as to the actual time savings, but the end results are unanimous: An aero helmet saves time. Conservative studies show time savings that range from as little as 30 seconds to as much as 2.5 minutes over 25 miles (an Olympic triathlon bike distance).

This equates to 2.5 to 12.5 minutes over an Ironman distance ride.  Thus reducing the 112 miles to an equivalent of 1o7 or less, in terms of watts used.  For me, getting off the bike at 107 sounds way better than 112.  As importantly, valuable energy is saved, which can be utilized in the run.  Some studies have indicated as much as a 6+ mile savings over 112 with an aero helmet.

Most podiums are separated by less than 3 minutes.  An aero helmet could get you in the photo or on to the top step.

The real value of this research becomes obvious to the middle of the pack triathlete when you start to compare dollars to time savings. Nothing saves more time for less money than an aero helmet.


Buy the fastest gear you can afford, but remember that comfort and power on the bike are paramount to anything you add to it.  For return on investment, make your purchases in the following order:

  • Aero helmet
  • Skinsuit
  • Front Wheel (deep dish – the front has a larger impact on aerodynamics than the rear but, the deeper the wheel the more difficult it is to control in the wind)
  • Rear Wheel (solid disk is best, but also more difficult to handle in the wind and the most expensive)

Watch the Video with Cid Cardoso, Jr. and Todd Spain discussing Aero Helmets

Read the Louis Garneau Rocket Product Review by Cid Cardoso, Jr.

The Rocket features a polycarbonate outer shell that extends back beyond a Styrofoam core to form a sharp, pointy tail. The outer shell also extends downward on the sides to cover the ears, further reducing air drag. It has four small vents in the front and it uses LG’s patented SpiderLock Elite system of adjusting, for a secure and perfect fit. It weights 14.8 ounces and it is available in sizes Small, Medium and Large, and in three colors, Blue, Fuel and Grey. LG offers and optional visor in Clear or Smoke for $30.

The thing to keep in mind when trying on an aero helmet in the store is that everyone looks like a dork with the helmet and plain clothes! With that being said, I was more interested on how it fit, how comfortable it was on a ride, and how much time savings it offered. The fit of the Rocket was good, especially with the fine tuning of the Spider Lock knob. It felt like any other helmet, except that you notice right away that other sounds are somewhat distorted by the tight fairings covering the ears. On a training ride it was as comfortable as any other helmet, although it was weird not feeling the wind on my ears. I did not try it on a hot day and during a really long ride, so I don’t yet know what effect the smaller and fewer vents can have on ventilation and thus over heating.

To get the full experience, I added the smoke visor, which was also easy to get used to. I did have a minor issue when my forehead started itching and I couldn’t scratch it. After loosening the front screw on each side (that are used to attach the visor), I was able to slide it up and down and thus have a little more access to my forehead.

After a positive experience in training, I decided to use it on a race, the White Lake Sprint. As before, the helmet worked great. In fact, I liked it even more since I wasn’t as self conscious and felt like I was just slicing through the air, especially on that flat course. Even getting the helmet on and off, which worried me a bit, was not an issue (note that I did practice the motion, since the helmet fit so snug on the sides that I was afraid I would slice my ears off if I wasn’t more careful than usual).

So how much time does an aero helmet such as this really save? I did not find much specific information, although most of the studies I saw showed at least some time gained due to drag reduction. John Cobbs suggests in an article on Slowtwich that an aero helmet can save a professional athlete approximately 5 minutes over 100 miles. Mark Cote, a researcher at the MIT Center for Sports Innovation tested helmets for Specialized at the university’s Wright Brothers Wind Tunnel Test and found that aero helmets can save a rider as much as two and a half minutes over a 40K time trial, when compared a regular helmet. *

The Rocket is a good investment if you are a competitive athlete looking for every possible edge, or if you want to look like Norman Stadler on your next race. For me, as long as it was not uncomfortable or slower to transition, then any time gained is a benefit, even if only a few seconds. At the price tag of $180, one has to decide if those precious seconds are worth the money. If you are looking at qualifying for Hawaii, a few minutes may be well worth the cost. At IM Arizona, most of the pros and several top age groupers were sporting aero helmets, such as the Rocket.

Watch the Video of Cid Cardoso, Jr. and Todd Spain discussing aero helmets.

The past decade of triathlon long distance course competition has born witness to the hyponatremic meltdown of many age-groupers and professionals competitors. While this lowering of blood sodium levels can be dramatic, dangerous, and even fatal, many half and full Ironman triathletes can experience mild to severe degrees of this condition. The lower sodium blood levels drop, the more serious and life-threatening the symptoms. At the very least, hyponatremia can slow your competitive efforts and is best prevented. Anywhere from 3 to 27 percent of ultra-endurance athletes seeking medical care may suffer from hyponatremia. Researchers at one Hawaiian Ironman found that up to 30 percent of competitors were hyponatremic.

Cause and effect
While the causes of hyponatremia are many and varied, there are two main culprits. The first is excess fluid intake, which occurs when you drink too much salt-free fluid leading up to competition and drink in excess of your sweat losses during competition. High sodium sweat concentration is the second culprit. Extensive and repeated sweating as seen during Ironman can clearly result in large sodium losses. Triathletes with longer finishing times are also at great risk for fluid overload, as there is simply more time to sweat and drink during a race.

Simply put, excessive fluid intake is a big risk factor for developing hyponatremia, and how you pre-hydrate and your drinking strategies during competition can have a significant effect upon this precarious fluid balance. Being a salty sweater also exacerbates this condition.

Fluid – Just the right amount
Of course, you should consume fluid during a race as the risk of becoming dehydrated is still much greater than that of developing hyponatremia. The trick is to not over drink, and to be familiar with your individual hourly sweat loss rate. Some well acclimated triathletes may be very efficient sweaters and lose only one-half to one liter of sweat per hour, while others may reach higher levels of two or three liters per hour in hot and humid weather, despite being acclimated.

Checking your weight before and after longer training sessions can indicate how well you are keeping up with or possibly exceeding your sweat losses. A weight loss of 2-5 pounds is clear indication that fluid intake needs to increase. Conversely, if you actually gain weight during training, your drinking may be excessive. A rough estimate of your sweat rate (see table below) and checking weights before and after training can help prevent both overdrinking and dehydration.

Salty Sweat
High sodium sweat losses can further increase your risk of developing hyponatremia. Fit and acclimatized triathletes usually have less than 900 mg of sodium per liter of sweat. While higher sodium sweat losses are usually seen in unfit and unacclimatized individuals, some highly trained triathletes may be salty sweaters with losses exceeding 1400 mg per liter. If one of these salty sweater triathletes also has a high sweat rate, their losses multiply and they can lose significant amounts of sodium during a half or full Ironman triathlon. While lab testing indicates that sodium losses range from 460 to 1800 mg sodium per liter sweat, chances are your only indicator of high sodium losses is white salt rings and streaks on your clothing and skin.

Clearly salty sweaters need to replace sodium losses to maintain safe blood sodium levels. Even dehydrated triathletes can develop hyponatremia if they have high enough sodium sweat losses over a long race. Look at the sodium content of the sports drinks, gels, and other products that you consume during racing. Some triathletes will need to veer closer to higher sodium sports drinks, and others may even want to carefully supplement with sodium tablets. Salt tablets should be stored in a waterproof case or bag to prevent disintegration and should be taken with eight ounces of fluid. Generally one or two salt tablets per hour is sufficient (amounts per tablet vary). Excess salt intake without adequate fluid intake could irritate your stomach, and result in bloating and nausea. Experiment with these products in training. High sodium sports drinks are probably the most convenient strategy and also provide fluid and carbohydrates when racing.

Before and After
Pre-hydration strategies can also contribute to development of hyponatremia if not done appropriately. Keep in mind that your fluid losses may decrease during a race taper. Of course you need to hydrate leading up to the race, but there is also a risk of overhydrating at this time, just as during the race. Monitor your weight to keep tabs on hydration levels. Healthy triathletes with no specific medical concerns should consume salty foods and add salt to food in the days leading up to the race. If you are a very salty sweater, you can also increase your salt intake significantly in the days leading to the race.

Hyponatremia can also develop after a race as you attempt to rehydrate. For every pound of weight lost, aim to consume 20 to 24 ounces of sodium containing fluid. Drinks and foods that contain sodium, as well as a salty meal or snack several hours after race will help rehydration efforts. These higher sodium intakes will result in less urine production and improve rehydration efforts.  If you have gained weight during the race, rehydrate carefully.

Table 1: Blood Sodium 101

Blood Sodium Levels Symptoms
136-142 millimoles per liter Normal levels
125-135 mmol/L No obvious symptoms or mild gastrointestinal upset such as bloating and nausea
Below 125 mmol/L Symptoms are more severe and include headache, vomiting, wheezing, swollen hands and feet, unusual fatigue, confusion, and disorientation
Below 120 mmol/L Seizure, coma, brain swelling and damage, and death are more likely

Table 2: Estimating sweat losses

This method provides an estimated of sweat losses in hot weather and is fairly simple formula. Of course urine losses affect this equation, as would weight gain from any solid food consumed.

  1. Check your weight before and after training and calculate your weight loss.
    165 lb. to 162 lb. (75 kg to 74 kg)
    3 lbs. weight loss during training (1.4 kg)
  2. Know the amount of fluid that you consumed during the training session. 30 ounces of fluid weighs 2 pounds (an easier estimate is 1000-ml fluid equals1.0 kg body weight).
    Consume 60 ounces (1800 ml) of fluid during a three-hour bike ride. This fluid weighs 4 lb. (1.8 kg)
  3. Add the answers in 1 and 2.
    3 lb. + 4 lb. = 7 lb.
    (1.4 + 1.8 kg = 3.2 kg)
  4. 7 lb. equals 105 ounces fluid divided by 3 hours = 35 ounces per hour for sweat losses.
    (3.2 kg equals 3200 ml fluid divided by 3 hours = 1060 ml/hr).

Table 3: In Summary

Hyponatremia occurs during longer exercise bouts and overconsumption of fluid in relation to your individual sweat losses. High sodium sweat losses increases risk of developing hyponatremia even in the presence of dehydration. Total sodium losses during exercise are a combination of your sweat sodium concentration, sweat rate, and number of hours of sweating. Don’t overhydrate, keep up with sodium losses during the race. Prehydrate appropriately, and consume sodium before and after a race.

Nutrition for Endurance  Athletes Monique Ryan, MS, RD is the author of Sports Nutrition for Endurance Athletes, 2nd edition (VeloPress 2007). Click here to view more about the book or purchase. She was a member of the Athens 2004 Performance Enhancement Teams for USA Triathlon and USA Cycling Women’s Road Team. She is owner of Personal Nutrition Designs and offers her sports nutrition “E Program” at Monique Ryan, MS, RD is owner of Personal Nutrition Designs with programs at She is the author of Sports Nutrition for Endurance Athletes.

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You are determined, proud and engaged in life.

Now available in pale yellow and light blue at Inside-Out Sports

Perfectly printed by Richard Puckett and Progressive Graphics.

Newton burst onto the running shoe scene about three years ago with some bright orange, red and yellow shoes with pods in the forefoot and a weird double wedge looking logo. Their initial push into triathlons (and more specifically Ironman) paid off as they were immediately accepted by a significant number of age groupers and pros alike, including some of the best in the sport, like Michelle Jones, Craig Alexander and Heather Fuhr to name a few. Now, they introduced the Sir Isaac and Lady Isaac Guidance Trainer, a “Newton starter shoe”, designed to expose the average, more heel-striking runner to the Newton concept of mid to forefoot running in a less radical transition.

The Newton shoes work on the premise that the most efficient way to run is to strike more on the mid to forefoot part of the foot. Developed by Danny Abshire, an expert in making athletic orthotics with substantial experience with professional athletes in Boulder and an avid runner, these shoes have been in the making for over ten years. I first heard of the concept around 1998-1999 when I first met Danny and at the time he was looking for the materials necessary to make his concept work. Since then, he not only found the right materials but along with company founder Jerry Lee, set up the manufacturing facilities and distribution channels to successfully sell these shoes worldwide.

Newton’s design concept came about by observing humans running barefoot and noticing that strides are the most fluid and speed is achieved with the least amount of effort when we strike in the forefoot manner. Due to our physiology (little padding and virtually no shock absorbing features in the heel) we will strike more in the middle to ball part of the foot, perhaps with a quick heel strike and an immediate forward roll. Shock absorption occurs in the arch of the foot, before the foot becomes more rigid for propulsion at toe-off. As a result, Newton shoes are specifically designed to favor mid to forefoot landing. This will increase running speed (without additional effort) because the fluid stride is not disrupted by hitting the heels hard (which is actually similar to hitting the brakes) and the stride speed is actually increased slightly, by moving the foot quicker to the push off phase.

Newton uses a patented Action/Reaction technology to facilitate the flow and efficiency of the runner’s stride. The Land-Lift forefoot contains a series of pods attached to an outsole membrane that covers some holes in the midsole. When the forefoot hits the ground, these pods or “actuator lugs” are pressed into the hollow chambers inside the midsole pressuring against the elastic membrane (what they refer to as “Action). This membrane then forces the lugs back out and pushes the knee up in the beginning of a new stride (referred as Reaction). The forefoot landing generates forward motion, like Newton’s third law of motion that states that, “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction”

Unlike conventional running shoes where the amount of shock absorption actually decreases with time and wear, the shock absorbing power on Newton shoes remain basically the same throughout the life of the shoe. As long as there are pods and the membrane’s structural integrity is not compromised, the shock absorption will essentially remain the same. The shoe is finally worn out when the pods are gone due to wear.

In the Sir Isaac and Lady Isaac Guidance Trainer, the pods are not as pronounced. They are probably about one eighth of an inch high, in relation to the rest of the sole as opposed to the quarter plus inch height of the original Newton Performance Trainers. The outsides of the outer-sole are also raised slightly to minimize the forefoot pressure caused by the pods, while still guiding the runner into the mid/forefoot. They also have a carbon rubber outsole both in the forefoot and heel for greater overall durability.

I must first confess that I’ve been a Newton fan for a year now. As a result, for me going from the Newton Stability Trainer (one of the original shoes in the Performance line) to the Sir Isaac Trainer was practically the opposite effect of going from a regular shoe to the Sir Isaacs Trainer. Surprisingly, they felt very similar to the Stability Trainer. They still made my feet “want” to roll forward into a jog, perhaps a little more subtly. However, while it took me a few days and several runs to get to the point where I got completely used to lugs in my Stability Trainer, the less pronounced lugs on the Sir Isaac Trainers felt “normal” after just a few minutes.

I found that running with the Sir Isaacs, the forward motion feeling was very similar to that of my Stability Trainers. When switching back to regular running shoes after wearing my Newtons, I often felt sluggish at first. With the Sir Isaacs Trainers, I still felt nimble and fast. Still, the more substantial heel on the Isaac Trainers should definitely help in the initial conversion of heel strikers to midfoot strikers. In my case, this difference was noticeable when I got tired and my form started to fall apart. For example, I had some great track workouts with my Stability Trainer but then felt awful during the cool down. My assessment was that during the cool down, I was heel striking on a shoe that basically offered no heel (or very little padding) to strike on, so the inefficiency was compounded.  With the Sir Isaacs Trainers, when my form gets sloppy the inefficiency is not as pronounced (which can be good and bad as forcing me to focus on good form often results in running faster with less effort).

Marketed as a “Guidance” trainer, the Sir Isaac Trainer offered me more than enough stability with its’ dual density midsole and a wider mid/forefoot base. At 10.9 oz (for a size 9), it is still incredibly light for a trainer. Like the Stability Trainers, I did have to go up half a size so make sure they fit with the pods in the correct place relative to the metatarsals. This resulted in a lot of forefoot room but that was not an issue for me. They did also fit wider than the Stability Trainers so people with narrow feet beware. The closer nit mesh was still comfortable and flexible.

Newton is no longer a novelty company although they are still very small compared to the Asics and Nikes of the world.   Researching the internet you can find lots of debates as to whether the Newton running concept actually can make you faster and more efficient and also whether their design will work for everyone.  My opinion is that the original performance models, including the Stability Trainer, probably were not for everyone (at least not right of the bat). However, the Sir Isaacs and Lady Isaacs Guidance Trainers should serve a much larger population of runners. I personally like the concept and the focus on running form as well as biomechanics. I also give them credit for thinking outside the conventional box of shoe design. They have taken the Ironman circuit by storm in a relative short time and are now expanding into the running market as more runners get an opportunity to try them. At $149, the Sir Isaacs Guidance Trainers are also less pricey than the Performance Trainers, putting them more in line with other running shoes. They also come with a 30 day money back guarantee so why not give them an honest try?

CW-X Conditioning Wear ¾ Length Tights

The performance apparel market is saturated with compression wear making it confusing for athletes to decide what items they should buy.  In searching the web for information, every manufacturer’s site oozes with research studies showing that their products provide the best compression to decrease fatigue, improve performance and enhance the speed of recovery.

I have been fortunate enough to be able to try out several brands of “compression” tights for myself.  Coming from a medical background, I don’t need to be sold on the advantages of compression stockings/socks and tights in performance and recovery.  I truly believe that any compression is better than none.  However, until I ran in the CW-X Stabilyx tights from Wacoal Sports Science, I have honestly not had a noticeable benefit from one tight to another.  The take aways from trying all the brands usually had to do with the ease or difficulty in putting the tights on and their overall comfort.  As far as the compression “factor” they all felt good and I liked having compression but were my legs really fresher and was I more efficient on the run?  I couldn’t tell.

The CW-X Stabilyx tights are advertised as Stability Conditioning wear.  Although the tight itself provides compression it has the added benefit of what they call the “kinesio-exoskeleton support web”.  This conditioning web is strategically positioned to help stabilize the muscles and ligaments that support the knees, lower back, hips and quads.  These panels of support mimic the placement of kineseo tape that a lot of athletes are using for the same supportive benefits of injury prevention and performance enhancement. Wacoal Sports Science, CW-X, is a company recently formed in the US, branching from the Wacoal Science Research Center in Kyoto, Japan.  This research facility boasts of forty years of studying Kinesiology, the science of human movement.  CW-X makes five different models of tights, each with a varying focuses of physical benefits.  These tights range in price from $65 to $110. The CW-X website has a useful chart that will help guide you to which tight is the best for you. CW-X markets the Stabilyx tight as their best all-round stability tight.

My initial draw to the tight was the cool look.  The compression parts of the tights are black but the kinesio webs come in different colors on different models.  My second draw to the tight was that it was designed with a more specific purpose that just to provide “compression”.  So, with these two things going for them, I was enticed to try the tights.  The packaging actually comes with directions so that you can successfully align the support bands across the targeted ligament and muscle zones.  Unlike some other brands, I found the tights very easy to put on.  The support bands in the fabric crossed both below and above my knees and felt really good.  On the upper thigh, the bands crossed around my quads and hamstrings and up to my lower back.  The tight felt comfortably “tight”.  So now that I knew they not only looked technically advanced but felt technically advanced, it was time to give them the true “road” test.  Was I going to experience increased blood flow and decreased fatigue from the “gentle pressure” provided from the tights’ compression?  Were my knees going to feel as if I had applied Kinesis tape in all the right places………?

HED Black Dog Aerobars: $900

A common misconception about handlebar/aerobar combinations for TT and Triathlons is that integrated ones are always lighter. That is not the case. Most integrated systems on the market, including some popular and high priced ones, weigh about the same as the non-integrated ones. For example, the Zipp Vuka Aero system ($1200), which includes basebar, brake levers and aerobars, weighs 860 grams, and compare that to the VisionTech set up of the Alloy base bars, alloy TT clip-ons and aero brake levers (a popular combination among bike manufacturers and athletes) weighing 835 grams combined (at $340). Another misconception is that because a stem has the carbon weave look, it is automatically lighter. Some of the lightest aerobars, basebars and stems on the market are made of aluminum (by companies like Easton and Syntace among others). These parts when made out of only carbon often have to be reinforced in certain stress areas or in other instances are actually made out of aluminum with a cool looking carbon wrap. Still, integrated carbon handlebar systems are consistently the top choices among Tour de France teams and triathlon pros. Besides the obvious marketing advantage they have due to their space age look, most manufacturers claim significant aerodynamic gains as well as some stiffness benefits (those are the main selling points of Zipp’s Vuka Aerobars mentioned above). As a result, if you’re looking at taking this route and don’t mind spending some bucks, check out the HED Black Dog Aerobars, which at 630 grams and $900 is a remarkable handlebar system.

Integrated bars used to include mostly base bars, aerobars and stem. Most manufacturers have stopped including the stem and have added the brake lever. Not including the stem is a sensible thing, since that is so dependent on the fit and the rest of the bike. Besides the length issue there is the rise issue and to accommodate all the possible combinations in an integrated handlebar system was simply not feasible. Including brake levers can be beneficial, as long as these work properly. In the past, to go with integrated bars also meant sacrificing flexibility in the fit. Manufacturers have gotten the clue that most athletes need flexibility in the way their cockpits are set up.

The HED Black Dog Aerobars use the “no stem” with the brake levers included approach. The aerobar extensions are not permanently attached to the base bar using a bracket instead. The aerobar, however, is sold as a unit and when put together looks like it is all part of the same mold. HED offers the riders three options of extensions, which include the most common s-bend, the lazy s and the traditional one. The basebar resembles thin wings (from the frontal view) with an extensive trailing edge to reduce drag. These are available in the flat version (to facilitate climbing and popular with triathletes using the TT bike for various distances and terrains, and the drop version, more popular with cyclist using these for short and fast time trials. The ends of the basebars are beautifully shaped into (ergo) handles and then seamlessly molded into the brake levers. These in turn are easy to reach (even for riders with smaller hands) and come standard with a return spring for crisper breaking and internal brake routing for a cleaner set up. The arm pads offer several mounting positions and can be mounted on the regular and “wider” arm rests mounts.

Installing the HED Black Dog Aerobars was not a problem at all. Mechanics often cringe when they see a new piece of equipment full of thin lines, sharp angles and little bolts. These are usually synonymous with time-consuming and frustrating installations. Not in this case. Adjusting to my desired position was also not an issue. The adjustability allowed me to get the same position as my previous multi-piece set up. The bars come with the standard mounting bracket and I was surprised to find out that these were too narrow for me. I don’t think I have a very wide upper body or ride with my arms very far apart. The fact that the pads themselves angle upwards on the outside to prevent the rider’s arms from sliding out may have compounded my feeling of constraint. After installing the wider brackets (which gave me about two extra cms in each side), I found the position I wanted. The extensions had to be cut slightly but that is normal with most carbon extensions these days.

Out on the road, on the aero position the bars performed like a dream. They were comfortable, stiff, and most important (according to some), fast looking. I did have a little trouble getting used to the carbon molded ergo grips. I found them to be fine for most riding conditions, but a little small and a little slick for climbing steep hills or descending technical courses. Perhaps it was because I was used to the VisionTech base bar that uses a standard round tube gripping area with cork bar tape. Angling the HED base bar slightly and putting some bar tape on the grips improved its feel.

It is interesting to note that HED Black Dog Aerobars (along with others like the 3T Ventus) may not even comply with a UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale, governing body of international professional cycling) rule created in the late nineties, which says that bike equipment may not be more than 3 times deep than it is wide, normally known as the 3:1 rule…and the HED Black Dog basebar is certainly wider than 3 times its width. I suppose that this is to control how radical and aerodynamic cycling components may be. Regardless of whether the UCI ever decides to enforce this rule among the peloton, triathlons are not restricted by such rules. This means those with a little extra room in the budget can still show up at our local races and group rides with a very light and incredibly stylish set of integrated bars like the HED Black Dog Aerobars, which are “so aero” that could even be illegal in some professional cycling races. How cool is that?