Short-sleeved tri-suits have only truly been around for half a decade but they’ve experienced huge growth across the tri board. The benefits are widespread, and include the added UV protection and heightened aero potential provided by the sleeves. For many, the aesthetics outshine the classic vest, although the latter will provide a greater range of movement in the pool and often a cheaper price tag.
Men's vested tri-suits: 7 of the best reviewed, tested & rated
Sprint versus long-distance tri-suits
Ironman tri-suits: 10 of the best reviewed
So what should you look for when buying your first/next short-sleeve suit? A key thing to consider is the sort of triathlete you are and what your future race plans will be. Are you battling for age-group honours and in pursuit of marginal gains? Do you need a pad that’ll face the demands of an 180km Ironman bike leg? Will you carry your nutrition in your tri-suit pockets or on your bike? Or are you a beginner just hoping to cross that tri finish line?
Trying before you buy is our oft-repeated mantra when it comes to selecting kit as no tri-suit here is identical in terms of sizing. While price is also important, try not to be swayed purely by heavy online discounts as internal features such as flatlock seams, pad type, pocket size and zip guards are often neglected on web images.
In contrast to our Ironman tri-suits test, here we’ve picked 10 suits aimed at multiple race distances and have tested them accordingly for their versatility across short-course and middle-distance tri, with half an eye on their Ironman potential. And we’re happy to report that the majority made us long for the start of the UK tri race season.
How we tested the tri-suits
As it’s the only piece of tri apparel that’s with you for the entire duration of the race, the tri-suits here were all given multiple tests on the swim, bike and run. Key factors included 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 considered,
as was the versatility of each suit.
APTONIA LD SHORT SLEEVE
A major benefit of the Aptonia is that you can try before buying at one of Decathlon’s 20+ stores nationwide. So would we buy the LD? Visually, the attractive colourscheme scores points and the affordability is welcome, but we wish more craft had gone into ensuring a strong race-day performance. The pockets are a chief frustration, with the opening of the two rear ones being far too small for easy access and the leg pockets too tiny for anything except a nutrition tab or two. The neck lets in a fair amount of water in the pool and, onto the bike, we could feel the seams through the chamois on a 50km ride. Decathlon pitch the pad as suitable for Olympic and Ironman events, but we’d seriously question the latter especially. Positive points include the silicone leg grippers, the comfy and stylish sleeves, and an effective zipper guard.
Verdict: Scores for price and looks, but too many flaws to be a genuine race-day contender, 65%
Buy from www.decathlon.co.uk
Aropec have previously impressed us with their budget collection of tri wear, and the Tri-Slick scores points with a full-length zip guard. Into the pool and it excels for a sleeved suit, with water ingress minimal, the shoulders remaining unrestrictive and the fabric hydrodynamic (although we could give or take the dated geometric stylings). On the bike and the stretchy leg gripper bands are rudimentary but effective enough, while the pockets are well positioned. Yet, at just 9cm high, they’re just too short for anything bar a small gel. The main fabric isn’t the most breathable but there’s a huge (admittedly not visually appealing) mesh area on the back for venting. The chamois picks up plus points for its lack of chafing and support for up to Olympic distance, but we’d want more padding for longer races. That said, it largely remains invisible once on the run leg.
Verdict: The aesthetics are divisive but it’s a bargain buy for pool triathlons especially 78%
Buy from aropec.co.uk/
ORCA CORE SHORT SLEEVE
The Core is Orca’s cheapest short-sleeve suit and its race-friendly features include flatlock seams, two well-positioned pockets for race fuel, and meshing on the back and sleeves for added breathability. The covered pockets and flexible Italian fabrics produce a swift swim, although the shallow position of the pad and slim materials ensure that there’s little left to the imagination in the groin area when it’s wet, so we wouldn’t pick this for racing in front of friends and family! Onto the bike and the pad is comfy, the grippers are okay, the upper body unrestrictive and the wind-tunnel tested sleeves will please marginal gain-seekers. Our long-term beef with the Core range is the lack of a guard between zipper and skin, and this is still neglected in the 2019 edition, with rubbing on the run especially. But worth noting is that it’s made with 80% recycled materials.
Verdict: Comfortable and plenty of quality for the price, but with a couple of avoidable flaws, 79%
Continue reading our guide to this year's best sleeved tri-suits of 2019 (2/3)