GEAR,  Product Reviews

Michael Phelps Race Kit, from Aqua Sphere

We finally got our hands on a pair of men’s XPRESSO jammers and the matching X-O Race Cap, the final two components of the MP performance range, and entered a masters swimming gala to test it. We previously reviewed the MP XCEED Goggles in our Feb/Mar 2016 issue.

The MP brand is a result of a collaboration between arguably the world’s most famous swimmer, Michael Phelps, and swimwear company Aqua Sphere. The question we had was: How would Phelps’s brilliance in the water translate to designing race wear?

The XPRESSO jammers look and feel the part before you even put them on: lightweight and seemingly way too small. If you’ve picked the correct size, allow yourself a good 10 to 15 minutes to wriggle and squeeze your way into these. Compared to other brands, we found these relatively low cut around the waist so had to work extra hard to eliminate butt cleavage and retain some semblance of decency. Once on, the fit is secure and sleek, although they definitely look better on Phelps than anyone in the H2Open team.

The silicone X-O Race Cap is different enough to attract comment. It is seamless, square cut at the front and sculpted at the back so there is no rubbing on the neck. Duel thickness silicone means it stretches where it’s needed to stretch around the sides and ears and more rigid through the middle. It therefore sits snuggly, securely and smoothly on your head. Small dimples on the inside help to keep it in place. It might seem like a lot of technology for a swimming cap, but every milli-second counts. In addition, if you have lots of hair there is an optional compression cap you can wear underneath, which is supposed to further enhance streamlining (we didn’t test this).

Phelps currently races (and performs well) in exactly this kit, which is a powerful endorsement, but when it came to lining up on the start blocks you can’t help wondering if other people are thinking: “Who does he think he is, dressing up like Michael Phelps?” The pressure is on to produce a good performance. Luckily it all feels slick when you hit the water. Amazingly, a tiny piece of fabric does make a difference to your swimming times and, wearing the MP kit, we came away with an excellent set of results including a lifetime personal best. In case you’re wondering, it wasn’t anything close to what Phelps does but we fear it takes a bit more than a flash piece of kit to move that fast through the water. The cap, incidentally, stayed perfectly in place, which can’t be said for all swimming hats.

If you’re racing non-wetsuit in open water then racing jammers are legal under ASA and FINA regulations, but not BLDSA or CSA rules. The cap is non-insulating so can also be worn without breaching the rules but the colour options are not optimal for open water. 

Overall, the kit has everything you’d expect from the top of the range race suit at a comparable price point to similar products (there’s also a women’s version at £299.99) and we’d be very happy to compete in it again. 

Jammers £199.99, Goggles £44.99, Cap £14.99

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I created Outdoor Swimmer in 2011 (initially as H2Open Magazine) as an outlet for my passion for swimming outdoors. I've been a swimmer and outdoor swimmer for as long as I remember. Swimming has made a huge difference to my life and I want to share its joys and benefits with as many people as possible. I am also the author of Swim Wild & Free: A Practical Guide to Swimming Outdoors 365 a Year and I provide one-to-one support to swimmers through Swim Mentoring.