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Review: Aqua Sphere Icon wetsuit
Posted by: Editor
Posted on: Thursday 14th May 2009


Tags  Aqua Sphere  |  Icon  |  John Franklin  |  Wetsuit Test


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Last month I approached two of the fastest growing triathlon brands in the UK, Aqua Sphere (www.aquasphereuk.co.uk) and Fusion (www.fusionsportsuk.co.uk) with an idea and a challenge. I was looking to secure one of my product testing team with some of the highest performance equipment available (wetsuit and race kit), for an extra special product review.

The kit would be thoroughly tested in race conditions at the Spec-Savers Ironman South Africa. I'd also said that the tester "was targeting winning his age group and qualifying for Kona". Given it wasn't me, it was an easy claim to make! Well, thankfully both brands delivered on my requests - and despite a puncture - tester John Franklin delivered on my bold claims too, winning the 18-24 Age Group by just two minutes and booking his Kona slot.

How did the equipment perform? Today John reports on the top-of-the-range Aqua Sphere Icon wetsuit.


As most triathletes are well aware, training and racing are two very different beasts, and, as such, the kit we use on race day is going to be subject to different demands to the equipment we elect to use on a daily and weekly basis. On April 5th, three pieces of kit were put through their paces in the most extreme conditions possible at Ironman South Africa. On a day where temperatures peaked at 34 degrees, the clothes I chose to wear experienced just over ten hours of racing. So, how did they fair under the circumstances?

Aqua Sphere Icon wetsuit

The Aqua Sphere Icon wetsuit is a relatively new contender in the tri-specific wetsuit market. Retailing at around £330 [Ed. though a quick 'google' suggests you can get hold of one for under £300 if you search hard enough...] and worn by top Ironman and previous world champion Faris Al-Sultan, it is competing directly with other top of the range wetsuits. Having previously been swimming in a mid-ranged suit from another brand, the first thing that struck me was the softness and flexibility of the material. Even to touch it felt high quality (the fact that it comes with its own briefcase style container only further enhances its high end credentials – although this is unlikely to make you swim any faster).

Front & rear of Icon

I opted for a medium-large size and the fit was superb. Being tall, 194cm, but only 75kg I find it difficult to find a good fitting wetsuit as often manufacturers assume that at over 6 feet I must weigh in excess of 80kg. The mobility in the shoulders felt excellent and unrestricted as a result of the five panel construction allowing different parts of the suit to move independently of each other. Equally, the increased mobility behind the knee meant the suit was not only easy to run in but also a doddle to remove; transition has never been quicker!

Multi-panel arm, shoulder and under-arm detailing for max flexibiity

The Icon got put through its paces at Hampton Pool to begin with and the contrast with my previous suit was clear from the start. The ease and range of movement in the shoulders was excellent almost to the point where you could forget you were wearing a wetsuit at all. As a relatively average swimmer (23:20 PB for 1500m open water and 59:30 for 3.8k), the added buoyancy was welcome in the lower body and I found that on it's first outing I posted a one minute PB over 3.6k in the pool.

3mm legsOn race day the Icon lived up to expectations. The varying neoprene thickness made the beach start and mid-swim run easier than a thicker wetsuit would have and despite not posting a PB (1:02 for 3.8k), I exited the water feeling relatively fresh. I was surprised not to post a new best given the times shown in training, but I suspect that this is a combination of a beach start and a loose timing chip half way through which I has to stop and rectify, rather than a reflection on what is, in my opinion, a very quick and comfortable wetsuit.

In conclusion the Icon is without doubt a step-up in terms of quality and performance from mid-range wetsuits and in that sense justifies the price tag. The mobility and attention to detail are second to none and I have no doubt that later on in the season it will see me well on the way to new open water PBs at both half and full iron distance events.

We'll report back later in the year on the durability aspects of the suit, and how it stands up to a full season of training and racing.

 

 


Check back tomorrow when John will report on how his Fusion race kit performed in the blazing South Africa sun.


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