Tuesday, 1 August 2017

SLOWTWITCH: The Colting SR02 Swimrun wetsuit

My latest review for the guys at Slowtwitch.
Jonas Colting is well known and liked for his dynamic and lively personality and his athletic resume contains impressive results in major competitions around the globe. He is best known for racing IRONMAN and ITU Long distance events, but Colting also found a calling at the Ultraman World Championships in Hawaii. The gifted swimmer grabbed the wins at the 515-kilometer long three-day competition in 2004 and 2007.

The 44-year-old Swede is still very busy today. In addition to writing books and training programs, he is a motivational speaker, produces a podcast, organizes races and still is driven to take on distinctive sporting adventures. In 2014 he swam 640 kilometers through Sweden followed by a 140-kilometer swim around the island of Phuket in 2016 and just recently he swim circumnavigated the Swedish island of Gotland. But all of this apparently is not enough. A few years ago Colting formed his own brand that produces wetsuits and various other swimming products.

Although the Sweden-born sport of Swimrun is starting to gain popularity around the world, it is nothing new for Colting. Since the very first competition at the Stockholm Archipelago in 2006, Colting toed the start line of every edition of this unique and hard race. Even though he did not finish every attempt, he won the race three times. Jonas Colting was a main figure in spreading the word about this innovative endurance team sport even though there was no real name for it at the beginning. He also directed the ÖtillÖ organizers to slim down their enormous rulebook they had laid out for the first editions. Competitors had to carry a lot of safety equipment and floating devices during the initial Ötillö races. It was Colting who apparently suggested to the organizers to condense the compulsory gear to the standard we know today. In addition to regular triathlon and open water wetsuits the Colting brand also offers a specific Swimrun suit and related gear. I recently had the chance to examine the company’s latest wetsuit flagship model – the SR02.
Swimrun specific wetsuits need to support athletes while swimming, moreover the suits need to be flexible and light as contestants must be able to run with them. The SR02 undoubtedly feels light and not like a usual neoprene suit. The natural body movement in both elements is not limited.
The SR02 is the top model in Colting’s Swimrun range. In addition to this model the Swedish brand offers more suits that come in specific male or female models.

The front zip is a characteristic feature of every Swimrun specific suit. It allows competitors to open up the suit while running. Unquestionably running in a synthetic rubber suit can get pretty sticky due to the insulating characteristics of the material. As a result an opened-up suit allows the body to cool down and permits better movement. It also allows athletes to access the internal storage pockets where compulsory equipment, foodstuff or gels can be kept during races. The YRR zip on the SR02 is easy to handle and allows a quick opening and closing process. However the diminutive neoprene shield on top of the zip can be in the way from time to time. Throughout hectic competitions with lots of changeovers this is just an added but avoidable “transition-step”.
There is a never ending discussion among Swimrunners. The typical zip on the back of the suit is well known from triathlon and open water suits. During lengthier run sections competitors like to have the option to pull down their suit to not overheat. For some athletes this procedure is easier carried out while using the zip on the rear and the one on the front. Nevertheless an additional zip adds weight and the process of opening and closing the suit costs energy during a competition. The very stretchy neoprene of the SR02 suit permits stress-free removing of the suit without the use of the rear zip. The lively debate among Swimrunners will consequently continue and it undoubtedly is a very individual preference. 

A distinctive feature - the SR02 comes with added flotation material in the front part of the thighs. Colting calls this the “Power Thigh”, a feature that allows more buoyancy. As nearly all Swimrunners will use a pull-buoy to help their body go up in the water and get more streamlined, the “Power Thighs” are meant to eliminate the usage of a pull-buoy. Through races with lots of changeovers this can be huge benefit. On courses with lengthier swim segments the flotation is just too little and it is hard to compromise the profits of a pull-buoy.

A comparatively young sport generates a lot of material experiments. A feature that is commonly seen during races are all sorts of floatation materials stowed in compressions socks to compensate the burden of swimming with shoes. In addition to the Swimrun suit Colting bids two different dimensions of “Swimcalfs SC02”. The comfortable calf guards come in two sizes with a 14mm or 25mm thick front panel dependent on the athletes swimming skills. I will use them both at Angaloppet and the ÖtillÖ World Championships.
Thinner material is used for the hip and thighs area. Combined with the smart designed cut of the suit this benefits the running movement. The SR02 is a suit that has the athletes running stride and movement in mind. Whereas this was a problem with previous Swimrun suits and amended triathlon suits it is implemented particularly well in the SR02.
Accurately finished sewing and gluing can be seen all over the suit. Swimrun suits need to take a lot of beating from whatever the course throws at it. Rocky swim exits, tight forest trails and the requirement to strip the suit on and off. With all that in mind the SR02 comes with protected and glued inner stitching and pleasantly finished glue jobs.
Four storage compartments can be found inside the front of the suit. They are designed to hold nutrition supplies or mandatory equipment such as emergency medical gear. Completely filled-up they can limit the upper-body flexibly while swimming. Stored sensibly they are very helpful and allow independence from the official aid stations. The pocket design is well thought out as minor holes on the bottom allow water to flow out fast.
Scandinavian design with Asian ingredients. The Borås, Sweden based enterprise used the widespread Yamamoto neoprene from Japan to produce a suit that allows maximum flexibility with an accurate and comfortable fitting.
Unquestionably the SR02 is a fast looking suit. Although the distinctive design is down to personal taste the actual performance on the suit is brilliant. The elasticity in the shoulder part is remarkable and assist swimmers of all capabilities to maintain their movement. Thinner neoprene in the crotch and hip area create a suit that does not compromise.
Inside the shoulder parts Colting used an extremely flexible material and called it “Quad Stretch”. It supports the movement while running and allows a great sense of freedom in the water. The flexibility surely is there and sticks out. 1.5 mm neoprene is used in the shoulder, arm and leg parts on the other hand 5 mm thickness can be found in the front parts which benefits the buoyancy. The SR02 is a proper Swimrun suit with a lot of thought out features. Whereas special Swimrun suits are often a compromise, this suit appropriately caters all the necessities this Sport obliges. It will be interesting to see how the market replies to the requirements. The SR02 Colting surely sets a standard!

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