T1 by De Soto, and Our Wetsuit Logistics Problem

Here are excerpts from a Facebook comment just below my first article in this series:

“I bought my wetsuit second hand, a little too big so easy to get on and off. Ordered a new one, a size smaller, still too big in the mid area. Never been sized up for one, not in a tri club, so difficult to understand how they are supposed to fit, or what size I actually need.”

I’m going to answer this and some other questions, as I talk about about De Soto’s wetsuits.

But first, to “Tammy”, let me tell you how I approach problems, both this and just about every problem. I look at it like it’s a siege. What’s the objective? To take the castle. But the castle doesn’t want to be taken. My strategy will require patience, calculation, and a to-do list. Whatever it is I do, whether it’s building a company, or training for a race, I use the same process.

Tammy and the rest of you must develop a coherent strategy that starts with the finish – the desired result. It’s not taking the castle, in your case; rather it’s a wetsuit that fits, is comfortable, doesn’t take on too much water as you swim, is fast, and sits inside your budget. Let’s make a plan.

My wife is a “returner”. She has no problem returning stuff for a refund or exchange. I hate that process. You either need to be a “returner” like my wife, or you need a one-stop-shop process. The latter means going somewhere – to a race expo possibly – to try on a number of sizes of several styles, in order to find “your” wetsuit. Or, it might mean your club (tho I note Tammy does not belong to one), or your local bike shop, or your local run store, bring in a bunch of try-on wetsuits, early in the year.

If you want to just go the try-and-return route, you might want to see who’ll send you a half-dozen wetsuits, returning the 5 you don’t want. Perhaps you could negotiate an appropriate charge. Maybe the shop charges you 5 wetsuits times two-thirds of the retail price of each wetsuit, as a guarantee. Strike a deal. I mentioned Brian at Justwetsuits.com in my Orca installment. Maybe Brian has a process like this that’ll work for us all.

Just, if you want to end up in your best wetsuit you’re going to need to sit down and figure out your plan to take this castle, rather than sending off screaming Dothrakis one at a time.

Note to Tammy: There are anywhere from 4 to 11 women’s sizes to choose from, depending on the wetsuit brand. Beyond this, you have the difference between the “European” and the “American” fit. This is one way I’ve heard patterns described. A “European” or “athletic” fit tends to appeal to the fitter, trimmer athlete. Some wetsuits are made for those who don’t have the underwear model’s body.

But there’s also the material to consider. Were I you, I’d look for more “Yamamoto #39” rubber in a wetsuit. This rubber is stretchier. If you don’t have a body suited for a European fit, you can either wear roomier jeans for old people (like I do), or you can wear Lycra tights, right? Yamamoto #39 is the Lycra tight of the wetsuit world (Yamamoto #38, or rubber from another maker, is less stretchy).

I honestly don’t know where De Soto gets his Green Goma rubber for his T1 wetsuits, but if it’s not Yamamoto #39 it’s a pretty close imitation of it. I wrote in a prior installment that I don’t know why other wetsuit companies don’t simply copy the 2-piece design of the T1. I’ll tell you why I think it is: they’ve never swam in one. They’ve never even put one on. Simply put, too many wetsuit companies treat their wetsuits like clothing styles, and sometimes even De Soto is guilty of this. When I began my company, it began as a wetsuit company. I didn’t make clothing. I made wetsuits. The next thing I made was a bike. Too many wetsuit companies simply treat wetsuits as a style (alongside their cycling bibs or all-weather jackets), and they not only rarely try on their own wetsuits, they never try out the competition’s wetsuits.

And I get it. Life is complicated. We’re busy. But I’ve tried on, and swam in, wetsuits made by dozens of companies, and seeing what the other guys do can be humbling, but it’s also instructive. I think if some of these other wetsuit companies experimented with a 2-piece design one or more of them would come out with a 2-piece model.

That said, I’m just as happy in a 1-piece and I’ve got quite a few of them. Happy to swim in them. But today I’m talking about De Soto because for Tammy, if she’s just having trouble fitting in a wetsuit – any wetsuit – this is the one that presents itself as an option.

Some folks object to the 2-piece because they think it’s going to take a long time to get off in transition (2 pieces instead of 1). Bjorn Andersson was visiting sometime back, and I brought one of these to the pool. I asked him to swim in it and then get out of the pool and take it off. I gave him no coaching, and it was the first time he’d ever worn one. Here’s the video of him swimming in, and exiting, the wetsuit. (And notice Bjorn's consecutive breaths going into the wall, which I'll again talk about in the context of open water in an upcoming article.)

You decide whether you think this is too difficult to exit. If after watching the video you think it is, don’t buy it. Let me tell you when it’s specifically easier: if you have any mobility or strength issues on your shoulders; and if you have a hard time getting your wetsuit down over your hips. One-piece wetsuits are pretty rigid in the hip area because the zipper area, at the zipper’s base (around the hips) does not stretch, and must be very sturdy (the zipper base is a specific failure area, causing wetsuit makers to really beef this up). The “bibjohn” part of a 2-piece wetsuit has no zipper, so, no problem pulling this down over your hips. The image highest above is me in a T1 by De Soto, from a race last year; I raced in this very wetsuit last week, that was just a 1k swim and a 5k run. If it was that slow to get out of I'd have chosen a 1-piece for last week's race (because it was so short).

Were I you, Tammy, and if you keep getting stuck while trying to find a wetsuit that works, you’ll spend between $500 and $800 for both pieces that comprise De Soto's wetsuit solution. Note that if you have a specific problem – one half of your body is bigger than the other half – you can mismatch the sizing to suit.

Now, that we’ve spent a moment on this wetsuit, let’s go back to the process. The siege. The plan.

Disruption is a theme these days, and usually it’s not a new invention, it’s a logistical process. Uber didn’t invent one person delivering another to a destination. AirBnB isn’t an invention; it’s simply and only a new logistical twist. What I’m asking for is simply a logistical twist to the process of delivering you a wetsuit. Canyon has given you a logistical twist in bicycle delivery; and we’ve twisted the logistics a little more with our process for helping you choose your Canyon via the deployment of our fit processes pointed toward Canyon in a Reader Forum thread.

I don’t mean to downplay the power of solving a logistical problem. Amazon doesn’t invent anything. It’s a logistical twist. But look at what that has meant to commerce.

Tammy, I’m asking you to create the logistical process by which you end up with the wetsuit that’s right for you. I’m asking this because I know of no good logistical process in place for you. You’re going to need to try and return; try and return. But you shouldn’t have to. Your tri club, or your local shop, should have solved this logistical problem for you already. I spoke to the owner of blueseventy Wetsuits last week, John Duquette, and he told me he has several sets of demo wetsuits, just for try-ons, making their way around the country right now. They’ve been “on tour” all season long. Has the blueseventy Tour made it’s say to your town? Or, any tour? An Orca tour? A ROKA tour? If not, why not?

We have a disconnect right now. Wetsuit makers are on one side; consumers are on the other side; they’re trying to connect; the local bike shop is disappearing; the LBSs that stock wetsuits are disappearing; it’s like the depletion of ocean fisheries, where mommy and daddy bluefin tunas are having a hard time finding each other. We need a match.com for wetsuits. It doesn’t need to be the same process or pathway in every town. The nexus drawing consumer-to-wetsuit might be the local retail store; might be the local club.

Point being, this is a problem that’s sitting out there begging for a solution. And, heck, maybe I’m the problem. We’ve organized the Slowtwitch Google Tour and the Slowtwitch Saddle Tour in years past, with a protocol to help you choose the particular thing that’s hard to find (in this case the right google or saddle). Maybe we ought to create the Slowtwitch Wetsuit Tour. Let me noodle that.

Read more about De Soto’s wetsuits.