By Tom Demerly for TriSports.com
The wetsuit category is crowded with “performance” features to improve swim speed but short on testing to validate performance claims. It’s likely the best wetsuit is the one that floats your legs well, has a reasonably flexible upper torso (but not too flexible) and external trim features to improve low pressure/low speed hydrodynamics along with great fit and durability. That describes 2XU and their sweet-spot V:2 suit. Recent generation “super suits” may feel like wearing nothing in the water but are short on durability, barely surviving two seasons of regular racing. The 2XU V:2 strikes an industry best combination of everything you need in a performance wetsuit.
The 2XU V:2 strikes an industry best combination of everything you need a performance wetsuit to do.
Endurance brand 2XU (say “two times you”) has bucked the trend of unvalidated claims with their V:2 wetsuit, a mid-high end suit with great construction, materials, attention to detail, durability and even some speed enhancing design features that seem to work- or at least not hurt. This is a solid suit short on dubious bells and whistles and long on workmanship, durability, speed and overall value.
Any discussion of wetsuits needs to be prefaced with a nod to the lack of testing from wetsuit brands. While we compare drag statistics, mechanical features and weight of bicycles ad nauseum we don’t hold wetsuit manufactuers accountable for claims of wetsuit performance. For some reason bike technology testing is sexy and wetsuit technology testing is banal.
2XU can boast an impressive dossier of real-world practical results though. This reviewer has swam in 2XU suits enough in comparison to other suits that their models flush out as a preferred brand. Wetsuit “bestness” isn’t a matter of any one performance metric but rather the amalgam of ownership experience over a few years. Against that yardstick the 2XU V:2 measures up.
The 2XU V:2 starts with great placement of buoyant neoprene panels for the mid-80% swimmer. Most swimmers benefit from a suit that floats the legs and hips better, facilitating better body roll during the stroke. 2XU built extra floatation into the chest, legs and hips of the V:2. The hip floatation, or “Rollbar” places thicker neoprene panels at the top of the hip to help your body maintain good body roll while swimming. The added benefits include floating the lower body well to improve swim posture so you are “swimming downhill” and placing most buoyant, but least flexible neoprene in an area that has very little movement.
The V:2 suit uses a hydrodynamic coating called Nano SCS, a silicone film applied to the outer surface of the suit to reduce friction in the water. Similar coatings are used on competitive racing yachts to make the hull slippery in water. Another textile feature of the 2XU V:2 is Titanium Alpha, a fabric technology that resists water absorption over long swims, improves insulation and maintains buoyancy and hydrodynamics.
One of the most conspicuous features on the V:2 are the set of longitudinal grooves that run lengthwise on the torso of the suit. These “Velocity Strakes” perform a few subtle functions including stability, better directional control, trapping a film of buoyant bubbles against the torso for better floatation and, like the lines on the underside of a large whale, facilitate both hydrodynamics and suit expansion for better breathing.
At the back of the suit 2XU uses a conventional zipper pull that opens from the top to the bottom. The zipper is mounted in a “Floating Zip Panel” that seperates the neoprene panel with the zipper from the rest of the suit to make the back of the suit more flexible. 2XU claims this increases distance per stroke. After swimming in early versions of the suit one benefit I can atest to is the durability and ease of use of this zipper system. Wetsuit zippers get abused during fast removals and this construction technique seems particularly durable for fast wetsuit removals.
At the top of the suit there are no forward-facing seams crossing the shoulder for improved hydrodynamics and better shoulder flexibility. Since the neoprene fabric is more flexible than a line of stitching this subtle design feature is one that helps this suit swim so well. The neckline is very low to prevent chafing and features a rolled-over smoothskin section to seal out water. This may be the most effective neck design we’ve tried on any wetsuit. We had no “wetsuit hickey” with this neck design even in salt water swims.
Pull panel forearms on wetsuits are a common design theme. These ribbed sections are intended to improve grip on the water during the catch phase of the stroke. Some manufacturers use a design with ribs that extend sideways across the forearm of the suit. While this may improve grip on the catch phase of the stroke it also likely increases drag at the other side of the glide phase buy running sideways to your forearm. 2XU seems to have moderated this design by installing longitudinal or parallel ribs at the forearm to trap water during the pull but, since they run the length of the arm instead of the width, they don’t slow you down during the entry phase of the stroke.
2XU continued the real-world construction details at the leg openings of the suit. The leg openings are angle-cut to pass over the thickest part of your lower leg easier. Seams are locked with reinforcing tape to give season after season durability even with frantic suit removal. All seam intersections are dot-taped for reinforcement. Fabric at the bottom of the leg is more flexible too, making high-speed removal easier in T1.
At the outside of the lower leg a Propulsion Panel is built in that mimics the Concave Water Entrapment Zone on the forearms. There are also more Velocity Strakes molded into the lower leg, facilitating better kick, hydrodynamics and lower leg flexibility for fast removal. The lower leg design works well for quick removal using only your feet. You can pull the suit down from the waist to just below the knees in one motion, then, with practice, quickly slip one leg out at a time without using your hands.
The 2XU V:2 is sold in 16 sizes and runs true to the manufacturer size chart. At 5’9″ and 173 pounds I fell directly in the “Medium” size range and this suit fit perfectly at the neck, shoulders and inseam. A women’s version is also available with 7 sizes and modified, gender specific fit and panel configuration. 2XU provides a 2-year warranty against manufacturing defects with the V:2.
With full wetsuit price ranges spanning a $1000 range it’s difficult to decide where your best value lies. If you want a premium suit with proven features and multi-season durability that is built to use the way triathletes really swim and use their wetsuit the 2XU V:2 s a functional and performance oriented choice. I consider the V:2 the stand-out suit in the $600 +/- price category with its optimal mix of performance and practical features and $599 price tag.