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2016 Buyer’s Guide: Electronics

In the same way that tennis raquets got bigger in order to help intermediate players hit the ball so much better, technology is making it easier and easier to figure out how to get better on the bike, in the water or running on the roads or trails. We might call them gadgets, but the most advanced training watches and power measuring tools have become an integral part of a serious triathlete’s training arsenal, allowing us to precisely measure and gauge our efforts and track our progress as we strive for our goals. Here are a few “gadgets” that are worth a look in 2016 as you’re continuing your hunt for tools that will help you improve.

Screen Shot 2016-03-29 at 2.18.23 PMStryd Power Meter

$200 Ever wanted to know just how much effort you’re putting into each running stride? Thanks to Stryd’s new power meter, you can actually get that information wherever you’re running – on a track, road, trail or inside. The Stryd monitor attaches to a chest strap, then syncs with a sports watch or mobile phone to provide your power data. From that info you can figure out your most efficient cadence and running style and monitor the impact your body is dealing with in various situations.

After your workout you can analyze your data to figure out how you can improve your running form. Three-time Kona champ Craig Alexander put the Stryd through its paces last fall and spent lots of time playing around with his form and stride rate to optimize his run technique. If it works for one of the best in the sport it will likely help you run a bit faster this season, too.

Garmin 920XTGarmin 920XT

$660 ($730 with HRM) Garmin leads the way in terms of sales in the GPS multisport watch market, which comes as no surprise thanks to products like the 920. Using the 920 to track daily activity (it measures steps and calories burned all day, if you’d like) is like only driving a Lamborghini at 30 km/h around the neighbourhood – that feature just scrapes the barrel on the capabilities of Garmin’s latest high-end watch. The 920, with its beautiful colour screen, will measure your running dynamics (when paired with the HRM-Run heart rate monitor strap), help you figure out your VO2 max, log the drills you’re doing in the pool along with figuring out how far you’ve swum and how many strokes you’re taking per length, predict your race times, provide indoor running stats without having to use a footpod and act as live tracker when paired with a smart phone. All that, of course, is in addition to “regular” features like offering up speed, pace and power information, while keeping track of your PBs and letting you race yourself against previous performances. Once you’re done all this information can be uploaded through Garmin Connect so you can save, plan and share your efforts with training partners or coaches. The 920 is Bluetooth and ANT+ compatible, so you can easily connect with a variety of devices like power meters, heart rate monitors and phones. Oh, and it works as a watch, too, running for four months at a time in watch mode, 24 hours in GPS mode and 40 hours in UltraTrac mode (with ANT+ sensor data).

polar v800 watchPolar V800

$550 ($620 WITH HRM) Long the leaders in heart rate monitor technology, Polar’s V800 steps into the GPS sports watch fray in impressive style. Thinner than other watches in this class, it’s easy to wear on your wrist all day (it, like the Garmin 920, can act as an activity tracker). Accurate heart rate, distance, speed and altitude data are all easy to see on the V800’s crisp display, which can all be synced to your phone or computer through Bluetooth. Once there, Polar’s web-based PolarFlow program allows you to analyze your training data. The Bluetooth heart rate monitor strap works under water, which is a great option for open water swimming with a wetsuit, but not likely something you’ll use a great deal in a pool. Out on the bike you’ll get lots of GPS data (speed, distance, altitude, etc.), along with power data if you’re using the Polar-specific Look Keo pedals. While running you get all those same metrics, along with some excellent pacing features that will help you hit your goal splits on the run. There’s more than enough battery power to get you through even the longest Ironman day, making the V800 an excellent choice for training and racing, regardless of the distance you’re competing at.