By Tom Demerly for TriSports.com.
Blueseventy traces its roots back to 1993 under a different name early in the history of triathlon wetsuits. In 2005 the company was re-badged “Blueseventy” in reference to the seventy percent of the earth that is covered with water. The company was an early developer of non-neoprene, warm water legal swimskins- what you wear when wetsuits aren’t legal- as debuted in Kona in 2006. Blueseventy went on to be a major swimskin innovator for Olympic events.
The Fusion from Blueseventy is a leg floater with thicker 4 mm Yamamoto neoprene panels south of your waist and a thinner 3 mm chest panel. The idea is to correct waterline and position the swimmer- especially the new swimmer who needs the most help- in a level swim attitude. This is a common approach to wetsuit design in the age of the Terry Laughlin Total Immersion style but some wetsuit brands reserve this swimmer positioning feature to their very high end suits.
An additional benefit to using the thinner 3 mm chest panel is some latitude on the size chart and incredible freedom of movement in the arms, also owing to the 1.5 mm FLEX panels. This is a go-to suit for swimmers with a very large chest or athletes who perceive a wetsuit as restrictive.
A refreshing benefit of the Fusion is simple design. This suit hearkens back to the very first fullsuits, which were extremely fast. The entire outside of the suit (except the very bottom/rear leg) is smoothskin neoprene. There is no exposed jersey fabric to increase friction with the water, get soaked and reduce buoyancy or interrupt the slippery outer surface of the suit. Most other entry price point full suits have fabric panel underarms as a cost cutting concession. Blueseventy took the high road with the upper body design of the Fusion by going all smoothskin.
The suit uses a conventional zipper design that unzips downward. The zipper, leash and neck closure are beefy enough for multiple race seasons even with repeated high speed removals.
There is a water-grip enhancing trim panel sewn into the forearm. Instead of a set of horizontal ribs that may slow arm entry the Fusion has a textured forearm that improves “grip” during the pull phase. It’s hard to rate the true effectiveness of these stroke panels, but some stroke panels feel more effective than others. The forearm panel on Fusion falls in between. You don’t get sore shoulders after your first 500 in the pool from holding the water too effectively on the forearm and it does not detract from the suit’s performance or feel. A benefit of this design is maintaining good feel for the water since it is relatively thin. I like this panel design, it’s a good middle ground.
Fusion also uses a well designed lower leg for quick removal in T1. The legs are angle-cut to increase the total size of the leg opening. The back of the leg does use a swatch of jersey fabric that is uber-flexible. Your feet blow right through this opening in T1. It’s one of few suits, especially at entry price point, that you can get off from the knees without using your hands by pulling one leg out, stepping on the suit with the free foot and jerking the other foot out. The leg opening is a great design.
Our swim tester, Marty Mares of TriSports.com, found no drawbacks with the Fusion and commented that it went on, fit and swam like more expensive suits. In the about- $300 price point this suit is a contender. We particularly liked the almost entirely smoothskin outer on the Fusion, especially when some value-priced suits are using a Nylon 2-sided panel under both arms to reduce cost. While that is a proven way to build a value priced full suit the Blueseventy Fusion goes beyond the typical entry price point specifications with a nicer overall fabric selection. This is a leading suit in the entry price category for full suits.
Other than Quintana Roo’s Superfull, I’ve probably swam more races in the Blueseventy Helix than any other suit in the six years it has been available. The Euro-tri magazine “220″ awarded one of four “Wetsuit of the Year” awards won in the media by the Helix. After swimming in a lot of suits the reason I settled on this one is simple: It swam the best. While there may (or may not…) be faster suits such as De Soto’s unique two piece design with ultra-thick legs the Helix is the best all-around suit I’ve used. As the Helix has evolved it has only gotten better.
I’m a back of the middle pack to middle pack swimmer. I can swim distance, but I can’t swim with the leaders in most cases. I want a suit with a ton of floatation and effortless stroke feel in the arms. I also want a suit that doesn’t take on water as the swim gets longer, as with Ironman Canada, Wisconsin or New Zealand. That means precise fit. Lastly, I’m not a fan of wetsuits built entirely of super stretchy neoprene. Suits made of Yamamoto Type 40 neoprene, the most flexible neoprene commonly used in swimming wetsuits, seemed almost tooflexible to me and seemed to change fit throughout the swim no matter how tight I wore them. They were also prone to damage. If you want to read the best insight into swimming wetsuit fabrics written, and written by the man who invented the triathlon wetsuit, Dan Empfield, go here.
While a lot goes into making a suit swim well the key design of the Helix is a perfectly dialed upper body. It lets you swim efficiently and freely while providing the right waterline. Blueseventy built three key components into the upper body and sleeve of Helix to make it swim well. Firstly, their VO2 chest panel is both flexible for better fit and breathing and super thick for good flotation. For athletes who feel a lot of chest tightness in stiffer wetsuits this may be an answer. Second, Blueseventy makes judicious use of Yamamoto 40 cell neoprene only in places where it benefits range of motion for an easy stroke. Best of all worlds: great floatation combined with flexibility. Finally, the TST or “Torsional Stretch Panels” allow easier reach at the front one-third of the stroke. The benefit of this design becomes apparent in long, rough water swims.
For the crowd that loves dimples the chest panel and legs of the Helix are dimpled. We can’t measure if this makes the suit faster but do see a coating of bubbles adhere to the suit when submerged partially because of the dimpled surface. This may marginally increase buoyancy and reduce friction with the water, although Blueseventy makes no specific claims to do so.
In addition to the dimples that run down the chest of the suit there is also a flex panel at the back of the knee. Rather than use a nylon two-sided panel, which I’m convinced absorbs water during longer swims, Blueseventy opted for a textured rubber outer panel that serves the purpose of improving flexibility but does not soak up water like two-sided nylon. Another potential benefit is this flexible panel seems to make the suit come off faster.
Blueseventy goes on to build several nice comfort and fast doffing features in the Helix including a nice, chafe-resistant neck design, speed cut legs for quick removal and a reverse zipper that pulls upward to open making accidental opening during the swim nearly impossible.
The combination of proven features and recent improvements in the Helix along with a legacy of upgrades cement its position as a best in category suit. At $650 the suit isn’t inexpensive, but this review will tell you it swims- or out swims- some of the new generation of $1000 super-suits. By that measure the suit could be considered a good value. Price point discussion aside, the suit swims great and is super fast, not only in the water but also in T1 where it peels off faster than a ripe orange.
Blueseventy’s dedication to swim speed apparel is proven in triathlon and Olympic swim events and the newer Olympic open water swims. They don’t make bikes and only recently started making triathlon apparel. Swim is their primary business and the Fusion and Helix wetsuits prove they continue to do it very well.