Unlike tri wetsuits or aerobars, tri-suits took a long time to take hold in the multisport masses after their birth in 1980s California. It wasn’t until Speedo launched the Aquablade in 1996 that the pro contingent fully jumped on-board, with the Lycra creations essential race wear by tri’s debut Olympic appearance at Sydney 2000.
Unlike the Scotts, Allens and Newby-Frasers of yesteryear, today’s triathletes are spoilt for choice when buying the once-humble tri-suit, with chamois-type, pocket placement, material construction, compressive properties, hydro and aerodynamics, type of grippers and zippers all factors to consider when splashing the cash. That and how it looks, because, let’s face it, they leave little to the imagination.
Our key advice when buying your suit is try before you buy; what can look great on paper may be ill-fitting once slipped on, with sticky leg grippers and a pad that makes you run like Herman Munster. Ask yourself what type of races you’ll likely to be doing, whether your goals are second-shaving or just surviving, and if you’ll be carrying nutrition en route?
Quite simply, an ill-fitting, slow-drying and poorly-constructed tri-suit can leave you feeling slow, cold and sore, and witness your PB pretensions demoted to DNF proportions. So, with these questions spinning around our head, it’s time to help you decide your suit for 2015 and beyond…
Plenty of the suits here come in female-specific cuts, and we’ll be testing six in a women’s tri-suits mini-grouptest coming up soon.
Price: £49 from www.aropecsports.co.uk
At £49, the Lion sits at the top, yep top, of Aropec’s tri-suit range. Straight out of the box and we were pleasantly surprised, with an attractive design (and in Spurs colours too) and instantly comfortable fit.
Once out on the road, the fleece chamois was barely noticeable on the run yet provided minimal protection on the bike, meaning we’d only stick to sprint racing in this. The buffer between zipper and chest to prevent rubbing was a welcome addition and the rear back pocket was sizeable, although the leg grippers weren’t the most effective.
In terms of quick-drying and breathability, the spandex mesh back offers some ventilation but the nylon/spandex mix was one of the slowest to dry.
Verdict: Not quite King of the Jungle, nbut a highly recommended option for tri newcomers, 80%
Price: £109 from www.orca.com
Here’s a suit that oozes quality; with a striking aesthetic, ultra-light construction, and a covert chest pocket. The 226 is aimed at the Ironman market yet we’d have no issues using it for short course, with the padded chamois offering plenty of bottom coverage yet not proving an obstruction on the run.
Leg grippers are eschewed in favour of elasticated hems, and the 226 successfully keeps the legs in place with none of the ‘stickiness’ of silicone. The mesh construction was quick-drying, with breathability provided as well, and the rear back pockets are well-positioned.
Our fault is with the decision to not provide a guard between zip and body, meaning the YKK slider dug into our skin on the bike and run.
Verdict: Lack of zip guard aside, a top-class suit for long (and short) course athletes, 91%
Price: £100 from www.blueseventy.co.uk
Like the makers of the Peppa Pig movie, Blueseventy have opted for the “if it ain’t broke…” formula for their latest TX2000. It’s a suit that’s served us well in the past, so we can vouch for its durability and versatility.
In terms of aesthetics and performance, the differences between this and the previous TX2000 are subtle, with a more compressive fit and lighter overall weight. The pad size has been reduced but still offers enough comfort for our bike efforts and it, like the suit itself, is quick-drying.
It’s just alongside some of the offerings here we’d have liked some more innovation and visual experimentation alongside the refinements. And some pockets suitable for larger gels, too.
Verdict: Mr. Dependable in performance and price but more of a flourish next time, 83%
2XU Perform Compression
Price: £125 from www.2XU.com
Despite the name of the suit and 2XU’s position at the forefront of recovery, comfort over compression was the main thing was took from the Perform Compression suit. The result is a comfy, good looking and well-designed suit with a pad and construction that’s equipped for multiple hours on the race course.
Like the Orca, it successfully opts for an elasticated hem over silicone grippers on the legs, with the trio of back pockets the best on test for size and access. It’s thicker than most on test (and slower to dry), but this thickness means it’d also work well for the fringes of the UK race season.
That’s not to say it’s overly toasty, with the rear mesh and armpit panels successfully channelling airflow.
Verdict: We’re unconvinced of the compression but a top performing and comfy suit, 85%
Zoot Ultra Tri Race
Price: £110 from www.zootsports.com
Zoot were pioneers of tri-suit design back in the mid-eighties, and the Ultra Tri Race aesthetically dips back into that decade with the barcode design on the flanks. Even if it may split the audience, we have to applaud Zoot for again standing out from the crowd.
Like the previous incarnation of the Ultra Tri, we were bowled over by the swift-drying Coldblack material and the chafe-free seams. The quartet of pockets are neatly positioned and sized, and the hems a marked improvement; keeping the legs in place and offering a modicum of compressive properties.
Yet like that 2014 model, we just felt had too many niggles, with the lack of a zip guard and oversized pad that was all too evident during the run.
Verdict: Fine materials but major problems with the oversize pad on the run, 74%
Continue reading our guide to 2015's best tri-suits (2/2)
Main image: Chris Hitchcock; Tri-suit images: Secret Studio