SwimRun saw rapid growth during the 2015 season, and approaching 2016, there are more races on the calendar than ever before. New races are popping up almost every week, not just in the UK but on Scandinavian territory and on the European mainland as well. The additional races are attracting more competitors, and many triathletes are leaving their bikes at home to try this innovative alternative. SwimRun participants need to be at the top of their fitness level in both disciplines, and they need to be proficient in competing as part of a team. The gear industry is paying attention to the rise in numbers, and unique SwimRun products are hitting the market. The center of attention is the wetsuit, which all racers wear while running and swimming. Previously I reviewed the Huub SwimRun wetsuit and the one by Orca. This time we have a closer look at Zone3’s SwimRun wetsuit - the Evolution.
The laboratory of well-known Loughborough University is the birthplace of this UK trademark. Back in 2007, English Elite Triathlete James Lock founded Zone3 to fund his triathlon career. Since then, Zone3 repeatedly raised eyebrows within the triathlon world. Enthusiastic reviews followed the introduction of their Aspire triathlon wetsuit and many of their subsequent suits. Open water swimming and triathlon are the key markets for the brand. It didn’t take the Surrey based company long to understand the rapidly increasing need for SwimRun specific wetsuits. This year’s Xterra SwimRun Norway victors Henrik Wahlberg and Klas Wirehn of Swedish Team SurfSpot were among the competitors that assisted the development of Zone3’s first SwimRun suit.
SwimRun competitors do not have transition zones. The wetsuit stays on for the duration of the competition. The suit needs to be pliable and agile, without losing the characteristic benefits of a wetsuit. The body of the suit needs to allow for a natural running stride. Zone3 incorporated flexible stretch panels in the hips and thighs, and the seams in this part of the suit are glued only (not stitched) to prevent chafing. The suit does not feel constricting or limiting while running. 2mm thick neoprene is used in the front and back of the legs, with high stretch padding, to keep the suit supple and flexible. Although there is less neoprene in the torso, the suit still feels buoyant in the water. Typically racers swim with a transformed pull-buoy as well.
To top it off, this suit comes with two 8mm thick neoprene calf sleeves. As some racers use floating devices around their calves, this is a great bonus feature.
The Evolution has two interior pouches, highlighted by a blue color and visible from the outside. The pouches hold approximately 2-3 gels each and are easy and fast to access while running. The front zipper works well and I could access the pockets without any problem. Personally I do not see the advantage of the small neoprene covering over the top end of the zipper. During racing the opening and closing of this small piece could create extra hassle, and the hook-and-loop fastener might cause chafing. However even without using Vaseline during testing, chafing was not a problem.
The suit uses Yamamoto 1.5mm neoprene throughout the shoulder and arm sections, providing maximum flexibly so that swim technique is not affected. The Evolution comes with long sleeves and must be cut to personal specifications. There is a silicone band on the inside of the suit above the elbow. The wearer can cut the suit in this section if they want a short sleeve option. Using the suit without cutting the sleeves left me with a little too much density around the biceps, which I found annoying during the swims. It might loosen up the longer you use the suit. With 5mm neoprene in the back and side panels, upper body buoyancy is excellent while the feel of the suit while swimming remains natural.
Something that sets the Zone3 suit apart is the lack of a back zipper. Other companies making SwimRun suits have kept the conventional back closure while adding a front closure. Zone3 is the first company to eliminate the back zip in a SwimRun suit. The extra space is used instead for an immense back pocket that creates more storage space than ever before available in a wetsuit. With a zipper on the flank and flexible material, the compartment can be effortlessly accessed.
This piece not only has a proper Swim Mode included. Also the Run Mode works fine with this wetsuit.
The first SwimRun suit that comes with a fully closed back and huge storage possibilities.
Quality made front zipper with some tiny neoprene coverage.
The suit is a great option for SwimRun competitors in this growing sport. Zone3’s Evolution suit is offered in nine different sizes and retails for 345 £ (520 USD / 490 EUR) via racezone3.com.
All images © Markus Roessel / slowtwitch.com