Put simply, a tri-suit is the most crucial triathlon-specific purchase you’ll make, being the only garment that’s with you every second of your tri race.
As 2019 gets into full swing and the race season is upon us, tri is embroiled in an arms race (ha!) when it comes to multisport apparel. That is, whether to choose a tri-suit with short sleeves or a vested style.
Sleeved suits weren’t widely popularised until this decade, with long-course athletes in particular adopting them for their drag-reducing benefits. If you’re not fussed by marginal gains, increased sun protection through better coverage is a more practical reason for age-groupers. And sleeved suits have now caught on over all race distances, buoyed further by the ITU allowing them to be used in competition in 2016. So, they’re more aero, look cooler and you can use them in pretty much any race… so why would anyone still go sleeveless?
For a start, less fabric and bare arms will keep you cooler if you really struggle with overheating. You’ll also get more freedom of movement, particularly useful for pool triathlons where you don’t have a wetsuit over the top.
And finally, because there’s less material, they’re often cheaper! For your first triathlon, that could well start in a pool, it’s wise to go for an affordable vested suit rather than risk restricting yourself in the swim. If you get the bug from then on, you can start experimenting and investing in different suits depending on what types of races you have planned for the season.
Tri-suits: what to look for
Tri-suits: What are the different options?
How we tested the vested tri-suits
All of the suits here were tested multiple times on the swim, bike and run. We paid particularly close attention to comfort across the chest where some fabrics can prove restrictive, and were looking for form-fitting leg grippers that don’t ride up or fit too loose/too tight. With most of these suits aimed more at short-course racing we weren’t expecting huge pockets, but would expect them to be easily accessible, and we’d also require a quick-drying chamois pad that provides adequate rear comfort.
The SD mesh structure of the revamped Perform suit from Aussies 2XU is designed to offer superior cooling plus improved aerodynamics, and we found it exceptionally breathable during hard runs. Elsewhere there’s a good zip guard, while the silicone leg grippers provide the perfect amount of compression. The two pockets are easy to access on the lower back and will hold a large energy gel packet in each. We measured the wide chamois pad at 17cm, which really made a difference in terms of bike comfort, yet it still maintains a low profile and dries quickly to remain wholly unobtrusive on the swim and run. 2xu.com/uk
Verdict: breathable and high-performing suit for fast racing 88%
Buy from www.wiggle.co.uk
Endura’s Drag2Zero garments are at the cutting-edge of aerodynamic tech, so much so that their cycling skinsuit was recently banned by the UCI. This version of the QDC Drag2Zero obviously loses the very aero sleeves, and, for us, the other benefits aren’t worth it for the discomfort we felt compared to other suits here. Our medium had a longer leg length than most others on test, yet we experienced a lot of restriction across the chest on the run, which limits it to those with a very tall and slender build. On the positive side, the ventilation courtesy of the Coldblack tech is impressive and the extra leg pocket is a neat touch. endurasport.com
Verdict: has the same comfort issues as its sleeved sibling 68%
Buy from www.tredz.co.uk
With a vibrant design and wallet-friendly price, Dhb’s Blok will appeal to beginners and those on a budget. The chamois is quick-drying yet narrow, so won’t do for middle distance or above. The full length zip guard is flimsy and mid-run it didn’t sit properly against the zipper, which led to some irritation. The grippers aren’t as compressive as some here, while the rear pockets are big enough for multiple gels and bars. We’ve seen the Blok reduced online and, as a cheap purchase for your first races, the small comfort issues are plenty manageable. The chlorine and suncream-resistant Lycra should also ensure it lasts you multiple seasons.
Verdict: Good value option that needs a better zip guard 72%
Buy from www.wiggle.co.uk
Continue reading our guide to this year's best vested tri-suits of 2019 (2/2)