Triathlon competitors are dedicated, hard-core athletes, and they value their tools: a good bicycle, quality running shoes and the perfect triathlon wetsuit. Come up short on any of those three, and they know they probably wont be taking home any trophies. |
Triathlon competitors are dedicated, hard-core athletes, and they value their tools: a good bicycle, quality running shoes and the perfect triathlon wetsuit. Come up short on any of those three, and they know they probably wont be taking home any trophies.
The selection of the right wetsuit isnt a simple process. The right material, configuration, limb length, body length, neck seal and the outer surface are some of the most critical aspects in ensuring that youve made the right selection.
The buoyancy benefit of the suit will have a lot of impact on your speed in the water, as will the outer surface. While the buoyancy of suits doesnt vary a lot from one to another, there are many different materials available, each with its own hydrodynamic properties.
The best way to judge which is best is to simply test each one youre considering under conditions similar to those in which youll be competing. If you find that one reduces your time per kilometer by a full minute or more, you may have found your material.
Some manufacturers do use thicker material in portions of the suit, in order to increase the flotation effect. For instance, more flotation in the legs and less in the shoulders will help you maintain a favorable angle in the water.
The decision between a suit with full length legs and sleeves will also offer more buoyancy than a short suit, as well as reducing water resistance. However, it can have a couple of downsides, too. The reduced flexibility can cause you to tire more, which will affect your time.
The biggest impact, however, is the possibility of overheating. The water temperature, your own rate of dissipating heat and the fit of your suit will combine to determine how well your body will maintain an optimum core temperature during your competition.
Some water needs to get into the suit to form a thin insulating layer next to your skin. This layer keeps you from getting too cold, yet also helps your skin dissipate the heat caused by your exertion. As you may imagine, this can be a delicate balance to achieve.
A loose fit, torn suit, poor neck seal and zippers can all contribute to having too much water enter your suit. In cold water, that can make for a miserable experience and can have a detrimental effect on your performance.
On the other hand, not getting any water in can easily result in overheating, which can have serious repercussions. Its hard to imagine someone suffering heatstroke in 70 degree water, but it has happened.
A number of things can restrict your movements, causing you to lose your full stroke and tire prematurely. Inadequate body length, restrictive shoulder fit, zippers
these all can limit your range of motion.
Body length is determined by the design criteria of each manufacturer, so you have to shop around to determine the right fit. The dimension from the crotch to the shoulders will vary and this is a crucial point, not just in comfort but in performance.
Zippers will always be present in one-piece wetsuits, but this can be overcome by using a two-piece design. Zippers may save you a few minutes in transition, but can cost you more during your swim phase.
Long legs and sleeves also affect your freedom of movement, and theres a trade-off to be considered in gaining the additional freedom versus losing warmth and the hydrodynamic properties of the suit.
Most major manufacturers will allow unconditional return of a suit, as long as it isnt damaged, for the first 2 4 weeks after purchase. You may want to take advantage of this opportunity to give your new suit a real test under competitive conditions. Dont be satisfied with a 50 -100 yard swim thats not enough to adequately judge the fit and insulating capability. Better to swim an entire course length, as though you were in a race.
You shouldnt feel an immediate intrusion of cold right after entering the water. With a proper fit, it may be 200 yards or more into your swim before you feel water entering. And its also important that youre really exerting yourself, so your body is generating the same level of heat you can expect during competition. Once you finish your course, youll have a much better idea how well the wetsuit will serve you.
For the cost youll face (probably around $200-$250), as well as the importance of a properly selected triathlon wetsuit to enhance your performance, you shouldnt take any shortcuts in picking your suit. Take your time, test several styles and sizes, and give yourself the best edge possible.
Resources: Wetsuit Outlet is the best pace on earth to buy triathlon wetsuits. We carry wetsuits and swim skins designed for triathletes, competitive racers and anyone that wants the best wetsuit you can wear.
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