Back at the beginning of the supersuit era Adidas were there front and centre. Ian Thorpe’s black all in one was one of the most iconic sights in the pool for several years, but as time wore on, despite the next generation of jet concept suits as worn by Olympic champion Jodie Henry, and a brief appearance with the Hydrofoil full poly number in 2009, they had faded somewhat from the suit market. Until last year, when Adidas returned with their new Adizero XVI suits and a host of elite athletes signed up to wear them, including Britain’s Chris Walker-Hebborn, Andrew Willis and Ben Proud.
And they are good looking suits – compared to the conventional black and safe block colours that many of their rivals adopt (Tyr’s psychedelic Avictor range aside). The external tapes and the print look great to my eye, but in a sea of high end performance suits, is it style over substance?
The fabric is a nylon/lycra blend as might be expected at this end of the market, with bonded seams and silicon grippers at the leg ends and waistline to help keep the edges in place. The external tapes, claim Adidas, are positioned to maximise the benefit of the suit and indeed there are two versions, one for breaststroke and one for other strokes, with the tape positions tuned to the leg movements required.
The panel set up, combined with the fabric properties and tapes, gave a high level of compression on the thighs and very high levels of rigidity across the top. Indeed the waistband and trunk element of the suit were so stiff that it felt almost like having a plank of wood strapped across the hips. That combination provided compression to the extent that the first time I wore it, and having made the mistake of putting the suit on a bit early, I had started to get pins and needles in my feet by the time of my race.
In the water the suit felt good. The waist band stayed in place well, which with low rise racing suits can often be an issue, and there was no evidence of water flushing down the back, while the coated fabric sheds water very well (pro tip: when rinsing the suit turn it inside out if you want to avoid water all over your trousers).
The only question mark I found might be over the longevity. While all racing suits degrade, it was noticeable how much harder it was to get on the first time than the third time I raced in this suit. That might have been a case of better practice (and there is a 6 page book explaining how to get the suit on included in the packaging) but could easily have been some relaxation in the fabric. While there was no visible evidence of degradation and the compression was still excellent at the third time of asking, it does suggest this is a suit for targeted races only.
It’s not a cheap suit with an RRP in excess of £250 (albeit at the time of writing it can be found for less than half that with some shopping around) but it’s comparable in cost to its more established rivals from Speedo and Arena and is well worth considering as an alternative.