Friday, September 01, 2006

Triathlon Wetsuit Shopping Guide

Triathlon Wetsuit Shopping Guide

(Update 7/27/09: For an updated version of a tri wetsuit shopping guide visit the following Triathlon Wetsuit Buying Guide at OneTri.com. The information below was created Sept 1, 2006.)

Step 1 – Why a triathlon wetsuit?

It’s important to know why and how a triathlon wetsuit (wetsuit) will help you. Here are some benefits a triathlon wetsuit (wet suit) has over a diving, swimming, or no wetsuit at all.
- The buoyant properties of a wetsuit help lift your body out of the water so you expend less energy.
- Triathlon wetsuits are designed to produce less drag helping you to swim faster.
- A wetsuit can provide warmth in cold water swimming.
- A well designed triathlon wetsuit will help you through a transition faster than a diving or surfing wetsuit.
- A buoyant wetsuit assists in better swimming form and technique for beginners. This doesn’t mean you don’t need to train anymore ;)

Here are some of the major triathlon wetsuit brands: Orca, 2XU, De Soto, BlueSeventy,TYR, Ironman, Aquaman, Synergy

Step 2 – What type of swimmer are you?

There are many triathlon wetsuits to choose from. To help narrow down your search let’s determine what type of swimmer you are. I created 3 basic categories to easily identify your level, these levels nicely fall in line with how much you will spend on a wetsuit.

- Level 1: Generally beginners fall into this category. If you’re just getting start in swimming you’ll need a solid suit that will get you through training and a race. Luckily you won’t need to spend much to satisfy these needs. A general rule is that the more expensive suits are designed for speed so if that’s not what you’re looking for then you can save some money. You will be considering these wetsuits:
o Orca: Orca Evo Fullsleeve Triathlon Wetsuit for Men and Women
o 2XU: 2XU Comp2 Triathlon Wetsuit for Men and Women
o De Soto: De Soto T1 Black Pearl Pullover Triathlon Wetsuit, De Soto T1 Black Pearl Vest Triathlon Wetsuit, De Soto T1 Black Pearl Bibjohn Triathlon Wetsuit

- Level 2: Generally considered intermediate swimmers. If you swam a couple triathlons in the past or you have a swimming background you’d most likely consider yourself a Level 2 or Level 3 swimmer. Level 2 swimmers are looking for a wetsuit that will enhance their speed without breaking the bank.
o Orca: Orca Sonar Fullsleeve Triathlon Wetsuit for Men and Women
o 2XU: 2XU Comp1 Triathlon Wetsuit for Men and Women
o De Soto: De Soto T1 First Wave Pullover Triathlon Wetsuit, De Soto T1 First Wave Bibjohn Triathlon Wetsuit

- Level 3: A.k.a. Speed Seeker. If you’re looking for the fastest wetsuit with the newest technology then I consider you a Speed Seeker. If you’re looking for every little edge and don’t mind spending a little more for the top of the line wetsuit then you are Level 3.
o Orca: Orca Apex Fullsleeve Triathlon Wetsuit for Men and Women
o 2XU: 2XU Men's Elite Triathlon Wetsuit for Men and Women
o De Soto: De Soto T1 First Wave Pullover Triathlon Wetsuit, De Soto T1 First Wave Bibjohn Triathlon Wetsuit

Step 3 – Determining the right wetsuit for you.

At this point you’ve narrowed down your price point but which wetsuit should you purchase? The best way to find the right suit for you is to try on all the wetsuits that you are considering. However, if you don’t have this option; then try to stick to the manufacturer’s suggestions as closely as possible. Here are some things to consider when trying on or selecting the right wetsuit:
- Proper Fit: When selecting a wetsuit you’ll want to make sure that it is not loose and fit you well between your crotch and shoulders. Arm and leg lengths will vary and is ok if they are shorter. In fact a shorter leg may allow for quicker removal of the suit. Also, look out for a good neck and wrist seal so water doesn’t flow into the suit. To increase speed you don’t want your triathlon wetsuit to take in water and slow you down. Be sure to note the arm and shoulder reach for a wetsuit. This area is most important to make sure you have an unrestricted swim stroke.
- Material and thickness: Most wetsuits will vary in thickness (2mm-5mm) and stretch ability throughout. You’ll want thinner and generally more flexible material around your shoulder and arms where you will be moving most. You’ll want thicker material in the chest and leg area’s to help with float. The various brands will for the most part offer the same type of rubber/neoprene for the price ranges. If you’d like to learn more about the differences in rubber check out this article.
- Other considerations:
o Sleeved or Sleeveless: This is mostly up to personal preference but some would argue that sleeveless arms allow for freer arm movement thus a faster suit. A bigger consideration for sleeved versus sleeveless would be temperature. You’ll see more sleeveless suits in warmer waters.
o Special Features: Specially coated rubber, break away zippers, reverse zippers, special panels, etc… There are a lot of features to consider and again these are personal preference. Once you’ve determined that a fit is good the rest is up to you.
o Looks: This has nothing to do with function but I mention it because I consider the “cool” factor of any gear I purchase. If nothing else I must feel comfortable in what I wear and that plays a psychological role in my purchasing decision.

Step 4 – Buying the best triathlon wetsuit for you.

A triathlon wetsuit is not a trivial purchase but it is one that will make difference in your race. So when you are purchasing make sure you get it from a source that will assist you after your purchase to make sure you have the right suit. If you purchase online you’ll want a policy like OneTri.com that allows you to exchange the suit for another if it doesn’t fit.

If you are brand new to wetsuits try on a friend’s or find a rental company if possible. Unfortunately wetsuit rental locations are designed for “trying-on” wetsuits so you won’t have a large selection. However some stores offer rentals of specific brands and you may want to rent it first if it’s the specific model you are considering.

More Information
If you’d like to find out more about triathlon wetsuits here are more Resources:

Active.com – Guide to Wetsuits
http://www.active.com/story.cfm?story_id=1838&category=triathlon

About.com - Buying a Triathlon Wetsuit for the Swim Leg of a Triathlon

DeSoto.com – How to care for your De Soto wetsuit
http://www.desotosport.com/wetsuits/care.asp

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