DISCLOSURE: blueseventy is a sponsor of Team Rev3. However, I am not compensated for this review except that I do get a discount if I purchase one, which I totally am!
So, due to my body shape (shortish and stoutish) I have always had a lot of problems finding a wetsuit. Actually I’ve only had (2) in my (9) seasons of Triathlon and both were QR (another Rev3 sponsor). My current wetsuit is getting seriously long in the tooth. It’s seen (5) seasons and managed well until last year I got a rip in the back. When doing COLD swims is not fun. Then this year at Knoxville I ripped the front near the crotch. Well, let me tell you… that was even LESS fun than the back!! (Knoxville swim was in the mid/high 50s).
So I needed to either repair or replace my current wetsuit and QR no longer makes them. I’ve been thinking about an upgrade for a while and with blueseventy being a sponsor I figured I would give it a try!
At the Rev3 races they rent wetsuits and being on the team I get a discount, so this seemed like the perfect way to try it out risk free. I did go to a local store and tried on the REACTION, which is the 2nd to the top of the line, and it felt pretty good. So I decided to rent the HELIX (top of the line) at Rev3 Quassy and see how it went. Just in case.. I brought my old tattered wetsuit.
I first did my test swim the Quassy in my QR. Pretty normal. Burst of cold water through the crotch and back due to the rips – but also some water down the sleeves and neck. All fairly normal stuff for this wetsuit, but it does annoy me as I know I’m “scooping” the water then.
I then picked up the Helix and went for another test swim. Some VERY interesting observations:
1. This thing fits like a glove. I mean, really like a glove. You have to wiggle and dance and it really helps to have someone pull on the arms for you. And if you do OMG there is an incredible freedom of movement! Wow, it feels like I’m wearing a rubbery long sleeve t-shirt not a wetsuit. I’m used to a very bulky arm and a very cramped shoulder area (which sucks extra strength from your stroke). NOT with the Helix. It was amazing.
2. The zipper zips DOWN not UP. Which means for Mr. Inflexible (aka ME) I will never get this zipped by myself. Luckily, I don’t think I’ve ever been to a triathlon where people weren’t helping other people. Heck, I’ve helped hundreds of people (literally) get into their wetsuit. I don’t think this will be a problem.
3. There is no gapping – there is a nice tight fit around the wrists (elastic) without being constrictive. Also around the neck it’s form fitting.
4. No bunching of stuff behind your neck. This will automatically reduce the chance of chaffing, it’s smooth and clean all around.
Ok… so that is BEFORE I got into the water!
1. Once I managed to get into the water the biggest difference was the arms. Holy cow, I can move my arms! I have pretty decent stroke without the wetsuit, so this is going to be a big help.
2. The buoyancy was amazing. Because the Helix has different thicknesses at different points throughout the suit (5mm around your core/hips, 4mm legs, but only 1mm-2mm on the arms) I expected to not be as buoyant. Not true. I stood in the water and just let go. Within seconds I was in horizontal and in swimming position. Amazing.
3. I can move my hips. In my QR, things are so tight I don’t rotate my hips like a should. Serious swimmers know this is a problem. It turns racing into a “pull” session which is just not smart nor fast.
4. I can kick. Again, things are layered intelligently such that I can actually kick. Crud, now I guess I need to practice my kick!
5. You can FEEL the water. Wow, I mean WOW. There are these special panels on the arms where you are pulling the water and you can actually feel the water. Holy COW. Those of us who spend 8+ months of the year in the pool know what the “feel” is like and when we go to open water, it’s all different. Not anymore! I’m sure this will help me improve my times because now I do not need to adjust back and forth.
6. Taking it off was just amazing. The zipper string is by your butt, which even Mr Inflexible can grab and pull UP. Keep pulling the string forward and suddenly the top of the wetsuit is effectively off your body. HO-LY-COW that was awesome. I cannot tell you how much time I waste trying to find the stupid string on my QR. Seems even if I try to clip it up by my neck it always comes off. With the Helix? Nope it’s off in a jiffy. I’m sure the trislide I used helped – but just the design is such that it cannot help but just come right off.
However, for sake of fair-review – let’s talk some negatives:
1. It’s expensive. MSRP – $649.99. You can find them for less but behind a bike, it’s probably the biggest expense a triathlete will make in their gear. The XL is hard to find as of this writing (June 2013)
2. It’s really hard to get into. You will have to ask for help. Which means if you ever do open water swims by yourself (which you shouldn’t!) you can’t use it.
3. If you HATE cold water. I could see the arms would possibly get chilly and if you are really sensitive to that… I think it would be ok for most people in most swims in the summer but in sub 60 swims I think some people could get chilled.
4. If you’re a really weak swimmer – then this wetsuit may not help you as much as a traditional. You may be better off with Blueseventy Sprint – which is 1/3 the price.
So, all in all, I’m very excited with the Helix. It’s like nothing I’ve ever worn and mine is already on order!