Feel the need, the need for speed

You would be hard-pressed to find any triathlete in Australia, let alone the world, who hasn’t used a Speedo product. And while their heritage is steeped in swimming it has been an up and down relationship with triathlon. While the Speedo Aqua Blade was pretty much responsible for ushering in the use of one-piece tri suits in the late 90s and early 2000s, they have never really had an extensive range of triathlon related products. Just flicking through the triathlon section of the Australian Speedo website you’ll find three wetsuits, and three tri suits for both male and female. Over the next two editions, we will be looking at the top of the range Fastskin Photon tri suit in both male and female, and also the Fastskin Photon wetsuit in both male and female.

On review this month are the tri suits and in an era when everyone is sporting the latest in sublimated technology, it’s really interesting to see what can be done when you are not concerned with printing images and logos within the material. As you would expect with a big global company like Speedo, you are going to get some of the latest high tech materials going around and of course being the global leader in swim racewear, those materials are going to be very hydrophobic. Add to that, not being limited by the need for sublimation and you get some amazing fabric to work with.

The one thing we really loved was opening up the packaging and experiencing that first touch of the Fastskin material. It’s almost papery to the touch and you can immediately see that the water will bead off the suit. The name of this fabric is LZR Pulse Power Fabric and it is the same fabric you will find in the top end race swimsuits being worn by our Commonwealth Games swimmers – so you know it is good at its job. As well as its water repellent properties, it is also a highly compressive and firm fabric, which makes it a little bit of a battle to pull on. Once on though, the suit feels extremely comfortable and supportive. Over the shoulders and upper torso, the Photon suit uses a much more breathable and stretchy material called Endurance10 Fabric and this means that there is a lot of freedom through the shoulders for swimming. There is also a good length front zip and two small pockets just above the hips for any nutrition you may need.

We chose a female size small and male size large to test and to look at the suits next to other brands we use, we would have said – perfect. However, with the firmness and high compression of the Photon suit we had to look elsewhere for our female tester. Luckily pro triathlete Grace Thek was able to help us out and even at 45kg and 157cm tall she found the suit to be a tight fit. So, the upshot is we would suggest you look at a size up from what you would normally wear.

The Fastskin Photon tri suits are sleeveless as are the other suits in the Speedo range and in our opinion are probably better suited to Sprint and Olympic distance triathlons.

As far as performance was concerned we could not fault them at all. There is no gapping anywhere, they just hug the body and move perfectly with your muscles as you race or train. There was no restriction while swimming and the chamois was extremely comfortable. You really didn’t notice it in the swim but on the bike, it gave protection much more like a cycling chamois than a lot of the thin triathlon chamois that you could get. Then, again, when running the chamois was hardly noticeable. One of the benefits was how quickly it dried, which is so underrated. You just can’t ask for more than that.

Originally, we thought this suit was going to be perfect for non-wetsuit swims, which it is with its hydrophobic properties, but, after the test, we really have to say this is a great suit regardless of whether you have a wetsuit swim or not. Our only minor issue with the Fastskin Photon is that, although it is extremely light, it does heat up in the legs a little. The LZR Power Pulse fabric doesn’t breathe as well as others, but with the torso and shoulders breathing fine it shouldn’t matter for all but the hottest of Sprint or Olympic distance races.

Lastly, at $260 it is a whole lot of tri suit for that price and if you don’t want or need to be wearing kit with logos all over it, then jump into the Speedo Fastskin Photon – we will be.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

TheTestLab

Craig McKenzie and Patrick Legge are The Test Lab. Two guys with an obsession for trialling all things related to swimming, riding and running and telling anyone who will listen what they think. Having 20 years each in the sport, they’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly, but always loved the innovation triathlon brings to the world stage. Craig raced as a professional triathlete, winning 4 National Duathlon titles, and has worked as an exercise physiologist, osteopath and coach, while Pat has built a career running a personal training, massage and coaching business, working with State, Australian and World Champions, including Australian Olympic and Commonwealth squads whilst competing himself.

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