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Three upstart brands are injecting new thinking into the world of neoprene.
Wetsuit design could use a shot of creativity. As we found while quantitatively testing wetsuit performance for Triathlete’s July issue, conventional thinking about wetsuit design doesn’t always lead to the results we’ve believed for years. Three new companies have brought fresh ideas to wetsuit design that may help maximize the benefit of
racing in a neoprene suit.
Almost all road bike manufacturers now make one top-flight road bike for riders wanting an aggressive position, and different bikes for those who prefer a more upright riding style because there is no one solution for every person. This same philosophy applies to wetsuits as well, but wetsuit makers are behind bikes when it comes to accommodating different types of athletes. There is no such thing as a wetsuit that is “high-end” for every swimmer, so Huub offers the same suit with different neoprene thicknesses so you can pick the degree of buoyancy and flexibility.
Payoff: Offering choice in suit thickness allows swimmers to select the characteristics that are most important to them without sacrificing overall quality.
A wetsuit’s effect on body temperature in the swim—whether real or perceived—can influence the rest of a race. To learn the impact neoprene type and thickness have on heat, Roka tested core and skin temperature of athletes swimming in various suits and found a clear trend: Not all full-sleeve wetsuits are equally hot. As a result of its research, Roka constructs the back of its suits in a way that keeps the body a few ticks cooler without sacrificing buoyancy.
Payoff: Swimmers start the bike feeling a little cooler after a high-temp swim.
Swimming in a wetsuit differs from training in a bathing suit in a few important ways, including body position. The added buoyancy that comes with wearing a wetsuit lifts the body into an unnaturally horizontal (and efficient) position in the water, subtly affecting stroke mechanics and reducing resistance. To simulate those changes in training, Zone 3 created the Neoprene Buoyancy Shorts (Roka makes a similar product) that prop the body into a position similar to swimming in a wetsuit.
Payoff: Training in these shorts reduces resistance slightly, and helped the tester get accustomed to a faster stroke rate without compromising stroke power.
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