The vast majority of us have purchased a pair of running shoes in our lifetime. And even more of us would have ridden a bike. But how many have put on a very tight fitting suit of neoprene and dived into a lake?! Not quite as many I would guess. This is why when first entering the world of triathlon the swim leg is often the most daunting and the purchasing of the essential wetsuit the most difficult. A quick search on the internet will bring more choice than you could imagine and even more questions than you first had.
Firstly, swimming/triathlon wetsuits are very different to those used in surfing and other water sports. Wetsuits designed for swimming have buoyancy in key areas and most importantly, flexibility in the shoulders. This is vital as it will allow your arms to move freely through the swim stroke and not fatigue your muscles. This freedom of movement is created by thinner and more flexible material and is one of the main differences between a wetsuit costing £150 and one costing more than £400. On the more expensive suits, the materials used throughout will be of a higher quality, often extremely flexible. Entry level suits will use cheaper types of neoprene in non-essential areas and will often feel stiffer. The differences really stand out when handling the suits and obviously when swimming in them. A more expensive suit will generally feel better and more flexible, resulting in a faster swim.
Regardless of your budget, the single most important part of buying a wetsuit is ensuring it is the right size. The most common mistake made is to buy a wetsuit that is too big. When trying one on it MUST be difficult to get on at first. It is great fun to watch people putting them on for the first time! It should involve perspiration and a look of distress! They are designed to be worn in water so will never be very comfortable out of it, although there should be no restriction when rotating the shoulders. If a wetsuit goes on easily, the moment you try to swim the suit will fill with water and instantly slow you down.
There are many good quality brands producing a wide choice of wetsuits and all will have a range from entry level to high-end options. At Tri Harder, we stock a full range of Zone3 suits as well as Aqua Sphere. Zone3 are still the only brand to be given 10 out of 10 for a product by 220 Triathlon magazine.