The Best Wetsuit For Sinky Legs? (And Cold Water)

What is the best triathlon swimming wetsuit for sinky legs?   This is the question I set out to answer, motivated entirely by self-interest.

I am not a great swimmer.  In the pool I'm slow because my legs sink.  Partly that's due to poor technique but bio-mechanics are also to blame.

I've never been able to point my toes properly, even as a child, so in the pool my feet downward pointing feet drag my legs down and my speed slows.

I need a wetsuit that's going to give maximum lift to my legs.  I think I've found it in the Blueseventy Thermal Helix.  Which do you prefer and why?  Do you share the sinky legs problem?  I'd like to know.  

I swam 1.5km and 1.7km in rather cold water this weekend, deliberately not kicking, yet my ankles were on or close to the surface.  Result!

It has taken me over a year to choose and this is how I went about it.  Firstly, I ignored any wetsuits designed for or recommended by good swimmers.  If they have no problem streamlining their body in the pool, then they don't need or want the thicker neoprene in a wetsuit.

I wanted a suit with the thickest neoprene allowed in triathlon (5mm) on the hips and down the full length of the thighs.

Had I been starting my search now I certainly would have looked at Orca.

They're currently advertising their range of wetsuits with exactly this in mind, understanding that top swimmers need a different type of suit to us sinky legs types.

Take a look at and you'll see what I mean.

That was not around last year when I started my search for the perfect wetsuit for me.  At the London Triathlon show, I narrowed my choice down to three; Zone 3 Aspire, Huub Archimedes, and the Blueseventy Helix.

All of which were seriously, hideously  expensive.

First swim in the Thermal Helix
At the same show, Zone 3 were selling ex-demo Aspire suits at a much more manageable price, and this won me over.

It was a good buy, but deep down I knew it was a temporary one.

I used the Zone 3 Aspire suit for all 2016's races and it performed pretty well.  But it wasn't without problems.

The low neck-line prevented chafing but, with arm movement, it occasionally gaped allowing water to flood in, holding me back.

That also meant it wasn't very warm.  We swim year-round in the loch and when the temperature dropped I found myself pulling on my ancient Blueseventy Reaction with neoprene vest and shorts underneath.

To work out the precise neoprene thickness of the Zone 3 Aspire I used these vernier callipers.  I took a large pinch of the fabric, so it was double thickness, measured that thickness and halved the figure.  My ex-demo Zone 3 was definitely less than 5mm where I felt it mattered.  Perhaps it compressed with use?

So at the start of the year I renewed my search for a wetsuit which would lift my sinky legs and keep me warm in Scottish lochs through winter.  Eventually I whittled the choice down to two - Huub and Blueseventy.

Callipers measuring the Thermal Helix
Using Wiggle's excellent returns system I bought a couple of Huub Archimedes 3:5 wetsuits, the ones designed for sinky legs.  

Buying two meant I could get exactly the right size for me.    

The callipers revealed that these too were under 5mm where I felt it mattered.  

This might have just been the particular model I tried, because I know lots of triathletes rely on their Huub suits to cure their sinky legs.  Clearly they work for some people.  But in my case they were returned to Wiggle before the charge appeared on my credit card.  

On the same order I bought a Thermal Helix and when it put it alongside the Huub, there really seemed no contest.  The Thermal Helix measured slightly over 5mm, probably due to the extra 'zirconium' lining.  That orange, slightly fleecy inside is what adds the additional warmth to this suit.

Blueseventy Helix
Best of all, the 5mm panels were exactly where I wanted them.  The diagram alongside shows where Blueseventy place the 5mm panels.  My callipers showed this diagram to be spot-on.

Incidentally, I found that diagram on an excellent Slowtitch article which is well worth reading to learn more about wetsuits in general.

The more I read about them, the more I appreciate the work which goes into the top end suits.

For example, I looked at the detail around the back of each knee.  Each dot on the photo below is a point of reinforcement where seams are joined.

Join the dots
Liz's Speedo suit has two dots on each knee - there was no point in posting a photo because black dots on black liner don't show up.

But black dots on the orange liner certainly do, and you can see how many there all.

All this to add a little more articulation to the knee.  Somewhat wasted on someone who doesn't kick!

You'll notice I tested and ended up buying the 'Thermal' version of the Helix suit.  Because I was buying such an expensive wetsuit it had to be one could swim in year-round.  If it's too hot for specific races then I'll switch to the Zone 3. Just please - make them all be wetsuit legal!

Other reviews - Triathlete Magazine.

Shoe Covers - These Are Pretty Good

Don't worry, this blog isn't suddenly going to fill up with thinly disguised adverts for Pearl Izumi.

But these Pearl Izumi shoe covers are pretty good.  Why?  Four things stand out.

1. I like the colour which I think is safer than the more standard black.

I've driven past cyclists using fluro shoe covers and my eyes are caught early by the up-and-down movement of pedalling.

Cycleways - How To Waste Money and Annoy Lots of People

Should you build if you can't afford to maintain?
It's very simple.  Build a cycleway then fail to maintain it, clean it or keep it free of parked vehicles.

Some cycleways around here are so covered in rocks (spat out by vehicle tyres), leaves and thorns (from overhanging trees) and floodwater (from blocked drains) that it's actually safer to ride on the road.

This annoys the cyclists, who know there's a perfectly good cycleway nearby.  It annoys the drivers who don't understand why the cyclists are not using the perfectly good cycleway.  And it annoys everyone because of the waste of money.

Should Local Authorities build cycleways if they can't keep their existing ones in decent condition?

Join Us On Our Next Charity Swim?

Forty six swimmers turned out yesterday for the first of the Highland Open Water Swims.  So far we've all raised more than £1400 for the Children with Cancer Charity.  So that's all good then.

The next swim is in fact a whole wheeled of swimming.  The main swim on Saturday 22nd April when we'll swim 1.4km across Loch Sunart to the Resipole Campsite.  Swimmers will be ferried across to the start point by safety RIB.

Pearl Izumi Champion, Induction Day - Video

Marketing people, who're trying to reach a specific demographic, have made use of social media intermediaries for several years.

You want to launch a new mascara? You get one of those make-up Vloggers, with gazillions of followers, to talk about it on their YouTube channel.

Imagine that but substitute cycling kit for mascara and you're close to what Pearl Izumi are attempting with their 'Champion' programme.

Close, but not quite there.

Ten Best Open Water Swim Events in Scotland

Apologies if readers of the Sunday Mail were put off their breakfast last weekend by my ugly mug gurning out of Loch Sunart.

But a huge thank you to FionaOutdoors for including two of our three charity swims.  You can download the full article from her website.

The first of these across the Corran Narrows takes place next weekend on 19th March.  Full details at Highland Open Water Swim.

Pearl Izumi Champion Team Member

Last year I applied for, and was accepted into, the Pearl Izumi Champion Team for 2017.

It's reportedly an ambassadorial programme in which a team of cyclists of diverse ability are invited to represent the brand and in return are given a small about of limited edition kit.

It's not a sponsorship deal like a winning racer might attract.  The common link between the fifty or so chosen is that they're active on social media.  You can find us by looking for the #PIChampion hashtag.

The Colorado based business has previously run similar programmes in the USA.