Much more goes on behind the scenes in designing and producing a speed suit than you probably realize. If you have never considered the fabric or porosity of that second skin you stretch over your body before a race, you can rest assured that veteran U.S. Ski Teamer and Spyder athlete Steven Nyman has thought about it all.
“Everything we’re searching for is speed,” explains Nyman. “I’ve been in the wind tunnel for I don’t know how many hours, and I’ve witnessed tons of different types of fabrics and the drag that occurs on those fabrics at different temperature ranges.”
From fabrics and seam placements to the optimal amount of time to wear a suit prior to the race start, Nyman and the team at Spyder tirelessly work together to make sure that the suit an athlete wears on race day is the fastest product possible.
So, how do the Spyder suits that Nyman and his teammates wear each week differ from the ones that mere amateurs can buy at a local race shop? For starters, every suit for Nyman and his American Downhiller teammates is custom fit before the season even starts.
“Spyder sends in people to custom measure us and fit the suits to us so there is no flap, no extra material,” Nyman says. “We get our new suits every race so that fabric is tight and cuts the wind perfectly.”
Nyman notes that a fresh suit is used for each race because all suits are made of some type of elastic material that wears down and fits looser the more it is worn. In order to guarantee the fastest suit possible, a new one is used on each race day.
During training, however, Nyman takes a more relaxed approach and wears older suits along with bulkier, warmer undergarments in preparation for races.
“It’s my business attire. I’m there to go fast.”
– Steven Nyman
“I go through this progression [during] training runs,” he explains. “I actually wear warmer things, thicker things in the first training runs; it’s just more comfortable. I wear my suit that I’ve worn all year and then come race day, I trim everything down. Spyder makes this Structure underwear that’s very tight so it has a little compression to it and it just keeps the suit clean. There are no wrinkles. It’s definitely colder, but it’s my business attire. I’m there to go fast.”
And fast he is. Nyman has three World Cup wins, seven additional podiums, and three Olympic team appearances under his Spyder race suit.
Racers everywhere – particularly older ones who might have a spare suit handy – can take a page from Nyman’s playbook to minimize the total time spent in their race-day suits by sporting the backup one in training. In fact, Nyman says that on race day he gets into in his new race suit no more than 20 minutes before his start, being especially careful not to stretch the fabric more than necessary and then gingerly removing it in the finish, turning it inside out to protect the delicate fibers before placing it back inside its very own storage bag.
Speaking of old suits, check out some of these goodies in Nyman’s garage collection of ski racing memorabilia:
For a guy who’s relied on Spyder suits since he was 12, any guesses as to how many he’s worn in his career?
“Well, Spyder is the only race suit that I’ve ever owned so I’d say … hundreds?” he laughs. “That’s kind of crazy to think about.”