Care and Feeding of your wetsuit

I noticed yesterday, in one of our sport's national magazines, a pair of authors impugning -- in an article they wrote -- the validity of an article I wrote. It is a free country, and they are free to do so, even if it means doing it badly. The article concerned the issue of bike fit, and to be sure there is an element of fluidity to this subject. Everybody has a theory.

Paradoxically, the issue of proper wetsuit care -- notwithstanding the fluidic medium in which a wetsuit is used-- is rather concrete, and not subject to the changing tides of theory.

In between weekends and road trips frolicking from one bike fitting workshop to the next, the humdrum of my work week, for the better part of a decade and a half, was spent in a facility that designed, built, and yes, repaired wetsuits. Perhaps, therefore, we've hit upon a topic I might write about with knowledge and relevency.

I'll not attempt to stifle the voice of dissent, however, so if either of the two gentlemen who feel they are a better arbiter than I of proper tri bike fit would like to take a stab at modern theories of wetsuit repair, I shall give equal time. Otherwise, and until then, below shall serve as the official Slowtwitch word on proper care and feeding of one's wetsuit.

* Don't leave your wetsuit hung on a standard clothes hanger. Within 6 months the rubber in the shoulders will start to crack and degrade. If you must hang it, hang it on a padded fur hanger, or some such similar hanger. Best is just to fold it (once) and lay it flat.

* Do not let your wetsuit sit in the rear of your hot sweaty car underneath the back window, where the sun will beat down on it mercilessly.

* You may give your wetsuit a shampoo if you want, and baby shampoo works very well (that's about what wetsuit shampoo is, more or less).

* After your race, rinse your wetsuit, inside and out, and let it dry (inside out) overnight in your shower.

* Do not send your wetsuit in for repair all rolled or folded up into the tiniest box into which you can make it fit. Fold it nicely, and not too often, when you send it. A nice-sized box might be about 15" square, by 5" deep.

* Write your name in your wetsuit, perhaps on the inside, on the fabric, with a permanent magic marker. You'll want to identify your wetsuit, as "they" -- [fill in the ethnicity you choose to slur] -- "all look alike."

* You may repair your wetsuit SEAM SEPARATIONS by applying wetsuit glue to each side of the separated seam, blowing on it until it is dry, and pressing together (i.e., it is contact cement). You can get such glue at a dive or surf shop.

* You may repair GOUGES with liquid silicon, sometimes called liquid rubber, and even Shoe Goo will work. Fill up the gouge 'til level, let it dry overnight. There are many products like this, and you can find them in hardware stores, sports stores or dive shops.

* Do not put petroleum jelly all over your suit. I don't know why people do this, but for some reason many such wetsuits are sent in for repairs with Vaseline all over them. This not only makes it impossible to re-glue (if your suit would ever need such repair work), no self-respecting wetsuit repairman would agree to work on it.

Finally, do not put your wetsuit in the dryer and turn on the high heat. You may laugh, but this has been done. It did not turn out badly for us, as one triathlete's wife did just this (a wetsuit went into the dryer, a ball of plastic came out). She sent it to us, and we promptly sent her back a brand new suit, no charge. Eight years later this woman's husband (the beneficiary of the new wetsuit) became a major sponsor of a national triathlon series we produced. The contract was worth upwards of one million dollars to us over two years. The moral of this story is: While the value of good customer service cannot be overestimated, best to drip dry the wetsuit.