Although you’re only in the thing for about 10-20% of your race, a tri-specific wetsuit can make or break your race. An ill-fitting, poorly-chosen suit will leave you sinking in the aqua with a sore neck; whereas your optimum suit will aid all those hours of pool training and make you look and feel a million dollars.
When it comes to buying your tri wetsuit, our mantra is ‘try before you buy’, as the sizes can vary hugely. Find a tri retailer or tri expo to try the suits. If not, ensure the online seller has a decent returns policy.
Also keep your own swim ability to the forefront of your mind when picking. Be aware that many top-end features – wafer-thin neoprene and a reduction in buoyancy – are lost on, or even detrimental to, beginner swimmers. Those with sinking bums should look for increased neoprene thickness with enhanced buoyancy, while swift human fishes
should focus further on flexibility.
Matt, our features ed, is your entry to mid-level guide, while Jack, our top age-grouper staff writer, takes on the top-end suits. Matt will give a closer examination to buoyancy for sinking bodies, while Jack will examine the auxiliary features such as speed cuffs and reverse zippers, plus how fast it feels in the water.
How much buoyancy does your triathlon wetsuit need?
How we tested the wetsuits
We were lucky enough to test these suits in the warm waters of Club La Santa’s lagoon in Lanzarote in March, as well as some early UK swims. This afforded us the opportunity to test them in summer seawater temps, dealing with waves and currents to fully judge their performance. Each was tested for fit, performance, buoyancy, comfort, hydrodynamics, added features, durability, ability of zipper, removal speed and budget.
We tested the 5mm Challenger in 2016 and it mostly impressed, providing a surprising flex in the arms for a £109 suit. This year we’ve got the cheaper 3mm Challenger but had to swap our usual medium for a small due to serious oversized fit issues. Baggy is never a term you want to hear with a wetsuit but the 1.5mm Megastretch underarm panels felt loose. Positively, where the 5mm version has excessive buoyancy, the 3mm core here is more balanced in the water and easier to run in to T1. The water ingress around the neck has also been reduced and it’s quick to remove, and it coped well with 10ºC Gower Peninsula water.
Verdict: plenty of positives for the price but arm issues 71%
Wiggle in-house brand Dhb may not have bothered to give this Wetsuit a name, but plenty of thought has gone into the creation of this budget suit. We reviewed the 2016 model and this latest version is an improvement, with the new ankles and cuffs reducing the water ingress and also making it even swifter to remove. Surprisingly for a sub-£100 suit, it’s not overly buoyant (beginners may actually appreciate more thickness in the legs) but the 2mm arm flexibility is adequate for short-course racing. The construction is durable and warm, and we experienced no neck rubbing over 1.5km due to the low neckline.
Verdict: There’s much to admire in this budget suit 84%
Buy from wiggle.co.uk
Their tri-suits and wetsuits have always punched above their budget in our tests, no doubt helped by Aropec’s direct-selling model (which means you can’t try before you buy, but returns are free). The stylish Flying Fish sits at the top of their range and boasts 2mm neoprene on back, arms, hips and rear of legs to provide adequate flexibility. We found the neckline sits a little high and the 3mm on the front of legs and chest offer adequate buoyancy. We’re not huge fans of breakaway zips and all the pre-swim faff they bring, but the drainage channels are a neat touch at this price.
Verdict: A reliable and stylish suit at a solid price 76%
Buy from www.aropec.co.uk
Roka have made a big splash in the wetsuit world, and if they’re still tricky to buy in the UK, they’re worth it. The Comp is the only wetsuit on this spread to offer sub-2mm thickness on the arms and it shows, with the best flexibility in the low- to mid-end suits. The 3mm of the core and 5mm of the legs is the optimum blend of lift for non-club swimmers, and there’s SCS Nano coating for speed. The neck has a comfortably low cut, but not at the expense of water ingress. It’s easier to remove than the previous Comp to complete a top-draw package at a welcome price. roka.com
Verdict: Unrivalled flexibility and spec for the price 92%
Buy from www.roka.com
Continue reading our guide to this year's 14 best triathlon wetsuits (2/4)