In our effort to be thorough and, where possible, provide more than one opinion on products, “TenPints” took our Fusion test kit as tested by Bored@ at Port Mac through its paces at Cairns Ironman.
“TenPints” is a Welshman who, by his own admission, could get sunburnt at a candlelight dinner. So the protection promised by the Fusion kit in tropical North Queensland should have meant one less thing to worry about. The weather on race day wasn’t quite as anticipated but as in part one of our test the Fusion gear proved to be pretty versatile.
I was fortunate to be able to test the Fusion gear at two ends of the spectrum: sunny cycle in Sydney and cruddy conditions in Cairns. I'm not great in the heat so the Fusion gear, on paper, sounded right up my street. During my training ride I rode with the Tri Top Ice Pocket under the Speed Top, and found that in the heat this was a little warm. However, it was ideal for testing the cooling attributes of the attire. I carried an extra bidon of water for this specific purpose, and after a quick squirt over the Speed Top I felt like I was being massaged with an ice cube - I really wasn't expecting such a pleasant cooling effect. I also avoided any sunburn and cracked a personal best over that route. I haven't mentioned the Tri Pwr Tight shorts - and that's because I forgot I was actually wearing them, they were that comfortable. I've tried various brands, and the fact that I'm wearing them comes to my attention at some point - a little rub here, or feeling a little tight there - I didn't get any such issues with the shorts.
Ferg from Fusion published a blog with some advice about using the Tri Top and Speed Top together, and I went with his recommendation for Ironman Cairns. Top-less under the wetsuit, Speed Top on in T1, swap for Tri Top in T2 - top tip with the Tri Top was to roll it, but read the link below for more information on that.
It rained the entire ride, so I got a good idea of how the Speed Top performed under those conditions - in a word: brilliant. I didn't notice it retaining any water and it felt as light wet, as it did dry - the slight breeze generated from the go-forward probably helped the fabric dry. I didn't feel uncomfortable at any time and did wonder whether it was actually more comfortable than just wearing a tri top. The rain triggered the same cooling effect as squirting water over the top and I did consider how someone more susceptible to the cold would fair in the conditions. Considering the weather, I still squirted water through my helmet to keep my head cool, so the cooling effect from the top worked perfectly for me.
Due to the conditions, I didn't have the need to try the ice pockets on the Tri Top, but likewise I didn't notice they were there from a comfort perspective. I did feel the top was tighter than my normal tops (all Large size), and those extra Kgs I carry were visible (a young lady shouted through a makeshift megaphone 'great top Stu, we can see everything' - I laughed out loud at that). However, the top didn't feel uncomfortable, or restrictive in any way. I was also a little concerned about not having a zip, as I typically begin to feel a tri top's tightness during the run and tend to lower the zip (within race-legal limits of course). I didn't get this urge with the Fusion top though, perhaps the fabric has more stretch. I did use the pockets at the back, and found them a good size and easily accessible. The longer cut at the back also suited me well, there was no riding-up anywhere, even with my slightly slouched-forward running style.
This was my third Ironman, and I've worn different shorts at each - as mentioned earlier, even after the swim, bike and run the Tri Pwr Tight still felt comfortable. I didn't chafe, or have any hot-spots anywhere - and I'd never considered how useful side-pockets were until I used them.
One last point I'd like to cover, and that's on the laundry side. After the race, I put all the gear in the washing machine with no detergent and at the correct temperature (as per instructions - no detergent to maintain the cooling properties). The gear came out clean, but the collar maintained a slight discolouring, and you can still see a very slight shadow from the rear wheel spray up the back. However, given the condition it was in post-bike - to misquote AC/DC it was very Back is Black - I think the Speed Top came up pretty clean. If the gear has nailed-on road grime, and the cooling elements of the fabric want to be maintained, don't expect the wash to bring it back to pristine white; white and clean, but not as-new white.
I spoke to John from Fusion about the cleaning issue and he responded thus:
All in all it’s a fair comment. White is white and as eluded to the key focus on the laundry instructions is to maintain the quality and the performance of the fabric. That said to give you the best shot of keeping it as white as possible the first wash with a bit of vinegar element goes a long way as it helps set the colours. (http://fusionmultisport.com.au/pages/care). Also, although I wouldn’t say do it all the time you can use vinegar every now and then, particularly if stained. The mild acetic acid in vinegar acts as a whitener and also helps remove perspiration odour and stains, etc. The final suggestion is wash as quickly as can, if travelling maybe just take a little bit of vinegar with you and wash / rinse kit in a bathroom sink.