Arena adapted to the ban on “shiny suits” with its carbon series, as of writing there are four versions; flex, air, ultra, and pro. Pro was the main suit around the time of the London Olympics. The previously mentioned ban requires suits to be permeable, textile, and of a certain thickness (if you want to read the full rules click here), Arena responded by integrating carbon into the weave. The suit is composed of 52% Nylon, 47% Elastane, 1% Carbon, and has bonded seams rather than stitched seams. Despite being several years old, this mix is still up there with current elite suits, indeed a worker in a swim shop confided that the line is so popular and still so good (for us non-olympians) that they think the line is being discontinued in order to push the newer lines, however another supplier complained that teens she sold the suits too found them too long and hard to put on (I haven’t found this). How Arena have integrated this carbon weave depends on the version, in the Pro version they have created a “carbon cage”. Which essentially means it looks like lots of little squares in the suit. According to Arena the cage works by locking the suits shape which allows it to keep a high level of compression, this plus the number of panels in the design and the “cut” makes the suit ideal for freestylers. While this suit should be ok for backstroke and you could chance butterfly with it, it isn’t the suit for you if you are planning on an IM or breaststroke if you have the option of buying the carbon air or flex XV.
I bought this suit partly because; I’m a freestyler, I’ve heard the cage means it lasts longer, and you can get a very good deal on it. It’s a bit of an odd situation, the line is winding down, but I have seen it on sale from anywhere between 100-250 euros. This was my first higher end suit, and I took the advice for Arena suits to not size down. It was still a struggle to get them on, but once on they are very comfortable.
In the water they are incredible, the compression held for every race I’ve worn them in with no sign of them loosening by the time I got out of the pool. They are also quite hydrophobic, you only really see how much when trying to rinse them out after each race. The water just beads off them. Their shape and water repellence also help pull your body up into a high position. All of this results of course in less resistance, which sounds very scientific, but feels fantastic. Wearing these I cut through water like never before.
My previous advice for tech suits still stands, don’t wear them in the warm up or for half the day. Don’t even put them on until you have to. Despite being comfortable when on, they are restricting so be careful how you sit or move. Dry yourself before putting them on and take them off straight after the race, well once you’re back in the changing room of course, and rinse them in water. Only wear them as long as you need to in order to get the most out of them.
It’s hard to really find fault with this suit, the only down side seems to be its for freestylers, but then that’s only a downside for non-freestylers. I can’t comment on longevity as I’ve only worn them for the Irish Masters Open and the World Masters, but I will give an update on this when they do begin to go and one when I try them for a backstroke event.
|Good compression||Not really for IM or Breastroke|
|Helps keep a high body position|