Check out the best wetsuits review 2016
Since Aquaman, Dan Empfield of Quintana Roo and co. were making prototypes in their garages back in the mid-eighties, the triathlon wetsuit market has exploded into a multi-million dollar industry, with more brands and suit-types than you could poke a rather large stick at.
>>>What to look for in a tri wetsuit
>>> Best triathlon wetsuits of 2014
All of which is obviously splendid news for triathletes, who are spoilt for choice when sorting their neoprene necessities. But the wealth of available options also poses plenty of questions for triathletes, with neoprene thickness, hydrophobic coating, catch panels, value, zip type and flexibility just a sextet of things to consider.
Like a broken record, we can’t reiterate how crucial fit, fit and fit is when it comes to choosing a wetsuit. Although wetsuit brands are aware of this and provide up to 10 sizes to choose from (far more than you can expect on a run tee or tri-suit, for example), there are obviously more than 10 body types in existence, so we’d heartily recommend trying before buying to ensure the supreme fit.
Given the suits here range from £180 to £600 (and they can go plenty higher and lower), budget is a more important consideration than with last month’s tri-suits grouptest. As always, cheapness doesn’t necessarily represent value, so look for durability and the quality of construction on the seams to ensure the suit lasts multiple seasons.
Also be aware of what races you’ll be entering (chilly loch swims or warm Aegean waters) and your ability; a supple top-end suit won’t actually be best for the needs of beginner swimmers, who will often require more buoyancy in the legs. Likewise, an overly buoyant budget suit may not suit those of you with a swim stroke akin to a Brownlee.
With plenty to consider, it’s time then to enter the water and test 13 of this season’s contenders to help find the wetsuit for you.
Zoot Z Force 1.0
Price: £180 from www.zootsports.com
The entry-level Zoot Z Force 1.0 looks like great value at well under £200 and has bold styling that could fool you into thinking it’s a much higher-spec suit. Fit-wise (bearing in mind fit is an individual issue) it felt slightly baggy around the upper body compared to many of the other medium suits, which made it more comfortable on land but created a feeling of water washing around next to the skin while swimming.
This wasn’t helped by the fact that the wrist cuffs let in a trickle of water when swimming fast. As for flexibility and buoyancy, the Zoot felt nicely balanced in the water, with a relatively unrestricted feeling around the shoulders. It’s a decent suit and well-priced, but that chest sizing could catch you out so be sure to try before you buy.
Verdict: A good range of motion, but more roomy than some around the chest and arms, 74%
Price: £195 from www.aquasphere.com
The Pursuit is Aquasphere’s entry-level suit this season and is available in both long-sleeved (tested here) and sleeveless versions. Compared with some of the more pricey suits in this grouptest, the Pursuit obviously did feel a bit less supple all round, but not to a degree that it made it uncomfortable to swim in.
The buoyancy is good thanks to the 5mm body panel that helped to keep our torso high in the water, and the thick rubber is also of benefit in cold water. The neck seal wasn’t the best, however, and it took a few attempts to get it closed in a way that would prevent water running in the back and minimise chafing, which meant doing it up very tight. In general the suit does feel pretty robust and well-made.
Verdict: A decent suit for the price but the neck seal could be improved, 76%
Aropec Flying Fish
Price: £199 from www.aropecsports.co.uk
Taiwanese manufacturer Aropec has been around since the early 1960s, but only recently made headway in the triathlon market. The Flying Fish is its top-of-the-range suit for 2015 and uses a simple 3/2mm construction throughout to keep the price extremely competitive.
The suit is light and reasonably mobile, although buoyancy and warmth are marginally less effective than you’d expect with 4mm and 5mm suits (Aropec also offers a 5/3mm suit for colder conditions). Construction quality is high and it feels like a suit that would stand up to the general abuse of training and racing over the course of a few seasons.
The neck seal is a little stiff and might need some breaking in, but other than that there’s little to complain about, especially for under £200.
Verdict: A competent suit with great flexibility and performance for the money, 77%
Continue reading our guide to this year's best triathlon wetsuits (2/3)