With so much choice out there, why would you go for a traditional vested version? Well, the thinking behind the sleeved versions is they’re more for long-course racing, as the sleeves keep the sun off your shoulders and make you more aerodynamic, whereas the vested versions are marketed more toward shorter races.
However for us, there are no hard and fast rules, so if you’re looking for your first tri-suit then try a few and see what suits you most. This is maybe more important for women than men too, as you need to consider bust size and what is least restrictive – especially for the run. In our tests this year, we’ve been finding the sleeved versions more flattering and comfortable, but they do come with a premium price tag, so it’s a case of weighing up what’s important to you.
Of the vested versions in this test, they fall roughly into two style categories. You’ve got the more solid ‘vest’ styles with a full fabric front and back (like the Zone 3 below), then you’ve got the suits that are styled more like a swimsuit, with thinner straps and less fabric on the back, or with a completely open back (like the Sailfish in this test). There’s also a real mix of details here – so consider what’s important. Do you want an integral bra, or will you add your own? Do you want a front zip for ventilation and ease of fit? Also, do you need pockets for gels? Make a wish list and go from there!
This was the suit that got the most enthusiastic response at our tri club sessions, with the cheerful zebra/polka dot print attracting plenty of attention. Less cheerfully though, we had a few comfort issues with this suit. The back of the neck sits quite high which caused some rubbing, especially on longer bike and run sessions, while the leg grippers were the rubber dot type that feel a little old-fashioned. They did stay in place well, though. The chammy is comfortable on the bike with a decent amount of padding, although it felt the most prominent on test during the run and (oddly) came up quite far at the front. Other features include a single back pocket, quality zip with garage and integral bra with front zipper. The bra did offer some support, but this was compromised by the narrow front cut that revealed quite a bit of armpit/side boob!
Verdict: snazzy design and lots of features, but let down by some odd fit quirks and prominent chammy 65%
Buy from www.evanscycles.com
The last year has been an exciting one for new women’s tri brand Threo – ending in them bagging a spot on the shortlist in the 220 Triathlon Awards for both Tri-Suit and Innovative Product of The Year – no mean feat with competition from much bigger, more established brands! The Eton Dorney is an update on last year’s Hyde Park tri-suit and continues to impress our team, with women-specific details that have been carefully considered. So you get a great fit, lovely wide leg grippers that fit and flatter and a mix of fabrics including mesh back for ventilation and soft brushed fabric across the suit’s inner front. The chammy is high-tech and comfy, there are three pockets on the suit, a zip garage and you get that brilliant popper-attached number belt. Our only suggestion? A longer zip please, to make shimmying it on past our (curvy) hips a little easier!
Verdict: created by a brand that have thought carefully about design and function. Good price, too 92%
Buy from threo.co.uk
On the basis that ‘if it ain’t broke...’ this is the second appearance on these pages for this two-tone suit from Pearl Izumi. We last reviewed it in 2016 and although it hasn’t changed, neither has the price point – which for the quality makes it an attractive option. So how does it fare against the new suits on the block? Well, pretty well in fact. The swimsuit-style top keeps you cool and allows good range of motion, while the chammy was on a par with others on test such as the Ellementri. Storage is via one single mid-back pocket and one key benefit is you get a separate crop-top style bra, to use or replace with something more supportive as you choose (although it was perfect for our small-busted tester). We’d like to see the rubber dot leg grippers replaced with more modern ones, but that’s a minor gripe on a decent budget suit.
Verdict: budget suit with some decent features that’s stood the test of time in the tri market 80%
Buy from www.tredz.co.uk
We had the sleeved ‘long course’ version of this tri-suit, designed in conjunction with Tana Ramsay (triathlete and wife of the chef) in our group test. Here it’s back and for £20 less, but in a vested style. Like its sleeved sister, there are a lot of really lovely features here. The fabric is high quality and feels good against the skin, while perforated panels on the spine and lower back help with cooling. Next to the Sailfish too, it was the second quickest-drying in this test. We also like other details – such as the quality chammy and good-quality zip with easy-pull tab (useful for ventilation mid-race!) and zip garage. There are also pockets situated on each side, which we prefer to the lower back. Downsides? The tight leg grippers that didn’t flatter our thighs, plus an integral bra that was too big and can’t
Verdict: if the legs and bra fit you, you’ll love this high quality suit as it has some great features 88%
Buy from www.wiggle.co.uk
Think the front of this suit looks pretty jazzy? Well, you ain’t seen nothing until you turn it round and feast your eyes on the minty-green back emblazoned with the message ‘Nothing is impossible. The word itself says I’m possible’. It definitely divided opinion on our (very scientific) Instagram poll, but it’s nice to see something a bit funkier on offer. The fit was good and although the legs were quite short, which won’t be to everyone’s liking, we found them flattering and the wide grippers kept them in place without nipping the thigh. Two decent-sized back pockets gave loads of storage for gels, while the chammy was comfy enough and not too obtrusive on the run. We would have liked a zip garage though and this suit was a little slow to dry, plus the minty-green fabric went a touch transparent when wet and stretched over our bum!
Buy from www.ellementri.co.uk
Verdict:striking suit from a new women’s brand. A decent performer and perfect if you want to stand out 70%
Sailfish market this suit from their top-end Pro line as being ‘not only for the short distance’, which might surprise you given the skimpy swimsuit design and lack of extra features such as pockets to stuff with gels (and Nurofen!). However, having tried this suit out in the Lanzarote heat, it’s obvious where the benefits come in. You’ll need a lot of sunscreen as it’s a skimpy number, but the cross-over swimsuit back keeps you very cool and the water-repellent material was easily the fastest on test to dry. This was also the suit with the least-noticeable pad for the long run, yet it offered a good level of comfort. The legs are quite long on this suit (sitting almost on the knee and we’re 5ft 7in) and one annoyance was the little leg graphics, which peeled off one swim in, although Sailfish tell us they think this was a one-off glitch with our test suit.
Verdict: we loved the swimsuit design and the fabric was the best on test. expensive, though! 85%
Buy from www.wiggle.co.uk
The final verdict
Starting at the budget end of this test, it’s a choice between the Pearl Izumi and the Zone3. Although the Zone3 had the funkier design, for us it was a clear win for Pearl Izumi. The fit was great, you get a handy separate bra and for under £70 (by a penny!) we think this gives fantastic value.
Moving up a price point, it’s the battle of the women-specific brands, with Ellementri and Threo going head-to-head. There was a lot to like about the Ellementri suit and we’re excited to see another women’s brand doing something a little different. That Threo suit is just fantastic though, with carefully-considered details that truly have female triathletes’ bodies and comfort in mind. So much so, that it takes the overall win in this group test.
Finally, we have our two top-end suits (although there’s still £50 between the Huub and the Sailfish!). The Tana is a great suit, although the fit didn’t completely work for our tester which could make it appeal to less women overall. Lose the stitched-in bra and we’d be very happy! Then finally Sailfish provide a very technical option – we love the fabric and swimsuit design. Just be mindful there are no pockets (and it is pricey!).
How we tested
In addition to UK testing including swim, bike and run sessions outdoors as well as swim/bike/run brick sessions in the gym, we also tested this season’s batch of suits with brick sessions around the new 50m pool at the Occidental Barcelo (barcelo.com) in Lanzarote to see how they perform in hot, summery conditions. All tri-suits were a size medium and where they didn’t include an integral bra, we tested them adding the same Roka bra for consistency.