10 Tips for Purchasing a New Triathlon Wetsuit

My BlueSeventy Helix
Photo Cred: Tim Hughes
With triathlon wetsuit season quickly approaching I thought I would highlight a few things to think about when purchasing a wetsuit.

You can save 20% on a new suit or anything else at BlueSeventy.com using coupon code Gerlach2020 (expires Dec 31st, 2019)

Wetsuit Buying Tips:

1) It is all about fit - a proper fitting wetsuit is the most important thing when buying a wetsuit. A wetsuit should be snug when putting it on. It will loosen up when you get water in. It will loosen up over time as you use it. Keep this in mind when trying on a new wetsuit. If it is a breeze to get into and zip up then it is probably too big.

2) Features, Features, Features - The wetsuit industry has endless marketing terms for various "features". The majority of these features are worthless. I don't blame the manufacturers as each one does it.

The reality is that some users may like some features. An example for me with my BlueSeventy Helix is that I like the top-zip option. It gives me peace of mind in the water that another competitor isn't going to "accidentally" pull down my zipper in the middle of the race. They simply can't.

While some features offer minor benefits, the reality is that most features are over-blown. Don't get buried in features.

3) Return policy is key - You want to be able try out your wetsuit in the water to make sure it truly fits and will work for you. BlueSeventy has an awesome return policy and they let you try the wetsuit for 30 days. Here is their full policy. Also, if you are borderline in the sizing, you can always buy two suits and return the one that doesn't fit as well.

4) Low vs mid vs top-tier wetuits - Typically top-tier wetsuits offer the best rubber, that is the thickest to lift your body and legs out of the water for reduced drag. They also have really thin arms and shoulders so you don't feel restricted while swimming.

Lower to mid-tier wetsuits usually have thinner rubber in places you want thicker, thicker rubber in places you want thinner, and that rubber is usually less buoyant, more rigid, and often lacking a special coating to help you cut thru the water faster.

Sighting Open Water
Personally I do like the top-tier wetsuits and even when I was age-grouper, beyond my first wetsuit, I always bought top-tier wetsuits. If you can afford them I say get them. If you can't then I often suggest getting a sleeveless.

5) Sleeveless vs sleeved - If the water is 68 and above I much prefer sleeveless wetsuits than sleeved. The only time I prefer sleeves is if the water is cold enough to be uncomfortable, 55-64 for me. Even in 65-68 water I will often swim in a sleeveless depending on other race factors.

The reality is everyone's temperature gauge is different. I generate a ton of body heat swimming hard and easily overheat in sleeved suits. If I overheat I am far slower than I would have been with a sleeveless. From a feel perspective there is nothing more enjoyable than swimming in the freedom and flexibility of a sleeveless suit.

Keep in mind, a poorly fitting sleeved suit, or a sleeved-suit that doesn't have super flexible shoulders, is going to be slower than a sleeveless. Personally, my best swims in relation to my peers have always been in situations where I have worn sleeveless. If you aren't worried about water temperature I have no problems recommending sleeveless. This is especially so if you come from a swim background.

6) Look used if buying top-tier - Buying used can be a great option, especially if you trying to get a top-tier wetsuit on the cheap. You can often find $800 top-tier wetsuits for under $300. Check eBay for great deals. Look for wetsuits with fingernail tears that can be easily repaired to save even more.

Wetsuit cement for repairing fingernails tears in 10 minutes or less
Wetsuit tears happen to everyone and it is better to buy a $150 suit that is already torn, versus the feeling you get when you put the first fingernail tear into that new $800 suit. The reality is that wetsuit tears are common and can easily be repaired with wetsuit cement. Don't sweat them.

7) Buying used from a friend or Facebook groups - chances are the suit is way overpriced. Look at past sales of wetsuits on eBay to get an idea of what suits go for.The reality is if you buy their used wetsuit then you are doing THEM a favor. Negotiation power is all in your favor.

8) Buying if you are an odd size, say Women's XS - Believe me, selling overstock wetsuits one summer, I realized just how hard it was to sell even a brand new $800 suit if it is an odd size like Women's XS. If you are at the far end of the sizing spectrum look for blow-out deals or check eBay. You might be surprised.

9) Xterra - Don't fall victim to Xterra pricing. Similar to Rudy Project in helmets and sunglasses, Xterra's whole business model is to take the Kohl's approach. Nobody pays more than 50% off for Xterra. You aren't getting a deal if you get 50%-60% off you just think you are getting a deal.

10) Two-piece vs one-piece - As someone who is 5 feet 8 but has a 33.63 inseam, I am the perfect candidate for a two-piece. The reality is that I owned one and I hated it. They are heavier and more complicated to put on and take off (the manufacturers claim they are less). It is just one more thing to lose too!! While a two-piece sounds like a nice idea, and I can understand why some think it might be great, the reality is that two-pieces for me was a huge let down.

Regardless of whether this is your first wetsuit or you are a seasoned pro, here a few reminders about getting that wetsuit on:

1) Make sure to apply Body Glide to your legs, arms, and back of neck.

2) Use plastic bags on your feet or socks to help get the wetsuit on.

3) Wear gloves so your fingernails don't tear the wetsuit. Wetsuits are very easy to tear with your fingernails. Usually the nicer the wetsuit the more easy it is to tear.

4) Pull from the inside of the suit, in small sections, working from bottom to top.

5) Pro tip - Once the wetsuit is on over your shoulders, you can bend over at the waist and that creates excess material which then you can pull up further.

BlueSeventy.com - save 20% on a wetsuit, goggles, speedsuit, whatever, using coupon code: Gerlach2020

Body Glide on Amazon

- Wetsuit Cement on Amazon

- Completed Sales of BlueSeventy Wetsuits on eBay

- BlueSeventy Wetsuits on eBay

Lastly if you are triathlete, endurance athlete, or marathoner, I have set up a FREE Q&A group on Facebook. It will always be FREE. As a long-time age-grouper I spent way too long determining what information I could trust and what I couldn't. As a TRUE student of the sport I have learned a lot, remain open-minded, and realize that so many people disseminate information blindly and then bad myths become lore. I am hoping to shed some light and simplify things for people. Feedback is always appreciated.

Post Ironman 70.3 Recovery Workouts

This past weekend I raced at Ironman Chattanooga 70.3. The result on the day was ok on paper coming in 7th and finishing in 4:04:27 vs 4:03:57 in 2016. Given that it was actually much warmer that was a positive for 2017. In addition, as many know, I was very sick in Jan/February with mono. I raced at Ironman Texas 70.3 last month (early April) in what was easily a career worst race so it was nice to take a huge step forward in my racing. On paper the day was ok but I needed to run faster and it is clear I am nowhere near 100%. Regardless it was nice to be 8-10 minutes faster than guys that were 8-10 minutes faster at Texas 70.3. 
Immediately following Ironman Chattanooga 70.3 I made the drive back to Clermont, Florida. Being self-coached I have a lot of flexibility in my training and decided to give myself three really easy days consisting of getting on the trainer and pedaling while working at a standing desk. The idea was to quit the ride when I felt like I had enough whether that was physical or mental. I also did 30 minute easy recovery swims on Monday and Wednesday and had planned on Tuesday, but due to some weather issues I never got the swim in. The idea was also on the bike to not look at the time and watts and just go by feel and let the leg fatigue totally dictate the watts. As you can see there was a nice progression over the 3 days. For reference I have had no trouble pushing 355 for more 20 minute efforts.

Today I got back at it with a longer aerobic run starting at about 1pm in the Florida sun. That was followed up with 40 minute spin before an aquathon where I was full gas swimming 1,000 meters and running 5k. I ran the 5k, again in Florida heat and humidity just under 18 progressively building from about 6:00 min/mile down to about 5:25 min/mile. Post race it was cool down jog of 1.5 miles at 10:30 before spinning again for another 40 minutes.

Why Latex Bike Tubes - Faster, More Comfortable, Less Flats

Michelin Latex (left), Vittoria Latex (middle),
Conti Race Light Butyl (right)
Vittoria latex bikes tubes are faster, more comfortable to ride, and less likely to flat. Nothing adds more speed per dollar than latex tubes, but latex isn't for everyone. If you want to go faster and are willing to spend a little extra time learning how to install them then latex is the way to go. If you aren't willing to spend the time then stick to butyl tubes.

Why Latex - The Advantages

They are faster - Rolling resistance is a big factor slowing you down. Latex tubes have lower rolling resistance than standard butyl tubes. The actual savings will vary based on how fast you are going and your weight. Those at the front of the race can save three to four minutes in an Ironman while someone at the back, who is heavier, might be able to save double that.

Regardless of the actual times savings, think of it this way, the savings going from butyl tubes => latex is greater than going from standard training wheels => 80mm deep aero wheels. However you don't have to pay $3,000 for a set of latex tubes.

- They are less flat prone - Contrary to popular belief they are less susceptible to flats than butyl tubes. However they get a bad rap if you read reviews or talk to the typical shop employee because these people are not installing them properly. Simply put, the installation process is a little more involved but if you take your time you won't have issues.

- They handle better - Many people believe they handle better because they are so supple that they are able to deform more easily and grab the road better.

- They are more comfortable and will leave you fresher for the run - Because latex is so supple they don't transmit as much vibration to your body. For Ironman triathletes coming off the bike this can be a huge advantage.

- No weight difference - Your standard durable latex tube weighs about the same as the standard butyl race light tube at about 75 grams.

- Tire sealant works better in latex - the chance of sealant sealing anything in butyl is not great. Usually sealants are made of latex themselves and have a much greater chance of sealing punctures in latex tubes.

The Disadvantages

- Require frequent pumping - Latex tubes leak air a lot faster than butyl. They leak about 1 psi per hour. If you race latex tubes you have to pump them up on race morning. Adding sealant to latex tubes drastically slows down the rate of air leaks. Some people don't like this feature for training so I suggest to those people that they just use latex tubes for racing.

- Requires careful installation - Latex is very sneaky and if you aren't careful in the installation process the tube can sneak its way underneath the bead of the tire and get stuck between the tire and the rim. Then when you pump up the tire the tube will explode. This is a very common installation issue that has lead to latex's bad rap. Take your time with install and you will be fine.

- Requires different rim tape - Because latex is very sneaky you will have all kinds of mysterious flats and issues if you use the cloth rim tape that likely came with your wheels. Instead you need a special rim tape that is smooth, strong, and non-porous. As an added benefit the special rim tape is both thinner and lighter than a cloth-based rim strip. Being thinner actually makes mounting tires easier. I have also used Veloplugs with latex. When it comes down to it, I always go back to tape. It is the most reliable way to run latex.

- Harder to source - Most local bike shops don't carry latex tubes so you will have to buy them online and I suggest in bulk. Shortages of latex during crucial racing months have occurred. It is always good to order 4, 6, or even 8 at a time.

- More expensive - They are usually a couple of dollars more than something like a Conti Race butyl tube.

Product Recommendations
Stans Rim Tape (lower left) /
Silca Rim Tape (lower right)

Vittoria Latex Tubes - I have used brands including Bontrager, Michelin, Vredstein, and Challenge. When it comes down to it, Vittoria are the most reliable and they also have removable valve cores so you can add sealant or just replace the valve when it breaks. Their valves are 51mm in length and come in two sizes - 19/23 and 25/28. Get the size that matches your tire width.

Stans Rim Tape or Silca Rim Tape - Stans is the defacto standard and works great. For a few dollars more there is Silca tape, which is what I am now using myself. The Silca tape is a little thinner and lighter and also slightly transparent so I can see things like the serial number if I ever needed it. Being thinner is the main reason I got it as it makes mounting tight tires even easier. 21mm is recommended for most wheel road wheels (17-19mm internal width). HED JET+ and Specialized Roval (21mm internal width) you will need the 25mm.

Conti Race Tubes - Even if you don't want to go with latex you can still save roughly 1/3 of the energy savings (1-2 minutes per Ironman) by switching to a thinner race day butyl tube. These Conti Race tubes are thinner than a standard tube, but are still extremely durable. The ultrathin tubes (Conti Supersonic) are not durable and I do not recommend them after personally having many bad experiences.

Conti Valve Extenders - You are going to need to purchase valve extenders if you plan to use your new latex tubes with deep aero wheels. Conti makes hassle free valve extenders that include a valve extender wrench as well. They are durable and high quality. Again, get a few more than you think you need as you will need them for any spares you carry as well. I don't use any teflon tape with these extenders and have never had an issue.  

Orange Seal Sealant - Orange seal is my preferred tire sealant for sealing for both preventing flats and reducing the natural rate of air loss from latex tubes. It does require you to remove the valve core. In an independent Slowtwitch test it performed best in sealing various punctures of various sizes.

Vittoria Pit Stop - Not great at sealing but good for slowing down the natural rate of air loss from latex. It does not need the valve core to be removed as an added benefit. It can also be carried on the bike for portability

Amazon Shopping Links:

Silca Rim Tape 25mm

Conti Race Tube 25mm 5 Pack - what I would use if I didn't race with Latex.