Monday, August 22, 2011

Long Term Durability Review – 2XU 2008 V:1 Velocity Wetsuit

When the Top-of-the-line 2XU wetsuit arrived on the shores of the United States in 2008 words like revolutionary and game-changing rolled off the tongues of triathletes across the country.  The wetsuit not only looked fast, but has since proven to be fast.  

Along with use of new materials, the V:1 incorporated numerous new and proprietary innovations not seen together in previous wetsuit designs. Some of the innovations were obvious and others were not.  The new innovations included:
·         High Velocity Strakes –  Grooves on the front torso to channel water and stream water flow
·         Aquatic Membrane Arms  – for Neutral Buoyancy and improved feel for the water
·         Concave Water Entrapment Zones  - on the forearms
·         Roll Bar – improves buoyancy and helps with a higher body position

When buying a wetsuit, there are three important questions to ask, 1) how does it fit? 2) How does it perform? 3) How long will it last?

On the Fit Factor…
After 3 years of use, the suit still fits like an expensive glove. In comparison to other suits at the time, the thinner and more flexible neoprene around the shoulders improved movement and reduced shoulder fatigue. The neck is comfortable. Occasionally, however, the Velcro on the back of the V:1 rides high and chafes the back of my neck.

On the Performance Factor…
My body position in the water, both while wearing the suit and swimming without it, has improved tremendously. Sure, a lot of the improvement can be tied to coaching and swim sets, but I credit a lot of the early improvements in my body positioning to wearing the suit for hours on end amidst the challenges of the open water environment.

The 2XU was the first in the industry to offer Velocity Strakes that channel water for greater water stability resulting in less sideways movement in choppy conditions. In still conditions offering a channeling water process for greater lift and cleaner water flow movement will result in more speed through the water.

While improvement in body positioning can be tied in part to coaching and training, I credit a significant portion of early improvements in my own body positioning to wearing the suit for hours on end amidst the challenges of the open water environment.

On Durability…
Including both competitions and training sessions, the V:1 has been worn approximately 20-25 times a year since 2008.  Over the last year however, the V:1 has begun to show its age.  During an open water swim in the cold Spring 2010 waters of Santa Cruz, upon exiting the water my suit and two tears along the seams where the shoulders and torso meet.  

I’ve had the tears sealed by professionals on several occasions, but to no avail. Now, after every use, my V:1 faces a repair session with a  $12 patch-up kit.

I’ve talked with many V:1 wetsuit owners. Most are pleased with the suit, but some owners have expressed frustration with purchasing an expensive top-of-the-line wetsuit only to later have problems with its durability. At least with the subset of V:1 owners I've talked with, perhaps the V:1 is better reserved for race days, while a second wetsuit can be used (and purchased) for training.

Revolutionary design and innovative gear often comes with an equivalent price tag, and as a competitive athlete you hope that price tag also results in long-term durability.   

There is little doubt that my V:1 wetsuit has been an invaluable tool serving me well in numerous triathlons and training sessions.  However the longevity factor leaves something to be desired.  When spending over $500 on a wetsuit, it should last longer than 3 years before it starts to come apart at the seams.

As 2XU continues to break new barriers in the design and performance of wetsuits, I hope the design team spends equal amounts of time improving the durability side of future iterations. 

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