Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Goggle-palooza results are in

(photo by Bill Huckle)

I've pretty well wrapped up my search for goggles to replace the recently "improved" Aqua Sphere Kaimen Ladies Goggles that ceased to work for me after a great five-year relationship. The changes made to the goggles resulted in leaking and really bad goggle marks (and I've spoken with others who have experienced the same with the Kaimen). When I realized my dependable goggles were no longer so, I hastily switched to a TYR T-72 grabbed from Dick's Sporting Goods, and without much testing used them at the first race of the season. I had a leaky goggle problem in the race and needed a better solution, pronto.

After many hours Googling goggles and reviews, after several online orders, visits from UPS, FedEx, and USPS deliveries, and many laps in the pool and open water, the goggle that floated to the top of the competition was another Aqua Sphere goggle - the Michael Phelps K-180 Lady Goggle. (Thanks lane-mate Janet and Coach John of Team MPI for the suggestion on that one.)

I'm not going to lie; it pains me somewhat to go with another Aqua Sphere option given the fact that they never responded to my tweets and emails about the change to the other goggles and the fact that I now have multiple unused, unusable sets of the Kaimen in my possession. Aqua Sphere's customer service is completely non-existent. It's just absent in an astounding, black-hole sort of way.

I am just glad to have something that works for now, but I will remain open to switching to a non-Aqua Sphere option. (No, I haven't tried Roka's yet.)

In my search I looked for goggles that seemed similar to the model that had worked for me. I read a lot of reviews, and I opted for the smaller/women's fit if it was available. My goals were simple: (1) no leaking and (2) minimal goggle marks! I also prefer clear frames and straps and not ones that make you look like an anime character as some of those above do. Here's the lineup and some notes:

Photo above, left side, top to bottom:
  1. Aqua Sphere Swedish goggle - fine in the pool, minimal goggle marks, but I wouldn't do an OWS in them.
  2. Sporti Antifog Swedish goggles - same as above just with bungee strap
  3. TYR Nest Pro - my "runner up goggle". No leaking, but left me with goggle marks
  4. Aqua Sphere K-180 Women's fit, and the three other pairs I bought to get me through the season. Note there is also a K-180+ ("plus") option out there. From what I can tell they have a narrower gasket and sit closer to the eye, which didn't seem like something I wanted/needed. I've had zero leaking and can move them to my swim cap and back to my eyes over and over and never have a problem. This is actually an improvement over the Kaimen where it seemed like once I broke that initial seal it was not quite as good again. The K-180 comes with an anti-fog coating that seemed to get a bit smear-y. We'll see how that holds up over time.
Photo above, right side, top to bottom:
  1. Aqua Sphere Kaimen Lady - the "improved" no longer working for me version
  2. Aqua Sphere Kaimen Lady Tinted version - also unusable
  3. Cressi Flash - Small Fit Tinted Goggles - I got these thinking they looked very similar to the Kaimen, but I I had leakage issues. 
  4. Speedo MDR 2.4 - I think I swam 5 yards in these. Immediate NO for leakage.
  5. Barracuda Triton - even if I could get past how ridiculous they look, they just leaked.
  6. Michael Phelps K-180 Goggle (the standard fit, not the lady's) - these seemed OK for me too, and will probably be a backup pair for me.
  7. TYR T-72 Petite Goggle - Let's just say, "fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me." I won't be wearing these in a race ever again.
  8. Speedo Vanquisher - meh. 

A quick peek at the sides/backs....if I had to pick a favorite strap, it would be the split strap on the TYR T-72 goggle (second from bottom on right), but I'm also OK with the flat and simple strap on the K-180. I am now less of a fan of the "ratcheting" type strap of the Kaimen, Kressi, and Speedo MDR. They seem prone to loosening.

My takeaway from this is that when you move away from the "small socket" goggle to more of a mask style, it's got to fit your face and bone structure pretty perfectly or it just won't work. I've been assuming that with my petite face that the smaller models are more appropriate for me, but maybe that's not the case? I also discovered that a larger gasket/mask doesn't necessarily reduce the goggle marks.

I'm glad to have found something that works and I can rely on again. I think you can get away with a lot of less-than-perfect equipment in triathlon but NOT when it comes to goggles and wetsuits.

The upside to my goggle hunt is that my kids will have PLENTY of goggles to chose from this summer ;-)