Never judge a book by its … COVER!

If you’ve been around the triathlon scene for a while Epix is probably a name you’ve heard of. You might not be able to place it but that name is sitting there in the back of your mind, on the tip of your tongue. Epix. It’s familiar. But why? And then it hits you, those novelty tri suits. The ‘Storm Trooper’ or ‘Ironman’ tri suit, amongst many others. In fact eight or nine years ago, I remember buying the ‘Elvis’ suit for a mates Bucks party. They weren’t exactly the greatest tri suits going around. They didn’t breath all that well and sucked up the water rather than disperse it. But they were a laugh and that was what made them fun to wear.

In early 2018, Nerissa, Epix’s Australian representative, contacted us to see if we would like to test their latest range of tri gear. Naturally, we were intrigued. We expected improvements, as triathlon garment materials have progressed a lot over the last 10 years, and Nerissa assured us that the latest Epix range was state of the art. With a healthy dose of scepticism, we jumped right in and took delivery of a good sample range of Epix kit, both male and female.

Epix is a boutique American triathlon label, from brothers Jarek and Tomek Barc who have been producing eye-catching and in your face designs for the last decade. The business itself arose back in 2008 from a simple question: “Why do all the tri kits look the same?” Everything seemed very black and serious. Jarek and Tomek, both triathletes themselves, decided that they wanted something that would get spectators to cheer louder and ultimately push them to go faster and produce better performances. With a passion for design, and triathlon, the boys decided to create their own ‘loud’ range of clothing and a decade ago, at the Singapore Ironman 70.3, the first-ever Epix tri suit was debuted by Jarek himself. To a mixture of disbelief, fascination, cheers and horror, and in a nod to the legendary Mario Cipollini, the first ever ‘Muscle’ tri suit was introduced and it achieved everything the boys had hoped. This tri suit stood out like the proverbial. The ‘muscle’ tri suit has since been seen at races all over the world from Noosa to Nice and has been copied by many other manufacturers. In the words of Jarek: “That first suit wasn’t the most comfortable ever worn. The stitching was hard and heavy, and the padding was a nightmare. The materials were basic but it was fully printed, which was new at the time.”

Ten years on from that infamous debut and a lot seems to have changed at Epix, although some things have remained the same. Over in their online retail store, you can still purchase their outrageous designs from the Cyborg tri suit to the Neon ‘Muscle’ Go Fierce suit and you can be guaranteed they will be bright and make you stand out from the crowd. What has changed though are the materials, and boy, have they changed! Lightweight, super breathable and flexible. They now source materials from all over the world including Italy, Taiwan and China. Two to three times a year they are at trade shows to view the latest materials available with a view to improving breathability, comfort and print qualities. With a reputation for bright, vibrant kits the ability to print on quality material has become paramount to the growth of Epix. At the same time, Jarek and Tomek create all their own designs and chamois’ while working closely with both pro and age group athletes to incorporate design elements that improve the performance of the Epix range.

We had thought that Epix was all about their crazy retail tri suits but it turns out that they are much more about their custom program – with a huge range of tri kit available to choose from. In fact, 85% of Epix sales are custom, which was a big surprise to us. They use their upbeat and bright online designs, and their pro athlete designs, to bring awareness to the brand but will do any design you wish in their custom range. Not only that, they will work with individuals as well as big squads etc. In fact, Epix prides themselves on being one of, if not the first, company to offer custom designed apparel for individuals ordering just one kit. As with most major custom apparel manufactures Epix also offer the option of drop-shipping. This means they create an individual website for your team or squad where members can go to order and pay for their kit. It is then processed and shipped directly to each athlete. A significantly neater process for big or small groups alike.

While all of this is obviously designed to keep the business ticking over and making a profit, when speaking to Jarek you can really feel his passion for triathlon and his desire to give back to a sport that he loves. This is why Epix have incorporated a fantastic scheme with their pro athletes, which sees them match, dollar for dollar, any prize money the athlete may earn.

Now we are getting off topic a little, so let’s get back to Epix and the custom range that will be available in Australia. This will be the Go Fierce and Go Fierce Aero (sleeved versions of the Go Fierce) range of clothing. Both triathlon and cycling will be available; we had a look at the triathlon range and it’s got the lot. There are both sleeved and non-sleeved tri suits available for men and women. Tri shorts for both, including two lengths for women, and tri tops with sleeveless and sleeved for both men and women. Not to mention crop tops, t-shirts and singlets amongst others.

Straight out of the packaging the kit was very loud but ridiculously light. In the case of the singlet and t-shirts we almost thought they wouldn’t hold up for long, they were so lightweight. With a couple of injuries slowing the boys down the majority of testing fell on Nadelle’s shoulders, and she did a fine job, putting the gear through five to six weeks of solid bashing. The things we really look at with kit are the chamois, the leg gippers, the cut (on bottoms, tops and tri suits), the compression on the legs and breathability on the tops, and the overall flexibility of the kit, and lastly the durability.

Nadelle really hit the training track hard, with the tri shorts especially getting a lot of use. From swim to bike, to run sessions, plus windtrainer and brick sets, the Go Fierce women’s shorts copped it all. Considering how many times these shorts were washed, worn and thrown into a training bag, you would be hard-pressed to find a mark on them. With nine panels on these shorts, there are a lot of seams, but Nadelle commented that she wouldn’t have noticed if we hadn’t pointed it out. Not once did she chafe and in fact, she commented that the chamois was one of the most comfortable tri chamois she has used; no feeling like she had a nappy on. Also, the leg grippers were super comfortable, being a silicon injected laser cut strip rather than a folded lycra, and held the legs in place the whole time; around mid-thigh, which is where she prefers her shorts to sit. There is a higher option, but she found those to be a bit uncomfortable. Interestingly enough she commented that the shorts did look tiny out of the packaging but fit perfectly. One of Nadelle’s favourite products was the crop top, which was made from a firm compressive material with a mesh back and padding in the front, which acted as both support, minimising bounce, but also as a form of absorption, making for a much more comfortable sporting experience. Now, when it came run singlet it was a similar situation. A very comfortable cut, firm but not too tight, very lightweight, breathable and surprisingly hard wearing. She had a similar response when wearing the Go Fierce tri top. Unlike the muscle suits of old, there has been quite a lot of thought put into both the men’s and women’s tri tops with a firm compressive lycra through the front, mesh side panels and top half of the back. This just makes for a really breathable but comfortable tri top. Even though we didn’t get to try the sleeved tri top we can only assume it will be of a similar quality.

Before we get to the issue of pockets on these pieces we will briefly go over the men’s versions of these products. As we mentioned earlier due to some rather unfortunate injuries we were unable to put them to as much use as Nadelle did. However, when we did, our experiences were much the same. Very comfortable, hard wearing and extremely breathable, a complete departure from the Epix suits of old and a very welcome surprise. We will say however that our personal preference is for a longer leg with our tri suits and shorts, or a least the option, but this doesn’t take away from the fact that the products themselves are of very high quality. Which brings us to the point of pockets. The Go Fierce tri top and tri shorts each have three pockets. In the case of the tops, all pockets have a zipper. With a large back pocket and two smaller side pockets, you could easily carry your gels and salt tablets etc., on race day and have no fear of them falling out. When it comes to the shorts there is also one back pocket with a zipper and two open leg pockets. The rear pocket would again be great for something like your salt tablets or an asthma pump, that you wouldn’t want to lose, while the leg pockets would be great for gel flasks or something else you might want easy access to on the run.

With the quality of triathlon apparel Epix is now producing, it’s easy to see why they have been in business for 10 years. They are no novelty tri suit company anymore. It just goes to show you should never judge a book by its cover.

If you want to check Epix out yourself, they will be at various race expo’s including the Noosa triathlon expo later in the year.

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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