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.
While buying online may save you pennies, try before you buy is our mantra round these parts when it comes to buying tri-suits. No one tri-suit is the same, with the sizing of the suits on test here varying between brands.
Much of buying a tri-suit is personal. From pool swims, to sprints and Ironman, what type of races have you entered? Are your pre-race aims to cross the line in one piece or to qualify for the ITU worlds? And how much nutrition will you be carrying throughout your tri journey? Yet some elements are universal. Do the leg grippers grip or do they slip? Which pads chafe? Are the chamois quick to dry or do they leave you with a soggy bottom? Which pockets are easy to access or tougher to find than a bargain in an airport departure lounge?
And that’s what we’re here for, to put the suits through their paces on the swim, bike and run and to see what performs in practice, rather than just on paper and in the wind tunnel.
Tri-suits: what to look for
Women’s tri-suits buyer’s guide
How we tested the tri-suits
In addition to two months of UK testing, we tested this season’s batch of suits at Club La Santa in Lanzarote to see how they perform in summer-like conditions. Breathability, the quick-drying abilities of the material and chamois, and chafing were all tested in the warm open air of the Canaries. We analysed the pad, and features like pockets, leg grippers and zippers, and speed. The price and aesthetics were also considered.
SAILFISH TRISUIT PRO
With a smooth fabric quality, this is one of the most comfortable rear-zipped suits we’ve tested. The leg grippers are among the most effective and comfortable here, and the flat seams remain chafe-free throughout. The slender chamois is sufficient for sprint-distance racing fiends but we’d want more padding for Olympic and up, although it was unobtrusive on the run. The lack of pockets and hydrophobic material seemingly make it perfect for pool and non-wetsuit swims, yet there was water ingress down the front due to the stretchy neck.
Verdict A classy and comfy, if pricey, sprint suit 81%
ZONE3 AEROFORCE NANO
Zone3’s suits have always impressed us for their fabrics, value and comfort. Yet our relationship has stumbled due to the large pad size. That’s all changed for 2017, with the pad width reducing from 17cm to 14cm. However the silicone grippers feel dated compared to Sailfish, Castelli and co., and also flayed a little on the bike. But there’s plenty to admire here, with the water-beading material lithe through the water, and the pockets neatly positioned and of perfect size for gels and bars. The pad’s also unnoticeable on the run, and provides enough coverage for long bike rides.
Verdict: Stylish and fast, but time for a gripper update 85%
The Sanremo suit is a classy and comfortable contender from the bike specialists. The major change from the other suits here is the ‘Sanremo construction’, which allows easy access to the private regions. For racing middle-distance and up, we can’t stress how important this ‘rummage pouch’ is. The San Remo is surprisingly fast through the water, and the multitude of pockets and the best grippers on test add to the winning mix. The lack of a zip guard frustrates, with the zip rubbing against our skin, and the pad is slightly noticeable on the run.
Verdict: The optimum vested suit for going long 89% (swarded the Cutting Edge title out of the vested tri-suits tested)