TYR Wetsuits for 2017

Some of my best wetsuit swim experiences have been in these expertly designed suits. This suit is (to quote myself from a previous review of this wetsuit) “lightning fast”. In 2012 I tested every wetsuit for speed. I swam in all these wetsuits for weeks, and the protocol was 4 sets of short course yards hundreds, on a strict leave interval, trying to keep my efforts even.

What did I find? That nothing outswam a TYR Hurricane 5. Not even the Freak of Nature, TYR’s $1,200 suit (costing not much less than twice price of the Hurricane Cat 5). In fact, the Cat 5 was a tick faster than the Freak (this image is from 2 years ago showing Andy Potts racing in the Cat 5 rather than the Freak). This suit was so fast I used it as the measuring stick for every other wetsuit. Further, even the least expensive TYR wetsuits (the Cat 3 and the Cat 1) are fast wetsuits, because the patterns are spot on and the suit is built for speed. (The Hurricane series was built by swimmers for swimmers.)

If you want a really fast, really comfortable, really well made TYR wetsuit buy a Cat 5. The Freak, at $1,200, gives you nothing that the $750 Cat 5 doesn’t give you. Take that extra $450 and prepay a monthly delivery of flowers for your sig other until the credit runs out.

These speed trials in which I engaged happened only three years after TYR started making wetsuits. In my opinion, at the time, TYR had jumped to the top of the heap. Nothing beat this suit, and it was marginally (up to a second a hundred in short swims) faster than the T1 De Soto Concept 5 (I wrote about the T1 last week). Only the blueseventy Helix was the Cat 5’s equal in feel, in speed, and all-around quality back in 2012 (for reasons I’ll be writing about as this series develops).

But time marches on. Just as I wrote last week that the Continental 4000S II is no longer the tire it was in the marketplace because the marketplace caught up, the TYR Hurricane 5 is not the wetsuit it was because the market has caught up. What has happened in the 5 years between then and now? In my opinion, just my observation, TYR has been chasing shiny objects since 2012 (a fluid replacement drink; the mass merchant sales channel), and Roka, blueseventy and others have caught to the Hurricane series in speed.

Remember what I wrote last week! You can’t do business with a retailer who doesn’t sell a full size run (at least in the main sizes). What does this leave us with?

If you go to Amazon users' reviews for the TYR Hurricane Cat 5 wetsuit there are concerns expressed (that are certainly not specific to TYR!):

"I read the reviews here and researched wetsuit fit," wrote this Amazon reviewer. "The reviews here state that this wetsuit may run "two sizes" too small. So, I am 5'7" and 139 lbs which would be a 'small' so I got a Medium… this is still too small… The TYR sizing chart seriously underestimates the suit size that is appropriate for a given body size… The S/M also proved too small.”

And this was from someone who gave the wetsuit a rating of 5.

Review after review complains about having to return suits when bought through the mail. This is not a TYR problem! This is every wetsuit company’s problem! Except it’s not a problem if there is a stated liberal return policy, and this has been TYR’s problem. If you go on its site, here’s its policy:

"Please Note: Hurricane Wetsuits can be returned for EXCHANGE only. Suits that have been used or gently worn cannot be returned. No exceptions.”

I asked TYR about this, and I gave them examples of return policies from Xterra, blueseventy, De Soto, ROKA. Here’s a revised policy they came back with this morning, with the addendum that, "Those words are not finalized but they will say something along those lines”:

"All TYR products are guaranteed. Feel free to test and try your Hurricane wetsuit in the water. If within 30 days of your purchase date you are not satisfied, we will gladly provide a merchandise refund or exchange for wetsuits purchased via TYR.com, or merchandise credit for wetsuits purchased through an authorized TYR retailer."

I'm satisfied! In my original draft for this review I recommended not to buy this suit, as good as it is, because the return policy is simply not congruent with market realities. Happily, TYR agreed its policy did not align with the brand, and that in practice "9 times out of 10” they accept a return. Because of this tack toward current market policies my stock analysis has now been changed from “sell” to “buy” (though I’ll be watching to make sure this change is made on its website).

There are two other concerns I have with TYR, and you can read this also on Amazon’s ratings. First is about some perception of fragility. Mostly this is unfounded, except that this very techie suit needs to be treated with some care when you’re putting it on, specifically as you are pushing your foot through the lower leg. The calf area is not robustly designed. I have had no problem with this, but then I always put my foot through a wetsuit leg with either a sock on or with my foot inside a plastic baggie.

One Amazon reviewer pointed this out and noted that he previously, “…had a 2XU V:2 suit that I've used for some time and thought it worked very well.”

If you’ve read the reviews I’ve written since 2012, this is the sort of narrative you’ve grown used to from me. Last year I wrote about wetsuits for “elves” versus wetsuits for “orcs”. The TYR was a wetsuit for an “elf” and by that I meant a wetsuit for swimmers that wanted a light and delicate feel. The 2XU was a wetsuit for an “orc”.

What I wrote about the 2XU V:2 Velocity in 2012 is that, while that suit is plenty fast, “This suit is a tank. And by that I mean this is not a suit that's going to be prone to seam separations, fingernail tears and rips.”

Here’s what I wrote about the TYR Hurricane Cat 5 back then: "it is subject to fingernail tears. You've got to be careful when putting this suit on.”

Reality check! Any wetsuit made of Yamamoto #39 or #40 rubber, or its Nano rubber, is going to be subject to fingernail tears, altho this is less likely if it the rubber (facing outside) is treated with Yamamoto's SCS coating. Still, TYR is sensitive to the fact that not everyone is hip to how to put wetsuits on and it even includes with the wetsuit purchase gloves to use when putting on its suit.

My second mild objection to TYR’s Hurricane line is with the Hurricane 3 wetsuit – same patterns as the Hurricane 5 – and is made of Yamamoto #38 rubber. That #38 is more durable. But it’s not as stretchy. Therefore, the suit is not as forgiving when it comes to fit. You need to be more of a precise fit in a #38 suit. All that is fine, just $550 is too much by about $200 for a #38 suit.

Notwithstanding the concerns above I would place TYR’s Hurricane line – well, the Hurricane 5 at least – in the elite class of triathlon wetsuits. Some wetsuits today may be its speed equal but I don’t think anything is going to outswim this suit.

All this said, please consider what I wrote last week about whether to buy a wetsuit consumer direct or in-store. The process way outweighs the difference in product. (Consider shops like Trishop in Plano or Fraser Bikes – both Slowtwitch Road Show hosts – that have Endless Pools in these stores so that you can swim in a wetsuit prior to purchase). Next month I’ll celebrate my 30th anniversary since opening the doors of a new company, selling a product to triathletes that no triathlete thought he needed. Though I built and managed my wetsuit brand for 12 years it’s become clear to me that brand isn’t the sizzle unless implicit in the brand is that brand’s treatment of the customer. The process of obtaining the wetsuit; the conditions under which you obtain it; outweigh the difference between one brand and another.