Friday, November 29, 2013

Product Review: Giro Mele Triathlon Shoe

From Giro's website: Giro's Website Link.
Mele™ Tri Shoes

The Mele™ Tri offers a snug, supportive fit with breathability, power transfer and fast transition in mind. The upper features a wide throat opening with a stout upper strap for secure fit, as well as an integrated scuff guard at the heel. Our acclaimed SuperNatural Fit footbed with Aegis® anti-microbial treatment provides adjustable arch support to optimize fit and power transfer, creating a perfect complement to the best-in-class Easton® EC70™ composite outsole.
Manufacturer Video: Link here.

From Tri Coach K:
My initial aesthetic impression of these shoes is overall positive.  The shoes have a visually wide mouth to the upper, as stated by the manufacturers description; I can attest that the design of this part of the shoe definitely lends itself well to easy slip-on.  I really like the color options they make available as well.  I chose the Chrome/White style but it was a toss-up between those and the Obsidian/Highlight Yellow-the website pictures doesn't do justice to the Obsidian has a very nice shimmer/gloss finish that looks killer in the sun.  The Obsidian is actually more of a mocha/charcoal color in certain lighting. 

Giro has done us right by utilizing two straps instead of just one; some shoes I have used have had only one strap, to evidently speed up the transition and slip-on, which in most cases actually seems to diminish the quality of the shoe fit to the foot, by leaving the forefoot and toe-box somewhat roomy and not snug enough to reduce blisters.  Not the case with Giro...the two strap design allows for good fit without cutting off circulation in the forefoot.  The larger of the two straps, by the ankle, is reversed to allow for on-the-bike slip-on without the worry of getting the strap tangled in the chain.

The mesh on the front of the shoe could be easily covered by a forefoot style booty, for the cooler spring or autumn rides.  The ventilation is nice for indoor spinning on the trainer, or hot arid summer days. 

In the past I have ridden several brands of shoes including Carnac, Shimano, Bontrager, Sidi, Pearl Izumi, and Giro.  Giro's description is true to my testing.  They felt good, kept my feet well aired, and while either socked or barefoot, my feet were secure so as not to blister.  

One really cool feature in addition to the already mentioned features is the 3 different arch support inserts provided.  The Aegis anti-microbial insole has a small, medium, and large arch insert that is seamlessly integrated into the in-sole so as not to create points of irritation or chafe.  For riders with a very wide and high foot, with little to no arch or flat feet, the in-sole could be taken out, but a thinner in-sole would be recommended in its place.

The shoes retail on the Giro site for $200 which is very competitive to similar shoes of similar quality and intended use.  A comparable model would be Bontrager's Hilo RXL Triathlon shoe which retails for about $180.  I have been riding on Bontrager's RL Road shoe on the trainer for the last few weeks and I like these as well, so I can't say anything bad about Bontrager's Hilo RXL shoes.  Giro and Bontrager are using their composite technology honed from wheel building to make their shoe soles stiff and able to transfer power efficiently.

Giro utilizes top notch innovation from its composite sister company Easton, for the soles on this shoe.  The EC70 Carbon Composite is similar to the caliber and quality used in Easton's engineering of the famous racing wheels like their EC90's, a favorite among triathletes and time-trialists who are looking for something different from the standard issue Zipp wheel.

Maple Grove Cycling is a dealer of Giro, Bontrager and several other great cycling shoe brands.  Tri Coach K was not paid by any of the companies mentioned in this review and the review was done solely and autonomously from any outside input or guidance.  The italicized text at the intro to the review is from Giro's website, and the photo and video are produced by Giro and can be viewed on Giro's website.

I hope this review is helpful.  Please give me feedback and direct comments/questions in the comment box below!

Train Smart, Keep Balanced,
Tri Coach K   

Friday, November 22, 2013

Off-Season Training Essentials

1. Resistance Bands: With the off-season coming into full bloom, one area of training that many triathletes will want to work on is core and articulation strength.  Core strength would be the parts of the body pertaining to the trunk i.e. abdominals hipflexors, pectoralis, latissimus, rhomboids and lumbar groups.  The articulation strength that can be benefited is any muscle group that aids in joint articulation...this would include muscles surrounding the knee, shoulder, hips, and elbows.  As athletes increase volume and intensity through the winter months it is vitally important to have good strength built so that as these variables increase the body is able to withstand these added stresses without injury. 

2. Pool Tools: I would include in this grouping any products that help an athlete perform drills, technique, or general swimming training, in the pool.  Examples of equipment that I regularly use would be fins, paddles, kick-board, pull-buoy, and drag suit.  A pull-buoy goes between the legs and allows one to swim with proper body position by eliminating the need to kick whilst keeping the body in proper horizontal alignment on the top of the water.  A kick-board allows one to utilize just the kick for forward propulsion.  It should be noted that too much kicking specific drills, for a triathlete, can often be problematic due to the added stress it can put on the knees.  Fins can similarly add unnecessary stress if used too much and/or with too high of intensity.  A drag suit is simply a swimsuit that is designed to be slightly less hydrodynamic.  It might have added mesh or not fit quite as tight to the body the way a typical swimsuit would.  Many swimsuit manufacturers have fun with these types of suits and offer unique patterns and styles that can be kind of 'loud.'

3. Multi-Vitamin w/ Vitamin D: Although I am not a pharmacologist or dietitian, I have strong feelings and pseudo-evidences that the vitamin D deficiency that many mid-westerners experience in the winter months caused from decreased exposure to the sun, may have negative impact on seasonal mood disorders, and metabolic efficiency.  On numerous occasions family members, my spouse, or friends have shared with me about low vitamin D levels during the winter months as being evidenced from blood test results by a medical practitioner and/or laboratory blood tests.  The vitamin D deficiency paired with seasonal mood issues, and seasonal weight gain, often times associated with no changes in exercise is where my suspicion that the three are interrelated comes from.  There are some studies that suggest that there is likely more than just a positive correlation here. Similar studies reveled curious relations between suppressed immune functioning and vitamin D deficiencies.

4. Bicycle Trainer: Many athletes will already own one of these, but I mention it because it is important, and also important to have a good quality trainer if a rider is using it more than 3 days per week or is sharing it with a spouse or friend.  Trainers vary in price and are significantly different in feel and quality.  There are several types of trainers based on the type of resistance and the durability of the trainer.  CycleOps for instance, one of the larger brands on the market sells a magnetic resistence trainer for under $200 and has a magnetic/fluid resistance trainer for over $475.  It all depends on what kind of resistance; the style of flywheel (a large disk that allows the bike wheel to keep moving when the rider stops pedaling)-which enhances the ride quality to make it feel more like riding on the road. Features like electronic remotes are optional on some models, but can take the price well over $1500. 

Two trainers I work with on a regular basis and have had great success with are the CycleOps Fluid 2 trainer which uses magnetic and fluid resistance and has a very adequate sized flywheel and costs around $315 and the Kurt Kinetic Road Machine which also uses a very similar fluid and magnetic resistance and costs around $380-(on Sale for $349 for Thanksgiving-New Year).  Both manufacturers provide a lifetime warranty, which I have seen utilized by customers and clients I have worked with; in both cases with each company, Kinetic and CycleOps were very supportive and replaced the defective units.

5. Studded Tyres: Can handle the cold?!? If you can handle cross-country skiing, then riding in the blistery winter cold won't be a too big of a deal.  No two studded tires are created equal.  Tires are designed for 26" wheels or 700c wheels, which can sometimes be interchanged with a 29er mountain bicycle.  There are a few studded tire companies that make a really phenomenal tire, and there are a couple that don't make such great tires.  I won't trash-talk any specific companies, but make sure to talk with your local bicycle dealer to see which ones they recommend and have had good luck with.  I have personally had really good success with Kenda, Suomi/Nokian, and Schwalbe studded tires.  Specific models of each that we have sold and have had great reviews from are the Kenda Klondike, which are made for 26-inch, 29ers, and 700c-cross versions; Suomi, who was formally known by the name Nokian, has a tire called the Hakkapeliita, which comes in several versons, the A10's are the ones I ride on my bicycle through the winter and are a 700x32c tire with 72 carbide tipped studs per tire.

6. Bicycle Fitting: I will only briefly mention this, but don't want to under emphasize the importance of a professional bike fit.  Many riders come to me looking for solutions to problems of various kinds that they're facing on the bike and I am stuck by how simple of fix various adjustments can be and are real world changers for my riders.  A good bicycle fit doesn't have to cost a fortune, and in most cases if adjustments or components are recommended, there will be a discount on those products.

7. Stroke Analysis: This is another area that I can't over emphasize.  Many of the injuries that triathletes and swimmers experience could have been easily avoided by corrections in their stroke.  Most triathlon or swimming coaches can offer a swim analysis that focuses on one stroke with a specific purpose.  For example, if you are a triathlete who primarily open-water swims, there will be slightly different technique focus that will help you swim more efficiently and effectively in open water as opposed to a normal lap-swimming or speed swimming stroke for pool usage.  It is good to do some research on any coach you might work with.  Get to know what their technique philosophy is and make sure that they have a good understanding of the bio-mechanical movement patterns that are necessary for good triathlon-specific swimming.  Also it is helpful to work with a coach that also has strength and condition expertise and can recommend dry-land training exercises to help your technique and swim-strength in the water.

In the off-season it is essential to have a good time so don't get too crazy, just yet.  Ponder your previous season; the successes, and the failure, the challenges and the breakthroughs.

Train Smart, Keep Balanced.
Tri Coach K