The Nopinz SubZero Suit is a very good indoor training suit that features inserts for gel packs, and I've found it to be comfortable in use. The packs are a bit of welcome relief mid race, too, although it's hard to quantify any actual gains.
'SubZero isn't just a name,' says Nopinz. 'The range features 'FreezePockets' for replaceable frozen gel packs which are optimally placed in key 'hot zones'. The gel packs help to keep your core temperature down, meaning less energy goes into the body, cooling itself and more blood reaches the muscles that need it to produce the Watts!' So what you're getting here is the suit, and a set of four gel packs that fit across the lower back and between the shoulder blades. Oh, and an insulated lunch box. No, an actual lunch box.
The suit is mostly made from a fairly sheer Lycra with laser cut holes at regular intervals. It's fairly sheer, but you get a bit of dignity with more opaque fabric around your lunchbox. No, not that one. The other one. The pad – which is comfortable for the indoor races of up to an hour and a half that I do – is also shot through with holes top to bottom for better ventilation, covered with a soft top layer. The suit is a close fit; I'm normally an L or XL in shorts depending on brand, and an L in tops, and the XL suit fitted me fine. The legs are long, and the grippers quite aggressive, so it's a bit of a struggle getting it on sometimes, but it's comfy in use. It's not me in the photos by the way…
The general idea is that you lob the gel packs in the freezer, then keep them in the insulated box while you warm up, and slip them in the two pouches on the back of the suit before you race. I gave myself a couple of minutes the first time and needed them; the lower back pouch is easy, the neck pouch significantly less so.
I got better at it during testing, and by the time I've come to write this I find it pretty easy to slip them in beforehand and change them halfway through a race as well. Provided there's a bit where everyone's voted to ease off for a bit. It's not easy when you're going full gas. But nothing is.
And does it work? Well, the first time I tried the SubZero Suit, in a team time trial on Zwift, I set a new FTP, pushing it up all the way from 316W to, erm, 317W. So I hereby declare that your £189.99 buys you a 0.32% performance boost, because science.
Okay, it ain't that simple. Some days you're the hammer, some you're the nail; maybe I was on a good day. On the other hand, I hadn't really troubled that FTP in the couple of months leading up to trying out the Nopinz suit, so a new FTP was a bit of a surprise.
Comparing like with like as much as possible, my average power for the 29km time trial (326W) was 8W higher than my next best effort two weeks previously, with a very similar team on a slightly shorter 25km course. Over the last month I've been racing more, twice a week instead of once, and my fitness has been improving. The weather's cooling down. I've been riding a bit less outdoors, so maybe I'm fresher. There are many, many variables. So I can't definitively say that the SubZero Suit is the difference, or how much of a difference it makes. I can say that I tried it out and set a new indoor FTP, though.
Here's some other stuff I noticed. It's a very sheer old thing around a lot of the body, and I was worried that I'd feel hot in a full length (albeit sleeveless) suit, but I didn't. I found that the material definitely doesn't hold as much sweat as a normal pair of shorts and the fact that it's moving sweat away seems to help with cooling.
Nopinz says the SubZero suit 'has been specifically designed for e-racing where live streaming requires a top to be worn'; that's not really that much of an issue for me, to be honest, or most of us in reality. If you can make do with a bit less coverage then there's a pair of SubZero bib shorts that feature the same cooling pockets and cost a bit less; I've also got a set of those, so watch out for a separate review.
What helps most with cooling, obviously, is that you're lobbing a couple of ice packs in it. When you first sling them in it's almost uncomfortably cold, but once you're working hard they're not so noticeable.
I tended to change packs just over halfway through a race; mostly the races I do are less than an hour. The lower back pack is fairly easy to swap and the neck one less so, as the inner and outer parts of the sleeve are cut too close to the same length. It could do with a tweak in the design to make the pocket entrance more obvious.
Swapping them once gives you a nice extra cooling boost, and you can get even more cooling action by turning them round, as the side next to the skin naturally warms more quickly.
The lunch box that comes with the gel packs does a decent job of keeping the ones you're not using cool for the first half of the race, so they're still nice and cold when it comes to swapping time. You get two of the big rectangular ones and two wedge-shaped ones; the smaller packs in this pic are for the arm bands, which we'll also be reviewing.
Leaving aside the FTP fun above, it's hard to quantify what the actual effect of the suit is on your performances. I can tell you that my best recent performances have been wearing the suit. But I can also tell you that those performances were in races I was prioritising. So maybe it's just because I'm trying a bit harder. But I was sceptical when I first received it to review, and now I find myself wearing it when I'm putting the effort in. I even prefer it in use over the cheaper SubZero bibs, for reasons that the forthcoming bibs review will explain. It might actually help. Or it might just be a psychological thing. I'm not sure I could really say, but I'd consider either of those to be genuine gains; the mental side of racing is often just as important.
At £189.99 including two sets of gel packs, the SubZero suit certainly isn't cheap, and there's an argument that the same kind of actual or psychological gains could probably be had by getting a load of gel packs online for a few quid a pop and stuffing them down your bibs or in the back pockets of a lightweight jersey when you're racing. That doesn't mean there's no place for the Nopinz suit, though, for the same reasons that superbike manufacturers aren't put out of business by the existence of really good mid-range bikes. No doubt you'll see elite racers wearing it if watching e-racing is a thing you do, and it's a well-considered and comfortable bit of kit for indoor racing. It's easy to care for too, and scrubs up well. Repeated use has seen no issues with seams popping, in spite of the sheer nature of the fabric.
There's nothing directly comparable, really, but it's not outrageously expensive: Le Col's indoor training shorts are £150 on their own... though you can get indoor-specific shorts for around £50: Lusso's indoor shorts are £54.99 and Madison's £69.99. Note, the SubZero Suit is also available without gel packs and box for £159.99.
If it was my own money? Probably not, but then I'm a back-of-the-pack B racer and there are bigger, more obvious gains I can make than the marginal ones here. But the SubZero suit has a place, and it's opened my eyes to active cooling on the turbo, which is certainly something I'll be exploring further.
It's a niche product and the gains are hard to quantify, but I keep putting it on to race...
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Nopinz SubZero Men's Suit
Size tested: XL
Tell us what the product is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Nopinz says, 'The Subzero race suit has been specifically designed for e-racing where live streaming requires a top to be worn.
'FreezePockets are located in the upper-mid and lower back area to actively reduce core temperature, allowing you to perform at your best for longer.
'The cooling packs are interchangeable and can be easily swapped during your session to maintain the cooling advantage – each set is available with two sets of gel packs to give 40-60 mins of cooling at high intensity. If you're into longer races, you can buy more cooling packs separately.
'We've used only the most highly technical, ultra-lightweight and breathable fabrics which add to the cooling effect.
'The pad is also optimised for indoor riding and offers extra protection plus improved moisture management compared to those in standard bibs.'
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Perfect choice for e-racers who live stream.
FreezePockets actively cool the body.
Made from Ultra-breathable wicking fabrics.
Indoor specific pad for increased comfort.
Available in Men's and Women's specific versions.
Full custom graphics are available.
Hard to actually quantify!
Better than expected given how sheer it is.
£189.99 is a fair whack for an indoor training kit, although it's easy to spend more: Le Col's indoor shorts are £150 on their own (the SubZero Suit without ice packs/lunch box is £159.99). You can get indoor-specific shorts for around £50 though.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It's a good indoor training suit.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
It's comfy, the cooling works.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Legs are a bit long, most people won't need the full suit.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
There's nothing directly comparable, really. Le Col's shorts alone are £150, but Lusso's indoor shorts are £54.99 and Madison's £69.99. It's not outrageously expensive.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Probably not, but I'd certainly look at cheaper ways of achieving the same thing.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
I'm rating it as good because I think it's a genuinely interesting bit of kit, and whether the gains are physical or psychological I think they're meaningful.
About the tester
I usually ride: whatever I'm testing... My best bike is: Kinesis Tripster ATR, Merida Scultura, Dward Design fixed
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track
Dave is a founding father of road.cc, having previously worked on Cycling Plus and What Mountain Bike magazines back in the day. He also writes about e-bikes for our sister publication ebiketips. He's won three mountain bike bog snorkelling World Championships, and races at the back of the third cats.