By Tom Demerly for TriSports.com.
Synergy Sport is one of those little success stories that typify the great brands in our sport. Like De Soto Sport, HED Wheels and Quintana Roo bikes Synergy started as a few inspired people who love triathlons. Unlike those original brands Synergy is a relatively new company. They are related to the Gray brand of aerodynamic, carbon fiber race wheels, aero helmets and clothing/accessories. Headquartered in Minden, Nevada, Synergy’s Chief Designer Stefan Laursen started doing triathlons in 1983. A fifteen-year veteran of pro triathlons with over 100 wins Laursen actually sewed his own first wetsuit when he was only 13.
Laursen’s insights on wetsuit design make their $239 price point Endorphin full suit a strong value since he left in the features that really improve wetsuit performance and made good concessions to maintain price where they won’t matter much.
Keeping the Price Down: The “Take”.
Firstly, where they save you some money: Synergy builds so many performance oriented features into the Endorphin that there had to be some concessions, and there are. It’s easy to make a $500 wetsuit swim great but the Endorphin is a lesson in economy, good design, clever sourcing and what key features to leave in to make a $200 suit swim well.
Synergy saved a buck or two by building a simple neck design. It did not roll over into a smoothskin inner surface on our suit but transitions immediately to jersey fabric on the inside. This differed from the product description on Synergy’s website that reads, “1mm SmoothSkin on both side creates a seal that is impenetrable and soft”.
As seen in our photos the inside neck of our suit was jersey fabric. While this design does not seal as well as the rolled-over smoothskin necks it may be easier on the skin around your neck and it is easier to build. No swim split has ever been won strictly due to a rolled-over smoothskin inner neck design so this is a good concession. Interior reinforcing on the suit uses square taping as opposed to round tape patches. While we have never seen this happen on a Synergy wetsuit it is conceivable the corners could peel up easier than on a round piece of finish tape as seen on some higher priced suits. I’m not even willing to say this is a concession its so minor.
Synergy uses a simple but robust zipper design on this suit, and it is similar to the original full suits we saw in the late 1980’s. It unzips from the top down, as with the original fullsuits designed by Dan Empfield. Thousands of pro and age group victories have been won using this original zipper configuration.
Building Performance In: The “Give”.
5 mm neoprene on the entire front body and upper leg. If you only pay attention to one feature on the Endorphin, re-read that sentence. The thickest neoprene allowed by USAT competitive rules is built into the chest and upper panels. This provides optimal floatation making the suit faster. A recent trend in entry price point suits is to go thinner in the chest and keep the thickness in the legs. While that is a good philosophy since it helps float your legs and level your waterline while swimming, it isn’t as buoyant overall as wearing an entire front panel of 5 mm neoprene which has more floatation than thinner neoprene. Synergy built a super buoyant front on the entire submerged surface of the wetsuit. Well done.
The back of the suit is a thinner 3 mm neoprene. I’ll suggest this is a bonus since it helps flexibility and broadens temperature range. This suit is warm enough for the coldest swims if you add a Synergy neoprene swim cap but it will also swim well all the way up to the USAT upper water temperature limit of 78 degrees (USAT Article IV, section 4.4 “Wetsuits”). The shoulders and arms use thinner 2 mm HiFlex neoprene for full mobility. The neck is the thinnest part of the suit at 1 mm thick.
Synergy did a nice job of “fairing in” the zipper on the back of the suit with a neoprene draft flap that covers the zipper well when closed. It prevents leakage at the zipper and is more hydrodynamic.
Another high-end feature is the SCS silicone speed coating on the suit. This coating is common on high end suits and applied to the front of some value priced suits. Synergy also uses “Aqualift” panels on the sides of the torso and legs to facilitate good body roll during the freestyle stroke, another feature seen on more expensive suits.
Another feature you look for on fullsuits is some kind of “gripper” on the inner forearm to hold water during the catch phase of the stroke. It’s intuitive that the design ought run longitudinal or parallel to your arm so it does not create extra drag during the entry phase of the stroke but still “grips” during the catch phase providing better traction on the forearm. Synergy has a set of “Powermax” ribs on the front of their arms that extend from wrist to elbow. I like their forearm gripper since it is smoothskin while others use some type of ribbed applique over nylon outer fabric, a less expensive and hydrodynamic alternative. It’s another detail that Synergy got right on this suit.
Synergy was attendant to details on the Endorphin by building an aggressive concave speed-cut into the lower leg. This concave scallop cut at the back of the lower leg effectively makes the leg hole larger facilitating faster removal. The design works since we could easily get the suit off from the waist in only a few seconds and mostly with our feet.
The Perfect Fit: Decoding the Size Chart.
The Synergy Endorphin is sold in no less than 16 sizes in Men’s and Women’s specific patterns. That is the same number of sizes as suits starting at $80 more. The size names for the Synergy suits are different than what you may see in other manufacturers’ charts. That is likely a good idea since it compels the customer to read the size specifications carefully before picking a size.
Some wetsuit brands can be characterized as “athletic” or working more readily on the thin, fit athlete build. While those suits have there place the sizing across some of the chart with Synergy seems more forgiving for the average age grouper. Patterns seem a little broader through the torso and chest.
The suit swam well in our tests, on par with suits at higher price points and noticeably more buoyant than a few other entry price suits. A big boon is the patterning or fit of this suit. Since the size chart is arranged a little differently than some brands there seems to be more opportunity for the rank n’ file age grouper who isn’t 6′ tall and 145 pounds. Synergy seems to have distributed sizing to fit a wide range of builds in their fit chart, including more robust builds.
I’ve sold triathlon wetsuits since they were invented and the hardest part is watching a customer struggle to get them on and off when fitting. Either through patterning, fabric, sizing or all three the Synergy suit was easier to put on than a lot of suits we’ve tried, another attractive feature to new athletes.
Synergy isn’t just a marketing company branding third party designs. Their insights into the features that matter are apparent in the value priced Endorphin. The all smoothskin outer alone is a coup at this price. The experience of Stefan Laursen in the sport is apparent in the thoughtful attention to detail in the Endorphin. Synergy may have nailed the entry price point full suit with this offering.