As the only bit of apparel that’s with you for every step of your race, the tri-suit is a fundamental piece of triathlon gear. Here’s our guide to the best tri-suits on the market, whether you’re racing sprint or Ironman, on a budget or looking for aerodynamic gains.
What is a tri-suit?
A tri-suit is a garment specifically designed for racing all three disciplines of triathlon. Made of a similar quick-drying fabric to swimwear, it’s flexible, hydrodynamic and aerodynamic so it can cater for the demands of swimming, cycling and running. It includes a pad/chamois for comfort on the bike leg, but this pad shouldn’t obstruct your final run leg.
What tri-suit should I buy?
As the only piece of triathlon gear that’ll be with you from the starting horn until the finishing chute, the right tri-suit is a key purchase: too tight, baggy, poorly made or slow to dry and you’ll be flirting with a DNF instead of reaching for a personal best.
It also depends on what distance you’re planning to race and whether comfort or speed is your priority, and race conditions. The main options are vested, short-sleeved and those designed especially for Ironman, and there are advantages and disadvantages of each. See below for more information on choosing the best tri-suit for you.
How are the tri-suits tested and reviewed?
The tri-suits here were all given multiple tests on the swim, bike and run to find the best one. 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 pad was assessed for how quickly it dried after the swim, its ability to provide comfort on the bike leg and whether the size impacted on the run. The price, aesthetics, durability and aerodynamics were also considered, as was the versatility of each suit. Many of the Ironman tri-suits were also tested for their aerodynamic abilities at the Silverstone Sports Engineering Hub’s wind tunnel.
Best tri and Ironman tri-suits to buy in 2021
- The best short-sleeved tri-suits
- The best vested tri-suits
- The best Ironman tri-suits
- The best two-piece tri-suits
Elbow-length suits are equipped for the needs of the modern-day triathlete: shoulders and sleeves help to protect your skin; improved pads aid comfort; and fabrics are designed to be both hydro- and aerodynamic.
On top of all that, manufacturers have thought about the practicalities of getting them on and off and have started getting creative with their designs, producing tri-suits for a variety of distances. Time, then, to take a look at some of the best triathlon short-sleeved tri-suits on the market.
Which is the best short-sleeved tri-suit for men?
dhb Aeron Ltd Edition
One look at this limited-edition tri-suit makes you think there’s something a little unique and quirky behind it. So it’s no surprise to find that it’s the brainchild of one of Britain’s finest long-course triathletes, Joe Skipper. Joe was heavily involved in the design and construction of the suit as part of his partnership with dhb and has been wearing the exact same one in racing. It’s obviously suited to long distance, with a chamois that doesn’t chafe, even after multiple hours in the saddle. Meanwhile, two rear pockets provide accessible and secure storage. There’s plenty of shoulder flex, and the wide arm and leg grippers mean there’s very little movement on the run. If there’s one downside it’s that the bottom of the zip rubs slightly, even if there is no pull down through the shoulders. Of all the features that makes this typically Joe, it’s the design – loud and stylish.
Verdict: a striking suit that’s ideal for long distance, but the zip could be improved
Stolen Goat Sector
Stolen Goat says the Sector has been designed to make you faster and it’s clear that plenty of engineering has gone into it. The zip for the front torso is an interesting feature that allows for extra cooling on the run while still giving you a close fit. However, it’s also the suit’s only sole note of caution, as you’ll need to pick your size carefully to make sure the stomach covering sits correctly. Two large rear pockets are almost big enough for a small picnic, while the arms and legs do a great job. They’re long and have the perfect amount of grip, giving you skin coverage
for sun protection and speed. In fact, Stolen Goat claims a saving of 8-10 watts per sleeve – the equivalent of a disc wheel. There’s plenty of mobility for the swim and a slick surface promises a speedy transition. A comfortable pad and a striking design top off a cracking suit.
Verdict: comfort, storage and aerodynamics make this suit a great all-rounder
Presca has designed the Endurance to strike the balance between performance and sustainability. The design is meant to evoke thoughts of disappearing ice sheets and show a commitment to sustainable living, backed up by the use of 100% recycled fabrics. It’s an interesting and admirable concept, but the suit also has to deliver on comfort and performance. It’s here that the Endurance’s credentials are patchier. Though fit is always somewhat individual, the sizing is curious. The sleeves aren’t as tight as you’d want, causing some bagging under the armpits, while the suit also produces a slight downward pull on the rear of the neck. The pockets are well positioned but leave a bit to be desired with their ability to hold firmly. That said, the full-length zip and chamois pad are very comfortable, even over extended periods.
Verdict: We love the focus on sustainability, but the tri-suit itself needs refinement
INCUS Elite Aero
INCUS has developed pretty dynamic technology when it comes to optimising training and performance, and this tri-suit created with Velotec has been designed to enhance those gains. Whether you use the Elite Aero with the brand’s NOVA training device or as a regular tri-suit, it has plenty to shout about. Its aero-ribbed sleeves are comfortable over long distances, as is its fast-drying chamois. The three rear pockets are generous and the self-gripping bands hold everything in place. The major issue for the tri-suit is something that INCUS is actively addressing, and that’s sizing. On test it felt a little out of proportion, particularly around the neck. It didn’t cause any major issues across the three disciplines, but still meant it stopped a little short of the optimum comfort levels you’d expect given its comparatively high price tag.
Verdict: a quality suit with lots of positives, but a poor fit around the neck
The Evo is an outstanding package from Aussie brand Tri-Fit. The suit proved to be very comfortable, especially across the chest where it uses premium Italian fabric. The pad is great even for longer sessions and races, while the fit felt perfect for us. A focus on aerodynamics (Tri-Fit has wind-tunnel-tested the latest version of the Evo) across the shoulders, back and arms didn’t inhibit flexibility and is of high quality, with the sleeves held in place. Pocket space is among the best on test here, with a decent rear pocket complemented by one on either leg for energy gels, while the full-length zipper and middle vent make it easy to get on and off. The design is far from bland but isn’t the most striking compared to the Zoot and dhb tri-suits tested here, and we would’ve welcomed more effective leg grippers.
Verdict: Comfort, aerodynamics and features… a standout tri-suit for all race distances
Zoot Ltd Tri Aero Tokyo
The Tokyo visual theme may have been extended into 2021, but the LTD Tri Aero from Zoot is still a good all-round tri-suit with little to fault. It definitely delivers a nod towards longer-distance triathletes thanks to its superior pocket space; the rear pocket is complemented by two tight side pockets on either leg that are perfect for gels and solve the storage issue better than many. The fit is also reasonable and didn’t inhibit run form, while the SBR 2D pad is agreeable on both the bike and run, including for extended periods. The Italian Primo fabric is comfortable and breathable, while the technology employed in the suit should result in aerodynamic returns. The full-length zipper and design appeal of the suit help to deliver a solid all-rounder, which is well-crafted and does a lot of things well, rather than one or two things that are truly outstanding.
Verdict: A high price but great style, and the versatility ensures something for everyone
Raceskin Funky Skull
In the Funky Skull Speedsuit, Raceskin has produced a tri-suit that lives up to its name. The titular Skull design is striking and typical of the brand, which is celebrated for its custom tri kit. There’s plenty more to like as well, such as generous movement in the shoulders, well-positioned rear pockets and an effective zip cover that’s so good it makes you wonder why you don’t find it everywhere, while the full-length zipper allows for easy toilet stops. Yet there are downsides. The pad is double density but didn’t prove as comfortable as others on test for longer rides, suggesting it’s more appropriate for short-course racing. The Lycra fabric and flatlock seams are comfortable, but the sizing was an issue as it was a little short in the body for us, producing a slight ‘dragging down’ effect on the posture when running.
Verdict: great visuals and a zip guard, but the pad means this suit is better for shorter distances
Which is the best short-sleeved tri-suit for women?
You may not have come across this tri-specific brand before. In fact, this is Tenola’s first outing in a 220 women’s test, but we did see them in our men’s reviews in 2019. Made and designed in Great Britain by keen triathletes, we like the credentials of this brand. The Italian fabrics and cold-black treatment were nice to see during a heatwave in the testing period. This suit did a reasonable job of keeping us cool, with mesh panels under the arms helping too, but we did prefer the more breathable fabric of the Airofin on balance. Less positively, the design felt quite basic and old-fashioned, and the single-strip sticky leg grippers weren’t that comfy and started to peel away from the fabric early on in testing. Two slanted rear pockets were adequate for an energy gel each, while the chammy was soft and comfortable, if a little bulky.
Verdict: needs a few improvements; feels overpriced for what’s on offer here
HUUB Commit Long Course
The Commit is HUUB’s new range of quality racewear offering value for money for novice triathletes. That said, we were impressed by the features on offer and the reasonable price point. We’d happily pay an extra £20 over the Tenola suit here to get a more stylish design (that striking aqua blue on a women’s suit is a winner and looks great when on), as well as the lightweight fabrics that dried quicky and a 3D tri-specific pad that was silky and comfortable. While it didn’t feel as cool as some others, the fabric felt smooth and nice quality, with a breathable mesh insert down the spine and lower back. Two angled pockets with fold-over tops kept our gels safe. Our size small suit was a touch tight for this size UK10-12 tester, and we did find the leg grippers a touch unflattering, but that’s easily solved by sizing up.
Verdict: a stylish suit from a big brand that performs as well as it looks and is good value
Aptonia Long Distance
Aptonia is Decathlon’s tri brand and we were pleasantly surprised to see such an unusual design sitting at the budget-end of this year’s grouptest. First impressions on the feel and quality were good. We liked the jacket-style suit, the choice of mesh around the arms and the breathable striped back panel, which kept us cool. A few quirky touches included a pleat in the back for added movement across the shoulders. This was also the only suit on test to offer four pockets – two mesh on the lower back and one on each leg – allowing plenty of space to stash things for long races. The chammy is a thin, stretchy gel pad which was quick to dry, but a touch more padding might be preferred for full Ironman distance. Our only real niggle was the laser-cut hems on the shorts, which were a bit sharp on the edges, though those with slimmer thighs might find them okay.
Verdict: a striking suit with some nice features and the least expensive on test!
Trimtex Aero Tri Speedsuit
Given the high price point, this suit is most likely only ever going to grace the backs of triathletes looking for marginal gains. But if money’s no object and that sounds like you, then there’s a lot to like here. From the dimpled mesh upper to the ribbed aero panels on the legs, this suit incorporates a lot of features we’re used to seeing on cycling speedsuits, and it felt like a second skin. The chammy is developed in conjunction with Italian specialist Cytech and felt suitable enough for up to Ironman distance, while two zip garages (top and bottom) and spacious, angled mesh pockets, felt well thought-out. The wide leg grippers were comfortable without pinching, while a small gripper around the neckline kept the suit in place. In fact, our only concern, aside from the price, would be that the inner seams were slightly scratchy. trimtex.eu
Verdict: an impressive suit with few criticisms, but that’s an eye-watering price
Kudos to Santini for putting together a suit with a striking design, packed with extra features that the Italian brand claims are designed to help you achieve your ‘fastest bike performance ever’. This is a bold claim, but we did like the feel of the fresh-touch Artico fabric and the ribbed aero panels on the arms. Overall, the fit on our size medium (size UK10-12 tester) was good, although it did feel a bit short in the body on the run, so we’d be tempted to size up, as is often the case with some of the more top-end ‘race fit’ brands. The chammy was among the best on test, but although we understood the sentiment, we didn’t really get on with the large grippy area on the crotch, which is designed to help you stick to the bike. For us, it seemed unnecessarily large and perhaps more suited to time triallists than to triathletes, as it felt odd to run in. Grab yours from Santini
Verdict: Some great features, but this tech-packed suit did feel quite bike-specific
Airofin gets brownie points from the off for making this suit out of Econyl, which is a fabric constructed from recycled fishing nets. We like the colour scheme, although it went a touch transparent in the swim, but Airofin recommends wearing a swim bra underneath (and we always would, too, for support of delicate breast tissue on the run). The breathable top-half felt great on warm days and we appreciated the wide, flattering leg grippers. Meanwhile, the full-length ‘jacket-style’ zip made the suit easy to pull on and off. The mid-density chamois was comfortable, though perhaps most suited to middle-distance racing. We liked the ‘floating’ rear pocket, which had two decent sized compartments designed to not weigh down the suit when in use. We did find the bottom of the jacket a little tight, though, compared to the more flexible fabric used on the Aptonia design. airofin.com
Verdict: a well-designed suit with some nice features and good eco credentials
There are still numerous cases for a vested tri-suit. Firstly, a vested tri-suit will often be cheaper than a sleeved version simply because there’s less of it – it’s easily possible to pick one up new for £50 or less by shopping around online or in specialist shops.
The next consideration is the extra restriction that some triathletes perceive to feel in a short-sleeved suit under a wetsuit. Even now with super technical tri-suits that are purpose-built to cause minimal swim restriction, some fussy pros are still sceptical and opt to roll theirs down to the waist, before putting it on properly during the run through T1.
As we were testing the suits in full lockdown during winter, we were unable to test in the water to assess quick-drying properties, but we’ve noted these where relevant without it affecting the scoring. What we did was ride and run in them as much as possible, awarding marks for comfort, fit and value
The ITU logo on the Argento Performance from British brand Yonda gives you a good idea of who it’s for; speedy triathletes who wouldn’t intend to use it for anything above Olympic distance triathlon, and possibly just sprint distance and below for non-elites. Every second counts so there are no pockets to store snacks here, and the padding is just some thin fleecy material sewn onto the main fabric.
Made in Italy, the suit has Lycra Energy fabric from Cervico that promises UV protection, compression and stretch. Yonda also say the Teflon yarn coating makes this suit fast through the water, particularly useful for elites such as the Scottish national and GB paratriathletes who use it for non-wetsuit swims.
We can vouch for the stretchiness of the fabric, and it’s just as well because our size medium was very close-fitting on this tester and wasn’t quite as comfortable as the other suits on the run. Flat seams increase comfort, but we found the heavy-duty reverse zipper was a little rough against the skin. The leg grippers are comfortable and fit well around the thighs, and we found the suit breathable on hard run and ride efforts. Out of all the suits on test, the Argento Performance was indeed the fastest through the water in pool testing, saving us almost as much time as a swimskin would at around 2-3 secs per 100m consistently. For this reason, we can understand why the suit it popular with elites.
Verdict: minimal yet effective suit for short course racing
Bioracer’s Team suit has a number of different fabric innovations that should keep you cool and comfortable at all distances up to half-Ironman. The ‘Aquaracer’ fabric on the legs has a hydrophobic treatment that Bioracer say dries 40% faster than Lycra, and underneath are some large silicon grippers that still fitted perfectly after several washes. While fairly close-fitting, it was roomier than the Yonda and stretchy enough not to feel restrictive. Bioracer’s ‘Tri Force Lycra’ makes up most of the top half of the suit, and while it’s very thin it does make it hugely breathable. A large pocket across the back means you can’t divide up supplies, but will fit up to four gels comfortably.
Verdict: Comfortable, technical fabric and good for various tri distances; decent price, too
Huub’s new Raceline suit has plenty of impressive tech features that we’ve come to expect from the brand in recent years. High-density chamois with drainage holes, wide leg grippers and two ergonomic pockets that are easy to grab from are some standout features, with lightweight Italian fabrics specced throughout. Coldblack technology features on the main panels for moisture management, and there are flatlock seams to prevent chafing. Billed as an aero suit, we found the Raceline offered a fairly relaxed fit, and the legs are on the shorter side, so don’t offer much coverage on the thighs. The mesh back panel is also minimal, so there’s not much ventilation. But if you mainly race in the UK, that won’t be an issue.
Verdict: Comfortable, technical performance suit that promises some aero advantages
Zoot Sunset Ltd
Get ready to stand out in the crowd with Zoot’s Sunset Ltd! Made with premium Italian fabrics, the Seamlink construction means the seams are stretchy and completely smooth, making for a hugely comfortable experience during our test period. Zoot’s exclusive chamois was fine for longer rides, and the huge leg grippers fitted perfectly around our lower thighs. A ‘no-sew’ zip guard ensures zero irritation; two side pockets and a larger ‘kangaroo-style’ rear pocket offer plenty of storage for middle-distance and beyond; and there’s plenty of ventilation across the suit to keep you cool. It’s not cheap, granted, but the Sunset Ltd’s versatility across all tri distances increases its value for money.
Verdict: Great looks, cutting- edge construction and suitable for all distances
New for 2021, the Activate+ tri-suits from Zone3 have a few upgrades on the entry-level Activate range. Tested here is the range’s Tropical Palm suit, which is aesthetically pleasing without being too loud. For a medium it’s a relaxed fit, perhaps more relaxed than we expected considering we’re on the larger end of medium! So if you’re in between, check size guides and size down if necessary. In terms of storage, there’s one rear pocket with room for a couple of gels, which makes the Activate+ less suitable for middle distance and above. Zone3 have specced their Lycra sport fabric for most of the suit, with a thinner, breathable mesh panel on the back that kept us cool during hard efforts. zone3.com
Verdict: Stylish and affordable suit that will keep you cool and comfortable in your next race
Which is the best men’s vested tri-suit?
There were no losers in this year’s rundown of men’s vested tri-suits, and we’d consider using any in a race…
Yonda’s Argento Performance just missed out on the top marks because of some sizing inconsistencies and a slightly less comfortable experience than others on test. Huub’s Raceline and Zone3’s Activate both offered similar levels of comfort and performance, with Zone3 coming out on top for the nicer price. We’re fans of Bioracer’s Team suit, so the score is unchanged from last year’s vested tri-suits grouptest… which means our overall winner is Zoot’s Sunset Ltd.
Though expensive, it looks the business and we felt the construction is on another level compared to the other suits on test; with excellent seam technology that ensures maximum comfort, plus great stretch and breathability.
At the time of writing, it was a phenomenal half price on Wiggle, so we’d more than recommend snapping one up if you’re after a well-performing, versatile suit suitable for all tri distances.
Trimtex Drive Tri Skinsuit
With Trimtex’s bold claim that this suit has ‘a perfect ergonomic shape’, we had high hopes for the Drive Tri skinsuit, the most expensive suit on test. First impressions were good, thanks to the practical mesh-panelled design and two roomy mesh back pockets. The material has a soft satiny feel, which in practice proved to be quick-drying and breathable. The lock zip and zip garage are also good additions for comfort, but the high-rise neckline rubbed at the back, losing it precious points. We were impressed by the rigorous sizing questionnaire on the website, yet felt the suit ran a little big for a ‘skinsuit’, which didn’t help the non-existent support in the chest. The real winner here is the wide and über-comfy, laser-cut leg grippers, let down only by the Cytech chamois pad that though claiming to be seamless, felt scratchy on the stitching.
Verdict: Aero offering but lacks finishing details and comfort concerns around neckline
Tenola Inspire ITU Style
New British brand Tenola officially launched in 2018, with their range of affordably priced race suits, swimsuits and wetsuits. Their ITU-style suit is primed for hot temperatures and claims to have UPF 50+ protection. The cut-out back mimics the classic swimsuit-style and the compressive material is very thin and breathable, supposedly treated to be water-, cream- and oil-resistant. On the bike, padding is minimal though very breathable and the flatlock stitching reduced discomfort. On the flipside, we found the leg grippers to be too thin and there’s a distinct lack of pockets, which is at odds with Tenola’s claim that it’s suitable for six hours in the saddle. The slightly oversized chamois becomes a little nappy-like on the run, which is a shame as we’d expect it to fit a little snugger in this area.
Verdict: primed for sprint triathlons in hot climates; shame about the baggy chammy
Aussie brand 2XU’s Active range comes up trumps with this affordable and quality tri-suit, the trendy ombre colourway and sleek mesh side-panelled design scoring extra points with us. Three reasonably-sized, easily-accessible, elasticated back pockets are ideal for gel-stuffing. Along with a medium-sized hydrophobic chamois, comfort and fuelling is a clear priority, and we’d wear this suit for any and all distances. Made from stretchy SBR SKIN LITE material, we liked the smooth feel but felt it lacked support for the muscles, not helped by the sizing running a little large despite our tester perfectly matching measurements for a size small. Markedly, the Active has no support in the chest area, necessitating a sports bra to be worn underneath. The main drawback, though, is the narrowness of the leg grippers, lacking the comfort and style of a wider band. uk.2xu.com
Verdict: good quality for a great price, with plenty of fuel-storing options
Castelli Core SPR-OLY
Castelli’s recent foray into the tri market sees the launch of their cheapest suit, the Core. Despite the basic black colourway, this suit has a lot to offer. Perfectly true to size, the Core is flattering and fits snug to the body thanks to the reduced seams and elasticated neck and arm holes. Designed for short distances, the suit has a smooth-to-the-skin felt lining instead of a chamois pad and a quality-feel, lightweight fabric. The long-line fit, meanwhile, flows down through the legs towards this test’s best silicone leg grippers. In terms of fuelling, there’s one roomy, envelope back pocket that Castelli claim will stay secure on the swim, though we found it difficult to access. Unlike other suits on test, the Core’s zipper is located on the back with a long pull cord – worth bearing in mind if you like to unzip at the front when hot.
Verdict: high quality build with some nice touches for short-course racing
Speedo Fastskin Xenon
Speedo’s new Xenon suit has a number of features to keep you cool and streamline, including a mesh racer back and side panels. Markedly, it’s the only suit on test to have integrated bra support, which is a big plus for this tester. The compressive Endurance10 fabric feels supportive and durable, and also claims to have high chlorine resistance. On the bike, comfort was provided via the wide bonded leg hems with silicone grippers and the 2mm moulded chamois, which is padding a-plenty up to Olympic distance –much further and we’d need more thickness. The two back pockets are secure and can fit a couple of gels a-piece, yet the envelope design makes it difficult to slide any wrappers back in on the fly. Despite no zip garage, we found the true-to-size suit had a quality feel to it and were impressed by the low price. s
Verdict: ticks all the performance boxes at a had-to-look-twice price
Which is the best women’s vested tri-suit?
It was a mixed bag with the women’s vested tri suits this year, some wowing with innovation and comfort-driven design while others fell a little short. Trimtex and 2XU dazzled with their stylish lines and ample easy-access pockets, though we were disappointed with the quality in some areas. We liked the lightweight, seamless feel of the Tenola and Castelli for shorter distances; the former promising some funky tan-lines. Coming top for comfort would have to be the Castelli, though – the well-thought out suit and luxurious leg grippers had us at ‘laser-cut’.
As an all-rounder, though, the Speedo was hard to beat. The flattering style, with breathable mesh panels and silver-treated chamois cinched it for us. In this women’s test, we were particularly interested in the level of bra support across the brands, and Speedo’s integrated compressive support came up trumps. Value for money is also a huge plus for the Speedo, which was by far our cheapest suit on test, making it a very competitive offering
Triathlon brands are increasingly realising the aerodynamic benefits of tri-suits (remember that 80% of drag is caused by the rider, not the bike) and this collection of Lycra is the most tech-happy yet, with fabric boasting dimples, ribs and more all present and correct.
When choosing your Ironman tri-suit of choice, you’ll first need to decide what kind of Ironman athlete you are. Are aerodynamics worth the added costs that come with wind-tunnel, computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and velodrome action if it means scooping the age-group honours? Or do you just want something comfy and capable of carrying up to 17hrs worth of fuel to that unforgettable 226km (or 113km) finish-line experience?
Don’t compromise on your choice of tri-suit for Ironman. If it doesn’t fit properly, try another size. Try not to be influenced by a suit because it’s £25 cheaper or is better looking than the one that really works for you. You’ll be spending many hours racing in your chosen suit of choice and something that bugs you on a 2hr brick session – hello rogue seam, dodgy zipper or soggy pad – will become a full-blown issue on your big iron day. That said, you’ll want to look and feel good in your Lycra armour of choice, so aesthetics does play a role.
In the test here, we’ve put 11 short-sleeved suits targeted at long-distance tri to the test. Construction quality and material composition, pad performance and the success of the grippers and zippers are all key focusses, and we’ve factored in aerodynamic features, value for money and durability.
- What should you look for in an Ironman tri-suit?
- Ironman gear: tri-suit versus separate kit for cycling and running legs
2XU won our Ironman tri-suits test in 2018 and 2019 with their Compression tri-suit, and little has been changed in
this version. The compressive legs give it a USP, while the full-length zip with garage, spongy pad and lean fabric are still present to heighten long-course appeal.
As evidenced by the internal flatlock seams, the suit ticks most boxes for a long-course race day, but there’s just a sense that, while the other brands are pressing forward in their creations, 2XU are now standing still with this suit (although we’ve warmed to the 1980s aesthetics in the year we’ve had it). Our Silverstone wind-tunnel testing with the Bike Tailor in 2020 saw it come sixth out of 10 overall at the 0° and 5° yaw angles, probably explained by the suit costing half the price of those aero tested to their limits.
Verdict: The broadest appeal and cheapest here, but we want an upgrade
As evidenced in the striking M-Dot branding, Santini are an official Ironman sponsor. We’ve previously struggled with the sheer size of Santini’s cycling-esque pads on the run, but that’s been rectified, thanks to a slimmer, iron-specific pad with gel inserts. It’s a lightweight, lean and breathable suit, with easy-to-access open rear pockets (which sadly won’t persuade any non-wetsuit swimming friends), high-quality grippers and, for us, the Japanese-influenced designs have the best looks on test.
And the aero appeal? The Audax came mid-table in our tests at the Silverstone wind tunnel (consistently behind Endura, Zone3 and Orca), and only marginally ahead of the 2XU here, despite costing £110 more. There’s a smart zipper garage but it doesn’t open out for any pre/mid-race toilet stops, meaning we’re more likely to use this for 70.3.
Verdict: Stylish and sleek, but costly and unconvincing in the wind tunnel
The Anemoi+ arrived in 2019 with road-tested changes from the original Anemoi design. The first is the longer zip that makes it suitable for a stand-up wee, and lengthier legs, ribbed arms and bonded seams to increase the aero appeal.
We used the Anemoi+ on a 3.8km/120km/11km DIY tri in Hawaii in ’19. The arms were unrestrictive on the sea swim, the chamois barely there on the run, yet with just enough seated comfort on both the tri-bars and hoods. It was the new Moov&Cool tech – combined with the underarm venting – that really stood out, and at no point did the garment chafe, itch, allow sunburn or feel laden with sweat.
As a mid/back-of-the-pack athlete who stuffs their pockets with gels, we require more than the tiny solo pocket for racing longer than 70.3. But for triathletes at the pointy end? The Anemoi+ is a mighty contender.
Verdict: Most impressive, but for the speedsters over the completers
ZONE3 LAVA LONG DISTANCE
After years of not quite making the top-end tri-suit grade, Zone3 blew us away in 2020 with their Aeroforce speedsuit (from £275) both in the wind tunnel and on the road. Much of that painstaking R&D (with input from aero specialists Nopinz) has trickled down into the sub-£200 Lava – and it feels like they delivered the sweet spot between affordability (all things are relative), aerodynamic pursuits and practicality.
Lengthy ribbed sleeves, a full-length zip and supportive Cytech pad add to this winning performance vs practicality ratio. We were struggling to find faults until we reached for the pockets, which are small, shallow and difficult to access on the move (we wouldn’t trust sizeable OTE gels in them), and, while the pocket’s cover at the top wins swim points, it made stuffing empty gel packets back into them tricky, especially on the bike.
Verdict: Aero, more affordable and just oh-so close to being faultless
CASTELLI PR SPEED SUIT
Probably due to not hitting the lunchtime curry stall, lockdown has left us feeling leaner than we have since beer first tickled our taste buds. And yet the PR Speed Suit still felt furiously tight as we peeled it on. Once in place, as evidenced by Cam Wurf breaking the Kona bike course record in this, the suit provides the aero goods, while feeling unrestrictive.
‘Second skin’ is an overused term, but the ultra-lean material genuinely feels like it’s painted onto the body – there are no wrinkles to be found and the ribbed arms and lengthy sleeves add to the drag-cheating package. The 17cm-wide pad and sizeable duo of rear pockets are iron friendly, although for £300 we’d want fully flatlock seams inside.
Onto the run and the pad stays problem-free, although the aesthetics were slightly ruined by our hairy chests being visible through the fabric.
Verdict: Smooth, slick and sleek, and the design makes this a classy – if pricey – contender
TRIMTEX AERO 2.0
Scandi outfit Trimtex are new to these pages, but their products have long been worn by Norway’s 70.3 record holder Kristian Blummenfelt.
Onto the bike and the aero details come to the fore, with its ribbed aero panels on the legs and sleeves that extend to both the elbows and knees, making this feel like a cycling speedsuit. The beefy and firm pad is iron-distance-friendly, yet its size is noticeable on the run – not the full-blown nappy effect of a decade ago, but something worth considering.
For €329 (not helped by the exchange rate), there are internal concerns for us, from the general lack of flatlock stitching, to the minuscule zipper garage and a finishing quality that falls short of the competition here – evidenced by a noticeable lip between pad and fabric. A shame, as the grippers are excellent, the pockets are sizeable and we like the visuals.
Verdict: Ticks the aero boxes, but pad and stitching concerns for the price
Which was the best Ironman tri-suit for men?
After years of playing second fiddle to wetsuits, these are heady days for tri-suit design, a point highlighted by the techy creations on test here without a stinker in view. The men’s test featured Castelli, Huub, Santini and Trimtex all vying for the dollar of the more experienced (and financially lavish) crowd; all are good suits, with the Huub and Santini our picks for 70.3, and the Castelli for full-distance racing if money were no object.
But cost was a factor in this test, and that’s why the Zone3 Lava beats Castelli (and the 2XU) to the ‘Best on Test’ badge for its broadest appeal of aerodynamics, long-course comfort and a sub-£200 price tag. Sort those pockets and the 2022 gong will be Zone3’s to lose.
Hailed as a premier long-distance suit, the Ombre’s breathable fabric offers full flexibility throughout the shoulders, with ribbed sleeves enhancing speed through both air and water. The neckline sits close to the skin without being restrictive and the wide leg grippers prevent excess movement. The chamois offers comfort and support, though the rear pockets are on the small side.
The suit offers UV40 protection, although the coloured segments do become transparent when stretching into the TT position, not helped by the suit’s tightness around the hips and thighs. Yonda advises due to the compressive fabric, you should size up but, even using their height and weight guide, their sizing was a mystery.
Verdict: Possibly perfect for smaller athletes, but those with curves may struggle
Wide leg grippers and a split-suit design offers flexibility. The premium fabrics, while not as compressive as some, provide flexibility throughout all disciplines and the underarm ventilation offers cooling. ‘Aero fabric’ on the arms, shoulder and back helps you slip through the air.
Pocket space is plentiful via the dual aero pockets on the rear, while a pocket on either leg gives easy access storage for several gels, making it perfect for all-day events. The chamois here is a disappointment but the test model is a prototype and we’ve been assured that the final version is equipped with an identical pad to the male version that received a rave review.
Verdict: Many excellent qualities, if the pad issue is resolved, it’s up there with the best
ZOOT ELITE FZ RACESUIT
Part of Zoot’s new Elite range, this suit sets the standard in performance and comfort. The compressive fabric claims to increase circulation and muscular support. In practice, the light and breathable fabric provides gentle core support while retaining complete flexibility. Taller athletes are accommodated with the split-suit design, and the ribbed ‘Highway Aero’ arms and chest panels reduce drag.
The chamois pad offers excellent shock absorption and particular comfort in the TT position. A trio of rear pockets delivers plentiful storage and easy access. The premium Italian fabrics offer UV50+ sun protection and, although we’d like a splash of colour, this is a tri-suit that performs on every level.
Verdict: A pricey affair no doubt, but, if you can afford it, this one is worth every penny
Despite being DHB’s top-of-the-range suit, the Aeron is still the budget option here. It’s an all-in-one design, but the low neckline allows full flexibility around the shoulders, accommodating a range of body lengths. Although the leg and arm grippers are narrow, the graduated compression keeps everything in place, as well as providing core support during the swim and the run.
The tri-specific chamois increases drainage to shed water quickly. It’s discrete on both the swim and run and, while it’s supportive on the bike, its narrow design may not be compatible for those with wider-nosed saddles. The high-wicking fabric is light and well ventilated, offering impressive freedom of movement.
Verdict: Not packed with high-end features, but what it does, it does well
HEART SPORTS ICE BLUE
Our male tester loves this ‘unisex’ suit but Heart Sports haven’t produced a female-specific design. While it comes in six sizes, these are defined only by height, so it was no great surprise that the Ice Blue didn’t feel quite right on the female form. The upper body was restrictive and, while the eye-catching design may look great on the shelf, it was instantly see-through in the chest area.
The split-suit design thankfully meant that, below the waist, the fit was vastly improved. Large leg grippers and ribbed fabric optimised both comfort and aerodynamics, while the dual rear pockets offered sizeable storage. Similarly, the chamois provided maximum shock absorption for all-day comfort on the bike.
Verdict: Some nice features but it proves that women aren’t just small men
Which is the best Ironman tri-suit for women?
It’s now great to see a range of brands offering women specific tri-suits with consideration not only to style and comfort, but also performance. DHB offer an excellent budget option, although it lacks some of the higher-end features seen in the other suits. For just a few extra pounds, Yonda’s Ombre impressed on technical aspects, but the strange fit meant comfort was lacking for us.
In the mid-range, the Tri-Fit Evo is hard to beat, stacked with performance-enhancing features and amazing storage solutions. However, despite the hefty price tag, Zoot’s Elite race suit is on another level and fast became a firm favourite. If you can justify the cost, you won’t be disappointed.