Thursday, November 23, 2017

Zone3 Vanquish

The Zone3 brand was started at Loughborough University by elite triathlete, James Locke. Since 2008, it has developed a growing range of tri-related apparel including wetsuits and tri suits.

I was keen to try a Zone3 wetsuit as I had heard good things about them and I was looking for a new suit that would suit my particular style of swimming (good powerful upper body, but heavy and largely ineffective legs).  On paper, the Zone3 Vanquish seems to fit the bill – a super-flexible shoulder area, thicker ‘aerodrome’ impregnated neoprene on the legs, 3D forearm catch panels to help with pull etc.

Zone3 VanquishPulling the suit on for the first time, I was surprised at just how tight a fit it is compared to my 2011 Xterra Vector Pro and 2010 Orca Sonar.  There are literally no baggy bits anywhere. I was a little concerned this might feel overly restrictive when swimming in the suit, but on the plus side I was also confident it would address one of my criticisms of my Xterra suit – namely that water pools in certain parts.

The Vanquish features a ‘reverse’ zip (undoes from bottom to top, rather than the other ‘normal’ way round) which is supposed to lead to a faster T1, but is also pretty fiddly to do up without assistance.  A little practice, however, and I seem to have found a way of doing it on my own (by comparison, I helped a friend into his new Aquasphere Phantom recently and I found it more difficult to do his suit up than my own!).

The neck on the Vanquish is marketed as a T-shirt neck to take pressure away from the Adam’s Apple. As someone used to higher-neck suits, it does initially feel a little strange, but the good news is that it seems to seal well and doesn’t let in any more water than you would expect.

One thing I should say is that the Vanquish is a LOT better looking in the flesh than on a website page! I wasn’t a massive fan of how the suit looked when I ordered it on the web, but when I opened the box on delivery I was pleasantly surprised – it’s a classy-looking suit with the just the right amount of ‘design’ in the graphics, velocity strakes (the channels on the chest of the suit) and forearm catch panels (which for some reason remind me of the Batman suit!).

Into the Water

The suit’s tight fit feels great once you are in the water.  You do get the usual initial water entry (which is never nice in a cold lake!) but once you’re over that, the rest of the swim felt great with little or no fresh cold water leaking in.  The arms, legs and neck are all tight without being uncomfortable.

I could feel straight away how my body position in the Vanquish was different to previous suits.  Put simply, the Vanquish allows my upper body to lie a little flatter (the Xterra gave me a slightly ‘ass high’ position!) while keeping my legs nice a high (the thicker neoprene on the upper legs is really noticeable).  As per Zone3’s promises, the thin shoulders are great for helping you maintain an arm stroke not dissimilar to what you would have in the pool.

In my first outing at the local lake, I felt immediately comfortable in the suit but not necessarily any faster yet. Hopefully this will come in time, as I get used to the suit and take advantages of its construction.

I had another chance to test the suit at the Wales Swim on Friday 8th June.  This was supposed to be a 3.8km sea swim at Tenby (see report here) but unfortunately the swim was cut short to 2x 1km laps with a run in-between and again at the end.  The suit again felt very good, although despite using a good amount of body glide, I did get a small amount of chafing around my neck (on the right side, where I breathe).

The tightness of the suit did make running the 300 metres to the finish a little ‘fun’ (in hindsight, I should have perhaps undone the rear zip to free my shoulders) but in the water the suit again felt good.  I did notice at the end of the swim, however, that I could hardly lift my arms! I don’t think this was down to the suit so much as my inexperience of swimming against waves and currents in the sea – I haven’t noticed any similar fatigue in my other two or three swims in the Vanquish.

A faster T1?

One of the USPs of the Zone3 suits (across the range) is their ‘Pro-Speed’ silicon cuffs, which are supposed to make it easy to get out of the suit in T1.  As I haven’t done a triathlon in the suit yet, I haven’t tried ripping it off in a hurry just yet, but will report back after the Dambuster triathlon this weekend.

Pros:
* Great fit, good seal in the water
* Good body position if you are a competent swimmer but with heavy legs
* Thin shoulders aid a strong and natural swim stroke

Cons:
* Slight chafing on neck, despite using lube
* Reverse zip is tricky without assistance
* Thin upper body neoprene may not suit weaker swimmers that want greater buoyancy

Overall

With a retail price of £375 the Vanquish is certainly a mid-to-high level suit.  But compared to the other suits I have tried, it does seem to justify the price tag. It’s clearly a well-thought out suit with the features that really make a difference included, and those that don’t left out.  I’m looking forward to racing the suit on some familiar courses so I can compare times against previous races!