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, a top age-grouper, 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 to test these suits in the warm-ish (18C) waters of Gran Canaria. This afforded us the opportunity to test them in UK summer seawater temps, dealing with waves and currents to fully judge their race-day form (and water ingress). Each was tested for fit, performance, buoyancy, comfort, hydrodynamics, added features, durability, ease of zipper, removal speed, budget and, finally, the visual design.
When people ask us to recommend a budget wetsuit, Zone3’s Advance (£169) comes top of our list. So how does the Vision compare? Top tech has been transferred from their flagship £495 Vanquish suit, and the 2mm-thick and stretchy shoulders (plus the one-piece panel design that extends down the chest) are impressive for the pricepoint.
There’s a speed coating to reduce drag, it’s ultra-quick to remove thanks for the speed cuffs and, in a final plus, it’s also built with eco-friendly neoprene. So is it worth the extra outlay over the Advance (see overleaf)? If you want extra shoulder flex and added 1mm in the legs, we’d suggest so.
Verdict: flexible, fast and very, very hard to fault 92%
Buy from www.simplyswim.com
We like the style of the Zoot Wave 1 and it’s a solid contender that’s hard to fault. The piece of tech that makes it stand out from the entry-level crowd are the GLIDEflex grooved panels on the chest, which aided lung expansion and channelled water. Although close to the same price as the 2XU next door, the Zoot opts for the lesser 38-cell Yamamoto neoprene and the slighter lack of flexibility is evident when worn back-to-back. With a mix of 4mm and 5mm panels on the back, front and calves, it feels the most buoyant suit here, and will appeal to those whose legs sink in the swim. The removal speed, meanwhile, is par for the course. zootsports.co.uk
Verdict: a solid and durable contender with high buoyancy, 85%
Buy from www.wiggle.co.uk
2XU have taken the honours in our recent men’s two-piece and sleeved tri-suits tests, and the Aussie brand continue their winning run with the P:1 wetsuit. Put simply, it does everything well. The top-class 39-cell neoprene is studiously crafted – starting at 1.5mm in the arms to 3mm on the back and chest, and 5mm on the rear on the legs – to produce a well-balanced suit for beginner and intermediate swimmers. Elsewhere, there’s the industry-standard SCS coating for hydrodynamic benefits and added durability, and 2XU’s ‘Rollbar’ tech, which helped our body position stay aligned in the churn of Challenge Gran Canaria’s 1.9km sea swim.
Verdict: top features and materials make this a race-day winner 93%
Buy from www.wiggle.co.uk
Continue reading our guide to this year's 14 best triathlon wetsuits (2/4)