One thing I have realized over many years of competing as a professional triathlete is that while the sport may be fairly straight-forward and for the most part rewards pure fitness over ‘skill’, there is a need for occasional change to one’s program. Sure most of us follow a typical weekly routine, but I’ve found that what may have produced a result a few years back may not work now. What could have worked 8 months ago may not be as effective today. As our bodies are constantly changing, so must our training.
I feel fortunate that living in Austin, Texas I was able to meet Dave Bunce early on and learn about ISM saddles. After I raced Ironman Hawaii in 2010 (which was my first season of racing Ironman), I began to realize that I could be much more comfortable when riding, especially in the time trial position.
I think when people get into triathlon, they mistakenly accept that they are only ‘supposed to only be so comfortable…it just won’t feel good to spend too long on a bike”… which is not how it should be. When you begin to up your bike mileage at some point, you’ll quickly realize if you need a saddle change. The saddle itself should not be taking you out of your aero position; nor should it be causing daily discomfort. I talked to Dave and he hooked me up with my first ISM saddle during my off-season in December 2010. The first ride, you notice that the saddle design feels great. After the first couple of rides, you notice a bit of soreness on the bones, which is completely to be expected. I was patient through this process, as I was told that there would be a ‘break in’ period. It was precisely as Dave told me, and after about 2 weeks, I noticed that soreness was subsiding and the comfort increasing. My first season on the ISM saddle, I actually raced 3 Ironmans, and found that my cycling was very strong; especially stronger in the aero position. You cannot underestimate this fact that is often overlooked… When training for non-drafting events (especially the longer ones), you HAVE to be COMFORTABLE in the TT position. Enough to where you do not want to ‘sit up’ constantly. With a good position and a well fit saddle, you can attain this. We asked my body to do long trainer intervals in 2011 (and still currently do)… anywhere from 12 to 45 minutes in duration, per interval… anywhere from 3 to 6 of these. The ability to ride, consistently, down on the aero bars can result in huge strength gains. I definitely attribute some of those gains made due to the fact that I can ride relaxed and comfortable in this position for long periods of time.
Every year at Ironman Hawaii, they have a Kona Bike Count which entails industry people watching all bikes brought into transition and taking note of all parts…brands of frame, wheels, hydration systems, power meters, pedals, aerobars, components, helmets, and of course saddles. Just for reference, here is how ISM has stacked up the past 5 years.
2009: 6th (119)
2010: 3rd (201)
2011: 2nd (328)
2012: 2nd (403)
2013: 1st (517)
If that isn’t proof it works, I don’t know what is! It’s awesome to see a company who has worked hard, and made a great product, gain such well-deserved recognition; especially through this consistent progression. If you haven’t tried out an ISM, and you’re experiencing any discomfort (even the slightest) on your current saddle, I encourage you to do so.
Zoot recently celebrated 30 years on the same holy grounds of triathlon where they began; in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii (in conjunction with Ironman Hawaii). And they did it in style, with a retro throw-back to the 80’s booth fully loaded with original clothing, topping off the celebrations by hosting the post-Kona party. While I was sad to miss the occasion, I feel pretty honored to have been on board of this company for almost 20% of their life span.
Not sure if you know this, but a triathlete can actually equip themself from head to toe (swim, bike and run) in Zoot apparel; lacking only goggles. Their bandwidth has expanded significantly the past few years, to not only include a wide and eclectic running shoe line but also cycling gear, swim suits, speed suits and wetsuits, running clothes, socks…arm warmers…arm coolers…sports bras…tanks…capris…knee warmers… you name it. I’ve found that they have combined function and comfort with style incredibly well, especially the past few years as things have really progressed. They take valuable feedback from top-level triathletes to hone in on their running shoes; experimenting with various levels of heel to toe drop, different lacing systems (recently the BOA closure on one of my go-to’s, the Ultra Race), and an array of different uppers. They were originally only doing ‘triathlon specific’ with built in elastic laces but have recently come out with an assortment of regular-laced shoes for training, usually with elastic laces given as an option. I can honestly say that with the variety of shoes, there is one that will work for everyone; they acknowledge that running shoes are a personal item.
They have not neglected looks either; I can’t tell you the number of women that compliment me on my Zoot kicks. The first time I wore the new pink and blue TT’s this year at Texas 70.3, I had numerous women asking where they could find them! Fit, function, and comfort are important; but you can’t deny, we all like to look and feel good in what we sport. This spills into the womens clothing. I can honestly toss on my shorts, sports bra and tank to run in and swap out a t-shirt post run with some flops or capri’s and run errands or meet a friend for a beer. The clothing is just as eye-catching as it is practical.
Beyond the products themselves, Zoot is a company made of hard-working, energetic, ‘real’, awesome people. They are based in Southern California, so always the opportunity to test all of their gear outside in prime conditions. You can tell upon meeting anyone in the Zoot family that they are passionate about triathlon and what they do. To me, these are the real roots of why and how a company can become so successful. I’ve heard them use the motto, “Here from the Start”. And you can bet on this trajectory, they’ll be here ‘til the end.