So what should you look for in a triathlon wetsuit? Here are our five essentials...
The most important aspect of a triathlon wetsuit. Too loose and water will gush in and out and never warm up; too tight and your stroke will be restricted, leading to fatigue and frustration.
Ultimately, a wetsuit should be snug and not lead to tourniquet. This applies to full wetsuits, and also the less-common shorties and sleeveless versions.
Wetsuits are comprised of neoprene panels of varying thicknesses up to 5mm. In areas seeking greater buoyancy, like the legs, 5mm is often used.
Thinner neoprene (commonly 3mm) is used where flexibility’s needed and buoyancy is less of an issue, like the shoulders and latissimus dorsi (back muscle) area. One of the big innovations for 2015 is Orca's introduction of 0.88mm Yamamoto fabric for the luminescent ultra-supple neoprene panels on and under the arms of its new Alpha wetsuit:
Historically, wetsuits zip down for removal, with the zip string located near your neck and clamped in place by a strip of Velcro. This has the advantage of being able to zip yourself up, which can come in handy if someone inadvertently tugs you during a race.
A recent innovation is a zip-up-closure system. These are fractionally quicker to unzip in T1, but you’ll require help to zip up before the off.
The occasional beginner’s suit, but all mid-range suits and above, will feature SCS coating – or nano SCS coating – which is essentially a slippery layer that reduces drag and friction through the water.
There are a couple of variations of how a wetsuit is put together, but the most common is by gluing neoprene before applying heat. It’s then stitched across the seam. Extra tape is sometimes added at extreme stress points. Top-end suits are virtually seamless.
Catch panels are used by many manufacturers and are generally – though not exclusively – seen in a brand’s top-end suit.
“Our Concave Water Entrapment Zone (CWEZ) increases the surface area on your forearm,” says Mike Martin, 2XU’s UK marketing manager, about how their technology works. “It has the same effect as swimming with paddles, but to a lesser effect so that it remains legal.”
Here are the top five models from our last wetsuits grouptest:
The mid-range offering from the Cornish pioneers, whose USP is the custom-fitting option to ensure the ultimate fit. For more info head to www.snuggwetsuits.co.uk.
Nestling below the award-winning Helix, this still offers plenty of the Kiwi brand’s famous flexibility. For more info head to www.blueseventy.co.uk.
Available in two types of neoprene thickness, either 3:5mm (for weaker leg kickers) and 4:4mm (for stronger swimmers). For more info head to www.huubdesign.com.
Top-end release, available with multiple neoprene densities for flexibility, warmth and buoyancy. For more info head to www.racezone3.com.
Aqua Sphere Phantom
Plenty of features are packed into the Italian’s top suit, even six-pack graphics on the abs. For more info head to www.aquasphereswim.com.
(All images: thesecretstudio.com)