The search for an entry-level wetsuit for triathlons can be daunting as there's plenty of options to choose from. All offer a plethora of features, so how do you choose the right suit for you?
2XU have attempted to combat this with their A:1 Active Wetsuit. The A:1 is focused primarily on providing swimmers with value and a range of features that you would normally expect to find on higher priced suits. So does the A:1 deliver on its ambitious aims or does it sink under the pressure?
One of the first things that will strike you when you put the A:1 on is its thickness. What felt like one of the thickest wetsuits that we have tested at this price range, the A:1 is perfect for those of us that are put off by cold morning swims or just the prospect of swimming in open water in general. The thick 100% Yamamoto neoprene is great for early or late season training or racing or for those particularly susceptible to the cold.
Tying into this thickness is, in our opinion, the A:1's stand-out feature. the 39 cell front buoyancy panel. If you are just getting into triathlons then it is probably safe to say that you are not going to be as confident or as powerful a swimmer as a veteran of the sport and this is where this buoyancy feature makes all of the difference.
The front buoyancy panel helps you maintain an even plane through the water while also allowing you save energy; ideal for super-sprint or sprint distances. This panel, along with the Velocity Strakes, is designed to improve your technique over time as it promotes the downhill swimming position, which in turn helps you to unlock more power.
Further aiding your swim technique are the A:1's Concave Water Entrapment Zones on the forearms. These improve your hydrodynamic profile without the loss of stroke power. The result is your arm movement is more efficient.
Yet another aid to improve efficiency is the Rollbar. 2XU claims this feature enhances body position in the water. The Rollbar is definitely effective, especially when swimming at top speed but that is not to say that it is going to prevent you from flipping over onto your back if you are especially tired and your technique starts to falter.
The transition is often an area where new triathletes can make up a massive amount of time, especially with some practice. The A:1 has certainly been designed with this in mind and its floating zip panel provides an extended reach, making it easy to undo and get off at T1. This does ultimately make it easier to find the zip strap in a hurry, allowing you to have the top half of the suit off before you get to your bike.
Rounding off the long list of features is the 520% stretch lining, which provides a good level of compression for your muscles. The practical application of this is a reduction in the threat of injury and fatigue plus a better fit overall. It does mean the A:1, like any wetsuit, proves arduous to get on when dry so ensure you allow enough time before your race to squeeze into it.
Much like 2XU's entire range the A:1 looks superb and the Velocity Strakes provide a unique visual accent that will definitely separate you from the competition when lining up on the start line.
Overall, despite the A:1 being a little dearer than some other companies' entry-level option, it certainly justifies this price tag with a range of features that you really can feel both in the water and transition. These are especially noticeable for those new to the sport or swimmers who are not as confident in the water. The energy saved by the buoyancy panel and Concave Water Entrapment Zones makes the swim an altogether more appealing and enjoyable prospect.