Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Huub Archimedes

In the triathlon world, Huub seems to be the equivalent of an overnight sensation. In the space of just a couple of years they’ve gone from obscurity to one of the recognized leaders in triathlon wetsuits (they have a growing range of other kit too, but I think even they’d agree they are best known for their wetties). Their sponsorship strategy of working with the fastest swimmers in triathlon (at all distances), certainly hasn’t hurt, but then neither has their unique design.  

Huub ArchimedesThe Archimedes is Huub’s top-of-the-range male suit and comes in two versions – the 3:5 and 4:4. The numbers relate to the relative buoyancy of th e upper and lower body panels – the 3:5 being designed to give heavy-legged swimmers extra buoyancy in the lower body to maintain a better body position and avoid causing drag in the water by letting the legs hang low. The 4:4, by contrast, offers a more equal buoyancy from top to bottom and is better for swimmers who naturally have a more ‘neutral’ position in the water.

The ‘breakaway’ zip

The Archimedes offers a clever ‘breakaway’ bottom-up zip at the back, which means a short sharp tug upwards at swim exit effectively opens the zip and allows the suit to be peeled off on the run to T1. Tugging the zip lanyard upwards is a more natural action than trying pull it down (as per most bottom-up zips). The benefit of the bottom-up zip (as opposed to the top-down zip found on other high-end suits), is that you can still get the suit zipped up on your own without a second pair of hands. Because the zip fastener is already at the top of the zip before you pull the lanyard, it also makes the process of releasing the zip a tiny bit faster.

The bicep and calf ‘releases’

Two of the most notable design elements of the Huub Archimedes are the red-coloured patches on the upper arms and lower legs – the former so-called bicep release panels to promote better stroke efficiency and the latter calf-releases to improve kick efficiency. The patches are made of a lycra-like material which has more give than the surrounding neoprene. In use, it’s difficult to say whether they really make much difference. Perhaps my biceps just aren’t big enough to feel the benefit?!

That said, I should note that one of the reasons I changed wetsuits was that I was suffering fatigue in my arms (particularly triceps) after longer swims. The original thinking was that this was caused by the suit being too tight across the chest.  Whether it is due to improved fit, the bicep panels, or both - I haven't suffered this fatigue in the Huub. Maybe that speaks volumes. 

3:5 or 4:4?

Huub Archimedes

Choosing the right version of the Archimedes is important, as I found out. Originally, I ordered the 3:5 and have to admit that, while I was impressed with the fit and quality of the materials, I certainly wasn’t any faster in the Archimedes than my existing suit. It was only when discussing my wetsuit choice with Adam Gibson (@greenlightPT), that things became clear. Apparently my leg position without a wetsuit is actually pretty good, which led Adam to suggest that the Archimedes 3:5 was forcing my legs to be too high in the water, thus pushing my head and shoulders down – and causing unnecessary drag.

Much to Huub’s credit, they were kind enough to offer me a swap to the 4:4 suit (the 3:5 was as-new, still). Swimming in the 4:4, my legs were noticeably lower in the water, but I also felt more comfortable straight away.

Ultimately, the numbers speak for themselves. Last year in Mallorca I completed the 1.9km swim in about 29:45. This year (and all credit to Adam for the swim training!) in the Huub Archimedes I swam just over 28 minutes. ‘Nuff said?

Getting in and out

Putting the Archimedes on is very much like any other triathlon wetsuit, really nothing to write home about. You still have to take your time to get the fit ‘just so’, but once you’re in, it’s pretty comfy. Being a short-arse, I am tempted to trim the cuffs and legs a little, but for now I’m making do.

Coming out of the water and heading to T1, the breakaway zip works brilliantly, a quick tug and you can literally rip the top half of the suit off in a couple of seconds. The arms come off easily and even getting it over a Garmin 910XT isn’t a problem. Possibly because they are a little long, I don’t think the legs come off quite so easily and I’ve had to use my hands to get my feet out of the suit. In middle distance racing, that extra second or two is neither here nor there, but for short-course racing I either need to practice a lot more or modify the length of the legs to perhaps make them easier to kick off.

Conclusion

If you’re expecting to pull on the Huub Archimedes and immediately swim like a Brownlee on a good day, it’s unlikely! But experience shows that if you value a suit with some nifty triathlon-specific features and one that doesn’t dramatically change your body position in the water (for the 4:4, anyway), then the Huub Archimedes is a very sound investment. And hey, even if you can’t swim like a top triathlon swimmer, it doesn’t hurt to look like one!

Visit HUUB Design