Arena adapted to the ban on “shiny suits” with its carbon series, as of writing there are 5 versions: flex IV, air, ultra, and the now discontinued, but still available flex, and Pro. 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 https://www.fina.org/sites/default/files/frsa.pdf ). Arena responded by integrating carbon into the weave, hence the use of the word carbon in the names. The Flex is composed of 52% Nylon, 47% Elastane, 1% Carbon, and has bonded seams rather than stitched seams. While this composition is the same as that of the pro and they both seem to have the same “carbon cage” (well when I put them side by side they look the same), they differ in how they are put together. The panels of the flex are cut and arranged differently and include a “tape” along some seams to add power or tension along certain lines.
Why am I mentioning the pro so much in this review? Apart from their similar composition, I wore both the flex and the pro during the European Masters and the pro is the only other carbon suit I have right now.
Getting them on
For a tech suit, these aren’t too hard to get on. It does take a few minutes, but they are more flexible and stretchier than the pro so they have more “give” which helps and they take roughly the same amount of time to get on. When they are on, while tight, they are very comfortable. This made my wait in the call room easier and I could re-adjust it very easily compared to the pro as I queued up and lined up behind the blocks. The leg openings were very comfortable, and made the ones on the pro feel very tight by comparison. This meant that I didn’t have to worry about circulation being restricted.
I did take the advice given online to put water down the back of them before stepping on the blocks. Apparently this makes them “stick” to skin better and stops any air getting in on the dive and I avoided the type of issue my sister faced with her flex suitflex suit.
In the water
I swam two events with the suit, the 200m Free and the 200m IM. It was deliberately bought for these events. In the freestyle the performed just as good as I expected. There was enough compression and water repellency to make it feel like I was cutting through the water with a high body position, but it was flexible enough to feel unrestrictive.
This feeling of not being restricted really came to the fore in the 200m IM. I was looking forward to having a go at all four strokes with this suit and was not disappointed. I did an incredible split in the fly and pretty well in the backstroke. The breaststroke, however was the stroke I was most curious about before the event. I wasn’t sure how it would affect my kick. It worked perfectly, it didn’t feel restricted, but I could feel a little extra tension that helped support my kick. I tend to go too wide in my breaststroke kick, so this helped keep it tighter.
I don’t really have any complaints about the suit. I do wonder if it has less compression than the pro, I’m not sure if it actually does or if I even need more compression. I guess I will figure that out after a few more competitions with them.
I have read that some people complained about this suit when doing tumble turns, I have to say I didn’t feel the same and didn’t feel any restrictions. It was perfect for all of my turns in the 200 IM and the 200 freestyle.
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 more comfortable and flexible than the pro, they are still a bit restricting and you still need to 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.
To summarize, I really enjoyed this suit. It was “easy” to get on, comfortable to wear and helped me get some great times.
|Comfortable & flexible||Getting hard to find them|
|Helps keep a high body position|