Note: This is the second in a series of four columns chronicling the Gear Junkie’s training and competition in Ironman Wisconsin, a full-scale Ironman triathlon event that includes a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike and a 26.2-mile run.
The second leg of an Ironman triathlon is a grueling bike segment that stretches on and on for 112 miles. Top-end cycling equipment is a must, as competitors strive to finish with a good time while exerting as little energy as possible before the final running segment of the race.
For my Ironman, I chose a bike made expressly for triathlons. The Specialized Transition Comp ($2,600, www.specialized.com) has a stealthy aluminum frame and other features to make it speedy, aerodynamic and efficient. The bike has a large front chainring to let you crank up past 40 miles per hour going downhill. Handlebar extensions and the accompanying arm rests let the rider drop into a serious tuck to minimize drag.
Components are high-end, including Mavic Cosmic wheels with bladed spokes, a Specialized carbon fork and seatpost, Shimano Ultegra brakes, a Shimano Ultegra front derailleur and a Shimano Dura-Ace rear derailleur. The bike weighs about 18.5 pounds.
Testing it out for two months before the Ironman, I had a lot of fun on this bike. It is certainly speedy, and its aerodynamic qualities are amazing. In a full tuck, the bike and your body create so little drag that the wind in your ears becomes significantly quieter as the bike hums forward on the road.
Along with the bike, I am using three other key items from Specialized, including the Trivent shoe ($150). These bike shoes accept cleats from all major pedal manufacturers and have a rigid carbon sole for support. Two Velcro straps, looped heel pulls and a wide opening allow the shoes to be taken on and off extra quick during race transitions. They weigh a mere 21 ounces per pair.
The Trivent shoes are made to fend off the heat of the road in two distinct ways: The shoes have vents that channel air in as you pedal; and on the sole the external layer of carbon has a metallic coating to work as a heat shield and reflect the hot rising currents coming off sunny, scorched asphalt.
For apparel, I will wear the Specialized Team MTB Jersey ($80) and Body Geometry Pro shorts ($140). The jersey has a three-quarter-length zipper on front to let you open the top up dramatically for venting. It has an elasticized waist and sleeves to keep the top snug, and three pockets in back provide storage for spare tubes, energy gel, water bottles and other cycling necessities.
The Body Geometry Pro shorts are standard tight-fitting nylon bike shorts, but with a special high-density foam pad. A unique pattern of foam modules in the padding allow the shorts to conform with your body and the bike saddle in order to better keep the pressure off during those long, seemingly endless rides.