IT WAS 11 years ago that the first swimskin hit the triathlon world – Normann Stadler wore one of Blue Seventy’s revolutionary new suits and came out of the water minutes closer to his competition than normal. There were shocked looks on the faces of the lead men’s group as the German super-cyclist went flying by in the first few kilometres of the bike. In 2004, Stadler’s first Kona win, he came out of the water over three minutes behind rival Chris Mccormack. Two years later, wearing a swimskin, the German was 14 seconds behind his Australian rival.
Needless to say, swimskins have become standard equipment for Kona competitors as they clamour for every advantage they can get at the world championship. Worn over a tri suit, swimskins help you slip through the water. They’re not as fast as a full-fledged neoprene wetsuit would be, but, as Stadler’s performance all those years ago proved, they can improve your overall time in the water by quite a bit.
Huub’s latest entry into this market is the Albacore Swimskin, which is designed to help you go faster thanks to its hydrodynamic properties and by improving your stroke efficiency. A special high compression (read, snug-fitting) and hydrophobic fabric that Huub refers to as a “Constrictor system” puts you in a better position in the water. According to their tests the suit can make you up to 4.5 seconds faster per 100 m. While we weren’t able to quantify the results to that sort of accuracy, our reviewer was noticeably faster wearing the suit.
The fabric of the suit feels like a high-end competitive swimsuit and it fits very much like a competitive swimsuit might – towards the smaller end of the fitting scale. That’s all part of the design, though, as the compression doesn’t just help create a smaller footprint in the water, it’s designed to improve your biomechanics, too.
The end result is a very fast suit that’s surprisingly easy to get off in transition – you simply unlock the zipper and pull the suit open and it comes off in a flash, setting you up for a quick change onto the bike.
Since most of your competition will also have their own swimskins, you’re likely not going to see a three-minute gain over the competition, but you’ll definitely gain some ground after the first leg of the race.—km