On Test: Tri Suits

Novice triathletes soon realise that the best way to save time in transition is to limit kit changes. You need kit you can wear under your wetsuit for the swim, that offers protection and support for the bike leg and doesn’t encumber you on the run. In other words, a one-piece tri suit.

You might be alarmed at the idea of covering yourself from knee to shoulder in skintight Lycra, but it’s a step to consider if you’re serious about triathlon. The advantages of a quick-drying, multi-purpose item of clothing will soon outweigh your aesthetic concerns.

Different models trumpet specific materials and features, but the basics are broadly the same. The suits are sleeveless and extend at least to mid-thigh, they have a thin, integrated support pad for protection on the bike leg and they are all made from either Lycra or elasticated polyester that is both quick-drying and wicks well.

Where you’ll find differences is in the design and cut of the suit, the position and length of the zip, the presence of rear storage pockets and of course, the price. Here’s a selection of the products on the market.

2XU Endurance Tri Suit, £89

They say: The Endurance Tri Suit provides the essentials for triathlon competition, over both short and longer courses. Quick-drying SBR SKIN fabric compresses the muscles for reduced fatigue, yet remains breathable over a long, hot day. POWER MESH racer ventilation panels provide advanced airflow technology where it’s most needed. The Italian-made triathlon chamois gives support for the bike, while remaining discreet for the run. Other features include flatlock stitching, silicone leg grippers and contoured panelling for unrivalled comfort and performance. A rear pocket holds all your race essentials. The women’s version is £86.

We say: This multi-panelled Lycra suit has a generous fit in the legs and body that feels flexible as well as comfortable. The fabric feels a little heavy but this adds to the sense of support, and the neck and arm openings are well-cut and snug-fitting. Once on the bike after a swim, the fabric dries rapidly and the structured side panels offer great aerodynamics. One large pocket on the back will hold enough supplies to get you through a run or bike leg.

Contact: www.2xushop.co.uk

Saucony Ignite Tri Suit, £70

They say: Saucony’s Tri-Lete fabric is a favourite of elite and age-groupers alike. This latest version adds more features to the established style. Tri-Lete is now high-compression for improved fit and improved muscle performance. The fabric is highly breathable and provides water-repellency to reduce weight. The seams are flatlocked to minimise irritation and drag. The zip has a lock-down pull and zipper garage for fit and comfort. The breathable, quick-drying chamois aids cycle comfort without adding bulk. A 20cm inseam short gives maximum coverage. Tri-Lete is now antibacterial and resistant to salt and chlorine. A women’s version is available.

We say:
Saucony’s latest tri suit looks and feels like a classic Lycra suit. The whole suit is made of the same stretchy fabric, with two generous rear pockets similar to those normally found on cycling jerseys, and long shorts that are the length of traditional cycling shorts. The cut is generous, although the side panel is fairly low-cut under the arms. The design also makes it look like shorts and a top rather than a one-piece.

Contact www.saucony.co.uk

Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Speed Suit, £129.99

They say: Constructed with lightweight, aerodynamic and friction-reducing materials, the P.R.O. Speed Suit gets you to the finish line in record time. P.R.O. Transfer Gloss fabric is half the thickness of other swim fabrics and is chlorine-proof. P.R.O. Molten Silver fabric with titanium for thermal regulation is highly breathable and provides water buoyancy. The P.R.O. Direct-Vent mesh’s hydrophilic treatment performs for the life of the garment, dries fast and produces low wind and water drag. The quick-dry chamois is antibacterial and thermal regulation is generated from active carbon yarns and silver ions. Available in men’s sizes S-XL and women’s XS-L.

We say: This suit features unusual but effective fabrics. The wide mesh back and smaller mesh sides breathe well, while the  peculiar rubberised side panels slide easily apart from a damp wetsuit. Once our tester was on the bike, the fabric felt dry again almost immediately. The suit is a snug fit around the chest and low-cut under the arms. One small pocket immediately above the backside, with a small stretchy strap, is big enough for a bar or gel.

Contact www.pearlizumi.com

Sugoi Velocity Tri Suit, £138

They say: The High-output fabrics Hydro-Shifter and Power Mesh are combined in anatomically optimised 3D-Designs. The fabric Hydro-Shifter – exclusive to SUGOI and using the same formula as the Speedo Fastskin LZR Racer – is a technical revolution for multisport performance, with a tightly woven construction that cuts sleekly through the water and air. Ultra-fine- denier nylon yarns, combined with high Lycra content, deliver an unmatched combination of light weight, next-to-skin technical performance and muscle-stabilising compression. Power Mesh takes stretch mesh performance to a new level of support and compression.

We say:
Featuring the strangest material on test, the Sugoi Velocity suit feels like it’s made of paper, but once it stretches it’s more like paper-thin Lycra that moves and moulds with your every movement. With such fine fabric, it’s no surprise that this was the quickest-drying suit on test. It offers good just-above-the-knee leg length and is nicely elasticated around the shoulder cuff for a comfortable fit. Two small stretchy rear pockets are big enough to fit a gel or a bar.

Contact www.sugoi.com

Scott Plasma Fastsuit, £99.99

They say: The Plasma Fast Suit features Scott TRI Padding
– ultralight fabric that feels like a second skin
– and a Teflon layer to enhance performance. It has an anatomically shaped cut for a better fit, while laser-cut edges and flatlock seams at the arms and neck enhance comfort. The elastic grippers at the hem keep the shorts securely in place. The suit is available in sizes XS to XXL.

We say: This tri suit is made from a paper-light fabric that stretches and moves well once you’re in it, but is a struggle to put on because of the cut. The short rear zip also makes putting on the top a squeeze, because it starts halfway up the back. The leg length is one of the shortest on test, with the result that the legs ride up a little when you’re on the bike, even though the torso has a tendency to bunch up. The suit was one of the quickest on test to dry, and once dry it wicks sweat away from the skin to keep you cool and comfortable in race conditions. However, the suit doesn’t have any pockets, so it might be best suited to speedsters or shorter races.  

Contact www.scott-sports.com

Skinfit Tri Suit, £88

They say: Built with comfort in mind, this Tri Suit is perfect for longer distance triathlons. Unisex fit and sizing mean it doesn’t come with any bra support, so ladies are advised to wear a sports bra underneath. There’s a pocket at the rear and a thin antibacterial pad that offers comfort without compromising on bulk. The moisture-wicking fabric will keep you comfortable, whatever the race distance. Available in sizes XS to XL.

We say:
Skinfit tri suits have a great reputation among speedy triathletes and can often be seen on elite racers at top races, but their entry-level version deserves a committed following, too. As well as offering good value for money, it looks good and is a great option if you don’t want to expose more flesh than is entirely necessary, thanks to its vest-and-top-like design. The cut of the neck and arms provide a comfortable fit, so the suit does live up to the promise that it’s a good option for longer distance triathlons. A single
good-sized pocket on the back is big enough for several gels and bars.

Contact www.skinfit.uk.com

Orca Core Race Suit, £69

They say: The suit features a front control zip in the centre and pockets strategically positioned at the lower back for minimal drag in the water. AquaGlide fabric repels water for swim performance, while panels of Vapour fabric provide breathable comfort for the bike and the run. Twin-needle finished hems with elastic provide maximum comfort and grip, while safety reflective elements ensure added visibility and security in low light. Flatlock armhole and neck-hole openings offer comfort, as does the Tri-style quick-dry chamois. A men’s version is available.

We say: This tri suit features a supportive inner bra and racer back for great flexibility and ease of movement in all three disciplines. A panel of mesh fabric on the back means that the suit dries quickly to ensure comfort, while the subtle but effective leg grippers keep the shorts securely in place. The pad is thin but offers comfort on the bike and is discreet on the run. The two small back pockets are big enough to accommodate several gels or bars. A great race suit, but the colour might not be to everyone’s taste. 

Contact www.orca.com

Santini Skin Suit, £99.99

They say: The front invisible full zip and anatomical cut combine with mesh inserts to improve breathability. GTR pad is a new revolutionary triathlon pad that features Santini’s silicon twist gel, which helps avoid overheating, correctly distributes body weight and reduces road vibration. The difference in comfort is noticeable. The GTR weighs only 42 grams and does and not increase in weight or size when immersed in water.

We say: The latest tri suit from Italian cycle-wear company Santini should
make it easy for your supporters to spot you, thanks to the extrovert styling. The suit is composed of the same fabric as Santini’s other gear, except for mesh panels that stretch from under the arms to the waist, which allow excellent movement and breathability on the bike and run. Although it’s a single garment, the suit is constructed as a pair of shorts stitched to a vest and that’s how it feels, although the tightness of the top half doesn’t seem to affect the comfort of the lower half. Two rear side pockets are small but practical and are easily accessible when you’re on the move.

Contact www.fisheroutdoor.co.uk

Craft Elite Tri Suit, £80

They say: The front invisible full zip and anatomical cut combine with mesh inserts to improve breathability. GTR pad is a new revolutionary triathlon pad that features Santini’s silicon twist gel, which helps avoid overheating, correctly distributes body weight and reduces road vibration. The difference in comfort is noticeable.The GTR weighs only 42 grams and does and not increase in weight or size when immersed in water.

We say:
The latest tri suit from Italian cycle-wear company Santini should
make it easy for your supporters to spot you, thanks to the extrovert styling. The suit is composed of the same fabric as Santini’s other gear, except for mesh panels that stretch from under the arms to the waist, which allow excellent movement and breathability on the bike and run. Although it’s a single garment, the suit is constructed as a pair of shorts stitched to a vest and that’s how it feels, although the tightness of the top half doesn’t seem to affect the comfort of the lower half. Two rear side pockets are small but practical and are easily accessible when you’re on the move.

Contact www.fisheroutdoor.co.uk

Erox Exclusive Line Endurance Tri Suit, £79.99

They say: Erox is a Swiss-based company that specialises in triathlon products. The key features of this suit are the half-length concealed rear zip, wafer-thin protective pad and double-print silicone gripper on the leg seal that stretches to 800 per cent to ensure the shorts are not too tight but stay in place. Erox knows that a seam or zip can cause pain and inflammation and hence flat seams and concealed zips are a must.

We say: The extremely lightweight fabric and simple styling combine to make this an excellent option if you’re a speed demon. The suit fastens with a zip at the back that is easy to do up and can be opened on the run if you’re overheating in the sun, although the material wicks so well that it’ll be unlikely. There are no pockets for gels or bars, which is strange and will probably mean you’ll use it mostly for shorter distances or perhaps the assumption is that you’ll be moving too
fast to refuel. The cut around the shoulder is on the tighter side and while it’s less noticeable when you’re running it is initially irritating. Overall, a good starting point for your first tri suit.

Contact www.eroxuk.co.uk

Ironman Tatoo Multi Sports Suit, £114.99

They say: Erox is a Swiss-based company that specialises in triathlon products. The key features of this suit are the half-length concealed rear zip, wafer-thin protective pad and double-print silicone gripper on the leg seal that stretches to 800 per cent to ensure the shorts are not too tight but stay in place. Erox knows that a seam or zip can cause pain and inflammation and hence flat seams and concealed zips are a must.

We say: The extremely lightweight fabric and simple styling combine to make this an excellent option if you’re a speed demon. The suit fastens with a zip at the back that is easy to do up and can be opened on the run if you’re overheating in the sun, although the material wicks so well that it’ll be unlikely. There are no pockets for gels or bars, which is strange and will probably mean you’ll use it mostly for shorter distances or perhaps the assumption is that you’ll be moving too fast to refuel. The cut around the shoulder is on the tighter side and while it’s less noticeable when you’re running it is initially irritating. Overall, a good starting point for your first tri suit.

Contact www.eroxuk.co.uk

Fusion Multisport Suit. £105

They say: The Fusion Multisport suit is designed with the long-distance triathlete in mind, but is versatile enough for all distances. The shorts and back of the suit are made from a compressive fabric to enhance performance by reducing muscle vibration. A more flexible and lighter Lycra is used on the front for breathability and comfort. Micro-fleece padding keeps the lower back warm and prevents injury on transition from a long bike to run. Flatlock stitching and exceptional moisture transfer enhance comfort. The back pocket carries up to nine gels, while the pad is made from a high-tech micro-fleece-lined fabric.

We say: This feels a little different from a more traditional Lycra suit, thanks to the longer legs and dipping arm holes. The various panels make for a secure fit across the torso and the seams that cross the inner thighs and hamstrings did seem to promote compression and reduce fatigue. The pad makes for a comfortable ride, but the fleece panel on the back baffled our tester – it made him sweat rather than produce any discernible performance benefit.

Contact www.fusionsportsuk.co.uk

Trigirl Victoria Tri Suit, £83

They say: Italian Sensitive fabric offers excellent quick-drying and anti-UV properties. The Trigirl Victoria is also highly breathable and draws moisture and sweat away from the body for quick evaporation. The integrated bra top features Coolmax mesh lining for excellent moisture management, while a large Coolmax mesh lining panel at the back increases ventilation. The backs of the legs feature stronger power fabric for increased durability. A front zip with protective placket and the soft microfibre silicon gripper elastic along the leg hem keep the suit secure. The 15cm leg length is 4cm shorter than Trigirl’s Helen tri suit, while the large chamois offers excellent comfort on
longer bike rides.

We say:
Despite making tri suits for women only, the mesh bra inner in this suit is the lowest-cut on test and offers little support. However, the rest of the suit is more impressive. A zipped back pocket and two smaller pockets on the bottom of the right leg prove useful on the bike, while the cut of the back and neck is comfortable, too. A large pad and effective leg grippers add comfort.

Contact www.trigirl.co.uk

Zone3 Aero Flo Racing Suit, £85

They say: Designed exclusively for women, this suit uses revolutionary Aero Flo fabric, which is extremely light, breathable, durable and flexible. The supportive inner bra is made from a higher denier Aero Flo fabric for added comfort. Full Dupont Teflon guarantees less resistance through the water, while the concealed pad is a first in the triathlon world – it’s designed for a modest look, with no stitching around the crotch. The four-panel construction is designed to reduce unnecessary stitching and promote aerodynamic movement. Inner comfort comes from a full zipper protection system and subtle silicone leg grippers. A men’s version is available.

We say:
Simple styling and a lack of pockets make the Zone3 suit another
racy number. It’s also one of the only women’s-specific suits on test that features a zip on the back. The bra area is reinforced with an extra layer of fabric and the shorts feature one of the biggest pads on test but they still feel comfortable on the run. You might need a little help doing up the zip, but once fastened, this suit feels snug and secure, and our tester loved the subtle styling. 

Contact www.racezone3.com

Zoot Trifit Race Suit, £75

They say: The Zoot TRIfit Race Suit features Endurance Bra construction and Integra SBR pad construction for comfort and support. The FREEband gripper offers a more comfortable, less restrictive leg hem, while the 30.5cm Cam Lock zipper with soft-finish zipper binding also promotes comfort and prevents chafing. All seams feature SeamLink stitch construction to ensure next-to-skin comfort. There are two small hip holster pockets. Ventilator mesh fabric promotes wicking. A men’s version is available.

We say:
This was the only women’s tri suit on test that featured a zip on the bra liner, as well as the front of the suit, to ensure easy entry. The rest of the suit also offers thoughtful details such as a thick fleece pad for comfort on the bike and two small pockets on the back for gels. Even when wet, the fabric feels like a comfortable second skin, and dries rapidly on the bike section of a race. The neck might be a little too high for some tastes, and the leg grippers didn’t grab skinny legs brilliantly, but if you like your shorts short, this tri suit is a stylish option.

Contact www.djmproducts.co.uk

Spuik Second Skin Unisex Tri Suit, £78

They say: The Second Skin fabric provides the right pressure and support for muscles, heightening the precision and accuracy of movements. Since it avoids unnecessary vibrations, it reduces energy loss in such a way that it inhibits the production of lactic acid, delaying the onset of fatigue. The fabric is chlorine-resistant and hard-wearing and optimises sweat evaporation. The suit has a 3mm-thick tri pad and its bi-elastic properties reduce chafing and friction because it moves when you do. The hems feature low-density silicone grippers.

We say: Wear this suit and you won’t tire as quickly – that’s the message from Spiuk. The multi-panelled Lycra suit stretches and moves with you. The cut is long in the leg, with plenty of padding under the seat. The zip, which comes down to just above your belly button makes it hard to put on, a difficulty made worse by the cut around the shoulders, which pulls in towards the neck rather than sitting around the shoulders. There are no pockets. All in all, though, this is a suit that looks and feels far more expensive than its price tag would suggest. 

Contact www.spiuk.co.uk