Are you thinking about doing a triathlon? Worried about the swim?
Then you are like most new triathletes. The swim is the most neglected of the three disciplines. Anybody can find a place to run or bike but finding a place to swim can be challenging. Plus, unless you have a pool or live on a lake, it’s not something you can just go outside and do. If you are worried about the swim, the triathlon wetsuit will be your best friend.
Why should I use a wetsuit??
If the water is cool, wetsuits will keep you warmer but their primary function is buoyancy. Buoyancy panels strategically located on the legs,chest,arms and back will automatically put you into swimming position when you hit the water. This extra buoyancy lifts you up higher in the water column thus eliminating resistance and conserving energy for your other disciplines. Most triathlon wetsuits now days are also coated with a hydrophobic property which enables a swimmer to cut through the water. Yeah, it’s almost like cheating but everybody else will be doing it.
Sleeved wetsuits: The majority of our customers tend to go with the sleeved wetsuit. Sleeved wetsuits are full body wetsuits that cover your arms all the way to your lower calf. They are a bit harder to get on and off compared to the sleeveless wetsuit but offer more buoyancy because of the extra rubber on the arms. During races where water temperatures are cold, they are preferred since they will keep you warmer than a sleeveless wetsuit. Sleeved wetsuits are generally faster which is why when pro events are wetsuit legal they tend to use the full sleeved wetsuits. A triathlete should use any advantage they can get during their race.
Sleeveless wetsuits: They are easier to get on and off and allow for a faster transition time. With a little bit of practice in a sleeved suit, this can be improved. Some triathletes find the sleeved suits too confining and prefer the sleeveless wetsuit, even in colder conditions. We have had customers go with a sleeveless wetsuit when water temperatures were in the low 60’s. It’s not recommended but they just like the sensation of feeling the water during their stroke. For longer distance races, where the water temperatures are not too chilly, a sleeveless suit would be recommended due to the possibility of overheating in a sleeved one. Since it is impossible to seal the arm cusps on a sleeveless wetsuit more water will enter your suit and create a bit more drag than a sleeved suit. Some customers who come from a swimming background and are new to triathlons like the sleeveless wetsuits because they feel the sleeved wetsuits restrict their swim stroke. If a person is hesitant about going with a sleeved wetsuit because they are worried about being fully enclosed, we try to steer them in the direction of the sleeveless wetsuit.
When exactly should I go with a sleeved wetsuit over a sleeveless or vice versa? That’s a good question. Our suggestion is that if the water temps are 68° or cooler than a full sleeved wetsuit is preferred. From 68°-72° you can go with either one really. If the temp is 72+ the sleeveless wetsuit would be our choice. However, everybody has a different tolerance to cold water. We have had people do the Escape from Alcatraz triathlon in sub 60° water go with the sleeveless wetsuit because they were just more comfortable with that style of wetsuit. I think they’re crazy but at the end of the day it all boils down to what you feel comfortable going with during your swim.
Hope this helps and let me know your opinions!