Tuesday, May 26, 2009
It's All About The Fit
Shopping for a new wetsuit?
Wetsuit selling season is in full swing. If you are shopping for a new wetsuit be it your first wetsuit or a new one to replace an older one, there are certain things you need to know about buying a wetsuit. It can get very complicated and there is all kinds of choice in the market, but if you keep focused on fit, you should get the most comfortable and fastest wetsuit for you. With wetsuits, fit is everything!
However, before I go any further, I would urge you to, please shop a reputable wetsuit retailer. The good news is that by my calculations, there are between 80 - 100 good places in North America to shop for triathlon wetsuits - both bricks & mortar and on-line retailers. There is a list of Nineteen dealers here on the Nineteen home page. For many new comers to the sport, wetsuits are a dark area that they know little about. Seek out some good retail help. Take your time and shop around. Don't feel pressured to buy a wetsuit because of a great deal. Again, it has to fit you - that is the bottom line.
I'll try not to make this a blatant plug for Nineteen, but the first two points are things that I think we do well, that make it worthwhile having a look at a Nineteen wetsuit this year, if you are shopping for a new suit.
There are three key points you need to consider:
1. You need to find the brand that fits you best. Every brand fits a bit different, so it's important to find the brand that fits you best. Nineteen has been making wetsuits for nine years. Before the company even started making wetsuits, we realized that there was a bit of a problem in the business - not everyone is built and shaped like an ITU racer but at the time many of the suits available were built on the presumption that all triathletes were built this way - the same way. We took a bit of a different approach and skewed our fit so that more than just the short/long and lean can fit into the suits. We were also the first wetsuit company to have women's specific fit. So take the time and investigate how some of the different brands fit.
2. You need to find the right size for you. That's easier said than done. It's challenging when there is a disconnect between the size-chart, what the wetsuit is, and what you are. With Nineteen we have tried to connect all that up to make finding your size much easier. Our size chart is very weight-centric. In that, if you know your weight, and you are not crazy tall or short, for that weight, then that is your size. There are a few minor exceptions to this, but for 90% of people, this works very well.
3. You need to have the wetsuit fitted to you properly. Perhaps the most overlooked, but most important part of wetsuit shopping and performance. Three key points:
A) Make sure the suit is hiked up as far as you can at your waist - it should be like giving yourself a wedgie!!
B) Get the sleeves on and then either on your own, or with someones help, keep working the rubber up your arms an over your shoulders. You should keep doing this until there is loose rubber - enough to pull into a small fist with your hand - between the point of your shoulder and your neck.
C) Get the zipper done up . . . . and oh . . yea. . the zipper goes on thew back! Had to mention that because at least once a year, I get some one coming out of the change room all happy and proud with the zipper on the front!! Last thing - now bend over at your waist like you are doing a formal Japanese bow with the straight upper body. Look back at your groin area. You will see rolls of rubber there. Grab one of those rolls, and start to work it up hand over hand towards your collar bone( top of your chest). Repeat. Keep doing this until all the rolls are gone. Larger breasted women and men with broad chests - make sure you do this and get as much rubber as you can, as high up on your chest as you can.
When trying a suit on dry, it should be comfortably tight in the store, with full arm mobility. It may feel a bit restrictive, but once in the water, it will loosen up.
Full Sleeve or sleevless?
Anyone that knows anything about wetsuits will want to sell you a full sleeve wetsuit. They are not trying to pull a fast one on you - if it's a well fitting full suit, it will be warmer, faster, more comfortable and with fewer neck-rash issues. Most people who buy sleeveless wetsuits are people who have had a bad experience with a ill-fitting full sleeve wetsuit and have vowed to never again wear a full sleeve wetsuit. However they most likely, were in the wrong brand of wetsuit for them, they were in the wrong size or they did not have it fitted properly - or they could have had all three things off!! I have seen that, and it's not pretty!
Larger men and women, with very big arms and broad chests( body builder types), may find sleeveless wetsuits to be a better fit.
If you live in the northern U.S., or Canada or you travel to races far away from home. It may be a good idea to have a neoprene hood in your kit bag - just in case. Some lakes and sea-side places can have OK water one day and then a wind and current change can have the water temperature drop drastically over night. This happened at Ironman Coeur D'Alene last year with a 10F drop in temperature on race morning! Nineteen does have very nice 3mm swim-hoods on offer this year.
Sometimes temperature can go the other way - get too warm and then wetsuits are not allowed. This happens at 78F for Age-Groupers and 72F for Pros. What then? This is when the new swim or speed skins can be helpful. Nineteen's Frequency SS makes it's debut this season. For a swim skin to really work, it needs to fit tight. I saw many wearing them too loose at Ironman Hawaii last year. When you try on a swim skin you are considering, make sure you wear under it, what you will be wearing in the race. Most people wear what they will wear on the bike. This simplifies things in T1 significantly.
Hopefully this has been helpful