Sprint versus long-distance tri-suits

Wondered when you should go vested or short sleeved for your racing tri-suit? Matt Baird explain all…


The rise of short-sleeved tri-suits has been the biggest change in tri-suit design since their inception. Scan any long-distance race in 2017 and sleeved suits will be everywhere, from the pros leading the pack to age-groupers at every level. They’ll also offer more UV protection than their vested counterparts and, let’s face it, they look cooler as well.


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But there’s still much to recommend vested tri-suits, for short-course racing especially, as the fields at the ITU World Triathlon Series show. For pool and non-wetsuit swims, vested suits will offer more freedom of movement than their short-sleeve siblings. Your arms will dry far quicker than sleeves as well, even ones loaded with quick-drying tech.

For short-course sprint and Olympic-distance triathlon events this summer, you’ll want a suit that delivers the optimum amount of ventilation, quick-drying abilities and supreme comfort. You should also demand a chamois that’ll provide ample padding for the 20km or 40km bike leg, and will remain lean and lithe for the duration of the 5km or 10km run.


If you’re going longer and aiming for middle/Ironman 70.3 or long-distance/Ironman triathlon this season, aerodynamics and additional comfort will be higher on your list of priorities. Here tri-bars, TT helmets, and a triathlon bike complete with wind-cheating hydration and storage systems will all come into the aerodynamic reckoning. As will your choice of tri-suit.

Wind tunnel data has revealed that a short-sleeved tri-suit, as opposed to a vested suit, can save around a minute for a 90km bike leg, two minutes for a full 180km Ironman bike that, compared to a tri-bike or set of carbon tri-bars, is some of the cheapest speed you can buy.


However when racing anything up to 8:30hrs at 70.3, or 17hrs at Ironman, suit irritations and poor design choices will also be heightened, so above all make sure the suit fits well and is equipped for longer periods racing.