Occasionally I’m contacted by deluded purveyors of triathlon gadgetry asking me to test (endorse) their latest products and share my findings with you, the long-suffering reader. I say deluded because even a cursory knowledge of my athletic achievements reveals me as Britain’s number one Tesco Value triathlete.
I should also add that I’m not really a gadget man. While friends buy sleek training wear and download apps that effortlessly synch their Strava knobbery onto shiny phones, I cling doggedly to my indestructible Nokia 6021. It’s possibly a reaction to my childhood because my dad was a gadgetophile, easily dazzled by the latest 1970s tat from K-Tel or Ronco, all of which ended up in the bin.
Triathlon seems to be choc-full of gadgets and very occasionally I’ve succumbed to temptation, buying some daringly-priced product promising to make my cycling less of an endless catastrophe. One such episode saw me parting with ill-earned cash for a chain/sprocket-cleaning device that made my previously silent gearing suddenly sound like a skeleton dancing in a biscuit tin. Since then I’ve avoided the whole sorry business and stuck to the low-tech way of doing things.
So while I can’t bring myself to recommend any gadgets to you, I can certainly use my cynical perspective to tell you which ones to avoid. So here are my top 10 of things you absolutely do not need…
10 Rear bottle cages. See that full drinks bottle lying in the road as you’re riding past? It’s probably there because someone in front of you has a bottle cage behind their saddle. Those bottle-launching rear cages are about as effective at holding on to things as Australian wicket keepers.
9 Essentials Case. Cycling man-purses for carrying your tyre levers, phone, mascara, etc. A sandwich bag in your back pocket does the same job with the advantages of being waterproof, see-through, and not £50.
8 Five finger/foot gloves. Running shoes that replicate the feeling of barefoot running. Or you could just run barefoot. But remember that man has found ways to cover his feet for the past 40,000 years for very good reasons.
7 A cycling airbag. An inflatable helmet worn around the neck that uses sensors to detect a crash, blowing up to protect your head before impact. It’s yours for a one-use only price of $550.
6 Power Shower Wipes. Portable scented tissues to rub yourself down after that midday run from your shower-less workplace. Alternatively, sink, flannel, armpits, done.
5 Boom Bottle. Looks like a drinks bottle, feels like a drinks bottle, but it’s actually a music system that fits in your bottle cage, playing your favourite motivational songs out loud. Just, no.
4 Swimshine. A ‘multi-tracking activity device’ that attaches to your goggles and synchs to your smart phone, telling you how far you’ve done and what you’ve got left via messages in your ear. I don’t need a gadget for this! I have an evil swimming coach who knows precisely what I’ve done and what I should’ve done by bellowing in my ear.
3 Cycle speaker phone. For the ‘always connected cyclist’ allowing you to take phone calls while you ride – most calls presumably starting along the lines of ‘What’s that panting?’ I’m sure whoever rang me would consider it a real treat to hear me swearing at potholes every 10 words.
2 Rundies. Underpants with a different workout printed on the back to remind you of that day’s session. Quite apart from the misunderstandings that would arise from wandering about with ‘Fartlek’ written across your backside, how will you see what you’re meant to do that day without bending over in front of a mirror? And suppose you have three track sessions in a row? You might think it’s your pace that’s leaving everyone behind but it’s more likely to be the whiff.
1 A thumb bell for runners. ‘Ding ding, runner coming through’. Anyone using one of these deserves to have it forcibly inserted into them and then beaten with a pedal spanner until it rings.
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