DeSoto T1 Water Rover Wetsuit Review

I had a 5,000 yard swim on the schedule last night so I decided it was the perfect time to take my new DeSoto T1 Water Rover out for a spin. I have a couple of 4,000 yard swims under my belt already this year, so 5,000 yards was going to be tough but doable. I wanted to get in a little longer distance than what will be required for Ironman St. George in a couple of weeks.

I really try and be an informed consumer. I research products I am going to buy. I read reviews by publications I trust. I try and find reviews of the product by real people who are not sponsored by the company. This winter I knew I needed a new wetsuit because I was tired of the “shoulder bind” that happens in my other suit. My old wetsuit is a one piece, which tends to create this issue. In all of my other races I have come out of the water with a real tired upper body and much more exhausted than I need to be. My swim fitness is fine and typically I will finish with a 1:30/100 pace in my races.

With that in mind, I started researching wetsuits and kept coming back to DeSoto. I love that the owner, Emilio DeSoto, is super involved in the same online communities that I am. I am not a huge fan of his tri clothing, especially his 2010 line. However, the reviews that I read about the T1 line helped me to decide to purchase his wetsuit. A ton of thought and engineering went into the Water Rover model and I hoped it would prove out when I wore it. I ordered it directly from DeSoto.

I knew my decision was the right one from the very beginning. The same day I placed my order, Roberta from DeSoto called me to talk with me about sizing to make sure I had a suit that fit. Without seeing me in person, I am really impressed how well she knows her product and could dial in my fit. We talked about my body shape, height, weight, etc. She walked me through the process of returning the suit if there was any issue with the sizing. When she emailed me the same information, she copied Emilio in on the message. I really liked that.

A couple of days later the package arrived from DeSoto. I pulled out the suit and hung it in the closet for a couple of days. The suit itself is a two piece design — a bibjohn bottom and a pullover top. The advantage of having a two piece is it is supposed to produce a ton of less restriction on your arms and shoulders. Pulling the suit out of the box, I was impressed how cool it actually looks. I didn’t buy this suit for the coolness factor, but for the fit and its ability to keep me on top of the water.

The engineering that went into this suit is amazing. This suit does not have the same thickness of neoprene throughout. It was designed to have 2 mm up to 10 mm of neoprene in strategic spots. The suit is designed to have more flexibility where you traditionally need it and as such, has thinner neoprene in those spots. The locations where you don’t need as much flexibility has thicker neoprene. Those thicker spots are supposed to help keep you even higher in the water so your hips and legs stay as high as possible, reducing drag in the water.

This is not a technical review of the wetsuit, so I will not discuss the reasons why the neoprene is thicker in some spots and if I think they got the placement right or not. That is up to someone who is much smarter and better looking than I am. If you want to read about it, click here.

When I had some time, I put the suit on for the first time. The bibjohn bottom went on without any challenges. The suit is very thick in the legs, which means it is somewhat of a challenge to bend your legs in it. It isn’t impossible, and you will be able to run from the edge of the water into T1, but running more than a couple of hundred yards in the bottoms would be a challenge. Getting the bibjohn off was actually pretty easy, even when dry. I am taking images from the DeSoto website to help more clearly illustrate what I am talking about…

The pullover has some really intuitive design features that I love. The zipper only goes about 2/3’s of the way up AND it zips down — to actually zip it up you need to take it from the middle of your back down towards the floor. That makes it really easy when you have to take the thing off. I usually had to wrestle my old wetsuit to get it off, but this was not the case with the pullover. It was super simple to just unzip and pull it over your head. Take a look…
Finally, I got this bad boy out to the pool. I found a fantastic silicone based spray on lube at my tri shop that I will talk about in another review. I love it because you can spray it on and never get it on your hands! But I digress…the Water Rover was just as easy to put on poolside as it was at home. Of course I got some funny stares, but nothing worse than when I am running in tri shorts. I jumped in the water and immediately noticed how little water got through to my skin. In St. George that will be important as the water temps are projected to be under 60 degrees. I also noticed how quickly the suit wanted to throw me up and out of the water — this suit is super buoyant. Unless some super sized fish or shark decides that I am lunch, I don’t think I could go under water with this thing on.

With my old wetsuit I also got a “snake bite” on my neck from where the suit rubbed on my skin. No amount of lube could get that to stop. I was hopeful the design of the pullover would allow me to not have what looked like a rug burn on my neck for a week after my races. I started to swing my arms around to see how much rub I was going to get on my neck and didn’t feel a thing. This is about what I looked like standing poolside…

Amazing, huh?

The funny thing about an Ironman is it isn’t necessarily a fashion show — you actually have to race too. I started my 5,000 yard swim in my wetsuit, really nervous about its performance. Of course it is more restrictive than swimming with just a Speedo on like I normally do, but I was astonished by the range of motion my arms were able to complete. It was a little harder to take a stroke than it would be without the suit on, but not much. Roberta must have gotten the sizing right. I started to focus on my stroke and holding the glide portion of my stroke longer than normal. The suit made me more efficient right away.

After about 500 yards I started to focus on the suit and its performance. DeSoto claims the T1 line and especially the Water Rover will get your legs and hips up really high in the water, which creates less drag for a swimmer. I felt like someone had take my hips and legs completely out of the water. I don’t think I kicked once last night. It was an unbelievable feeling to be that efficient.

The times that I was holding were insane. In the pool, I am usually a 1:40/100 pace guy, which I am really happy with. My sprints I can hold a 1:10/100 pace for about 100 yards. For the first hour of my swim last night I was at a 1:30/100 pace consistently. I was really happy with the exertion level that the pace required too. I didn’t feel as if I was really going that hard. I did swim at a consistent effort, but not one that would extend me too much. I want to get out of the water at Ironman St. George feeling as fresh as you can after a 2.4 mile swim.

There is one trait of the Water Rover that I think needs to be mentioned. I live in a cold water climate but grew up in a warm water one. Here in the Mountain West the water comes out of the mountains off of snow pack, which makes any open water swim before July really cold. Most of the swims I do around here before July have water temps in the low to mid 60’s. Ironman St. George will probably be closer to the mid to upper 50’s on race day. It is nice to have a wetsuit that will keep you really warm.

The Water Rover was REALLY warm in the pool. The lap pool was probably close to 76-78 degrees. After 30 minutes in the suit I was boiling. To solve this issue, I stopped and opened up the neckline and let some pool water in. I started doing this every 10 minutes after so that I wouldn’t die of heat exhaustion. Living in a cold water climate, this suit will keep you nice and warm. If I lived in a warm weather climate, I would just swim without the top. I think that would solve most of the issue of body temps while keeping you buoyant. For my races, having both the top and the bottom and the flexibility to make a race time decision as to what I want to wear will be great.

When I finished my swim, the wetsuit peeled right off. I sat in the pool for a couple of minutes to help my body temps come down a little and tried to take an inventory of how I felt. My upper body was a little more tired than it should have been after a 5,000 yard swim, but not by much. The benefits of the suit definitely outweigh any fatigue that I felt.

I did fell like I could have gone on to complete the 112 mile bike that will be staring me in the face on race day. I got out of the pool and immediately drank a bottle of water and a bottle of Ensure for recovery. I didn’t have the wobbly feeling that I usually would after a swim in my wetsuit because of the extra work required to compensate from the bind of a one piece. I rubbed my neck and did not find a snake bite, which was fantastic news.

Overall. the Water Rover from DeSoto is fantastic. I used my first wetsuit through five seasons of tri’s, and will use the Water Rover for at least that many. It produces very little shoulder bind, which will help you get out of the water with less fatigue. The customer service from the company helps insure you have the correct sizing. The lack of a snake bite on the neck really helped convince me that the Water Rover was the right decision. I recommend that you give the T1 line from the company consideration if you are in the market for a new wetsuit, regardless of your price range. Being fast in the water AND getting into T1 not gassed is worth every penny.

About the Author

I have been participating in running and triathlons for 10 years and love the feeling that training provides. You may not agree with me, but you know you just can't look away...