There are no two ways about it: get the fit of your tri-suit wrong and you’re going to be in for a pretty uncomfortable race experience.
Find the right one though and it should feel like a second skin – with legs that stay in place, straps that allow you to swim without restriction and a chamois that keeps things comfortable on the bike leg. If possible I’d recommend trying the suit on before you buy – sizes between brands can differ and if you’re between sizes, try both.
Next, think about features: if you have a larger bust an integral bra could be a real benefit. Pockets to house energy gels are useful for longer distances and more breathable, water-wicking fabrics make a huge difference to comfort.
ZOOT ULTRA TRI AERO SKINSUIT
This suit also appeared in our men’s tri-suit grouptest, where some sizing issues with oversized, baggy arms and legs saw it lose marks. Not the case here, where the wide, comfy rubberised bands on both biceps and thighs kept them perfectly in place. The fabric was good quality and included breathable mesh on the arms and back with just enough stretch, although the upper body was a little big around the torso in our size medium. Three pockets on the back in varying sizes were great for race essentials. We would have liked to see a zip garage, but as we didn’t experience any chafing we’ll forgive Zoot for this. In fact, our only real quibble was with the chammy, which was fine when dry, but felt a bit big and soggy when running with it wet.
Verdict: Quality suit with great details – although sizing a little big and chammy could be smaller 85%
Designed in collaboration with Tana Ramsay (wife of the shouty chef), you’ll need deep pockets for this suit. That said though, it feels very high quality and more like the kind of thing you’d find on the rails in Sweaty Betty than your average tri shop. The fabric is soft and feels great against the skin, while ventilation is courtesy of clever punched holes under the arms and in the lower and mid back. Two rear pockets in the lower back are plenty big enough, although you’ll need to be flexible to reach them. This was the only suit on test with an integral bra and although the suit itself
was a perfect fit, the stitched-in bra was too big for our cup size and we’d prefer to have had the option to add our own. Also, although the compressive leg grippers were comfy, they created a bit of an unflattering indent on our non-supermodel thighs.
Verdict: A top-end suit with some stylish, quality details – if you’ve got the right body shape for it! 88%
American women’s brand Coeur are fast gaining some fans in the UK, thanks to their unique one-piece chammy, that is best described as a piece of soft fleece that extends across the crotch and down the inside of the thighs, thus removing any uncomfortable seams or ridges. We found this worked well and, as you’d guess, it was easily the least noticeable on the run.
The fabric was very breathable and the suit had wide, rubberised bands similar to the Orca and Zoot suits that kept the legs in place. Beyond that though, it was tricky to judge the suit as the fit of the top half was just way too big for us although the legs were fine and Coeur recommend a tight fit to get the best from this suit (we tested mediums from all brands and checked size guides). We’d also have liked a zip guard as the scratchy zip top rubbed uncomfortably.
Verdict: Top marks for a zingy print and pioneering chammy,but baggy up top and zip rubbed 81%
We continue our guide to the best women’s tri-suits…
A relatively short zip made this suit a pain to wriggle in and out of (you’ll need good shoulder flexibility!) but once on we liked the slightly wider scoop neckline, that was comfortable and flattering. It did seem a little shorter in the body than the others on test though, leading to the fabric not sitting flush against our lower back – although that may not be the case for everyone as fit is so personal.
2XU cite compression as a key selling point for this suit and although we didn’t notice a great effect, it did sit snugly and felt good throughout all three disciplines and a decent zip garage was a nice touch. We were less keen on the compressive leg bottoms though, which weren’t flattering or comfortable and the legs were relatively long. The two tuck pockets were also a little shallow, which would limit choice of gels.
Verdict A real mixed bag here. Nice fabric and performance but not keen on the leg length or pockets 70%
The only suit on test to feature a jacket-style top that fully opens, you’d be forgiven for scratching your head a bit with this one. On the men’s suit it makes sense (it’s there for quick, ahem, ‘toilet stops’), but women don’t have that option! That said though, we actually really liked this feature as it made taking the suit on and off super-easy and if you did need to stop for the loo in an iron-distance race, it would be a lot easier than wrangling with some of the others in this test.
Thanks to the mix of high-quality mesh fabrics it also wicked superbly, while the chammy felt great and the wide, rubberised bands on the legs kept them firmly in place without a hint of dreaded ‘sausage’ effect. Finally, two big stretchy pockets were big enough to get your whole hand in and were really easy to access. In short, a well-designed and top quality suit.
Verdict: Great design and top features make this the suit we’ll be racing in during this season 95%
Rating highly in our men’s sleeved test last issue (it scored 91% and took the Best On Test award), the TX2000 proved a solid performer here too, but up against some pretty heavy-hitters in this test it just didn’t quite float our boat to the same degree. On the plus side, it’s the least expensive which will make it an attractive buy if you fancy trying sleeved for the first time – plus it was comfortable throughout all three disciplines and the sleeves stayed in place well thanks to a rigid band.
The fabric wicked well, but although we found the chammy comfy on the bike it was one of the ones here that felt a bit more noticeable on the run. Pockets were angled and roomy. Sadly, we really weren’t a fan of the old-fashioned rubber dot leg grippers though, which felt cheap and made the legs curl up somewhat during the bike and run.
Verdict: Good value and a decent performer, but leg grippers were basic and chammy a little soggy. 75%
The final verdict
Let’s be honest – there is no bad suit in this test, which is great news for anyone thinking of going sleeved for the first time. Fit can be very personal, so it’s great to have so many options to choose from.
That said though, none of these suits were priced at entry-level (Blueseventy the cheapest at £100) so we’re expecting a decent level of quality. For us the Blueseventy felt a tad basic and the similarly-scored 2XU could have been better for £160 – plus we weren’t keen on the longer legs on the more expensive suit.
Two suits here – the Coeur and the Zoot felt very similar in terms of construction and features. Get the fit right (perhaps go down a size) and either would be great to race in, although both need to add a zip guard. Zoot just pipped Coeur to bag the ‘best value’ award, but it was close!
That brings us to our winning suits. Huub’s Tana felt top-end and had the stitched in bra been removable, could have won this test (if you can afford it). There was no beating the Orca though, which
was just a lovely, feature-packed suit for
a competitive £129 price point.
How we tested
In addition to two months of 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 at Club La Santa (clublasanta.co.uk) 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 tri
bra underneath each time for consistency.