Watch any old YouTube Ironman Hawaii videos or flick through the back issues of 220 (hello, Faris Al Sultan!), and it soon becomes apparent that the two-piece tri-suit was once king for both short- and long-course racing. This dominance ended with triathlon’s Olympic Games introduction at Sydney 2000 and, even for the portable toilet convenience needed for 8-17 hour Ironman racing, the all-in-one suit largely ruled the roost.
Ironman gear: tri-suit versus separate kit for cycling and running legs
Sprint versus long-distance tri-suits
And yet, due to improvements in tech (most notably brands finding a way to stop the waistband riding up) and the increase in long-distance athletes, the two-piece tri-suit is still going strong in 2018. And the quality of most of the suits on test here, from £80 steals to techy £300+ wonders, ensures that athletes have plenty of choice when picking their two-piece racing suit. While convenience and comfort is the major two-piece draw, there’s also plenty of versatility with having seperate shorts and tops as well, and we’ve already got plenty of wear using the shorts for gym and swim sets. We’ll also be using the outfits for training in the build-up to our major races this summer and beyond.
In terms of testing, we had middle- and long-course racing in mind when putting these suits through their paces, with the main test consisting of a continuous 3:30hr ride before a run straight after.
We were also lucky enough to test the ventilation and quick-drying of these suits in British summertime conditions in our new favourite winter training destination, the Azores (£50 return, do it!), complete with sun, winds and, okay, plenty of rain. Time, then, to go all Al Sultan and let the testing begin…
We’ve spent many hours racing in Zone3’s wetsuits but their tri-suits have largely left us a bit unenthusiastic due to pad size, gripper and/or style issues. Happily, they’ve finally nailed it with their 2018 range, including the Lava two-piece. The leg gripper bands are a serious upgrade from 2017’s silicone dots, finding that sweet spot of staying in place but feeling unrestrictive.
The zippered rear pocket on the shorts is a neat touch missing from the other suits here and meant we could stash a key and money worry-free. Those with bigger biceps than us (99% of you) may find the arm grippers a touch tight, but we loved their feel and there are aero gains coming from the close fit. While not as breathable as the meshed design from Orca here, the frontal fabric offers windproofing only equal to Endura, something worth considering if you’re racing chillier, UK long-course races in 2018.
Verdict: not cheap, but these offer a top-draw performance on extended bike and run efforts 88%
Buy from www.evanscycles.com/
2017’s most improved tri title went to Dhb for their remarkably-affordable Blok and Classic tri-suit range. The two-piece Classic S-S Top (£42) and Shorts (£42) here offer many of the same benefits as the winning all-in-one Classic. The top stayed low thanks to the internal silicon hem, the drawstring waist kept the shorts in place (although the tiny rear pockets are just about big enough for a sole drinks tab, coin and a key). Our major issue for the shorts comes in the slender pad, which is used across the whole 2017 line. Two-piece suits, for us, are for long-course comfort and convenience, yet we wouldn’t want to race longer than 40km in these – even Dhb themselves market these for Olympic-distance racing. For going longer, we’ll have to wait for their eagerly-awaited Aeron range, arriving soon. wiggle.co.uk
Verdict: a great and cheap two-piece for short-course tri, but padding issues for going long 85%
Buy from www.wiggle.co.uk
Every once in a while, a new piece of kit arrives into 220 Towers and blows our socks off, proving instantly impressive and very hard to fault. The 2XU set fits into this category. The shorts boast some of the compressive properties from 2XU’s high-quality run tights, and you can feel the compression working on both the bike and run. The lightweight pad borrows the best bits with a slender fleece-lined and multi-density chamois, creating a winning hybrid for hour-upon-hour comfort. The stretchy leg grippers have plenty of give and find that sweet spot of unrestrictive tension. The striking top also boasts two gel-sized rear pockets, and features mesh panels on the shoulders and sides to complete a very breathable package. For racing Ironman in 2018, there isn’t a tri-suit we’d recommend more. 2xu.com
Verdict: superb pad, grippers, style, compression and more. An ironman suit that has it all 94%
Buy from www.wiggle.co.uk/2xu