You might not have seen them during the elite triathlons at the Commonwealth Games, but sleeved tri-suits are witnessing huge growth across the age-group board, especially for athletes going long. In 2015, our tri-suits test saw only two sleeved tri-suits but now they warrant a test of their own, with the 10 here – ranging from £76 to over £300 – featuring a wealth of technology, aerodynamics, style and race-day practicality.
Personally, now we’ve gone for short-sleeves we’ll very rarely go back to vested (some of the suits here even perform well in pool tris), but what should you look for when buying your first/next short-sleeve suit? You’ll first need to think about your race plans when buying your suit. Are you racing the 452km Double Brutal or the super-sprint Bananaman at Dorney? Are you a competer or completer? And do you carry your nutrition in your tri-suit pockets or on your bike?
While buying on the web can save you cash, trying before you buy is our mantra when it comes to selecting kit, tri-suits especially. No one tri-suit is the same, with sizing differences and plenty of internal features (zip guards, flatlock seams, pad type) often being things you can’t see when scanning the web stores.
But what all tri-suits should do is make you comfortable for every discipline of your race, being the only piece of kit that’s with you from the starter’s horn to the finishing tape. And we’re happy to report that the quality of the suits here has made us chomp at the bit for for racing.
How we tested the tri-suits
The tri-suits here were all given multiple tests on the swim, bike and run, with particular focus on the comfort of the material and chamois performance over long-distance bike legs. Key factors we looked at were breathability, how fast they dried, chafing (or lack of), pocket sizing and accessibility, and the effectiveness of the leg grippers and zippers. The price, aesthetics, durability and aerodynamics were also key.
Airofin won a Best on Test award for their vested suit and the hypnotic Maze Pro Suit takes the honours here for visual design. It’s similar to the Heart Sports suit in that it boasts a ‘floating’ set of back pockets to stop them weighing down your top when full, as well as the full-length zip for toilet stops. But Airofin place more emphasis on pure speed, with a streamlined fit for drag reduction and a slimmed-down pad. That lightweight chamois is made by Elastic Interface (see also Dhb and Zone3) and sits between the sizing of those two, respectively, but we wouldn’t want to spend more than a few hours in it. The lack of a zip guard also irritated when on the tri-bars. airofin.com
Verdict: stylish and speedy, but slender pad limits its appeal for long-course triathlon bike legs 84%
Buy from www.airofin.com
We were impressed by Zone3’s Lava two-piece suit recently, and the all-in-one is another assured product. Like the two-piece, the leg gripper bands are a serious upgrade from 2017’s silicone dots, and the frontal fabric offers some windproofing for colder races. There’s flatlock stitching and the Elastic Interface pad is larger than the Dhb and Airofin, making it suitable for middle and up. There are two huge rear pockets (plus two leg pockets), which could feed a relay team or two. We’re not sold on the Polynesian graphics, and the zip, like Huub’s, is frustratingly high for mid-race toilet stops. Worth noting is that the Lava (close-fitting sleeves aside) comes in bigger than all other suits here.
Verdict: not as good as the Lava two-piece, but still a well-crafted and comfortable race suit 83%
Buy from www.wiggle.co.uk
For a year, the absolute bargain Blok has continually impressed us on dry land and even in the pool. There’s a lengthy zip guard to stop the zip rubbing on the chest, the quality silicon leg grippers are something we’d expect on suits twice the price, and the back pockets are simple and reliable for accessing gels. The 13cm-wide perforated pad is quick to dry and remains invisible on the run leg, but it’s just too slender for longer races. Ventilation is provided by a smartly-placed panel that runs the length of the spine. The good looks and the 50+ UPF Lycra add to the package, but the bottom area is a little thin and can easily become see-through after the swim especially. wiggle.co.uk
Verdict: a bargain suit that’s comfy and swift for short-course racing. Just beware of the bottom 85%
Buy from www.wiggle.co.uk
Continue reading our guide to this year's best sleeved tri-suits of 2018 (2/3)