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%
The Aquaflo+ title hints at water prowess and the suit instantly impresses in the pool, with the pockets proving drag-free and the sleeves very flexible for crawl. Yet that hydrodynamic boost does come at the expense of nutrition transportation, with the two small and covered rear pockets difficult to access at speed on the bike and run. It’s a lovely suit across the shoulders and the arms, with the smooth and taut grippers neatly wrapping around the latter. The understated visuals are striking as well, while the mesh arms, side panels and back do the job for warmer sessions and races. The leg grippers aren’t the tautest here and the shallow pad/lean materials (see the Orca) left us concerned about our nether regions being on show. Yet in terms of visuals, price and performance, this will serve short-course speedsters (especially those racing pool triathlons) rather well.
Verdict: Decent price, performance and visuals for short-course whizzes, especially for pool tri, 85%
Buy from www.evanscycles.com
2XU PERFORM FULL ZIP
As the name suggests, the Perform Full Zip is one of only three suits here with a full-length zipper. And personally, barring a slight hydro and aero penalty, we’re now struggling to find reasons not to use a full-length zipper for the majority of our races due to the pre-race and mid-event convenience and comfort they offer. 2XU, arguably, have the greatest range of tri-suits around and the Perform, while we would’ve preferred one of the coloured options, largely continues this fine form. The wide pad, while not quite invisible on the run, gives the most support here for endurance riding and the grippers are fantastic. The pockets are a little small, and worth noting is that the legs are a little long if you aren’t the tallest like us. The lower body materials are a little loose compared to their compressive suits but there’s little to fault here, especially for the price. 2xu.com
Verdict: Ticks plenty of boxes and is hard to fault for the price, even if the design fails to excite 87%
Buy from www.wiggle.co.uk
Scottish brand Endura have garnered plenty of acclaim from their top-end tri-suits worn by Tim Don, yet their new QDC sits at a more affordable price point. Where previous Endura suits have been furiously tight on us, the QDC is oddly baggy and loose around the midriff (and we’re certainly closer to a keg than a six pack man), which is strange for a brand so famed for their aero designs and on a suit where they’ve fitted tight, ribbed aero sleeves. The bagginess and stretchiness of the fabric is evident in the pool and again on the run, where the bottom area and pliable pad disappeared somewhere they shouldn’t. Yet there are plus points, with a quick-drying fabric, effective leg grippers, some smartly-positioned pockets and a techy and lean pad that, when in place, delivers plenty of comfort for short-course and 70.3 bike legs.
Verdict: An oddity from the usually-reliable Scots; definitely one to assess before buying 59%
Buy from www.tredz.co.uk
AIROFIN ROGUE PRO
With the winning ‘floating’ rear pockets, a mesh design and a full-length zipper, the similarities between the Rogue Pro from Airofin and Heart Sports’ Blue Lightning tri-suit from 2017 are hard to avoid. Yet the Rogue Pro has more of a short-course target compared to that cracking long-distance option from Heart Sports, with a smaller and slender pad (that we admittedly could feel a seam through) and shallower open pockets (which still cause a little drag in the water). Yet there are multiple high points, with the fabric proving breathable and quick to dry, the arm and leg grippers keeping the sleeves nicely in place, and the zipper adding to the race-day convenience. We like the sleek design and the internal pouch that kept our gut mostly tucked in, but we’d like to see flatlock internal seams for chafe-reduction and a zipper guard next time. airofin.com
Verdict: Quality grippers and striking design, but lacking some internal comfort and a zip guard 81%
Buy from www.airofin.com
STOLEN GOAT QUINT
From Airofin to Heart Sports in recent years, we love it when a new tri brand comes along and blows us away. And that theme continues apace here with the aesthetically-striking hammerhead shark- emblazoned Pursuit from Brit brand Stolen Goat. Straight away the materials feel luxurious on the skin, with the mostly flatlock seams minimising the risk of chafing. Into the pool and there’s a hydrophobic treatment for reducing drag and the sleeves are reasonably flexible (we did feel some water ingress at the back of the neck, however). Onto the bike and the long, ribbed, wind-tunnel tested sleeves tick the aero box and the low-density pad is enough for 40km stints and trouble-free on the run, even if the taut grippers are almost too effective. A trouble-free run leg finishes off a fine package for short-course speedsters.
Verdict: A fine debut on these pages for the Hampshire brand, with both style and substance 86%
Buy from stolengoat.com
HUUB CORE LONG COURSE
The comfy Core range has been around for a while now but it still impresses on visuals; the short-sleeve version looks and feels lovely once on and the sleeves feels fantastic. It’s fast in the pool, helped by the covered pockets that are positioned on the sides. While those pockets produce less bounce when loaded with nutrition on the bike and run, the fairly high position means accessing them is an issue, especially on the bike. The leg grippers have a tendency to flay out at the seams and we’re not the first to be concerned about the see-through lower back area. Yet there’s great breathability in the fabric, while the lean pad has just enough support for Olympic and 70.3 bike legs, is quick-to-dry and isn’t noticeable on the run. Overall, given its ‘Long Course’ title, we’d still prefer a full-length zipper, larger pockets and a bigger pad for iron-distance races.
Verdict: Breathable and comfy, but we’d prefer a full-length zipper and more pad for long course 85%
Buy from www.wiggle.co.uk
ZOOT ULTRA TRI AERO RACESUIT
As you’d expect from the £190 price tag, the Ultra Tri is the most luxurious suit on test, with silky smooth Italian fabrics, flatlock seams throughout and arguably the greatest leg grippers in all of triathlon. The lengthy, dimpled sleeves hint at aero gains, while the mesh panels do the business in providing breathability in warmer races. The three accessible yet sizeable swim- friendly pockets, full-length zipper and high-tech spongy pad ensure the Ultra Tri has both short-course and long-distance appeal, but there’s a frustrating and avoidable nodule at the top of the zipper that sneaks around the minor zip guard and rubs on the chest, which is something that rears its head on longer efforts, especially. Visually, we applaud Zoot once again for their boldness with the (admittedly divisive) patterns and it’ll certainly stand out on race day.
Verdict: Smooth materials, quality build and top-end spec make this a contender, but one with zip issues 91%
Buy from https://zootsports.com
The overall verdict
From £50 to £190, full-length zippers to hydro and aero fabrics and countless ways to position pockets, there’s a full gamut of short-sleeved tri-suits on test here. And the standard is regularly high and we’d have no qualms in recommending at least half a dozen of these for your next short-course tri (and some will perform at longer events).
At the budget end, the Aptonia has the looks and try-before-you-buy appeal but falls short in the performance stakes when compared to the surprisingly decent Aropec. There’s little to separate the Orca, Zone3 and 2XU in the battle of the established brands at the £100-120 price point, with Zone3 taking the pool and aesthetic honours. But 2XU edges the ‘Best Buy’ gong due to the convenience of the zipper, pad performance and the sheer quality of the grippers.
While we’re baffled by Endura’s QDC, the Airofin, Huub and Stolen Goat have much to recommend them, but it’s the Zoot that scoops the ‘Best on Test’ honour for its material quality, grippers and race-day appeal. If they’d only
sort that zipper nodule out this would be a classic tri-suit for the ages.