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X-Terra Velocity Speed Suit - Review
by Denis Oakley in , , , ,

First of all that's me in the speed suit shortly after receiving it. It took 6 days door to door - California to Malaysia. 

When I first took it out of the box the first feeling was that it was all a bit big - it felt like a cast off snake skin in black rubber. The outside is more rubbery  the inside more fabricky.

Putting it on was pretty easy - took about 3 - 4 minutes as opposed to the 5 I'd expected. It was a little bit of effort getting it over my heels and then moving the material up my legs. I tried it with both tri shorts and bare skin underneath. Not a lot of difference in either comfort or ease of getting on or apparent fit.

The zip is small and doesn't have a cord so its very hard if not impossible to do up yourself (I have very flexible arms for a bloke and I can't do it.) Getting it undone is possible but I'll have to add a rip cord to enable this to be done easily.

It comes up over the shoulders ok and feels snug - but not too compressive on dry land.

I headed into the pool after work - lots of traffic and then a thunderstorm meant I didn't get into the pool until after 8. Grrrr.

The most obvious thing that I noticed was that wearing the suit brought my legs up to the surface of the water. I generally swim using upper body alone - or using legs for balancing. Keeping the body a LOT more horizontal will really help with the drag.

The first length I swam was an easy length but I felt that I was going a lot faster than usual. By the end of the 50m length I was somewhat out of breath. I'm not sure if this was due to the change in pace wearing it or the compressive effect on the chest. Instead of doing 1 x 400 easy as a warm up I split into 4 x 100m just to get used to it. By the end of the 400m I felt pretty comfortable - I guess the breathlessness was very much to do with the new feeling of the suit rather than anything else.

The next set was 12 x 50m with 50m hard/50m easy. For the first 50m I went all out and time myself at 36s which is about 10s faster than my previous best. That was with a couple more months training than last time I tested. Stroke quality was poor and there was a lot of kicking - quads were aching by the end of the length!

The next length I focused on a quality powerful stroke and timed it at 43s and was happy with that. I then stopped timing and probably did something similar for the remaining hard efforts. It felt fast and comfortable. 

I then did 1200m with paddle and pull buoy as 400 easy, 400 moderate, 400 hard. As ever this did kill my arms. There was an awareness of the tightness of the suit straps over my shoulders but no rubbing. The session was only 2.2km, no salt water and no sun so I'm not sure what this will mean for longer races.  On just this one sample I'd be happy to take it out for up to 1/2 ironman distance. To go further I do need more tests.

Overall I'm please with the buoyancy and speed aspects. I feel good in it and that will provide a psychological boost. The big questions for racing are; how much chaffing will there be and how to avoid that; and, can I add a cord that will allow me to get it off faster than then time improvement it gives me.

At RM542 (including shipping) its significantly cheaper than the speed suits in Bike Boutique which are RM800+. Good value on the cost front given the current discount level. At the full price of  RM1350 I'd be a lot more dubious.

In many ways I think that a speed suit is a bit like aerobars and zipp wheels. You have to be a certain level before it's worth purchasing. Unless you have a swim background it's not a purchase to make in your first 3 triathlon seasons.My last Ironman time was about 1 1/2 hours. The next one I'm hoping will be close to the 1 1/4 hours and I think at this level you will start to see most of the gains coming through.

For me the purchase is worthwhile because this year I am focused on longer swim races and so the 5% 'theoretical improvement' turns into quite a lot of minutes in the water. 

The suit can be worn regularly and has a 3 year warranty - so it's good for a fair number of races if you take care of it. Basically rinse with cold water by hand and dry out inside (not in the sun). 

Finally thoughts are to do with training and how much I should train with it - and how much with my belly hanging down from above my swim trunks :)


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