"Turtle" has become a big fan of Fusion gear, here she gives us a rundown on her latest purchase, in typical "Turtle" fashion.
First and foremost, this is an unsolicited review just based on using a product for an unintended purpose and having a great impression. I just bought it and loved it.
Late last year I had the opportunity to try the Fusion speedsuit (see the review here) with the view to purchasing one for 70.3 and IM events. I was very impressed with the suit and immediately purchased one, complete with custom printing from Fusion. I really loved the feel of the material and temperature regulation effects from cool to warmer conditions. Now, I’m no serious athlete – I’m a dedicated BOPer. But I am a gear-tart and have been through a lot of different items looking for one that I really like. I have also recently dabbled in some ultra running and have 2 events (50 and 100km) coming up this year in addition to 2 tri’s. With the feel of the upper on the speedsuit I thought seriously about a speedtop – both as a second layer for those chilly race mornings and as a single layer for my ultra running. Since I don’t race often, to have a top that would be useful for both types of events would make the $$ worth spending. So far 2 Transitions members have reviewed the Fusion Speedtop in light of triathlon (Bored@Work and TenPints) so that was a given. But what about lots of dedicated running with a pack??
My thoughts were that the top would provide a nice amount of compression, cooling effects if it’s warm, neutral if cool, keep the sun off and keep the bitey, scratchy and sucky things off my arms. It could also be a great interface between my pack and skin and eliminate any chafing. This may be an ultra specific sort of wish list, however I’m sure I’m not the only one that does this sort of thing!
I contacted John (@Fusion) again about the top and my ideas – and to be honest I think he was a little sceptical about comfort on the run as it is designed with cycling in mind, being longer in the back and quite short in the front to suit the TT/tri position. However I was still keen to give it a go, so went ahead and ordered one – a size larger than the speedsuit (as suggested by John) and printed with the same logo I had put on the back of the speedsuit. That meant no going back size-wise too! I mentioned to John I would like it in time for Husky and he was fantastic – getting it printed and out to me in plenty of time. I’ve only had it 3 days, but have given it a test over 2 runs, 1 bike and a kayak paddle.
So what did I think?
Kayaking and biking was as expected – bloody brilliant. As it is designed for the bike, it was very a comfortable fit in the tri position. I also still felt secure on the aerobar pads whereas some long sleeve tops can leave me feeling a little slippy. On the kayak, it was soooooo smooth through the shoulders it has become my favourite multisport top. The seamless design meant there were no irritating seams through the paddle motion and it gave a nice feeling of compression through the arms –as well as sun protection. The cooling material meant that the small amount of water dripping off my paddle kept me brilliantly cool in the 38 degrees and full sun. But the big test was to be the running.
I do 99% of my run training with a Salomon running pack with water (for me and my dogs), phone, first aid kit, jacket, headlamps etc. I usually find 3 issues with even the most high tech running shirts under a pack. Firstly, they ride up and bunch up under the pack. Second, when you unzip the neck a little, the zipper ends flap all over the place and get annoying after a few kms. Third, they tend to bunch up under your arms and with the added bulk of the pack, can cause a bit of irritation. As far as compression gear goes, as a female with hips wider than my waist I find that most compression tops want to slide up to the narrowest part – which is very annoying.
This top was different in so many ways.
On the positives:
- Firstly, the size was perfect.
- Once I started running it felt like it wasn’t there. It was cool when I started my runs and the top felt nice and snuggly warm – very comfortable. Once I warmed up and started sweating, the cooling features of the material meant I felt comfortably cooler without getting the chill you sometimes do when sweating on a cool morning. When you sweat, it cools you. When you stop sweating, it stops cooling as it dries so quickly - so you don’t get chilled on the way home or while stretching. I can see this as a big advantage for ultras as starting in the morning it’s often chilly and you start in a jacket or something. As the speedtop doesn’t hold moisture, when you strip off to this layer you won’t suddenly be chilled as often happens to me with other gear. But as it warms up, it will cool you off nicely.
- The longer back with interior silicone gripper meant it stayed down and didn’t ride up at all from either movement with the pack or the compression qualities looking for the narrowest part. The shorter front meant that for the good length at the back, I didn’t have inches of extra material flapping about. (I did tuck the rear into my shorts but I always do that)
-The seamless design meant no irritation under my arms or at any point where the pack contacted my body. The silky smooth nature of the material and compression fit meant there was no bunching up anywhere. I felt no irritation from my pack anywhere at all, including across the chest straps where normal running “bounce” can often be an issue.
- When the zip was done up fully, it was a smidgey tight and I felt the zip pushing at the base of my neck/top of sternum. However pulling it down just an inch was all the change it needed whilst still providing that buffer to the pack chest straps. And the zip stayed there – it didn’t slowly undo itself. Most importantly, the ends didn’t flap about so I didn’t even notice it – everyone knows how annoying little things like that can get after 12 hours or so!
- I can’t attest to how well the fabric will hold up under the friction of the pack for lots of kms. However if you are running in a proper pack like a Salomon they are usually made with a very soft fabric with no buckles/Velcro or anything to irritate. So I reckon maybe a little pilling after a while but that would be about it. Having no seams also means one less thing to be subjected to wear under your pack. I can’t say for sure though! Check back with me after TNF in May.
- There’s no hiding any wobbly bits!! This top is now all the incentive I need without joining the Biggest Loser thread. It definitely holds you accountable!!! However if I fail to be less wobbly by TNF, it will be the spectators and other runners that will suffer – I’ll still be brilliantly comfortable!
Conclusion – this top is great for ultra running. Perhaps it’s simply the difference of adding a pack that makes normal running shirts seem less than optimal. But since a fair few people do this sort of running, it’s nice to know that there’s a top out there that will sort you out. Like all the Fusion gear, it’s not cheap, going for $169 (plus $10 express post shipping if you leave your ordering to the last minute like me). But in my opinion, it’s definitely worth it. It’s a fantastic top with a long list of tick boxes unchecked by any other single piece of running/tri attire that I’ve found. Especially when running with a pack. Suffice to say it will be my go-to top for a second layer on those chilly tri mornings over my speedsuit and sole layer for ultra running (unless it’s super chilly) and long paddles.
Text and images: "Turtle"