This is the second year we’ve seen a wide selection of women’s sleeved tri-suits on the market and with that time, comes a marked increase in innovation. There are no bad suits in this test – and with prices ranging from just £76 through to £275, that’s good news for all female triathletes.
So why go sleeved? There a few reasons. Firstly you avoid awkward underarm seams which makes the suit more comfortable. The sleeves also make you more aero-dynamic and expose less of your skin to the searing sun if you’re racing somewhere like Lanzarote. Finally, it’s important to feel confident on race day and (in our opinion!) sleeved suits just look more flattering.
When choosing your suit, look carefully at the other features offered. Modern suits should have wide, flat leg grippers that gently stay in place rather than cutting in and creating the unflattering ‘sausage leg’ effect of old. Some will also have similar grippers on the arms. Some suits in this test also have a ‘jacket’-style top which makes getting in/out of the suit easier.
Pockets are worth considering too. How long is your race? What do you need to carry? Think about pocket size and also where they are positioned – are they easy to get to while you’re running? You don’t want to have to stop because you can’t reach a gel, or because it dropped onto the floor.
Finally, none of the suits included in
this test have integral bras, but if you try a different brand they may. A word of caution with these: the bra still needs to fit you perfectly and give you enough support, so unless it’s brilliant, buy a suit without then just wear your own underneath to avoid damaging delicate breast tissue.
How we tested
The tri-suits here were all given multiple tests on the swim, bike and run, with particular focus on the comfort of the material and chamois performance over long-distance bike legs. Key factors we looked at were 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 key.
The 2017 version of this suit appeared in the men’s test (92%), while this is the 2018 version. Oddly for a tri-suit it’s unisex too, so this is the design (including jazzy colour scheme!) for both men and women. Initially we wondered how this would work, but Heart tell us the fabric is designed in such a way that it laterally stretches to suit all sizes and we were impressed by how well the suit did fit – if a touch baggy on this tester’s small shoulders. This suit also boasts the biggest, most padded chammy on test at 13 inches by 8 inches and considering its size, it wasn’t that noticable on the run. The leg grippers and ‘floating’ pockets are a touch of genius, too. heartsports.co.uk
Verdict: tech-packed suit with a super-plush chammy and some good tri-specific features 90%
Buy from heartsports.co.uk
The standout feature on 2XU’s compression suit is the legs, which feature fabric designed to reduce vibration and fatigue and to stabilise the muscles. Although it’s hard to test exactly, our experience was that our legs felt comparatively fresh between bike and run and that the compressive elements helped support tired muscles. When we last tested a 2XU suit we found the legs too long and that’s been addressed with a shorter cut – and we liked the slightly scooped neckline. We would have preferred a longer zip though as it was a bit of a struggle to wriggle into (men get a jacket-style) and the pockets were pretty small. Two other colourways are available. 2xu.com
Verdict: you’ll thank 2xu for the compression if going long and the overall cut and fit was great 92%
Buy from www.2xu.com
In a sport where it’s really easy to spend lots of money, Wiggle’s own brand Dhb seems to exist to remind us that you can get good kit at a gob-smacking price. Also faring well in the men’s test last month (85%), the female offering is just as impressive. First up all credit for the funky (non-girly) design and for a fit that is close yet lacks restriction. Ok so you don’t get the multiple technical fabrics some of the other suits offer, but a perforated, more breathable fabric on the spine and arms is a welcome addition to this entry-level buy. The chammy is quick to dry and padded enough for short-course racing, while two pockets are easy to access, if a little shallow for larger gel packets. wiggle.co.uk
Verdict: amazing value – those new to tri or racing short course on a budget, look no further 80%
Roka tell us this suit is designed to have a tight/compressive fit and if that’s not your thing, to size up! In fact we found our medium to be just right – and the close but supportive feel of the legs and the soft, quick-drying chammy were brilliant. Where we ran into sizing issues was with the length, as when running the jacket-style top was a little short, exposing our midriff. There is a ‘tall’ size option though (although our tester was only 5 foot 7). That aside, the suit felt flexible and stayed cool in hot sessions and we loved the soft, aero-dynamic mesh panel on the back. But, be warned the white fabric goes very transparent and the lack of a zip garage caused a little rubbing. roka.com
Verdict: the legs and fabric are world-class, but the cut and fit didn’t quite work for us overall 82%
Buy from www.wiggle.co.uk
Zoot tell us the carbon fabric in their aero skinsuit is designed to reduce heat build-up and we found that the case with this stylish suit (men’s version on this issue’s cover), plus we loved the soft feel of the fabric. It’s also lined for modesty and the UPF50+ rating will serve long-course racers well in the sun. The fit was close on the legs but roomier up top which allowed a good range of movement, while the chammy was unobtrusive. The wide leg grippers on both arms and legs were effective and gave no ‘sausage leg’, although we did find they rolled up a bit inside a wetsuit and needed some fiddly adjusting before we got on the bike. Roomy pockets were a good feature. zootsports.com
Verdict: comfortable and good-looking suit that will suit those that prefer a traditional front 85%
Buy from www.simplyswim.com
The 226 Race Suit won last year’s group test and was the only one in that test featuring a jacket-style top for women – but it now faces competition! Pictured here is the 2017 suit, as the 2018 version wasn’t yet available for our test period. Not that it matters, as the only upgrade is a floral monochrome pattern instead of the killer whale-style stripes. Again, this suit impressed us with its mix of technical fabrics and the jacket-style front was comfortable, with a high but loose waist comfortable on both bike and run. It’s only pipped by the similar-priced Heart suit as in comparison, the flap-topped pockets are a touch fiddly and lack the innovation of Heart’s ‘floating’ design. orca.com
Verdict: still a great suit for the price point, but others have raised their game in comparison for 2018 88%
Buy from www.wiggle.co.uk