Tri gear in London

…the best sports shops, reviewed.

Part 2: SBR Sports, Fulham Road, London.

It’s amazingly difficult to find a top notch triathlon retailer in London. SBR Sports’ principal store is based in Windsor, and the Fulham branch is as good as I’ve found in the city so far.

Generally well-stocked with everything from wetsuits and tri suits to bikes and track pumps, the store caters for everything a triathlete needs for training and competing. The store’s two floors are bursting at the seems with gear; it’s the clothing department where SBR excels with an impressive range of all-in-one suits, tri-specific tops and shorts as well as generic training outfits. A slight disappointment was the shortage of wetsuits in stock: it is peak triathlon season and no doubt sales hit a high during the summer months; but then again it is peak season so surely now above any other period one would want a full compliment of brands and sizes. The window display of bikes draws you in, but not being a bike specialist the range is rather small – if it’s a tri bike you’re after then I’d go to Sigma Sport or Condor, personally. That said, SBR’s range of bike (and tri) accessories is second to none.

The all new Orca Equip has 1mm Yamamoto neoprene on the sleeves increasing comfort and flexibility. Constructed of durable, performance-quality HydroCell SCS neoprene, the Orca Equip gives the beginner the functions and features they need to improve their performance in the water.

The all new Orca Equip has 1mm Yamamoto neoprene on the sleeves increasing comfort and flexibility. Constructed of durable, performance-quality HydroCell SCS neoprene, the Orca Equip gives the beginner the functions and features they need to improve their performance in the water. SBR stock a good range of Orca wetsuits, and other top brands

Where SBR stands out is the service. It was lunch time and quite busy when I went in, yet there were 6 staff on hand and only too happy to help. Being new to triathlon this year I challenged them with the most elementary questions; patient yet informative, the guys steered me through the full range of gear required for my first triathlon with honesty and insight whilst resisting hard-selling to a rookie.

Now for a few downsides. Use of technology: non-existant; I let SBR off as they are a tri store and not a running specialist, but then anyone serious about one third of the triathlon needs to know they are getting the right trainer, period. I would always opt for a non-branded running specialist for an impartial opinion based on a gait scan analysis. Store style: this isn’t  a flagship branded store, so again I made allowances for this. In fact, this isn’t even the main SBR store. That said, the layout could be better with clearer item sections – I found myself up and down stairs numerous times; and only one changing room? seriously? – and the display designs were fairly unimaginative. Location: I know SW London is a triathlon hub, but if you’ve got a Windsor-based HQ, why not locate a store more centrally?

All-in-all though, SBR offers one of the best triathlon-shopping experiences around London.

Product range: 8; Customer Service: 9; Use of technology: 0; Store style: 7; Shopping experience: 9. Overall: 33.

Purchase? Yes, Orca Equip wetsuit and Orca tri top and shorts.

Part 1: Asics click here.

Advertisements

Breathe between extremes: product review

CraftThe body needs to stay at 98.6 degrees Farenheit

Craft is a Swedish company with a range of products designed to maintain the right core body temperature during exercise. I recently put the proCOOL mesh sleeveless base layer to the test.

Craft proCOOL Base Layer

We all layer up during winter to fight off the cold. But Craft challenge the idea that – in the heat – the less you wear the cooler you are. The proCOOL is a warm weather base layer. Apparently:

“The six channeled, hollow fiber polyester filament exponentially increase moisture absorption and the release of warm body heat. The mesh knit creates more air pockets across the surface of the fabric, maximizing ventilation and air to skin contact”.

This might sound like ‘clothing tech’ gobbledigook, but in 27-degree heat – wearing the proCOOL base under a standard bike top – I felt cool and comfortable throughout. It’s difficult to directly compare – short of removing the base layer half way through – but I’ve spent many afternoons in the height of summer top completely unzipped. Whereas, with the proCOOL, only on the steepest climbs did I consider unzipping, and then only partially. So far so good; I’ll put it to the ultimate test in the August Pyrenean heat – one day with, one day without – and see!

The product range includes warm and cool weather Base Layers, as well as Run-, Bike- and Tri-specific clothing ranging from tops and bottoms to leg/arm warmers and head gear. There’s even a proCOOL bandana, for those Pantani fans seeking a moisture-wicking ‘pirate’ look!

basetop[1]

Click the Body Gauge scale for a guide to Craft Base Layer products.